MARSHE, John (by 1516-79), of London and Sywell, Northants.

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



Mar. 1553
Oct. 1553
Apr. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1516, 1st s. of Walter Marshe, mercer of London, by his w. Eleanor. educ. L. Inn 1536, called 1545. m. 1543, Alice, da. and h. of William Gresham of Holt, Norf. and of London, at least 3s. 1da. suc. fa. Jan. 1540.2

Offices Held

Sewer of the chamber by 1543; steward, manor of Finsbury 1543; under-sheriff, Mdx. 1545-6; common serjeant, London 1547-63; under-sheriff 1563-4; surveyor, ct. of augmentations, Northants. by 1553; gov. Merchant Adventurers 1555, 1559-60, 1562-72; warden, Mercers’ Co. 1558-9, 1565-6; receiver-gen. Exchequer, Salop and Worcs. 1559-74; constable, the Staple 1561; eccles. commr. 1572; pres. Spanish Company 1577; j.p. Mdx. 1547-54, from 1561, Northants. 1547-54, 1559-62.3


Marshe, a London merchant, had a parliamentary career that spanned three reigns. In Queen Mary’s reign he both ‘stood for the true religion’, and opposed a major government bill in the House of Commons. Having upheld protestantism under Mary, it is natural to find him classified by the bishops in 1564 as a ‘favourer’ of the Elizabethan settlement.

He took an active part in his Elizabethan Parliaments. On 24 Feb. 1559 Marshe spoke in the House of Commons on behalf of his fellow London merchants who had been defrauded of goods worth £300 by John Smith. Two bills, concerning colleges and chantries in the reign of Edward VI, and the fry and spawn of fish, were committed to him on 8 Apr. and 15 Apr. 1559. During the first session of the 1563 Parliament he was put in charge of bills concerning tanners (29 Jan.), the increase of woodlands (13 Mar.) and bankrupts (20 Mar.), and in 1566 he was appointed to the succession committees on 31 Oct., and put in charge of a committee concerning chantry lands (13 Nov.). In 1571 he was appointed to the subsidy committee (7 Apr.) and to committees concerning griefs and petitions (7 Apr.) and fraudulent conveyances (14 May).

His opinion on Arthur Hall’s famous speech in 1572 was that the Commons’ right to freedom of speech did not extend to treasonable words, Hall having in effect accused the peers of unjustly condemning the Duke of Norfolk (17 May). On 31 May, after Peter Wentworth had urged the execution of the Duke, Marshe spoke in support of a motion to set up a committee that would peruse any written arguments prepared by Members. Something of Marshe’s philosophy as a merchant may be gained from two other speeches made in the session of 1572. The first was made during the debate on the bill dealing with the export of leather (3 June). In Marshe’s opinion the export of leather was the cause of the dearth at home. ‘No merchant’, he urged, ‘should seek his living to the spoil of his country ... Licences cannot do so much hurt as the carrying of everybody. The licences although they be hurtful cannot be denied to the Prince; but he wisheth it were well looked to, such persons as have licences did not so deceive the Queen and the realm.’ The second debate (24 June) was on the bill to assure the true dyeing of cloth, which restricted it in all places except cities, boroughs and corporate market towns, and also aimed at restraining the carriage of undyed cloth out of the realm. Marshe was completely opposed to this precursor of Cokayne’s project:

The whole bill to be overthrown, the innovation so great and so perilous to the state. The commodities of England now distributed through Christendom; trial sufficient that we want no vent as they be now used. Besides, we have not that wherewith we should dye in our own realm, but must be holpen by others: of our woad from France, with whom we have not assurance of peace. It is very doubtful being dyed how they shall be liked in other countries. Not like we shall make colour to please all nations, and then they will be unbought and clothiers and kersey men driven to give over their occupations and wool will wax cheap which is not for the commodity of England. For good dyeing there is already a good act in force. There is also other towns more fit for clothing than either borough towns or market towns. They must needs be dyed where there is plenty of wood. The procuring of licences to carry clothes over sea undressed hath cost a marvellous mass of money. It would not cost much more when they must also be dyed. Such monopoly to the undoing of the whole state he cannot allow.

He spoke against Mary Queen of Scots on 9 June 1572. He was appointed to the committee concerned with vagabonds (29 May) and spoke the next day in favour of including minstrels within the provisions of the bill. He was named to two committees on the continuance of statutes (25, 26 June). In 1576 he was appointed to the committee to examine Peter Wentworth on 8 Feb., and the next day was instructed to ‘confer touching the number of burgesses and knights in the Parliament’. He argued to the bill about lands without covin on 18 Feb. and was appointed to the committee the same day. Other committee work included such topics as bastardy (15 Feb.), the making of woollen cloths (16 Feb.), the dangerous abusing of dags and pistolets (17 Feb.), tanned leather (18 Feb., 13 Mar.), the treatment of aliens (24 Feb.), dilapidations (24 Feb.), artificers (5 Mar.), the double searching of cloths (9 Mar.), excess of apparel (10 Mar.), benefit of clergy (12 Mar.), Lord Stourton’s bill (12 Mar.), wharves and quays (13 Mar.), and London goldsmiths (13 Mar.).4

Marshe had wide trading interests; he was behind the foundation of the Spanish Company. Anthony Jenkinson, his son-in-law, was employed by the Muscovy Company, of which Marshe was also a member, in the opening up of trade with Persia. Wool was his principal export, and he was naturally a leading member of the Merchant Adventurers’ Company, attending to its affairs in the Low Countries in 1568 and 1570.Most of his correspondence was with Cecil, to whom he sent information from abroad. He had land in Northamptonshire, and an office unconnected with his activities as a merchant, that of augmentations surveyor for the county. He settled his own landed estate in the county before his death. His eldest son was to inherit Bozeat, and his son-in-law Sywell. Marshe made his nuncupative will on 7 Jan. 1579, leaving a third of his goods ‘to his children unadvanced’, and the rest to his wife, the executrix. The will was proved on 28 Jan. 1579. Marshe was buried in the church of St. Michael, Wood Street, the advowson of which he had bought in 1565.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: A. M. Mimardière


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. C142/62/98; E150/494/3; LP Hen. VIII, xviii(1), p. 281; C2Eliz./P10/23; PCC 2 Bakon, 2 Alenger; Vis. London (Harl. Soc. cix, cx), 67.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xviii(1), p. 125; City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 10, f. 345v; 11, ff. 226, 344; 15, ff. 194, 201v, 315; Stowe 571, f. 11v; O. de Smedt, De Engelse Natie te Antwerpen, ii. 90; Mercers’ Co. court acts, 1527-60, f. 297a; 1560-95, f. 81b; CPR, 1558-60, p. 40; 1560-3, p. 29; 1569-72, p. 440.
  • 4. Bodl. e Museo 17; Guildford Mus. Loseley 1331/2; Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 60; D’Ewes, 48, 53, 60, 88, 127, 128, 159, 183, 220, 224, 241, 244, 247, 249, 259, 260, 262; CJ, i. 59, 60, 64, 69, 70, 77, 83, 87, 99, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 108, 110, 113, 114, 115; HMC Lords, n.s. xi. 8; Neale, Parlts. i. 278; Trinity, Dublin, Thos. Cromwell’s jnl. ff. 22, 48, 57, 63-4.
  • 5. P. Croft, Spanish Co. (London Rec. Soc. ix), p. xi; T. S. Willan, Muscovy Merchants of 1555, p. 112; CSP For. 1569-71, passim; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 236 et passim; Add. 1566-79, p. 502; APC, vii. 378; viii. 186-7; VCH Northants. iv. 4, 133; PCC 2 Bakon; Stow, Survey London, ed. Kingsford, i. 298.