CONSTABLE, John (by 1526-79), of Halsham and Burton Constable, Yorks.

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



Mar. 1553
Oct. 1553

Family and Education

b. by 1526, 1st s. of Sir John Constable of Burton Constable by Joan, da. and coh. of Ralph Neville of Thornton Bridge. educ. ?G. Inn, adm. 1544. m. (1) Margaret, da. of John, 8th Lord Scrope of Bolton, 5s. inc. Henry; (2) Catherine, da. of Henry Neville, 5th Earl of Westmorland, 1s. suc. fa. 1542. Kntd. 2 Oct. 1553.1

Offices Held

Commr. relief, Yorks. (E. Riding) 1550, sewers, Yorks. 1555, 1565, (E. Riding) 1570, castles and enclosure of borders 1555; j.p. (E. Riding) 1554, rem. 1562, rest. by 1569, sheriff, Yorks. 1566-7, member, council in the north June 1566-Dec. 1567.2


The Constables of Burton Constable, the leading family in Holderness, were closely related to neighbouring ones, notably the Hilliards of Winestead. In 1543 John Constable’s wardship was granted to Michael Stanhope, lieutenant (later governor) of Hull and brother-in-law of Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford. Four years later Stanhope acquired the hospital of St. Sepulchre near Hedon and its possessions within that borough, and it was he who had Hedon re-enfranchised. On 10 Dec. 1547 Constable had licence to enter on his lands, and in the year after his former guardian’s death he was returned for Hedon to Edward VI’s second Parliament. His fellow-Member Robert Shakerley was related to the 5th Earl of Shrewsbury and it is probable that in this and subsequent Parliaments patronage was shared between the earl and the Constables. At about this time the property which Stanhope had held in Hedon was granted to Constable’s brother Ralph.3

Both Members were re-elected to the first Marian Parliament and Constable was knighted on the day after the Queen’s coronation, three days before the Parliament met. Neither Constable nor Shakerley was listed among those who ‘stood for the true religion’, that is, for Protestantism, but the omission in the Journal of a christian name leaves it uncertain whether it was to Sir John Constable or to Sir Robert Constable of Everingham that a bill to establish a standard measure throughout the realm was committed after its second reading on 17 Oct. Similarly, the loss of the christian name from the return makes it impossible to determine which of them was elected knight of the shire in 1555. The balance of probability lies with Sir Robert, who had sat for the shire in two earlier Parliaments, and it was thus left to Sir John’s son Henry to attain the knighthood in 1588 after sitting twice for Hedon.4

In May 1556 a quarrel between Constable and John Bellow, who had been a partner with Michael Stanhope in property speculation, came before the Privy Council, which on 1 June bound both men to keep the peace. Nine months later the Council ordered the Yorkshire justices of assize to stay proceedings against certain of Constable’s servants whom Bellow had accused of murder, until Bellow, than a prisoner in the Fleet, should be free to prosecute the matter. When Constable was summoned before the Star Chamber later in 1557 over the same dispute his excuse that he was ‘presently serving in the north parts’ was accepted, but early in the following year he had to give a bond to appear before the Council. His services were to win him a place on the council in the north under Elizabeth but his violent and vindictive behaviour led to his dismissal.5

The 5th Earl of Westmorland had a grant of the seignory of Holderness in 1558 and a year later sold it to Constable, perhaps already his son-in-law, for £4,000. Constable had earlier purchased the reversion of Swine priory for £1,530 and he was also to obtain the manor of Hackness in 1564. He died on 25 May 1579, four days after adding a codicil to his will.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from livery of inheritance. Vis. Yorks. (Harl. Soc. xvi), 68; Gooder, Parlty. Rep. Yorks. ii. 16; Test. Ebor. vi (Surtees Soc. cvi), 153-4.
  • 2. CPR, 1553, p. 353; 1553-4, p. 26; 1554-5, p. 110; 1555-7, p. 54; 1569-72, pp. 216, 224; R. R. Reid, King’s Council in the North, 494.
  • 3. G. R. Park, Hedon, 141; LP Hen. VIII, xviii; CPR, 1547-8, p. 141.
  • 4. CJ, i. 28.
  • 5. APC, v. 271, 276; vi. 65, 166, 253; HMC Bath, ii. 19; SP15/13/110; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 71; J. J. Cartwright, Chaps. in Yorks. Hist. 66; H. Aveling, Post Ref. Catholicism in E. Yorks. (E. Yorks. Local Hist. Soc. 1960), 25.
  • 6. NRA 10952, p. 2; CPR, 1555-7, pp. 300-1; 1557-8, p. 455; 1558-60, p. 150; 1563-6, p. 132; C142/185/40; York wills 23, f. 539.