SWINNERTON, John (1564-1616), of St. Mary Aldermanbury, 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

b. 1564, 1st s. of John Swinnerton, merchant, of London by Mary, da. of one Fawnte. educ. Merchant Taylors’ 1576. m. 22 July 1586, Thomasine, da. of Richard Buckfolde of London, 4s 3da. Kntd. 16 July 1603. 26 July 1603. suc. fa. 1608.1

Offices Held

Alderman, London 22 June 1602, sheriff 1602-3, ld. mayor 1612-13; farmer of imposts on French and Rhenish wines 1593-7, 1599-1607, of imposts on sweet wines 1612; gov. Christ’s Hospital.2


Swinnerton was probably apprenticed to his father upon leaving Merchant Taylors’ school. Wright, in his History of Essex, suggests that he spent a number of his formative years in Spain, there acquiring the character of an accomplished gentleman. No evidence is adduced for this, but it is quite possible that he did serve abroad as an agent for his father. By 1589, however, when he was made free by patrimony of the Merchant Taylors’ Company, he must have been trading on his own behalf.3

It was his interest in the Bordeaux trade that led him, no doubt, to put in his successful tender for the farm of the wines in 1593. Apart from two years when the imposts were not farmed out but collected by government agents, Swinnerton was farmer for 14 years, though rarely able to enjoy the grant peacefully. His first year’s profit was estimated by a government official at over £3,000 which, despite increases in his rent, had risen in the nine months from Michaelmas 1599 to June 1600, to over £14,000 for London alone. Swinnerton invested part of his profit in land. In 1601 he bought the manors of Belhouse, Dagenham and Stanway in Essex, erecting a ‘stately structure’ on the ruins of the old house at Stanway. In the following year he purchased an estate in the parsish of St. Mary Aldermanbury, from the 4th Marquess of Winchester. Included was a house leased by the Countess of Shrewsbury, to whom Fulke Greville expressed his belief that ‘your Ladyship would not willingly become a tenant to such a fellow’.4

Swinnerton sat in one Parliament during Elizabeth’s reign, presumably as the nominee of Thomas Hanbury, who had purchased Petersfield in 1597.

He was amongst the merchants who formed the East India Company in 1599, promising £300 for the first voyage. He died 8 Dec. 1616 ‘not altogether so great or rich a man as he was held, and made show of’. In his will, drawn up 7 Sept. 1616, proved 13 Dec., he divided his personal estate into three parts, ‘after the laudable custom of the city of London’: a third for his wife, a third for his five younger children, and a third for his personal bequests. By a codicil made 7 Dec. he attempted to ensure that his daughters would marry. His executors were his wife Thomasine, and his eldest son Henry. The preamble to the will declared that, ‘by Jesus Christ and His merits only I faithfully believe to be saved, and that after this mortal life ended my soul shall ascend into heaven and be glorified there forever in the presence of God, and His son Christ, and all the holy angels, saints and martyrs, as it is written’. At his funeral a sermon was to be preached by ‘a godly, learned preacher, not that it availeth the departed, since all come unto God by Christ, who ever liveth to make intercession for the believer’. He left a number of charitable bequests: £100 towards the relief of poor children of the hospital of Christ Church, of which he was a governor; £10 each to the three other London hospitals; £5 each to four London prisons, and £10 to the poor of the parish of St. Mary Aldermanbury, in which he lived, with £7 a year to those of St. Alphege where he had been born. He was buried in the church of St. Mary Aldermanbury.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: A. M. Mimardière


  • 1. Merchant Taylors’ School Reg. ed. Hart, 11 (unpaginated); London Mar. Lic. (Harl. Soc. xxv), 27, 151; PCC 125 Cope, 8 Dorset.
  • 2. J. J. Baddeley, Aldermen of Cripplegate Ward, 58; G. E. Cokayne, Lord Mayors and Sheriffs of the City of London, 55; F. C. Dietz, Eng. Public Finance, 1558-1641, pp. 74-5, 91; R. H. Tawney, Business and Politics under James I, 96 n. 2, 104 n. 2; PCC 125 Cope.
  • 3. T. Wright, Hist. Essex, i. 401; C. M. Clode, Early Hist. Merchant Taylors’ Co. i. 263.
  • 4. A. P. Newton, ‘Establishment of the Great Farm of the Eng. Custom’, Trans. R. Hist. Soc. (ser. 4), i. 145; Dietz, 74, 91; C2 Eliz./S24/59; HMC Hatfield, xiv. 138-9; Lansd. 81, ff. 64-5; CSP Dom. 1595-7, pp. 18, 32, 218; 1598-1601, pp. 445-6; Wright, i. 401-2, 487; Nichols, Progresses Eliz. iii. 598.
  • 5. Baddeley, 58; A. L. Simon, Hist. Wine Trade, iii. 3, 6; Cokayne, 55; Chamberlain Letters ed. McClure, ii. 44; PCC 125 Cope; Regs. of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury (Harl. Soc. Regs. lxi), 96; Clode, i. 263.