FANNE, John (by 1510-51), of Cambridge.

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 1510 ?s. of Robert Fanne of Cambridge. m. (?1) Margaret, da. of William Swayne; (?2) Anne; 3s. 4da.2

Offices Held

Alderman, Cambridge, treasurer 1531, mayor 1547-8; commr. relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553.3


John Fanne’s family probably originated at Thaxted, Essex, where he owned land which he let out. A namesake of yeoman status was living at Thaxted in 1544-7 and another, or perhaps the same man, in the 1580s.4

Fanne was one of several Cambridge Members in this period who were elected to Parliament while mayor and thus returning officer of the borough, a practice common in the 16th century although later proscribed. He is not known to have taken any part in the quarrels which periodically rent the municipal ranks, but he upheld the borough’s interests in its disputes with the university; in December 1546 he was a spokesman for the borough in one such dispute, and 18 months before he had sued the master of Peterhouse in the court of King’s bench, a defiance of the university’s privileges which prompted a supersedeas transferring the case to the vice-chancellor’s court. He acted as the borough’s man of affairs in London on a number of occasions; in 1545 he received some £13 10s.for his costs in Exchequer cases involving the borough and in 1551 a further £8 18s. for the town’s business ‘in Lynn matter’.5

Like other leading freemen of Cambridge Fanne was an encloser of common land; it was alleged at the time of the rebellion of 1549 that Fanne ‘had in his hands a piece of maris [marsh] ground now severalled which was common within these 16 years’. He was eulogised as a Protestant by Bishop Pilkington on account of his bequest for an annual sermon in Cambridge, but it is doubtful whether his religion had anything to do with his election either as mayor or Member. His death in 1551 necessitated a by-election.6

Fanne died between 12 July 1551 when he made his will and the following 6 Aug. when it was proved. He left £20 to be distributed among the poor of Thaxted and Cambridge; this was to be done at the rate of 2s. each ‘to the poorest labouring folks in Thaxted the which cannot find their wives and children with their labour and to other that beg the which have not so much need 8d.apiece’. Fanne divided his land among his sons and left £60 to each daughter and a further legacy to the child his wife was then carrying. He left 20 marks to found an almshouse in Cambridge for four poor people, 40s. a year from the income of his shop in Sturbridge fair for dikeing the common (presumably marsh) land around Cambridge, and £10 ‘to certain learned men to make certain sermons’. His memory as a Protestant was perpetuated by the gift of 5s. a year for an annual sermon by ‘one honest learned man’; the better to distinguish the occasion from Catholic funeral observances Fanne ordered 10s. to be distributed among the poor after each sermon, with smaller gifts to the borough officers, ‘and to the waits 16d. that they should play there ... and then to spend in bread drink and cheese 5s’.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: D. F. Coros


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament; C. H. Cooper, Cambridge Annals, ii. 44, 49.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Cooper, i. 302; PCC 21 Bucke; C1/1368/115; Cambridge Guildhall reg. bk. 1539-82, f. 61.
  • 3. PCC 21 Bucke; Cooper, i. 353; F. Blomefield, Coll. Cant. 224; CPR, 1550-3, p. 395; 1553, p. 362.
  • 4. C1/1121/2, 1122/3, 1299/7-9; Req.2/165/67.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, xx, xxi; Downing Coll. Camb. Bowtell mss Liber Rationalis 1510-60 passim; Cambridge Guildhall reg. bk. 1539-82, ff. 12, 13.
  • 6. J. M. Gray, Notes on Cambridge Mayors, 24-25; Pilkington, Works (Parker Soc.), 656; Foxe, Acts and Mons. viii. 294n.; Cooper, ii. 1.
  • 7. PCC 21 Bucke.