Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:



 ANTHONY COLE , alderman
 Robert Tailler , alderman
 John Lister‚Ć , alderman
9 Mar. 1607JOSEPH FIELD vice Cole, deceased
 [Robert] Tailler , alderman
 Sir Edward Michelborne‚Ć
 RICHARD BURGIS , alderman
25 Dec. 1621JOHN LISTER , alderman
15 Mar. 1624JOHN LISTER , alderman vice Suckling, chose to sit for Middlesex
 Sir William Constable , bt.*
 Emmanuel Giffard*
9 May 1625JOHN LISTER , alderman
16 Jan. 1626JOHN LISTER , alderman
13 Mar. 1626LANCELOT ROPER , alderman vice Abbot, chose to sit for London
10 Mar. 16282JOHN LISTER , alderman
 Lancelot Roper , alderman
 Joshua Hall , alderman

Main Article

Chartered by the Crown as Kingston-upon-Hull in 1299, the borough regularly returned MPs thereafter. A charter of incorporation in 1440 conferred jurisdiction independent of the East Riding.3 Its economy originally depended almost entirely upon the loading of Yorkshire wool onto seagoing ships, and it probably bore the brunt of the fifteenth-century decline in the wool trade. To bolster its position, the borough ordered that no alien could buy or sell except through a Hull burgess. This prohibition on ‘foreign bought and sold’ goods was extended to all non-freemen (except at markets and fairs) by letters patent in 1532, encouraging a revival of trade which made Hull one of the busiest ports on the east coast by 1603.4

Early Stuart Hull had one of the highest export trades of any outport, shipping upwards of 40,000 northern cloths and 2,000 fothers of lead to the Baltic, the Low Countries and France each year. The town also maintained a vigorous coastal trade, particularly with London for manufactures and Tyneside for coal.5 Much of the profit accrued to outsiders, particularly York merchants, who had an uneasy relationship with their neighbours. Hull’s 1598 charter exempted York men from the obligation to land their goods at Hull, but tensions remained over enforcement of the ‘bought and sold’ rule, and York’s reluctance to share the burden of fitting out ships for service against the Armada.6 Other rivals included the West Riding clothiers, ‘which have got their freedoms [to trade at Hull] by the Merchant Adventurers … [and] have great advantage of the merchants of this town in buying of their cloth and their easy charge withal’; London merchants, who were criticized for monopolizing Yorkshire’s fairs in defiance of government orders;7 aristocratic mineowners such as William Cavendish†, 1st earl of Devonshire, who ignored an order of 1587 that all lead was to be landed and weighed at Hull;8 and Scottish and Dutch merchants. The Hull Trinity House regularly fined local merchants for using foreign shipping, and in 1621 the corporation asked the Privy Council to order foreign merchants and mariners to repatriate their profits in the form of English goods rather than coin.9

Hull’s complaints were reciprocated by its rivals, who attacked its privileges in the law courts and Parliament, and lobbied the Council in the North and the Privy Council. Such threats were countered by an influential network of supporters. From 1584 the town selected a privy councillor as its high steward, and in 1596 it chose Sir Robert Cecil†, who was distantly related to two aldermen. In 1594 Peter Proby† was appointed solicitor for the town’s business at Court: he rendered invaluable service during the charter renewal of 1608-11, and was succeeded by (Sir) William Beecher*, clerk to the Privy Council, in 1629. However, most lobbying was done by the aldermen, who were regularly sent to York and London both in and out of parliamentary sessions.10 Despite considerable effort, Hull’s MPs largely failed to obtain parliamentary redress for their grievances, even though they sometimes worked with their counterparts from York and Newcastle: during a debate of 8 Mar. 1621 on a measure to prohibit the import of corn, John Lister protested ‘that this bill may do much hurt, because much cloth transported into the east countries, whence the only return rye’. This point was picked up by Sir Thomas Riddell of Newcastle, and amplified by Christopher Brooke on behalf of his York constituents.11

Under its 1598 charter, Hull was run by a corporation comprising a mayor and 12 aldermen, assisted by a sheriff and two chamberlains. There was no common council, although prominent burgesses were occasionally asked to endorse important decisions, especially those involving expensive lawsuits. During the early Stuart period the recordership was held successively by two local lawyers, William Gee* and William Dalton, both of whom were sons of Hull aldermen. Almost two-thirds of the 58 aldermen who served between 1585 and 1645 were merchants, some of whom probably earned their living from retailing or property rental; the remainder included a handful of drapers and mariners.12 MPs were usually elected in the manner prescribed for municipal officials by letters patent of 1443, that is to say the corporation nominated two candidates for each vacancy, from which the burgesses chose one. Thus the freemen exercised a real (albeit restricted) choice at elections, except when a nomination was offered to one of the town’s political patrons. In 1604 lord president Sheffield secured a seat for his secretary, John Edmondes, while ten years later he nominated Sir John Bourchier, his associate in the Cleveland alum business.13 In 1620 the town’s high steward, Archbishop Abbot, proposed his brother, the London merchant Maurice Abbot, promising he would ‘give help to any business which may belong unto your town’. As a Levant and East India merchant, Abbot, who represented the borough in three parliaments, had little to offer the corporation, although his speech of 21 Apr. 1621 about Dutch interlopers in the Eastland trade certainly echoed local opinion. However, the corporation clearly judged that the archbishop’s support on the Privy Council justified their choice. In 1626 Abbot also stood for one of the London seats, whereupon the corporation resolved that if he waived his election at Hull, ‘there shall be one other burgess of the town … elected … and not any dwelling out of the town for any respect whatsoever. This resolution seems to have discouraged further outside nominations, and he was replaced by alderman Lancelot Roper. At the 1628 election the corporation reverted to its customary selection of four aldermen as candidates: Lister was once again returned, but on this occasion Roper was replaced by James Watkinson.14

Although for much of the period the town disregarded the legal requirement that Members should be resident in the constituencies for which they served, it paid lip-service to the requirement that all borough Members should be freemen: John Edmondes was admitted two weeks before his election; and after (Sir) John Suckling was returned in 1624, the corporation arranged to swear him in at Westminster, and undertook ‘that Mr. Sheriff should be kept harmless’ for returning a stranger.15 Parliamentary expenses are only recorded for 1626, but the corporation probably offered payment to all of its aldermen Members; certainly each year in which Parliament sat, ‘knights’ silver’ of 47s. 4d. was levied on the country districts within the corporation’s jurisdiction. While York’s Members were regularly sent to Westminster with formal written instructions, Hull’s are only known to have received them in 1628 and 1629. However, between 1621 and 1626 John Lister went to Westminster armed with numerous documents, from which the corporation’s priorities may be judged. Hull expected regular reports from its lobbyists and MPs. As early as 1587 alderman Edward Wakefield† noted his activities in the margin of the instructions he took to London, while ten years later Leonard Willan† and Anthony Cole* informed the mayor of their efforts to lobby for the preservation of the salt monopoly which the town had recently purchased from (Sir) Thomas Wilkes†.16 The corporation also expected news of political developments: in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot, Cole promised to send a copy of ‘the articles (some 22) that are agreed upon to frame two bills against the traitorous recusants’, and he asked that the town preacher be told of ‘divers good bills put in to try against swearing, against drunkenness and against profaning the Sabbath, for a learned ministry and against good men deprived’. Lister delighted in reporting the arrest of the projector (Sir) Giles Mompesson* in 1621, hoping that ‘more of that kind will follow’; he subsequently recounted proceedings against Sir John Bennet* and lord chancellor St. Alban (Sir Francis Bacon*). He also sent news of foreign affairs, obtained through contacts at the Custom House and the Exchange, and of economic developments, which were of considerable importance to the Hull merchants, especially during the grain shortage of 1623, when he forwarded details of the latest London prices for Dutch and Polish rye.17

At the 1604 general election the corporation presumably supported Lord Sheffield’s nominee John Edmondes, but intended the other seat for a townsman. Recorder William Gee*, who had represented the town in 1589, may have had designs upon this place, as three days before the election he sent the corporation the deeds of the almshouse his father had recently bequeathed to the town. In the event this approach proved unnecessary, however, as he was returned for Beverley on the same day, but it may help to explain why his cousin alderman Anthony Cole, who had recently been out of favour with the corporation, subsequently defeated John Lister† at the hustings. During the 1604 session Cole was named to the committee for the bill restricting the processing of spices to London garblers (30 May 1604), but there is no evidence that he attempted to win exemption for Hull’s spice imports from the Low Countries.18

In 1606 the survival of two of his letters to the corporation demonstrate that Cole undertook several projects in the Commons. The most important of these was a bill to allow the merchants of York, Newcastle and Hull the discount on the customs duty on cloth which had been granted to all northern merchants in 1592, but which the customs farmers now refused to accept. The burgesses for the northern towns presumably drafted the bill, which was reported on 5 Mar. by the York Member Christopher Brooke.19 Five days later, Cole informed the Hull corporation that the measure

hath been twice read, committed and now engrossed, and if time will serve I do mean to call tomorrow [for it] to be put to the question [for the third reading] … I do hear the clothiers have made a petition which we mean to show to the Parliament House.20

The bill was one of several dispatched to the Lords on 13 March. Cole later sent a list of the Lords’ committee to Hull, assuring the mayor that ‘as yet we can do no more if our lives did [re]ly of [sic] it’. Although not a cloth merchant himself, Cole may have attended the committee, as Lord Treasurer Dorset (Thomas Sackville†) was instructed to invite ‘such merchants or others as his lordship shall think meet to be heard concerning this bill’. Objections from the customers or other ports probably overwhelmed the bill, which was never reported, but undaunted the northern corporations sent a joint petition to Cecil, now 1st earl of Salisbury, who had the former discount restored.21 At the same time as he was pursuing this measure, Cole proposed another bill to reform the drainage around Hull and avoid pollution of the town’s drinking water, an issue which had provoked an Exchequer suit with a neighbouring landowner in 1599. Cole assured the corporation that Sir Francis Barrington*, owner of the Darringham spring from which the town drew its main water supply, supported the bill, and promised that the cost would ‘not come to £40’, but there is no evidence that his suggestion was accepted.22 Cole also reported the controversial vote of 18 Mar. 1606 which granted the king three subsidies and six fifteenths. Anticipating displeasure at the size of the grant, he recalled the magnitude of the king’s debts and a royal undertaking that the first subsidy was to be used to repay the Privy Seal loans of 1604-6. He suspected that ‘there are divers will make suit to have assistance or taxes abated, as York and other places, [though] they will not tell me of it’, and looked for a share of the £36,000 rebates provided for ‘impoverished towns’ in the preamble to the bill.23

Cole died in January 1607, and was replaced at a by-election on 9 March. Salisbury recommended Sir Edward Michelborne† for the vacancy, but sheriff Richard Burgis put forward the names of two aldermen, Joseph Field and Robert Tailler instead. Burgis eventually agreed to include Michelborne in the poll, and the corporation tried to dissuade the freemen from choosing Field who, they claimed, ‘was altogether unwilling to take it upon him’. However, the freemen would not hear of Michelborne and chose Field regardless. This, at any rate, was the version of events related to Salisbury by the corporation, whose members may secretly have welcomed Michelborne’s rejection; they certainly felt no animosity towards Burgis, who was elected alderman four months later.24 This unwillingness to oblige Salisbury was probably caused by the latter’s failure to secure compensation for the loss of four Hull whaling ships which had been seized in Norwegian waters by the king of Denmark in 1599. Diplomatic efforts on the whalers’ behalf had failed to secure restitution, but the 120 mariners involved, who reckoned their losses at £7,000, were eventually compensated with a £3,000 Star Chamber fine due from Sir Robert Stapleton*. When this fine was waived they were left without any relief, a grievance the corporation highlighted by sending Salisbury a fresh petition with their letter bearing news of Michelborne’s defeat.25

Having apparently protested at his election that parliamentary service would interfere with ‘his own private affairs in trade of merchandise’, Field left no trace on the records of the sessions in which he sat, and was replaced by Burgis in 1614. However, during his sojourn at Westminster, Field was ‘employed about the confirmation of the charters and liberties’, negotiations for which were begun by Peter Proby and John Lister in 1608-9. The corporation lobbied on a lavish scale, spending £500 ‘about their charter and charges at the Parliament’. Field was probably responsible for obtaining the confirmation of the ‘Hull bought and sold’ privilege and the charter of the Hull Merchants’ Company which were granted by letters patent on 21 June 1610. He also helped to secure the town charter of March 1611, delivering Salisbury a timely gift of lead three weeks before it passed the Great Seal.26 The new charter settled several disputes unlikely to have been resolved by Parliament. Most significantly, it confirmed that Derbyshire lead passing down the Humber was required to pay duty at the Hull woolhouse whether it was landed there or not. It also gave the town a permanent grant of the right to collect dues on wool, leather, tin and lead. Though normally leased by the town, when the customer of Hull had secured a grant of these tolls in 1607, the corporation, fearing that they would threaten their other tolls, had been obliged to buy him out. Finally, the charter gave the corporation the right to choose the town’s schoolmaster and lecturer, and granted a fee-farm of the shipyards to the north of the walls known as the Trippett.27

While the new charter solved many of Hull’s municipal problems, another dispute was brewing over whaling rights. Undaunted by the Danes, Hull ships continued to fish off Norway, and in 1611 a consortium of Hull and York merchants (including Richard Burgis) sent an expedition to ‘Greenland’ (Spitzbergen), which rescued the crew of a Muscovy Company whaler. The rivals returned to the islands in 1612, and in the following year nearly 30 ships from London, Hull, France, Spain and the Low Countries competed for the catch.28 While there was little the Muscovy Company could do about well-armed foreign fleets, they managed to secure the exclusion of English interlopers in their charter of 1613. This was contested by the Hull Trinity House, which petitioned London at the end of the year, while two Hull ships were defiantly sent to Spitzbergen in the following summer. The whalers’ grievances were raised in the Commons in 1614, probably by Burgis or one of the York Members, and the Muscovy Company charter was on the Commons’ agenda by the end of May, but consideration was delayed by the political dispute over Bishop Neile; the ‘Hull and Muscovy’ question was to have been raised on the day of the dissolution.29

Hull’s trade was disrupted by two separate disputes over staple rights between 1614 and 1619. The first was the closure of the Eastland Company’s staple at Elbing in the summer of 1614 which, when combined with a Polish embargo on the city’s trade in 1616, forced English merchants to seek new markets. Most switched their business to Danzig or Riga, but others, such as Field, shifted their trade to Amsterdam.30 The other dispute, concerning the supersession of the Merchant Adventurers’ cloth monopoly by alderman Cockayne’s company in 1614, initially had little effect on the Hull merchants, many of whom had been systematically bypassing the staple at Middelburg by shipping cargoes to Amsterdam in vessels falsely registered for San Lucar or Lisbon. However, the reinstatement of the Merchant Adventurers had a significant impact at Hull, as from January 1618 Company members were permitted to ship goods to non-staple ports for a nominal fee. Hull Merchant Adventurers were thus allowed to trade legitimately with Amsterdam for the first time, and in January 1619 they secured a Privy Council order forbidding interlopers from shipping any cloth or lead to the Low Countries. Those affected by this embargo included John Lister (son of the earlier alderman), then mayor and the town’s biggest lead merchant, who complained to the Council in June, claiming that members of the Hull Merchants’ Company were entitled to trade lead freely under their 1577 charter. After hearing testimony from Lister and Field (governor of the Hull Merchant Adventurers), the Council reopened the lead trade to all Hull merchants in December 1619.31

Lister’s championship of the Hull merchants’ cause recommended him as the ideal replacement for the recently deceased Richard Burgis at the parliamentary election of December 1620. Lister was Hull’s keenest advocate at Westminster: in 1625 he promised the corporation that, although ‘never so weary of London in all my life, yet my conscience and affection to my country will not give [me] leave to come away till I see things brought to some perfection’. Resolving to stay for debates on the Tunnage and Poundage bill, he criticized MPs who had fled the plague: ‘if all men do as some do, what might become of these things if none but the courtiers were remaining?’.32 Almost all of Lister’s lobbying activity can be linked to local interests. Many of the grievances he raised related to mercantile affairs, such as excessive customs fees, a bill to redress which was laid before the Commons in 1624. Lister attended the bill’s committee, presumably to complain about the Hull custom house, a grievance York’s MPs had been instructed to raise. The issue was subsequently investigated by the Privy Council, which issued a new table of fees at the end of the year after discussion with Hull and York.33 Lister also lobbied for the Hull Trinity House while at Westminster. He was feasted by the brethren before his departure in 1621, and was doubtless the anonymous Member who called for ‘consideration of the privileges of Kingston-upon-Hull’ on 27 Feb. 1621, at the second reading of the bill to assign fees for maintenance of the lighthouse at Winterton Ness, Norfolk to the Deptford Trinity House. The Hull brethren were probably concerned about a project to erect a similar lighthouse on Spurn Point at the mouth of the Humber, which they had rejected in 1618. In 1626 the brethren briefed him to secure alterations to their charter, whereupon he advised them that a confirmation would cost only £20, whereas a new charter with additional privileges would cost £70.34

Lister naturally participated in the Commons’ attack on the Merchant Adventurers in 1621: on 13 Mar., when deputy governor William Towerson* defended the Company’s imposition of a lead duty to help recoup the £60,000 paid to secure its 1617 charter, Lister insisted, ‘that the said eight pence on a fother of lead is not paid by consent; or if it be, it is a compulsory consent, and by such as are not of the said company of merchants’. Two months later, Lister (probably unjustly) blamed the Adventurers for a brief slump in Hull’s cloth trade, claiming ‘that 40,000 kersies heretofore transported [from Hull] and now there is but few’.35 While criticism of the pretermitted custom imposed on cloth exports in 1619 was muted in the Commons in 1621, the duty was seen as a particular grievance by the northern merchants because of its impact upon the thin profit margins on their cheap cloths. The Hull, York and Newcastle corporations jointly petitioned for exemption in 1619, and lord treasurer Mandeville (Sir Henry Montagu*) authorized a 40 per cent discount for northern cloths in May 1621. The Hull corporation clearly aimed for a complete exemption in its submission to the Privy Council on the decay of trade in October 1621, but it correctly assumed that ‘more will be expected for the decay of His Majesty’s customs’.36 At Christmas 1622 Hull’s discount was halved by lord treasurer Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield*), but despite an offer of help from Middlesex’s associate (Sir) Arthur Ingram*, other rivalries between York and Hull forestalled any agreement between the northern towns over a petition. The duty was investigated by the Commons in 1624, when Lister moved ‘to proceed to judgment of the pretermitted custom’ (3 May), securing its inclusion among the trade grievances to be presented to the king. Another petition submitted by the northern towns at the end of the year secured the restoration of the 40 per cent discount, and the repayment of the surplus duties collected in 1623-4.37

Although Hull’s dispute with the Muscovy Company was raised in Parliament in 1621, most of the important decisions on this issue were made by the Privy Council. In 1617, when two Hull mariners were summoned before the Council upon charges of interloping, the corporation claimed ‘that the Hollanders and other nations do freely fish the whale there … which liberty His Majesty’s subjects here [at Hull] hope they might exercise as well as strangers’. The Council proved immune to this argument, but accepted Hull’s claim to the fishing around Trinity Island (Jan Meyen Land), allegedly discovered by a Hull mariner in 1611. The town’s whalers thereafter confined themselves to this area, although Lister unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow their rivals’ monopoly with a motion to add the Spitzbergen whaling grounds to the bill for free fishing in 1621.38 The Hull whalers announced their intention to return to Spitzbergen in the spring of 1623, when alderman Ralph Freeman of London, farmer of the Muscovy Company’s rights, convinced the Privy Council to revoke the Hull monopoly of the fishing around Trinity Island. Abbot brokered a temporary deal allowing four northern whalers access to Spitzbergen and a monopoly of train oil sales in the north; Freeman’s consortium also promised ‘that upon our fair carriage this year, we [the Hull whalers] shall find their favours hereafter’.39

As the Hull whalers reached an accommodation with their London rivals, the town suffered a serious reversal at the hands of the York merchants. Relations had soured in 1619, when the York Merchant Adventurers attempted to withhold payment for lead tolls at Hull. Another attack was clearly expected in 1621, when Lister was sent to Westminster with documentation which would have allowed him to defend the town’s rights. Having raised the matter with the York MP (Sir) Robert Askwith*, Lister recommended that James Watkinson*, weighmaster of Hull, negotiate with a group of York merchants. A compromise proved elusive, but when Lister received a draft of ‘a bill intended for lead’ which was presumably meant to confirm Hull’s rights, he advised the mayor that ‘there is little to do us good in parliamentary courses’. Consequently, the issue was only settled after arbitration by Sir Arthur Ingram in the autumn of 1623.40 The dispute over trading privileges was rekindled at Hull in July 1622, when ‘certain corn sold by the merchants of York unto country chapmen’ was seized for breach of the ‘foreign bought and sold’ rule. Alderman Joshua Hall was sent to London to defend Hull against the resulting lawsuit, but, having consulted precedents, Francis Thorpe† and William Noye* advised him to seek arbitration by the Privy Council. Proby, then lord mayor of London, agreed, warning Hall ‘not to trust too much of the lawyers, lest they opened gaps that could not be shut’, while Archbishop Abbot promised his support.41 The York men arranged the Privy Council hearing for the same day on which Hull’s whaling case was considered, and their counsel’s arguments prevailed: attorney-general Coventry* claimed that Hull’s privilege ‘rather deserved p[rohibition] than relief’; while Heneage Finch*, recorder of London, ‘justified against us the usage of London in the matter of corn’. Lister optimistically ventured that the order granting York merchants free trade in grain at Hull ‘is rather a restraint than an enlargement to what they have formerly used’, but was relieved to have avoided Coventry’s threat of a quo warranto, as patchy evidence of the enforcement of the ‘bought and sold’ claim made it difficult to prove at law. The York corporation wrongly assumed their rivals would attempt to confirm their privilege by statute in 1624, and advised their Members to defend the city’s rights against any such bill.42

Hull’s defeat in the dispute with York probably cost Lister his seat at the 1624 general election. His replacement, the comptroller of the Household, Sir John Suckling, was selected for ‘divers considerations’, foremost among which was the need to acquire new allies at Court. The junior seat was bestowed upon Archbishop Abbot’s brother, even though no nomination had been received at the time of the election. Suckling, however, opted to sit for Middlesex, and ‘refused to write his letters for any other to have that place’. Instead, perhaps with Lister in mind, he merely suggested that the town replace him with an inhabitant. He was later persuaded to back lord admiral Buckingham’s nominee, Emmanuel Giffard, while letters were also received from Ingram and Middlesex on behalf of Sir William Constable*. However, as Ingram and Cranfield had previously supported the York merchants, their candidate received short shrift from the corporation. As was probably always the intention, the corporation therefore turned to Lister once more, using Suckling’s first letter to justify its decision.43

By the time Lister arrived at Westminster at the end of March 1624, the Commons had already moved the king to break off negotiations for a Spanish Match. Lister had supported the Palatine cause in 1621, when he had lamented that ‘I can write no good news from Bohemia, both Morosia [Moravia] and Silesia … being revolted [from the Elector Palatine] to the Emperor’, and sent the corporation a digest of official speeches which revealed the failure of diplomatic attempts to settle ‘the bleeding business [of the] Palatinate’.44 However, several Hull ships had since been seized by the Dunkirkers, and Lister’s earlier inclination to belligerence was quickly tempered by concern for the safety of the town and its trade. Learning of the breach with Spain in 1624, the corporation sent Lister documents relating to the town’s fortifications, probably with the intention that he should procure a licence to replace ordnance removed during Elizabeth’s wars.45 In August 1625, with hostilities against Spain imminent, Lister interrupted a debate on the release of a Sallee pirate detained in the Channel to remind the House that ‘the northern coasts [are] as much infested by the Dunkirkers’, and to ask for a committee to consider the safety of all ports.46 As England went to war with Spain, relations with France also deteriorated. In December 1625 the French seized the Gift of God of Hull in retaliation for Buckingham’s detention of the St. Peter of Le Havre. Lister, one of those whose goods had been seized by the French, joined in a petition to the Privy Council, and when the issue of the St. Peter was raised in the Commons in February 1626, he moved ‘that those poor [French] merchants may be relieved, and that our merchants’ goods may not be sold’.47

The outbreak of war with Spain in the autumn of 1625 allowed the Dunkirkers to prey on English shipping, which reduced Hull’s trade by a third. Thus while Lister commended plans for a privateering company to wage war against Spain in the West Indies in March 1626, security remained uppermost in his mind. He informed the Hull Trinity House that the question of trade protection ‘hath been moved in Parliament, and divers of the lords of the Council have been acquainted with the Dunkirkers their spoils on our coasts, but as yet nothing is done either for the restraining of them, or securing our commerce’. He voiced his frustration in the Commons three days later, moving ‘that a natural and genuine cause of the stopping of trade [is] the want of wafters and convoy for merchants’ ships’, and asking for consideration of the safety of the ports.48 His pleas were quickly heeded: a convoy to London was arranged during the winter of 1625-6, and in March a warrant was issued for the arming of 22 Hull ships. The town’s MPs presumably raised the issue with the Privy Council on 7 Apr. 1626, when three armed colliers were ordered to escort Hull’s Baltic cloth fleet to the Sound; convoys were later arranged to the Texel, and in the following year Sir John Savile* organized a squadron to protect the Yorkshire coast. However, Lister continued his ‘pitiful complaints’ in 1628, warning that ‘we that have given laws to others are now kept in by two paltry towns [Dunkirk and Ostend]; merchants dare not set forth. We must never hope to be a brave nation again without speedy reformation’.49

Hull’s dependence on naval protection during the war years denied the corporation the luxury of dissent from the Crown’s demands. The town lodged and transported 2,000 recruits to the Low Countries in 1625, but apparently balked at the £6,000 worth of Privy Seal loans demanded from the county at the same time: its MPs joined a deputation which successfully lobbied the Privy Council for a 60 per cent reduction in April 1626. These reduced Privy Seals were promptly collected by Lister, who delivered 90 per cent of the town’s quota of just over £200 to the Exchequer on 16 August. The levy was eventually replaced by the Forced Loan, which Hull collected with a minimal number of defaulters and only one refuser, who was certified to the Privy Council.50 In 1626 the town was ordered to find two ships for the Navy. The corporation protested its inability, blaming both the towns of the West Riding and the Yorkshire coast for refusing to contribute, and also the reluctance of townsmen to bear charges beyond the Forced Loan and improvements to the town’s defences.51 However, where prospects of repayment existed, the corporation was prepared to exert itself: in 1627 £2,200 was raised to ship 2,500 reinforcements to Germany, including loans of £300 from the Forced Loan collectors and £200 from the Trinity House. When town officials encountered ‘long stay and much suit’ in recovering their outlay from the Exchequer, Sir John Savile* offered his assistance, but then promptly borrowed £200 of the sum repaid for his own uses.52

During the 1628 parliamentary session, Lister brokered a fresh settlement of the long-running whaling dispute. The 1623 agreement over quotas and markets had broken down by 1626, when the Hull and London whalers attacked each other. The Council, mindful that northern merchants were ‘almost wholly barred from foreign trade elsewhere’, permitted them to send 600 tons of shipping to the Arctic in 1627, but the Hull whalers provocatively sent out one ship more than their quota allowed.53 The dispute was raised in the Commons in 1628, when Lister’s nomination to the committee for the free fishing bill (17 Apr.) suggests that he hoped to revive his 1621 plan to abrogate the Muscovy Company charter by statute. This clearly failed, as the issue was referred to the committee for grievances, where alderman Freeman eventually agreed to allow fishing rights to 500 tons of Hull shipping for the coming season. The committee’s report criticized the Muscovy Company for its claims ‘to restrain all men from fishing without their licence, and to imprison men without their conviction’, and Lister underlined the reasonableness of his constituents’ claims by reminding the House that ‘it is not intended that the Muscovy Company should be excluded, but it is desired that the Hull men and others may have liberty as well as they’. The House condemned the Muscovy Company patent as a grievance, and a committee was charged to draw up a petition calling for its revocation (25 June), though this was dashed by the prorogation, which took place the next day.54

While the whalers had cause to celebrate, Hull’s MPs failed to implement any of the written instructions they received from the corporation in 1628 and 1629. They were ordered to arrange for the shipment of guns for the town defences, which had been authorized by the Privy Council in 1627, or if these were not available, to buy others. However, it was not until the summer of 1629, when Lister recruited the support of Sir William Beecher, the town’s new solicitor, that a licence was granted for the purchase of 12 sakers for the castle and blockhouses.55 Watkinson was charged with the recovery of the £100 which Savile still owed the corporation, but this sum was not recovered from Savile’s estate until 1633. Lister even failed to deliver Archbishop Abbot’s fee as high steward, which the latter refused ‘in respect (as he said) he could do the town no pleasure’. His one positive achievement was the release of the crew of the Gift of God, who were presumably the Hull mariners exchanged for French prisoners in the summer of 1628.56

While Lister was added to the committee investigating the seizure of the goods of the merchant John Rolle* on 3 Feb. 1629, he played no recorded part in the furore stirred up over the issue by (Sir) John Eliot*. It is possible that Edmond Cooper of Hull, summoned before the Privy Council on 10 Apr.,57 had joined the customs strike inspired by Eliot’s propositions of 2 Mar., but the most important issue for most of the townsmen until the end of the war continued to be the disruption of trade: with many mariners out of work, the corporation permitted unofficial alehouses (often run by mariners’ wives) to buy licences because of ‘the interruption of the trade at sea by the Dunkirkers and otherwise’.58

Author: Simon Healy


This article has been written with assistance from Prof. Donald Woodward, Geoffrey Oxley and Sarah McCrow.

  • 1. Hull RO, Freemen’s Reg. 1442-1645 shows 20-30 men taking up the freedom each year.
  • 2. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, f. 91.
  • 3. D. Hey, Yorks. from AD 1000, pp. 48-9; E. Gillett and K.A. MacMahon, Hist. Hull, 1-6, 24-5, 85-6; VCH Yorks. (E. Riding), i. 13-21, 39-40; Charters of Hull trans. J.R. Boyle, 1-5, 35-6, 54-6.
  • 4. Medieval Hull ed. R. Horrox (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. cxli), 12, 16-17; R. Davies, Trade and Shipping of Hull, 1500-1700 (E. Yorks. Local Hist. Ser. xvii), 4-7; VCH Yorks. (E. Riding), 77-82, 99-101; J.K. Fedorowicz, England’s Baltic Trade, 156-7; Charters of Hull, 64-5.
  • 5. Hey, 151-2; Davies, 22, 24; W.B. Stephens, ‘Cloth exports of provincial ports, 1600-40’, EcHR (ser. 2), xxii. 244-7; A. Raistrick and B. Jennings, Hist. of Lead Mining in the Pennines, 55-65; D.M. Palliser, Tudor York, 189-90.
  • 6. Davies, 28-9; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, ff. 263, 297-8, 300v, 318, 331v; Palliser, 272-3, 282; APC, 1588, p. 282; York Civic Recs. ed. A. Raine (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. cxix), 162-3; Charters of Hull, 128-30.
  • 7. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, f. 47r-v; Hull RO, WT1; APC, 1591-2, p. 531.
  • 8. D. Kiernan, Derbys. Lead Ind. (Derbys. Rec. Soc xiv), 227-30; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, ff. 249v-50, 370.
  • 9. Order Bk. of Trin. House ed. F.W. Brooks (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. cv); Trin. House of Deptford Trans. ed. G.G. Harris (London Rec. Soc. xix), 44-5; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, f. 45v.
  • 10. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, ff. 234, 258v, 265v, 288, 300, 321, 359, 370, 375-6v; Bench Bk. 5, ff. 1, 10, 32v, 95v, 98, 154-5; HMC Hatfield, xx. 148, 252.
  • 11. CJ, i. 544b-5a.
  • 12. Charters of Hull, 106-13; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, ff. 293, 343, 360v, 371-2. The aldermen comprised: merchants 38; mariners 7; drapers 5, others 3; unknown 5.
  • 13. Charters of Hull, 52; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, f. 357v; R.B. Turton, Alum Farm, 70-4.
  • 14. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 45v-6v, 70v, 91; Hull RO, L.166; CD 1621, iii. 47-9; iv. 229.
  • 15. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 41, 60v, 72v; BRF/2/470, 472, 474-5, 477, 482, 485, 487, 488; Freemens’ Reg. 1396-1645, f. 139.
  • 16. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, ff. 264v-5, 269v, 272v, 274; Bench Bk. 5, ff. 41, 61, 67, 70v; Hull RO, L.128, M.89; E. Hughes, Studies in Admin. and Finance, 45-56.
  • 17. Hull RO, L.159, 169-71, 180, 200.
  • 18. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, ff. 315, 340v, 343, 357r-v; PROB 11/101, f. 281; CJ, i. 228b, SR, iv. 1036-7.
  • 19. LJ, ii. 394a; L.H. Zins, Eng. and the Baltic in the Elizabethan Era, 180-1; Stephens, 237, 244-6; HMC Hatfield, xxiii. 220-1; xxiv. 52; CJ, i. 277b.
  • 20. Hull RO, L.159. The petition was perhaps Hatfield House, Petition 2048.
  • 21. CJ, i. 283b; Hull RO, L.160; LJ, ii. 396b; Hatfield House, Petition 2070.
  • 22. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, ff. 292-3, 323v, 338v; E134/40 Eliz/Hil.12; Hull RO, L.159.
  • 23. CJ, i. 286; E401/2584-5; Hull RO, L.160; SR, iv. 1109.
  • 24. Yorks. ERRO, PE158/1, p. 402; HMC Hatfield, xix. 65; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, ff. 370, 375.
  • 25. SP12/271/68; SP75/3, f. 154; 45th DKR, 54-5; H.E. Chetwynd-Stapylton, Stapletons of Yorks. 225; HMC Hatfield, xvii. 195; xix. 66; xx. 312.
  • 26. Hatfield House, ms 115, f. 137; HMC Hatfield, xx. 80; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 1, 7; Charters of Hull, 131-2; SP14/61/109.
  • 27. Charters of Hull, 134-9, 145-9; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, ff. 371v-2; Gillett and MacMahon, 151.
  • 28. Hull Trinity House, Accts. 3, ff. 39v, 40v, 72, 100, 107-8v, 119; E190/312/6-7, 190/313/5; S. Purchas, Purchas his Pilgrims (1906 edn.), xiv. 37-9, 44-5, 57; Early Dutch and Eng. Voyages to Spitsbergen ed. W.M. Conway (Hakluyt Soc. ser. 2. xi), 3-8; CSP Ven. 1613-15, p. 61.
  • 29. CD 1628, iii. 122, n. 1; Hull Trinity House, Accts. 3, f. 144r-v; E190/313/8; CJ, i. 494b, 502a; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 339-88, 444-5.
  • 30. Fedorowicz, 145-50, 155-6.
  • 31. A. Friis, Alderman Cokayne’s Project, 121-7; E190/312/6, 7; 190/313/5, 8; APC, 1618-19, pp. 351-2, 482-3; 1619-21, pp. 90-1; Charters of Hull, 91-6; Lansd. 162, ff. 1-3.
  • 32. Yorks. ERRO, PE185/1, unfol. (17 Apr. 1620); Procs. 1625, pp. 717-8.
  • 33. C.R. Kyle, ’Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 217-19; E190/315/3; York City Archives, House Bk. 34, f. 292; APC, 1623-5, pp. 354, 368-9, 371.
  • 34. Hull Trinity House, Accts. 3, ff. 248, 346, LHI/1/1, letter of 17 Mar. 1626; CJ, i. 529b; CD 1621, vii. 6-17; Charters of Hull, 57-8; Trinity House Trans. 33-6.
  • 35. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 152-3; CD 1621, ii. 365; iv. 339; vi. 60; Stephens, 237, 247; CJ, i. 620b improbably ascribes the cloth statistics to King’s Lynn.
  • 36. C. Russell, PEP, 60; SP14/111/69; APC, 1623-5, pp. 382-3; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 45-8; L.176.
  • 37. APC, 1623-5, pp. 377-8, 382-3; Hull RO, L.190-1, 200; CJ, i. 782a; E190/316/1.
  • 38. J.D. Benson, Co-operation to Competition, 128-33; CSP Ven. 1613-15, p. 146; 1617-19, pp. 296-7, 331; APC, 1616-17, pp. 329-30, 344; 1618-19, pp. 2, 45-6; SP14/94/71; Early Voyages to Spitsbergen, 83; E190/314/14, ff. 4, 17; CD 1621, ii. 386; CJ, i. 626a.
  • 39. Hull RO, L.200; L.173 [dated 9 May 1623]; APC, 1621-3, pp. 459, 488-9. For the whalers, see E190/315/3, ff. 18v-19v; Hull Trinity House, Accts. 3, f. 293.
  • 40. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 34v, 41, 59v; L.169, L.170, L.200, 202A; York City Archives, House Bk. 34, f. 270.
  • 41. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, f. 51v, L.189-91; York City Archives, House Bk. 34, f. 266; APC, 1621-3, pp. 405-6; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 505.
  • 42. Hull RO, L.190-1, L.197, L.200; York City Archives, House Bk. 34, ff. 266, 291.
  • 43. Hull RO, L.203-4; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 60v-1.
  • 44. Hull RO, L.168, L.178; Russell, 124-6, 171-90.
  • 45. CSP Dom. 1623-5, pp. 265, 500; APC, 1623-5, pp. 238-9; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, f. 61.
  • 46. Procs. 1625, pp. 458, 460, 468.
  • 47. SP16/42/136; Procs. 1626, ii. 95.
  • 48. CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 135, 140; Hull Trinity House, Accts. 3, ff. 333-47, LHI/1/1, letter of 17 Mar. 1626; Stephens, 247; Procs. 1626, ii. 323.
  • 49. Hull Trinity House, Accts. 3, f. 346r-v, LHI/1/1, letter of 17 Mar. 1626; SP16/16/30; APC, 1625-6, pp. 421-2, 462; 1627, pp. 312-13, 365; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 306, 402, 420; CD 1628, iii. 308, 310.
  • 50. APC, 1625-6, pp. 58-74; 1626, pp. 421-2, 424, 426; CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 23-46; E401/1913, unfol. (16 Aug. 1626); Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 78-80v.
  • 51. SP16/55/9; APC, 1626, pp. 48, 108, 146-8, 243-5, 253.
  • 52. APC, 1626-7, pp. 101, 104-5, 312-3; 1627, pp. 125, 155-6, 159-61; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 80v, 89v; CSP Dom. 1627-8, pp. 133, 156.
  • 53. CD 1628, iii. 343; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 475; 1627-8, pp. 10, 40, 190; APC, 1626, pp. 367-8, 395, 406, 436; 1627, pp. 13-14, 273-4.
  • 54. CJ, i. 884b, 919a; CD 1628, iv. 59, 474.
  • 55. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 70v, 91v, 109v; M.150; APC, 1627, p. 137.
  • 56. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 89, 94, 139v, 142, 143, 150v, 154v, 162; CSP Dom. 1628-9, pp. 39, 47, 110, 213.
  • 57. CJ, i. 926a; APC, 1628-9, pp. 381-2, 394.
  • 58. Stephens, 244, 247; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, f. 106v.