FELTON, John (c.1537-c.1602), of Great Yarmouth, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1537, s. of Robert Felton, mariner, of Yarmouth by Margaret. m. Margery Manning, 3s. 2da.

Offices Held

Freeman, Yarmouth 1553, chamberlain 1571, alderman, bailiff 1576, 1585, 1599.1


Felton was a fishmonger whose devotion to Yarmouth ‘wherein he received his first breath and being’, caused him to prefer civic affairs ‘far above his private estate’. The corporation epitomized him as ‘a worthy, grave senator ... who for his well doing, both in church and commonwealth, deserveth everlasting kind remembrance’ and the town clerk recorded how Felton ‘being often employed, spent not only a great part of his life but also of his worldly substance and by his great labour and worthy endeavours, obtained many special benefits to the good of the township’.

Felton controlled the construction of Yarmouth’s new harbour and supervised the town fortifications. In 1593, when MP for Yarmouth, Felton asked to be relieved of this work, but the corporation persuaded him to continue, with £10 a year in token of their thanks. In 1577 he made two journeys to London, one to obtain the confirmation by charter of the admiralty jurisdiction of Yarmouth (for which he promised the judge a yearly present of a barrel of herrings), and the other to request Sir Nicholas Bacon (in vain) for permission to return a new parliamentary burgess because of the absence abroad of Edward Bacon. In the next year he met the Queen when she was on progress at Norwich. He made many appearances before the Privy Council on behalf of his town for purposes such as the procuring of a licence for the export of corn and the settlement of a controversy between Yarmouth and Lowestoft ‘touching the trade of buying of herrings’. On at least two occasions he was concerned with the problem of fitting out ships to sail against the Spaniards: in 1591 he pleaded the inability of Yarmouth to fit a ship for the Azores and in 1595 he obtained authority from the lord admiral to press men for service in a ship which the town had provided and to assess the town to meet the necessary charges. He made other journeys to London: in 1586 to complain about the spoils of the Dunkirkers, and in 1600 about ‘the abuses offered to the merchants of Yarmouth’ by the Queen’s customer, comptroller and searcher. Although his name has not been found in the surviving records of the House, Felton was no doubt involved in the Commons debate of 1597 over a bill promoted by Lowestoft and successfully opposed by Yarmouth. He may have attended committees to which the burgesses for Yarmouth were appointed concerning fish (5 Nov.) and kerseys (23 Nov.) in 1593, and draining the fens on 3 Dec. 1597.

Felton was a devout protestant, and by his ‘special procurement’ part of the Yarmouth Staple House was converted into a ‘house of morning prayer’ to be used by the townspeople and by the Dutch congregation of Yarmouth. For this purpose, in 1600 Felton had journeyed to the bishop of Norwich. In his will, made 8 Mar. 1601, proved 8 Aug. 1602, he bequeathed 10s. a year ‘for the continuance of the prayer and lecture lately begun in the New Chapel’, and left bequests to Robert Jackler, the preacher, and John Hill, the minister of Yarmouth church. The former, together with William Fleming, the first lecturer of the ‘house of morning prayer’, and Henry Manship, town clerk, were the witnesses. His eldest son John was executor and his son Nicholas, then rector of St. Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside, and afterwards bishop of Ely, was appointed overseer.2

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: G.M.C.


  • 1. Cal. Yarmouth Freemen, 30; W. Rye, Norfolk Fams. 195; PCC 56 Montague; Yarmouth assembly bks. passim; C. J. Palmer, Yarmouth, 201; H. Le Strange, Norfolk Official Lists, 160.
  • 2. Neale, Commons, 179-80, 389-90; Yarmouth ass. bks.; H. Manship, Yarmouth 58-9, 253, 259, 264, 303; C. Parkin, Norfolk, xi. 260-75; Palmer, 152, 200, 202; APC, xxv. 400; D’Ewes, 487, 507, 567; Bull. IHR, xii. 22; PCC 56 Montague.