PELL, John (c.1527-1608), of King's Lynn and Dersingham, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1527, 1st or o.s. of John Pell of Dersingham by Margaret, da. of James Cletheroe of Dersingham. m. by 1548, Mary (d.1593), da. of William Overend, alderman of King’s Lynn, 6s. 3da.

Offices Held

Freeman, King’s Lynn c.1547, alderman 1560-78, mayor 1560-1.


Pell was a King’s Lynn merchant whose parents lived at Dersingham, nearby. His son Jeffrey, when he became a freeman in 1578, was described as his ‘son and apprentice’, but the exact nature of his trade is not known. He served on the governing body of King’s Lynn for nearly 20 years, until he was discharged as an alderman for ‘reasonable cause’ and at his own request in July 1578. He often rode to London on the borough’s business, and, during his period as MP he was instructed to consult his colleague Robert Bell, recorder of King’s Lynn, as to whether the Earl of Leicester or Lord Burghley should be offered the high stewardship. When Leicester was chosen, Pell was one of the two townsmen appointed to give Burghley the £5 fee which Lynn had paid to the previous lord treasurer. Between 1572 and 1581 he also acted for the town on matters such as admiralty jurisdiction, customs duties, and a suit about the ‘liberty of clothes and corn’, for which he tried to secure Burghley’s support. On various occasions during Elizabeth’s reign he was given special instructions to interview local magnates on borough business. His name also appears on the commission of 1568 to make a survey of all houses and land belonging to the corporation, and in 1576 he was a collector for a special tax in Lynn.

Little is known of Pell’s membership of the House of Commons. The borough paid him wages and travelling expenses in August 1572, and again in March 1576—the latter an interim payment of £10. On 23 May 1572 he sat on a Commons committee concerned with weights and measures, and on 13 Feb. 1576 as one of the Lynn burgesses he could have been on a committee about ports. How he came to be put in the Fleet prison in May of this year is not clear, but it was not the only time he was in trouble. In March 1562 the Lynn congregation book recorded that if he and Richard Spence continued to quarrel, they were to pay £5 to the use of the ‘commons’; then, in 1581, the Privy Council inquired into his ‘slanderous libel and rhymes’ against two ‘pious and godly minister’.

He died on 5 Feb. 2608, and was buried at St. Nicholas, Dersingham. A marble tomb, as he asked in his will, was inscribed with his name and his wife’s, together with the dates of birth of their nine children. The will, drawn up on 15 Jan. and proved on 1 Mar., has a short religious preamble. Pell made provision for his widow, leaving her dwelling rooms in his ‘head house’ at Dersingham, and requiring three of his sons to pay her annuities.

Vis. Norf. (Norf. Rec. Soc. v), 162-3; Blomefield, Norf. viii. 401; Lynn Freemen, 94, 102, 114; King’s Lynn congregation bk. 1544-69, passim; Vis. Norf. i. (Norf and Norwich Arch. Soc.), 188; H. J. Hillen, Hist. King’s Lynn, i. 300-17 passim; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 34; APC, ix. 130; CJ, i. 97; D’Ewes, 247; PCC 18 Windebanck.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge