CLERKE, John I (by 1476-1528), of Norwich, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1476, yr. s. of Gregory Clerke of Norwich by Agnes. m. (1) Elizabeth; (2) by 14 Nov. 1510, Cecily; (3) Agnes.2

Offices Held

Common councilman, Norwich 1501-5, chamberlain’s council 1505, 1506, sheriff 1507-8, alderman 1507-d., commr. subsidy 1512, 1514, 1515, 1523, 1524, mayor 1515-16, 1520-1, auditor 1519.3


The son and brother of Norwich aldermen, John Clerke became free of the city by patrimony in July 1497. Then described as pursuing his father’s trade of mercer, he was to sue out a pardon in 1510 as a mercer or grocer, while his regular supplying of wine for civic hospitality suggests that this was his principal line of business. He early achieved prominence in Norwich, becoming sheriff and alderman within six years of his election to the common council and mayor within a further eight. It was as a young alderman that he was also first chosen to be one of the city’s spokesmen: in July 1508 he was included in a delegation sent to ask the King and Council for concessions to Norwich in view of a recent fire. He could have been elected to the Parliament of 1510, for which the Norwich names are lost, and he was the city’s junior Member in its successor of 1512. As such, he introduced the bill, which became the Act 5 Hen. VIII, c.4, designed to protect the Norwich worsted industry by confining one of the processes used in making worsteds to persons approved by the mayor of Norwich and two representatives of the craft. Earlier in the Parliament he and his partner Robert Harydance had reported to his fellow-aldermen on the activities of a monk whom they suspected of seeking support for Norwich priory in its dispute with the city. In October 1513, between the second and third sessions, the two Members were granted £10 between them, to be collected from debts due to the city.4

Norwich could have been expected to defer to the King’s request for the re-election to the Parliament of 1515 of those who had sat in its precursor, but only Clerke was available, Harydance having died in February 1514. Whether Clerke was re-elected is not known, for the names are again lost, but if he was his attendance at the second session fell within his first mayoralty. It is clear that he did not sit in the Parliament of 1523, yet another for which no names survive, since on 5 June, five days before the second session opened, he and Thomas Aldrich were chosen by the Norwich assembly to go to London about the dispute with the priory. Having at first declined to repeat a journey which they had made in the previous year, both agreed to do so and were rewarded with concessions, Clerke’s being his exemption from the mayoralty for seven years from his last tenure. In September 1524 he was one of the aldermen who bound the city to abide by Wolsey’s decision in the matter.5

Clerke was an executor or supervisor of the wills of his parents, his stepfather Robert Thorp and his brother Gregory, but if he made one himself it has not been found. The inscription on his tomb in St. Andrew’s, Norwich, records his death on 22 Mar. 1528 and the names of his three wives.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Norwich ass. procs. 2, f. 82; Recs. Norwich, ed. Hudson and Tingey, i. 316.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from admission as freeman. Norwich ass. procs. 2, f. 103v; old free bk. f. 57v; Blomefield, Norf. iv. 307, 494; LP Hen. VIII, i.
  • 3. Norwich ass. procs. 2 passim; Statutes, iii. 81, 113, 174; LP Hen. VIII, iii. iv.
  • 4. PCC 28 Holder; Norwich old free bk. f. 57v; chamberlains’ accts. 1512-19 passim; ass. procs. 2, ff. 62, 82; LP Hen. VIII, i; House of Lords RO, Original Acts 5 Hen. VIII, no. 4; Recs. Norwich, i. 316.
  • 5. Norwich ass procs. 2, ff. 113-18; LP Hen. VIII, iv.
  • 6. Norwich ass. procs. 2, f. 103v; PCC 19 Moone, 28 Holder; Blomefield, iv. 307; B. Cozens-Hardy and E. A. Kent, Mayors of Norwich, 41.