HALES, John I (by 1480-1540), of Canterbury, Kent.

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 1480, s. of John Hales of Tenterden. educ. G. Inn. m. by 1509, Isabel, da. of Stephen or Thomas Harry, 5s. inc. Thomas 1da.3

Offices Held

Autumn reader, G. Inn 1514, Lent 1520.4

J.p. Kent 1503-d., Mdx. and Suss. 1524-d.; bailiff, Tenterden 1504-5; commr. subsidy, Kent and Canterbury 1512, 1514, 1515, 1523, 1524; other commissions, Kent, Mdx., Suss., Calais, Guisnes 1508-d.; escheator, Kent and Mdx. 1517-18; attorney-gen., duchy of Lancaster 1519-22; feodary, Kent in 1519; gen. surveyor, crown lands by 1521-d.; baron of Exchequer 1522-d.; member, division of King’s council for legal matters in 1526.5


Like his cousin Christopher Hales, John Hales pursued a legal career which yielded him high office in the state and eminence in his native county. In 1504 his own town of Tenterden elected him bailiff and the corporation of Rye, of which Tenterden was a ‘limb’, began to pay him an annual fee of 13s.4d. for his ‘learned counsel’; after receiving that sum for 18 years he had it increased in 1522-3 to 20s., but this was the last such payment and it was made three years late. If Hales’s link with Rye was finally cut by his appointment to the exchequer bench, he had long since forged a more lasting one with Canterbury. As early as 1501 he was steward of the liberties of Christchurch priory, and in his general pardons of 1509 and 1514 the city stands first among his domiciles.6

At his first election for Canterbury in 1512 Hales took the place of another local lawyer, Thomas Atwode, but when he was re-elected to the next Parliament, in accordance with the King’s request for the return of the previous Members, it was with Atwode, who himself replaced one of the city’s aldermen, Thomas Wainfleet. Hales appears to have received no wages for his first Parliament, but in 1516 he accepted a composition which, at £6 13s.4d. for 60 days of the first session of the Parliament of 1515, and 39 (out of a maximum 41) of the second, with travel costs, tallied with the payments made to other Members for Canterbury. The city for its part could do with a lawyer in the House. In March 1512 a bill concerning the mayor and aldermen of Canterbury, but whose nature is otherwise unknown, was introduced in the Lords; three days later it was lost by the prorogation. Nothing is known of any local bill in the second session, but on 16 Jan. 1514, on the eve of the third, the city paid Hales 13s.4d. for his counsel ‘and to remember to speak in the Parliament that Mr. Mayor might have gaol delivery by the charter without commission and to speak for other charges that [have] been called on in the Exchequer against the city’. Hales’s services were also utilized by the crown: he was paid £10 for drafting, copying and engrossing the subsidy Acts of 1512 and 1514, and £13 6s.8d. for engrossing their successor of 1515.7

But for his judicial appointment Hales would doubtless have been re-elected in 1523, when his place was taken by his cousin Christopher. Retained from 1515 as counsel to Canterbury at a fee of 20s. a year, he sought and obtained about 1520 the stewardship of St. Augustine’s abbey; this he held from 1533 jointly with the 3rd Duke of Norfolk but had surrendered by the time of the valor ecclesiasticus. The offer which he made, when soliciting it, to live permanently at Canterbury was so phrased as to imply that Hales regarded himself as a dependant of Sir Henry Guildford, comptroller of the Household, and it may have been to Guildford’s patronage that he owed his early advancement in the royal service. In that respect, however, he was to be out-stripped by his cousin, for after becoming second baron of the Exchequer in 1528, he was passed over for promotion as chief baron in the following year and rose no higher.8

It was as a citizen of Canterbury and resident at the Dongeon in the suburbs of the city that Hales made his will on 20 July 1540. Only the first page of a contemporary official copy survives. Hales asked to be buried beside his wife in the parish church of Our Lady of Bredne, Canterbury, and gave gold coins to his four surviving sons. His best gold ring Hales left to his cousin Christopher, and a gold ring each to his daughter Mildred and to Peter Hayman; to Mildred’s husband, John Honywood, he remitted all debts. Hales must have died soon after making the will, for John Smith, who had been granted the reversion to his office in August 1539, replaced him on the exchequer bench in Michaelmas term 1540. Hales’s son and heir James was the judge who took his own life in 1554.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. Canterbury chamberlains’ accts. 1512-13.
  • 2. Ibid. 1514-15, 1515-16.
  • 3. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. lxxiv), 56, 78; (ibid. lxxv), 105; (ibid. xlii), 59; Mill Stephenson, Mon. Brasses, 214.
  • 4. Dugdale, Origines Juridiciales, 292.
  • 5. C66/591, m. 6(18)d; CPR, 1494-1509, pp. 580, 644-5; LP Hen. VIII, i-v, x, xii, xiv; Arch. Cant. xxxii. 296; Statutes, iii. 79, 112 168; Somerville, Duchy, i. 407.
  • 6. Rye chamberlains’ accts. 2, 3; Lambeth Palace ct. rolls 114-18; Val. Eccles. i. 16; LP Hen. VIII, i; C67/62, m. 9.
  • 7. Canterbury chamberlains’ accts. 1512-16; LJ, i. 15, 17; HMC 9th Rep. pt. i. 150 where the entry of 16 Jan. 1514 is misdated; LP Hen. VIII, i. 2733; ii. 4183.
  • 8. Canterbury chamberlains’ accts. 1515-16; Christchurch Letters (Cam. Soc. n.s. xix), 70-71, 106; Arundel castle ms G1/5.
  • 9. Canterbury prob. reg. OC 407; Mill Stephenson, 214; LP Hen. VIII, xiv; E405/205; DNB (Hales, Sir James).