SNELL, John (by 1537-87), of Kington St. Michael, Wilts.

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. by 1537, 1st s. of Nicholas Snell of Kington St. Michael by his 1st w. Alice, da. of John Pye of Rowdon. m. (1) Katherine (d.1566), da. of John Warneford of Sevenhampton, 2s. 3da.; (2) Susanna (d.1570). suc. fa. 1577.2

Offices Held

J.p. Wilts. from c.1579, sheriff 1584-5; escheator, Wilts. and Hant 1582-3.3


The Snells were prominent on the Wiltshire-Somerset border. Snell’s grandfather was the last steward of the abbey of Glastonbury’s lands in Wiltshire and, at the dissolution, acquired the estates before other speculators had a chance to intervene. Kington St. Michael became the family seat and for at least 100 years afterwards each generation was able to add to the property. Following the example of the monks of Glastonbury they were successful farmers. John Snell, because his father lived to be an old man, was head of the family for ten years only, but he had taken over the administration of the estates before his father’s death. In 1575 he paid £385 for the manor of Eaton Piercy, also in Kington St. Michael: after this transaction the family owned virtually the whole parish. Earlier he had sold the manor of West Hatch after Nicholas Snell had admitted concealing for about 20 years that he owned it. The Exchequer demanded £500 arrears from the family.4

During the last years of his life Snell was actively concerned in county administration, serving his turn as sheriff in 1584-5. A letter he wrote to the Privy Council during his shrievalty survives among the State Papers. He reported that most of the recusants from whom he had been ordered to demand horses for service abroad, were no longer living in the county. In the last year of his life Snell, together with Edward Hungerford, was ordered to investigate a quarrel between two local men, Sir John Danvers and John Watts. Quarter sessions records show that he was also an active justice of the peace.5

Snell’s career as a Member of Parliament was short. Following the death of George Reynolds, he was returned at a by-election in Devizes on 10 Jan. 1580 and served in the last session of the 1572 Parliament. Snell’s election may have been due to his own local influence, perhaps with the approval of the 2nd Earl of Pembroke.6

Snell died 17 Nov. 1587, and was buried 13 Dec. at Kington. No will has been found, but his inquisition shows that he had already left the bulk of his estates to his elder son Thomas, mainly on the occasion of his marriage to a daughter of Sir Robert Long of Wraxhall. Thomas achieved some fame as an astrologer and was a captain on the Islands voyage of 1597.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: M.R.P.


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv, cvi), 183-4; Vis. Wilts. 1623, pp. 12, 32; Wilts. Arch. Mag. iv. table opp. p. 45; Wards 7/18/149.
  • 3. Mins. Proc. Sess. (Wilts. Arch. Soc. recs. br. iv), 48 seq.
  • 4. Wilts. Arch. Mag. iv. 36 seq.; J. Aubrey, N. Wilts. ed. Jackson, 120 n 2, 130-3, 240, 443; Wilts. N. and Q. v. 353, 354; PCC 17 Daughtry; CPR, 1563-6, pp. 250-1.
  • 5. SP12/183/41; APC, xv. 113; Mins. Proc. Sess. loc. cit.
  • 6. C219/283/20-1.
  • 7. C142/221/122.