SCOTT, Sir John (c.1564-1616), of Nettlestead and Scot's Hall, Smeeth, Kent and Philip Lane, St. Alphege, London

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




Family and Education

b. c.1564, 2nd s. of Sir Thomas Scott† (d.1594) of Scot’s Hall and his 1st w. Elizabeth, da. of Sir John Baker† of Sissinghurst, Kent; bro. of Edward* and Thomas†. educ. Hart Hall, Oxf. 1580, aged 16. m. (1) c.1591, Elizabeth (d. 6 Feb. 1599), lady of the bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth, da. of Sir William Stafford† of Chebsey, Staffs., wid. of Sir William Drury† of Hawstead, Suff., gov. of Bergen-op-Zoom 1588-90, s.p.; (2) by 1600?, Catherine (d. by 8 Mar. 1617), da. of Thomas Smythe I† of London and Westenhanger, Kent, customs farmer 1569-88, wid. of Sir Rowland Hayward† (d.1593), clothworker, of Elsing Spital, London, ld. mayor 1570-1, 1591, s.p.1 kntd. c.12 Nov. 1588;2 suc. bro. 1610. d. 24 Sept. 1616.3 sig. John Scott.

Offices Held

Capt. of ft., Low Countries 1585-9,4 Islands’ Voyage 1597,5 Ire. 1599, 1602.6

J.p. Kent by 1593-d.,7 capt. militia ft. 1598-1601,8 horse 1611,9 dep. lt. 1601-?d.;10 commr. sewers, Kent and Suss. 1602-at least 1609,11 inquiry, lands and goods of George Brooke, Kent 1603,12 subsidy 1607-8;13 freeman, Maidstone 1612;14 commr. aid, Kent 1612;15 collector, composition for purveyance, Aylesford division, Kent 1614;16 commr. charitable uses 1615-d.17

Cttee. Virg. Co. 1607.18


Scott came from an old Kentish family that produced an MP for Hythe in 1384 and regularly represented the county from 1430. It reached the apex of its prosperity and prestige under his father, knight of the shire in three Elizabethan Parliaments and noted for his liberal housekeeping.19 Like his elder brother Thomas and younger brother Charles, Scott became a professional soldier, raising a company of foot in 1585 to serve in the Netherlands. After the siege of Bergen-op-Zoom was lifted in November 1588 he was knighted by Lord Willoughby, and in the following year he surrendered his commission and returned to England. Owed a considerable sum in backpay, he soon married the widow of Sir William Drury, his former commanding officer at Bergen. If Scott hoped to enjoy long possession of the Drury estates he was soon disappointed, for in 1592 Drury’s 17-year old son, Sir Robert* wed a daughter of the wealthy Suffolk squire, (Sir) Nicholas Bacon†, occasioning a dispute over money. However, in 1593 Bacon agreed to pay Lady Scott £400 p.a. in lieu of her jointure in return for a lease of the Drury estates.20 Scott’s fortunes were further improved in 1594, when he received £200 of his arrears and inherited £115 in cash and the manor of Nettlestead, situated on the Medway about four miles south-west of Maidstone.21

Although now settled, Scott did not abandon his military career but served with the 2nd earl of Essex during the Azores voyage in 1597, and in Ireland two years later. On his return to England he strengthened his links with Essex by taking as his second wife the sister of Sir Thomas Smythe*. He was not exclusively bound to the earl, however, as his kinsman, lord treasurer Buckhurst (Thomas Sackville†), was a close ally of Essex’s great rival, Robert Cecil†. In 1600 Scott appealed to Buckhurst after the local sewer commissioners, many of them allies of Lord Cobham (Henry Brooke alias Cobham II†), sought to remove all the weirs on the Medway. Buckhurst, who detested Cobham, was only too pleased to oblige, and although Scott was forced to abandon his opposition to the removal of the weirs the commissioners were compelled to give up their scheme to make the river navigable.22 In the following year Scott was incriminated in Essex’s rising and briefly confined to his London townhouse, but was released in May 1601.23 Shortly thereafter Buckhurst persuaded him to challenge the Cobham interest again by standing as knight of the shire, but he stood down on polling day after Buckhurst and Cobham struck a deal. Buckhurst rewarded him in December by being appointed to the Kent lieutenancy.24 Henceforward, Scott overshadowed his elder brother in the county.

Following the fall of Lord Cobham in 1603, Scott was elected to the first Stuart Parliament as the junior knight for Kent. He seems to have been a fairly active Member, being appointed to 90 committees, but was no debater. During the first session he was appointed to consider the grievances propounded by Sir Robert Wroth I (23 Mar.), and was one of the Members instructed, on the motion of Sir Oliver St. John, to recommend measures for the relief of veterans of the Irish campaigns (26 March). He twice accompanied the Speaker to the king over the Buckinghamshire election (28 Mar. and 12 Apr.), and on 30 Mar. was required to help set down the Common’s reasons for their proceedings in writing. He was named to the committee for religion proposed by Sir Francis Hastings (16 Apr.), and to those for the suppression of popish books (6 June) and the reform of the ecclesiastical courts (16 June).25 He was ordered to attend two conferences on wardship (26 Mar. and 22 May) and another on the Union with Scotland (14 Apr.), and could have attended committees for the naturalization of two important office-holders, Lord Bruce of Kinloss and Sir George Home (later earl of Dunbar).26 He may have been invited by Sir Edward Stafford, his first wife’s brother, to serve on the committee appointed on 15 May for the restitution in blood of Lord William Howard. He was also named to the committee on the bill to enable Sir Christopher Hatton* (for whom he later stood surety) to sell land (29 June).27 Soon after the prorogation, Scott helped to greet the constable of Castile on his arrival in England. In the following year he applied unsuccessfully to Cecil, now earl of Salisbury, for £500 due to him for military service in the Low Countries, including the cost of clothing his men on his own credit.28

After the Gunpowder Plot, Scott was appointed to help consider ‘consider of some course for the timely and severe proceeding against Jesuits, seminaries, and all other popish agents and practisers’ (26 Jan. 1606). He was also named to committees for the restoration of deprived ministers (7 Mar.) and the better direction of ecclesiastical proceedings (1 April).29 On 30 Jan. he was appointed to consider John Hare’s radical bill to abolish purveyance. He was subsequently named to help draft the subsidy bill (10 Feb.) and to consider measures to outlaw impositions (19 Mar.) and promote free trade (3 April).30 A former resident of Drury Lane, he was naturally interested in the paving bill (19 March). Having been forced to destroy his weir at Nettlestead, he was not surprisingly included on committees to consider legislation regarding the statute of sewers (31 Jan.) and the building of river obstructions (7 February).31 In association with Edward Peake, he probably sponsored the bill for the export of beer, likely to be of most benefit to Kent, for their names head the committee list (27 March).32

In the third session Scott was among those added to the committee to consider the Union with Scotland (29 Nov. 1606). He presumably served on the committee to confirm Salisbury’s title to Cheshunt vicarage, to which he was named on 12 Dec., as not long after he wrote to thank Salisbury for a Sussex wardship, ‘which proved more to him in value than he ever received from any person living, his father and wives excepted’, and to ask ‘whether it is fitting for him to renew his suit to the king’ for back pay and expenses.33 Following the Christmas recess, Scott’s name disappears from the parliamentary records, only to re-emerge at the beginning of May 1607, when he was appointed to committees on bills to strengthen the New River Act and naturalize Thomas Amoot. He again disappears from sight after 16 May, when he was appointed to the committee for the bill to restore in blood the children of Edward Windsor.34 It was no doubt through his brother-in-law Sir Thomas Smythe that he joined the board of the Virginia Company in April 1607.

When Parliament reassembled for the fourth session in 1610, Scott attended the conference at which Salisbury proposed the Great Contract (15 February). Behind the scenes he seems to have proved sufficiently troublesome to the government to be included among the eight ‘select Members of the Lower House’ who met Salisbury in Hyde Park on the evening of 10 July to reach an understanding on impositions. He was appointed to several bill committees, including those to prevent pluralism (19 Feb.), avoid the need for subscription (14 Mar.), prevent the export of ordnance (17 Mar.) and revoke trusts made by his stepson Sir Robert Drury (27 March).35

Shortly before Parliament met for its fifth and final session Scott succeeded to the estates of his childless elder brother, and thereafter he lived at Scot’s Hall, in the parish of Smeeth. This sudden change of fortune may have kept Scott away from Parliament; certainly he left no trace on the records of the session. Scott was now considerably wealthy, for in addition to Nettlestead and the Scot’s Hall estate he also leased from the Crown nearby Aldington Park, a property that had come into his possession some years earlier following the death of two of his younger brothers.36 In about 1614 the government estimated his annual income at around £2,000.37

In September 1613 Scott was urged by his kinsman Thomas Scott* of Canterbury to stand for the county seat once again ‘when that inevitable and desired and feared day comes’. Thomas sent him a pamphlet by the out-ports’ propagandist Thomas Milles of Sandwich, and proposed that he should ally himself with Sir Edwin Sandys ‘or some such’ so as to launch a fresh assault on the privileges of the London trading Companies.38 Scott, who had earlier shown an interest in free trade, took heed, and in March 1614 he and Sandys campaigned for the county seats. However, despite early confidence, they were defeated by Sir Peter Manwood and Sir Thomas Walsingham I and Scott was obliged to look to Maidstone, the parliamentary borough closest to Nettlestead.39 A freeman of the borough since 1612, he was elected in succession to his kinsman by marriage, Laurence Washington*.

Scott played only a modest role in the Addled Parliament, as he made no recorded speeches and was named to just eight committees, although these included the committee for privileges and the committee for the repeal or continuance of expiring statutes (both on 8 April). On 13 Apr. he was among those appointed to prepare an address expressing abhorrence of ‘undertaking’. As one of the senior knights of the county, he resented yielding precedence to the new-fangled baronets, and was appointed to consider their position (23 May). Indeed, a few months later he was rebuked for refusing to recognize the titles of Sir Samuel Peyton* and another Kentish baronet, an error which the Privy Council had not expected in ‘a gentleman of your judgment, temper, and discretion’. His nomination on 16 May to consider a bill to establish a hospital in East Grinstead out of funds bequeathed by the 2nd earl of Dorset (Robert Sackville*) presumably reflected his kinship with the Sackvilles.40

Following the dissolution, Scott enthusiastically supported the royal benevolence. As well as contributing £20 himself,41 he offered to employ 100 men to coerce the reluctant, a proposal which so appalled one unnamed member of the Council that he declared it ‘out of reason’. Lord chancellor Ellesmere (Thomas Egerton I†) added ‘that all good persuasions might be used to further the king’s service herein, but no terrifyings’.42

Despite two marriages Scott remained childless, and consequently as early as 1610 he provided for his estates to be conveyed to trustees on his death. On 14 Sept. 1616 he revised these arrangements to remedy defects in a former conveyance.43 Four days later he drafted his will, by which time he was sick, in which he confidently declared that he would enjoy the ‘eternal bliss of heaven, prepared before all worlds for the faithful and elect’. Legatees included his ‘ancient, approved and most faithful friend’ Sir Thomas Smythe, and one of the overseers was Thomas Brett*, ‘in whom I repose great trust’. He died six days later and was buried at his request among his ancestors at Brabourne. On hearing of his death Viscount L’Isle (Robert Sidney†) described him as a worthy friend, ‘and such as I shall hardly find the like again’. Scott’s heir was the 12-year old daughter of his deceased younger brother Richard, but Scot’s Hall passed into the hands of his brother, Edward, who sat in Parliament during the 1620s. 44

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Peter Lefevre / Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. xlii), 128; Al. Ox.; J. Thorpe, Reg. Roffense, 806-7; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 70; ii. 57.
  • 2. C.R. Markham, The Fighting Veres, 131-2 (ref. from David Trim).
  • 3. C142/363/208.
  • 4. CSP For. 1584-5, p. 635; E351/240-1 (refs. from David Trim); APC, 1589-90, p. 135.
  • 5. Stuart Tracts ed. C.H. Firth, 129 (ref. from David Trim).
  • 6. Arch. Cant. lxxviii. 71; HMC Hatfield, xiv. 210.
  • 7. Cal. Assize Recs. Kent Indictments, Eliz. ed. J.S. Cockburn, 343;
  • 8. APC, 1597-8, p. 204; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, i. 496.
  • 9. Cent. Kent. Stud. U1115/06/33-4.
  • 10. APC, 1601-4, p. 450.
  • 11. C181/1, f. 28v; 181/2, f. 87v.
  • 12. C181/1, p. 135.
  • 13. E115/355/140; SP14/31/1.
  • 14. W.B. Gilbert, Antiqs. of Maidstone, 124.
  • 15. E163/16/21.
  • 16. Cent. Kent. Stud. U1115/013/6.
  • 17. C93/6/18; 93/7/17.
  • 18. Recs. Virg. Co. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, iv. 369.
  • 19. E. Hasted, Kent, viii. 6.
  • 20. Letters from Redgrave Hall ed. D. MacCulloch (Suff. Rec. Soc. l), 69; R.C. Bald, Donne and the Drurys, 25.
  • 21. E351/241, unfol. (ref. from David trim); PROB 11/85, f. 1.
  • 22. Cent. Kent. Stud. U1115/014/1; E.M. Thompson, Descriptive Cat. of Manorial Rolls belonging to Sir H.F. Burke (Manorial Soc. xii), ii. 57; P. Clark, Eng. Prov. Soc. 263-4.
  • 23. APC, 1600-1, pp. 154, 210, 273, 356; CSP Dom. 1601-3, p. 4; Chamberlain Letters, i.121.
  • 24. Staffs. RO, D593/S4/60/10; Clark, 264-5.
  • 25. CJ, i. 173a, 233b, 993b.
  • 26. Ibid. 154a, 172a, 198b, 213b, 222b.
  • 27. Ibid. 211a, 249a; APC, 1615-16, p. 629.
  • 28. Arch. Cant. lxxxii. 128; HMC Hatfield, xvii. 635.
  • 29. CJ, i. 257b, 279a, 291b.
  • 30. Ibid. 261b, 266b, 287a, 292b.
  • 31. Ibid. 262a, 265a, 287a. For his residence in Drury Lane, see Bald, 24.
  • 32. CJ, i. 290b.
  • 33. Ibid. 330a; HMC Hatfield, xix. 12.
  • 34. CJ, i. 365b(x2), 374b.
  • 35. Ibid. 393b, 396b, 410a, 412b; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, i. 122-3.
  • 36. Cent. Kent. Stud. U1115/T31/1-3.
  • 37. HMC Hatfield, xxii. 13, 558.
  • 38. Bodl. Ballard 61, f. 88v; P. Clark, ‘Thomas Scott and the Growth of Urban Opposition to the Early Stuart Regime’, HJ, xxi. 10.
  • 39. J.R. Scott, Scott, of Scot’s-Hall, p. xx.
  • 40. CJ, i. 456b, 457a, 464a, 486a, 494b; APC, 1613-14, pp. 651-2.
  • 41. E351/1950, unfol.
  • 42. Add. 34218, f. 148v.
  • 43. Cent. Kent. Stud. U1115/T117/6-7; 1115/E12/1.
  • 44. PROB 11/131, ff. 57-9v; Arch. Cant. x. 266; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, v. 409; C142/363/208.