SKINNER, Vincent (d.1616), of Thornton College, Lincs. and London.

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

o.s. of John Skinner of Thorpe by Wainfleet by Elizabeth, da. of John Fairfax of Swarby and Thorpe by Wainfleet. educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. 1557, scholar 1560, BA and fellow 1561, MA 1564; incorp. Oxf. 1566; L. Inn 1565. m. (1) Audrey, da. of Richard Ogle of Pinchbeck, wid. of John Man of Bolingbroke, s.p.; (2) Elizabeth, da. of Robert Fowkes, wid. of Edward Middlemore of Enfield, Mdx., 1s. Kntd. 1603.1

Offices Held

Sec. to Lord Burghley by 1575/6-93;2 escheator, Lincs. 1573-4; receiver of duchy of Lancaster lands in Lincs. in reversion 1575, in office by 1581 duchy of Lancaster feodary, Lincs. from Sept. 1582; constable of Bolingbroke castle Apr. 1583, of Lincoln castle May 1583; j.p. Lincs. (Lindsey) from c.1593; writer of tallies and auditor of the receipt of the Exchequer 1593-1609; keeper of Kirkby park, Lincs. 1604.


Thomas Cartwright, the greatest of Elizabethan puritans, was Skinner’s colleague at Trinity, obtaining a fellowship a year before Skinner. The two men were in touch as late as 1590. Two of Skinner’s other friends at Trinity, Michael Hickes John Stubbe were notable puritans. Skinner, Hickes and Stubbe, after they left Cambridge, were students together at Lincoln’s Inn. Skinner expressed the religious views which he shared with his friends when he acted as a sponsor of the puritan bill in the Parliament of 1572.3

Skinner’s father was receiver of duchy lands in Lincolnshire and he himself, after the completion of his education, became involved in local administration, first of all as escheator of Lincolnshire in 1573-4. By that time he had already sat in two Parliaments. There is no evidence that he was in Burghley’s service before 1578, but in his first Parliament, in 1571, he sat for Truro, a borough subject to Cecil influence during the Elizabethan period. It may be that he had already come to Cecil’s attention, and it is worth noting that his fellow secretary, Hickes, also first sat in Parliament for Truro in 1584, when Hickes was certainly in Burghley’s service. There is no record of any activity by Skinner in the 1572 Parliament. In 1572 Skinner sat for Barnstaple, where he probably owed his seat to the 2nd Earl of Bedford, perhaps acting for Burghley. In 1584, 1586 and 1589 he sat for Boston as the nominee of Burghley, who was recorder of the town. Boroughbridge, his constituency in 1593, was subject to duchy of Lancaster influence, and his earlier preoccupation with duchy administration in Lincolnshire, together with any influence which Burghley was able to exercise with Chancellor Heneage, doubtless explains his return. In 1597 Skinner sat for St. Ives, where Burghley exercised influence either directly or through the Marquess of Winchester.

Skinner is not known to have spoken in the House. He was named to committees concerned with church ceremonies (20 May 1572), weights and measures (23 May), Eton and Winchester (2 Mar. 1576), removing benefit of clergy from rapists and burglars (7 Mar.), the Queen’s marriage (12 Mar.), relief for vicars and curates (13 Mar.), sheriffs (4 Feb. 1581), the Queen’s safety (14 Mar.), parsonages (1 Dec. 1584), ministers (16 Dec.), fraudulent conveyances (15 Feb. 1585), libellers (19 Feb.), tellers and receivers (10 Mar.), Mary Queen of Scots (4 Nov. 1586), subsidies (11 Feb. 1589 and 26 Feb. 1593), the poor law (12 Mar. 1593) and reducing disloyal subjects to their true obedience (4 Apr. 1593). In addition it is possible that as a Member for a Yorkshire constituency in 1593 Skinner took part in committee work on cloth (23 Mar.) and weirs (28 Mar.). No activity has been found for Skinner in the 1597 Parliament, which is remarkable in view of his previous record, the relatively good journals and the importance of the issues then under consideration.4

Michael Hickes and Henry Maynard, Skinner’s colleagues in Burghley’s secretariat, each performed specialised functions, Hickes dealing with patronage and Maynard with foreign affairs. Skinner, in contrast, does not seem to have devoted the greater part of his time to any one field of work. It is true that he was, during his period of service, responsible for dealing with applications for escheatorships, but his duties in that connexion could have occupied only a limited part of his time: escheators were appointed only in the autumn of each year. He seems, in fact, to have fulfilled a variety of tasks. He acted as a messenger for Burghley, concerned himself with legal matters in which his master was interested, dealt with problems relating to foreign affairs generally, including trades, and acted as intermediary in suits to Burghley.5

Skinner left Burghley’s personal service in 1593, when he became auditor of the receipt, by that time the principal office in the lower Exchequer. His career after this date was an unhappy one, although his accession to important Exchequer office might have been expected to secure his fortunes. The Hatfield manuscripts and State Papers Domestic afford ample evidence of the importance of his work and of his deep involvement in the financial affairs of the country. During his tenure of office he emerged rather the worse from a protracted quarrel with Chidiock Wardour, clerk of the pells.6

Though he shared in the general distribution of spoils at the beginning of James’s reign, Skinner’s personal financial affairs deteriorated until, by 1610, they had reached a crisis. Between July 1610 and October 1611 he bombarded Hickes and even Salisbury with pleas for help, and in 1612 he was granted protection from arrest for a year. Catastrophe, however, can never have been far away, and Skinner died intestate 28 Feb. 1616, being buried the following day at St. Andrew’s, Holborn, of ‘out Isaac Bringhurst’s house in High Holborn’, a debtor’s prison. His wife and son declined administration of the estate.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: A.G.R.S.


  • 1. Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lii), 887-8.
  • 2. Somerville, Duchy, i. 580, 583; Pat. roll 36 Eliz.; Hatfield ms 278; HMC Hatfield, iv. 377; xiii. 156-8; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 99.
  • 3. Collinson thesis, 1065 n. 3; Lansd. 13, f. 116; 33, f. 193; 10, f. 73; 12, f. 117; M. M. Knappen, Tudor Puritanism, 233-4.
  • 4. Somerville, i. 579-80; HMC Hatfield, xiii. 156-8; DNB (Cecil, William); Neale, Commons, 225, 229; CJ, i. 96, 97, 110, 111, 114, 115, 122, 134; D’Ewes, 260, 306, 334, 340, 349, 353, 365, 394, 431, 474, 499, 507, 512, 517.
  • 5. Lansd. 75, f. 134; HMC Hatfield, ii. 200; xiii. 156-8, 425, 466; CSP Dom. 1591-4, pp. 3-4, 18-29; 1581-90, p. 683.
  • 6. G. R. Elton, Tudor Rev. in Govt. 253-4; Eliz. Govt. and Soc. 213-48; HMC Hatfield, iv. 377, 399, 401, 401-2; vii. 227-8, 267; viii. 286, 361; ix. 131, 151-2, 229, 257-8, 298-9, 422; x. 29, 83, 292-3, 339; xi. 197, 348, 373; xii. 435; xv. 229; xvii. 436; xviii. 455; CSP Dom. 1595-7, pp. 21, 180-1, 392, 413, 471; 1598-1601, pp. 19, 190, 241; 1601-3, pp. 133, 137, 167; 1603-10, pp. 15, 587.
  • 7. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 351; 1611-18, p. 17; PRO Index 6802; Lansd. 13, f. 116; 91, ff. 109, 159, 162, 163, 165, 166, 171, 174, 178-80, 185, 198, 202, 207; 92, ff. 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 27, 30, 33, 34, 40, 42, 69, 71-3, 77, 85, 86, 95, 97, 100, 121, 123; Hatfield ms 129/52; PRO Index 6804; C142/356/134; Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lii), 888.