FRYER, John (1498/99-1563), of London.

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. 1498/99, s. of John Fryer of Balsham, Cambs. by Lettice, da. of one Barnatt of Kent. educ. Eton c.1512-17; King’s, Camb. adm. 1517, fellow 1520-5, BA 1521-2, MA 1524-5; Cardinal, Oxf. incorp. MA Nov. 1525; Padua MD 1535. m. Ursula, da. of Robert Castell of East Hatley, Cambs., 5s. 3da.1

Offices Held

Fellow, college of physicians 1536, censor 1541, 1553-5, 1559, an elect 1547, councillor 1548, 1555-60, pres. 1549-50.2


John Fryer was one of the Cambridge men ‘found to excel in any kind of learning and knowledge’ whom Wolsey attracted to his newly founded college at Oxford. There Fryer came under the influence of Thomas Garrett and was converted to Lutheranism. On hearing of his apostacy the cardinal ordered his arrest, and after eluding capture at Oxford he was taken at the Blackfriars in London and committed to the Fleet. This seems to have been done by Wolsey’s receiver, who was also master of the Savoy, a circumstance which may explain Anthony Wood’s story that Fryer was imprisoned in the Savoy and that while he was solacing himself with the lute the master declared ‘Take heed, for he that playeth is a devil, because he has departed from the Catholic faith’. Shortly before his release Fryer thanked Wolsey for the clemency shown to him.3

It was with the encouragement of Wolsey’s secretary Edward Fox that Fryer travelled on the Continent and studied medicine at Padua. He joined his patron at the diet of Smalkalde in Saxony and on returning to England in 1536 he entered the college of physicians. He won renown for his skill and among his patients were Thomas Wriothesley, Baron Wriothesley, Sir Edward Waldegrave, Cardinal Pole and Queen Mary. When another of them, Bishop Hilsey of Rochester, died in 1539 Fryer sought Cromwell’s help in obtaining his fee, the bishop’s goods having been sequestered, and argued that it should be a liberal one, ‘for of them that escape we may take the less because we hope they shall once come again into our hands’.4

Fryer’s election for Portsmouth to the Parliament of 1545 on the eve of its postponed assembly was clearly the work of Wriothesley, whose servant he was called on the return; his fellow-Member Michael Gore was described as a servant of William Paulet, Baron St. John. Fryer may have helped in the passage of the Act during the first session (37 Hen. VIII, c.26) for an exchange of lands between Wriothesley, the Earl of Hertford and the bishop of Salisbury. Wriothesley did not mention Fryer in his will of July 1550, but the patronage of other leading patients might have been expected to keep him in the public eye. Apart from his professional advancement, however, no trace of him has been found until in June 1560 his opposition to the Elizabethan settlement cost him a day in the Compter. A year later the testimony of one of his servants that Fryer had not received communion since 1558 brought him to the Tower, where he remained until the spring of 1563. He died on the following 22 Oct. in his house at Bishopsgate, in the parish of St. Martin’s Outwich, a victim of the current epidemic. Since one of the witnesses to his nuncupative will, whereby he left all his possessions to his wife, was the curate of the parish, Fryer may by then have conformed. His widow and several of their children died in the same visitation.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Patricia Hyde


  • 1. Aged 18 on admission to Cambridge. Vis. London (Harl. Soc. i), 82; Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-40, pp. 220-1; DNB.
  • 2. W. Munk, Roll of R. Coll. of Physicians, i. 32.
  • 3. Foxe, Acts and Mons. v. 4; LP Hen. VIII, iv; Wood, Ath. Ox. ed. Bliss, i. 99, 672.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, ix, x, xiv; L. Stone, Fam. and Fortune, 212; VCH Hants, iv. 651; PCC 29 Loftes; Vis. London, 82.
  • 5. C219/18C/102; Machyn’s Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii), 238; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 174; Foxe, v. 4; PCC 2 Stevenson, 39 Chayre.