NORTH, John (by 1495-1558), of York.

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



Oct. 1553

Family and Education

b. by 1495, s. of Richard North of York. m. Agnes, da. of John Roger of York, at least 1s.1

Offices Held

Bridgemaster, Ouse bridge, York c.1523-4, junior chamberlain 1527-8, sheriff 1529-30, member of the Twenty-Four 1530/31, keeper, guild of SS Christopher and George by 1533, alderman 1534-d., mayor 1538-9, 1554-5.2


John North came of a family of York craftsmen who were rising in status; his grandfather, a tile-maker and yeoman, was city chamberlain in 1497-8, and his father Richard, a tanner, was sheriff in 1513-14. Although North was to surpass them both, he continued to live in his father’s unfashionable parish of St. Margaret’s, Walmgate. Admitted to the freedom during 1515-16 as a tanner, he may have taken over his father’s business, but he also dealt in corn and lime; in 1535 he was one of three York aldermen accused of raising the price of grain in the city by buying large quantities in Holderness and Lincolnshire. His material progress is reflected in his tax assessment: in 1524 this was 40 marks in goods, but by 1546-7 it had reached £100, this showing he was one of the four richest laymen in York. His wealth may not all have come from trade, for he married the daughter of one of the three richest citizens of the previous generation.3

As he moved up the civic ladder North also rose to prominence in the popular city guild of SS. Christopher and George. In 1533 he accompanied the mayor and other aldermen to London, where a dispute involving the guild had come before the Star Chamber. The affair seems to have rankled in York, and in 1536 North and John Hogeson, who sided with him, were attacked in slanderous bills which evidently attracted wide sympathy; yet when in 1538 Mayor John Shaw died nine days after being installed it was North who was elected over an old guild adversary, Ralph Simson. The mayoralty was chiefly memorable for an outbreak of plague, probably the worst in York for 30 years. North and his colleagues levied a rate to help the infected, the earliest such levy known in England. By contrast, during the next serious plague in 1550 he was one of the aldermen who fled the city.4

North’s Catholicism must have made the two Parliaments which he attended more congenial to him than he would have found either of the intervening ones; it was, indeed, one of the great reformist measures of the first Edwardian Parliament, the Chantries Act (1 Edw. VI, c. 14), which brought him south again in 1549 on a deputation from York seeking to protect guild property from confiscation. As Members for York he and Robert Hall II seem to have been chiefly concerned with the promotion of the city’s economic welfare, but in the first of Mary’s Parliaments they showed their interest in the Catholic restoration by reporting to the council the Acts repealing attainders and treasons: they themselves were not among the Members noted as having ‘stood for the true religion’ against this legislation. When in 1554-5 North was again mayor, he and his brethren showed their loyalty to Queen and Church by offering prompt military aid at the time of Wyatt’s rebellion, restoring the apocryphal plays about the Virgin to the city’s Corpus Christi cycle and reviving three annual religious processions.5

North made his will on 28 July 1558, when York seems to have been suffering its worst epidemic of the century. He bequeathed his soul in the traditional way and asked for burial in St. Mary’s choir (presumably in St. Margaret’s church) ‘where I sit most usually’. He left much property, mostly to his wife, son and granddaughters: in the city he had 19 houses, nine closes, two gardens, two orchards, a bowling alley and a dovecote, and outside it lands in Fulford and a lease of tithes in Skirpenbeck. (His religious sympathies had not stopped him from buying cheaply in 1549 the redundant York church of St. Peter-in-the-Willows.) North’s charitable bequests included 6d. to every house in his parish. He named his son Richard executor and residuary legatee and his fellow-aldermen William Holme and Richard Goldthorpe supervisors. The will was proved on 23 Aug. 1558.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: D. M. Palliser


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from admission as freeman. Yorks. St. Ch. Procs. ii. (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. xlv), 32; Reg. Corpus Christi Guild, York (Surtees Soc. lvii), 300n; York wills 15(2), f. 289.
  • 2. Yorks. St. Ch. Procs. ii. 32; York archs. B11-22 passim.
  • 3. Reg. Corpus Christi Guild, York, 110n, 138n, 300n; Yorks. St. Ch. Procs. ii. 32; Reg. Freemen, York, i (Surtees Soc. xcvi), 327; York archs. B13, f. 29; LP Hen. VIII, ix; York Merchant Adventurers’ archs. D82; Yorks. Arch. Jnl. iv. 182; VCH York, 132; E179/217/110, 111; York wills 11, f. 1.
  • 4. Yorks. St. Ch. Procs. ii. 32; York Civic Recs. iii (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. cvi), 163; iv (ibid. cviii), 10, 11, 27-38; v (ibid. cx), 43; York archs. B13, f. 127; D. M. Palliser, ‘York in the 16th cent.’ (Oxf. Univ. D.Phil. thesis, 1968), 120.
  • 5. York Civic Recs. iv. 58-61, 63, 123, 133, 148-9; v. 4, 6-9, 92-96, 99-112; VCH York, 147.
  • 6. York wills 15(2), f. 289.