POULETT (PAULET), John (1586-1649), of Hinton St. George, Som. and Clerkenwell, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



22 Oct. 1610

Family and Education

b. 3 Mar. 1586,1 1st s. of Sir Anthony Paulet, gov. of Jersey 1590-1600, of Hinton St. George, and Catherine, da. of Henry, 1st Lord Norreys of Rycote, Oxon.2 educ. Univ. Coll. Oxf. 1601;3 travelled abroad (France) 1604-7;4 M. Temple 1610.5 m. 1613, Elizabeth (d. 23 Nov. 1663?), da. and coh. of Christopher Kenn of Kenn Court, Som., 3s. 7da. (2 d.v.p.).6 suc. fa. 1600;7 cr. Bar. Poulett 23 June 1627;8 kntd. 23 Sept. 1635.9 d. 20 Mar. 1649.10

Offices Held

Chief steward to bp. of Bath and Wells 1598-1600 (jt.), 1600-27 (sole), 1627-?1646 (jt.);11 col. militia horse and ft. Som. 1608-at least 1639,12 j.p. by 1613-at least 1640;13 gov. Huish’s almshouses, Taunton, Som. 1616;14 sheriff, Som. 1616-17;15 dep. warden, Roche forest, Som. by 1618, jt. warden 1626-36;16 freeman, Lyme Regis, Dorset 1619,17 Bristol, Glos. 1624;18 commr. subsidy, Som. 1621-2, 1624,19 dep. lt. c.1624-42,20 commr. sewers 1625, 1629, 1634, 1641,21 Forced Loan 1626-7,22 disafforestation, Roche forest 1627, 1628,23 oyer and terminer, Western circ. 1629-42,24 Som. 1643,25 swans, West Country 1629,26 knighthood compositions, Som. 1630-1,27 array 1642,28 sequestration 1643-4, roy. contributions 1643, impressment 1644-5.29

Member, Virg. Co. 1612.30

Capt. RN 1635;31 Col. of horse and ft. (roy.) 1643-6.32

Commr. to treat with Scots 1640, 1641.33


The Pouletts were Somerset residents from the early thirteenth century, but first sat in Parliament for Devon in 1385. A cadet branch which settled at Basing, Hampshire, rose under the Tudors to the marquessate of Winchester. Of the senior line, which acquired Hinton by marriage in the fifteenth century, the best known member is Poulett’s grandfather, Sir Amias, a knight of the shire for Somerset in 1571, whose puritan conscience prevented him from contriving the murder of Mary, Queen of Scots while she was in his custody. In 1588 he was listed among the ‘knights of great possessions suitable to be created barons’.34 Poulett succeeded his father, the third of the family to govern Jersey, when he was only 14, inheriting a substantial estate in Somerset, Dorset and Devon. Another Somerset man, lord chief justice Sir John Popham†, purchased his wardship. The family circle included Dudley Carleton*, whom he visited in Paris in 1605-6.35

Poulett was noted as ‘a very accomplished gentleman of quick and clear parts, a bountiful housekeeper’, and a keen sportsman.36 In 1610 he replaced Sir Francis Hastings as a Somerset shire knight in the brief final session of the first Stuart Parliament, but left no trace in its few surviving records. He retained his seat in 1614 after a hard-fought campaign against Sir Robert Phelips*. Hitherto Poulett had been a close friend of Sir Robert’s family, and even during the election campaign he signed letters to Sir Edward Phelips* as ‘your son’. He had entered the lists on the assumption that there would not be a Phelips candidate, and as late as 7 Mar., the date on which it was widely expected that the election would be held, he was willing to withdraw: ‘I went out of my doors that morning (as I hope to be saved) with a resolution that if either I had met Sir Robert or any letter from him, to have entreated all my voices to cry out for him’. However, Phelips’ persistent failure to clarify his intentions pushed Poulett into an electoral pact with Sir Maurice Berkeley, and it was this pairing which ultimately emerged victorious. Despite their own culpability, the Phelipses deeply resented what they saw as a deliberate snub to their local prestige. Although they did not ultimately challenge the election result, and Sir Robert found a seat at Saltash, the 1614 contest led over time to the polarization of Somerset society between Poulett and Phelips factions.37

On taking up his Commons’ seat, Poulett again made little impact on the House, attracting a solitary appointment to consider a bill to restrict the powers of High Commission (31 May). His only speech, in which he backed calls for a committee on supply, came on 7 June, the Parliament’s final day.38

Five months after the dissolution Poulett, Berkeley, and Sir Nicholas Halswell* were summoned before the Privy Council, accused of complicity with the puritan rector of Hinton, Edmond Peacham. The latter had not only opposed the 1614 Benevolence, but also denounced both Francis James* and his diocesan bishop, the king’s spiritual director. A search of Peacham’s house revealed a draft sermon attacking the ecclesiastical courts, and justifying rebellion and regicide. Under torture he named Poulett’s brother-in-law Sir John Sydenham as his instigator. In February 1615 Poulett was again summoned to London to explain his dealings with the cleric, but he was dismissed without charge a month later. Peacham died in Taunton gaol under sentence of death in 1616.39

In 1619 Poulett became a freeman of Lyme Regis, a few miles from his Dorset manor of Marshwood, and he represented the borough in the third Jacobean Parliament.40 He made eight recorded speeches, and received two personal appointments. On 5 Feb. 1621 he was named to the sub-committee on recusancy, and on 24 May was nominated to attend a conference with the Lords on the Sabbath bill. In his opening speech, delivered on 5 Feb., he spoke vigorously in favour of free speech: ‘I think nothing can derogate so much from this House as to ask leave to speak or to be limited what to speak’. 41 Four days later Poulett successfully moved for all Members to be re-sworn so as to resolve confusion over who had already taken the oaths of supremacy and allegiance. Unsurprisingly, he agreed the next day that Sir John Leedes* should be discharged for sitting in the House without first taking the oaths. On 16 Feb. he moved for the swearing in of Sir Dudley Digges and Maurice Abbot, both of whom had missed the session’s opening days.42 At the second reading on 28 Feb. of a bill to enable Prince Charles to lease out duchy of Cornwall lands, Poulett observed that he and a few others had already taken such leases, which he hoped would now be confirmed. Having suggested that the bill be amended to that effect, he was indirectly named to the committee as one of the prince’s tenants.43 On 25 Apr., in the committee for grievances, he gave detailed evidence of the abuse of the alehouses patent in Somerset. Two days later he expressed his disgust at Sir William Pope’s dealings with Sir George Marshall* for a knighthood of the Bath:

if ever he had meddled with this kind of merchandise, and not paid for it, he should now fear to be called in question for it. He is sorry that any gentleman should be of opinion that honour may be sold, for he thinketh it no honour, which is bought for money.44

Poulett is unlikely to have been the ‘Mr. Powlett’ who joined Prince Charles in Spain in 1623.45 In the following year he refused to stand for Somerset, ‘for that he hath already served twice ... and there are many more gentlemen of worth in the country worthy of the place’.46 ‘Great Mr. Poulett’ entertained the new king at Hinton in September 1626, and a month later he was selected to play host to the troublesome Huguenot refugee, the duc de Soubise. Although the Frenchman was effectively under house arrest, he and Poulett seem to have lived on friendly terms, sharing a Calvinist outlook and a love of hunting.47 Summoned to receive a knighthood of the Bath in January 1626, Poulett demurred, explaining to secretary of state Sir Edward Conway I* that the earl marshal’s notification had arrived too late for him to reach the Court by the appointed date. Despite this disappointment, he became the government’s most regular informant on Somerset matters, using this correspondence to pursue his on-going struggle with Sir Robert Phelips for local supremacy. In September 1626, after reporting that ‘in this county in all places people have given to the Benevolence’, he went on to blame two of Phelips’ allies, Hugh Pyne* and John Symes*, for endeavouring to ‘disorder businesses’. A week later he wrote to Buckingham in praise of Sir Edward Rodney* and other promoters of the Benevolence, and claimed that this confirmed his advice ‘touching the making choice of men known to be well affectioned to His Majesty’s service in every county’.48

Poulett’s peerage in 1627 was generally thought to have been procured by Soubise. Despite a ‘long and lingering indisposition’ with gout and fever, the new baron took his seat in the Lords in the third Caroline Parliament.49 His son John represented Somerset in the Long Parliament until disabled for royalism. Poulett himself joined the royalist forces under the marquess of Hertford (William Seymour*) at the outset of the Civil War. When he compounded, he was preserved from the severest penalties by the intervention of Sir Thomas Fairfax†, who had married his daughter-in-law’s sister, and who supported his petition to compound on the Exeter Articles. Nevertheless, he was fined £2,742, and also sentenced to pay Lyme Regis corporation an annuity of £200, along with £1,500 to Sir John Drake’s* widow, as compensation for damage inflicted by forces under his command. Poulett died in March 1649. He left £3,000 each to his two unmarried daughters, and provided for the enlargement of the almshouse at Hinton. His grandson and namesake also sat for Somerset after the Restoration.50

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. C142/260/143.
  • 2. Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. xi), 83; C.G. Winn, Pouletts of Hinton St. George, 43, 46.
  • 3. Al. Ox.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 108, 310; HMC Hatfield, xvii. 458.
  • 5. M. Temple Admiss.
  • 6. Vis. Som. 83; Winn, 48, 58; CP, x. 617.
  • 7. C142/260/143.
  • 8. CP, x. 616.
  • 9. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 203.
  • 10. CP, x. 617.
  • 11. HMC Wells, ii. 336, 387; P.M. Hembry, Bps. of Bath and Wells 1540-1640, pp. 46-8.
  • 12. Earl of Hertford’s Ltcy. Pprs. ed. W.P.D. Murphy (Wilts. Rec. Soc. xxiii), 144; Cal. Corresp. of Smyth Fam. ed. J.H. Bettey (Bristol Rec. Soc. xxxv), 136, 141.
  • 13. T.G. Barnes, Som. 1625-40, p. 315.
  • 14. J. Toulmin, Taunton, 219.
  • 15. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 125.
  • 16. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 150; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 163; Barnes, 22;
  • 17. Dorset RO, B7/B6/11, f. 13.
  • 18. Bristol RO, common council procs. 1608-27, f. 122v.
  • 19. C212/22/20-1, 23.
  • 20. Barnes, 317.
  • 21. C181/3, f. 186v; 181/4, ff. 21, 172v; 181/5, f. 204v.
  • 22. C193/12/2, f. 50; Rymer, viii. pt. 2, p. 145.
  • 23. C66/2431, 2441, 2472.
  • 24. C181/3, f. 259; 181/5, f. 221.
  • 25. Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 81.
  • 26. C181/4, f. 2.
  • 27. E178/5614, ff. 7, 13; 178/7154, f. 168c.
  • 28. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 29. Docquets of Letters Patent, 55, 75, 187, 198, 250.
  • 30. A. Brown, Genesis of US, ii. 962.
  • 31. CSP Dom. 1635, p. 94.
  • 32. Docquets of Letters Patent, 37, 65, 202.
  • 33. Rymer, ix. pt.3, pp. 35, 66.
  • 34. Winn, 14; VCH Som. iv. 42; OR; HP Commons, 1558-1603, iii. 187-8.
  • 35. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 457; 1603-10, p. 310; WARD 9/160, ff. 122v-3; HMC Hatfield, xvii. 458.
  • 36. T. Fuller, Worthies, iii. 112; William Whiteway of Dorchester (Dorset Rec. Soc. xii), 125.
  • 37. M.A. Kishlansky, Parl. Selection, 86-100; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 518, 520, 524.
  • 38. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 394, 441.
  • 39. Chamberlain Letters, i. 568, 584; APC, 1613-14, p. 611; 1615-16, pp. 69, 81; State Trials ed. T.B. Howell, ii. 876-7; Letters of John Holles ed. P.R. Seddon (Thoroton Soc. rec. ser. xxxi), 63.
  • 40. Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 40, 262.
  • 41. CD 1621, ii. 25, 27; CJ, i. 626a.
  • 42. CJ, i. 515a, 516b, 523a; CD 1621, ii. 46, 54.
  • 43. CJ, i. 531a-b; Harl. 781, f. 11.
  • 44. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 323-4, 343-4.
  • 45. Autobiog. of Sir Simonds D’Ewes ed. J.O. Halliwell, ii. 434.
  • 46. Kishlansky, 24.
  • 47. Yonge Diary ed. G. Roberts (Cam. Soc. xli), 86; C115/108 /8632; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 54; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 121; 1629-31, pp. 18, 115; Corresp. of Smyth Fam. 117.
  • 48. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 238; Barnes, 89; SP16/36/46; 16/37/5.
  • 49. Birch, i. 245; Corresp. of Smyth Fam. 136, 142, 144, 185; CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 279.
  • 50. D. Underdown, Som. in the Civil War and Interregnum, 11; CCC, 1052-3; PROB 11/207, f. 336.