LISTER, John (1587-1640), of High Street, Kingston-upon-Hull, Bawtry and Linton, Yorks.

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

Family and Education

bap. 7 June 1587, o.s. of John Lister†, alderman of Hull, and Anne, da. of Robert Gayton, alderman of Hull.1 educ. Univ. Coll. Oxf. 1604; M. Temple 1606.2 m. by 1607, Elizabeth (bur. 5 Dec. 1656), da. and h. of Hugh Armyn, alderman of Hull, 9s. (1 d.v.p.) 7da. (3 d.v.p.).3 suc. fa. 1617;4 kntd. 23 May 1628.5 d. 23 Dec. 1640.6 sig. John Lister.

Offices Held

Member, Hull Merchants’ Co. 1616.7

Freeman, Hull 1617, alderman 1617-d., mayor 1618-19, 1629-30;8 commr. subsidy, Hull 1621-2, 1624-5, 1628, musters 1625, 1627;9 collector, Privy Seal loan 1625-6;10 commr. Yorks. coastal sqdn. 1627;11 hon. elder brother, Trin. House, Hull 1635-d;12 commr. piracy, Hull 1637.13


Lister’s father, a younger son of a Halifax gentry family, was apprenticed to alderman John Smith of Hull. He exported Derbyshire lead to Holland, and in 1595 bought a share in the salt monopoly the corporation leased from (Sir) Thomas Wilkes†.14 He progressed rapidly up the municipal hierarchy, serving as alderman from 1595, and stood for Parliament in 1597, 1601 and 1604, though he was only returned in 1601.15 By 1610 he was the biggest lead exporter in Hull.16 This was largely because, though probably a Merchant Adventurer himself, he emulated the increasing number of interlopers at Hull, who bypassed the Company’s staple port at Middelburg, shipping lead directly to Amsterdam in falsely registered vessels: in 1614, all of his exports were notionally bound for San Lucar.17 Lister should not be confused with either his father or a cousin, a Hull mariner who died in 1615.18

An only son, Lister received a gentleman’s education and married the heiress of a recently deceased Hull alderman, who brought him a landed estate near the town.19 By far the wealthiest merchant in Hull, Lister’s business had a turnover in excess of £10,000 in 1623. In 1628-9 the subsidy rating for his Hull lands alone was twice as large as any other alderman’s, and in the early 1630s he paid £50 in composition for his knighthood fine, more than many of the county gentry.20 From 1633, he leased the manor of Bawtry, where most of the Derbyshire lead in which he dealt was traded and loaded on to barges for shipment to Hull via the Rivers Idle and Trent.21 At his death, he owned land there worth at least £240 a year, and also held a half share in a lead smelting mill in Derbyshire. He used his profits to purchase estates at Linton in the North Riding and Estoft in Lincolnshire, and acquired other lands in Holderness, and as far afield as Richmond and Teeside.22

It was presumably always intended that Lister should take over the family business, the largest in Hull, and on his father’s death in January 1617 he became a freeman and joined the Hull Merchants’ Company. The corporation immediately persuaded him to accept election as an alderman by waiving the normal requirement that he serve as chamberlain and sheriff.23 He did not join the Merchant Adventurers, whose monopoly of Dutch trade had been temporarily eclipsed, even after the old Company regained their monopoly and loosened their staple regulations to allow members to trade with Amsterdam.24 In January 1619 Joseph Field*, governor of the Hull Adventurers and Lister’s chief rival as a lead exporter, secured a Privy Council order forbidding interlopers from shipping cloth or lead from Hull to the Low Countries. This caused the sudden collapse of Lister’s trade to the Netherlands, and forced him, in the first half of the year, to export his lead to Le Havre and Rouen instead.25 In June, however, while serving as mayor, he complained to the Council, claiming that members of the Hull Merchants’ Company were entitled to trade lead freely under the terms of their charter of 1577. The embargo was consequently suspended until the end of his mayoral year, during which time he exported nearly 400 fothers of lead. After hearing fresh testimony from both Field and Lister, the Council overturned their earlier order relating to the Adventurers in December 1619.26

Lister’s championship of the Hull merchants’ interests undoubtedly explains why he was elected to Parliament for the city on Christmas day 1620. Indeed, the corporation had apparently settled upon his nomination several weeks previously.27 His instructions from the corporation exhorted him ‘to do any business he thinks meet for the town’s good as he shall find occasion’, but the charters and deeds he took with him to Westminster suggest that the aldermen were particularly concerned about a dispute with the York Merchant Adventurers over lead dues, and the possibility of their trade monopoly along the Humber being questioned.28 Lister certainly proved to be a tireless advocate of his town’s economic interests throughout the 1620s, both inside and outside Parliament, and regularly kept his constituents informed about his activities on their behalf.

Lister may have made his maiden speech in the Commons on 27 Feb. 1621, at the second reading of a bill to assign the fees collected for maintaining the lighthouse at Winterton Ness, Norfolk to the Deptford Trinity House, as an unnamed Member moved ‘to have the committee take consideration of the privileges of Kingston-upon-Hull’. He had probably been briefed on this dispute by the Hull Trinity House, which feasted him before his departure and in whose behalf he intervened on 21 Mar., when he criticized an official request to confirm a buoyage levy at Newcastle on the grounds that ‘never any of the outports consented’.29 Two months later, he moved to add the main whaling grounds around Spitzbergen to the bill for free fishing, an unsuccessful attempt to resolve the Hull whalers’ long-running dispute with the Muscovy and Greenland companies over fishing rights in the Arctic. The Hull Merchants’ Company may have asked for action over the laws concerning outlawry for debt, a particular grievance for merchants, as on 4 May Lister called for a committee to draft a bill ‘against foreign outlawries; that no man shall be outlawed but in the proper county where he liveth’.30 However, it was the Merchant Adventurers’ monopoly which remained the most significant grievance at Hull: at the Privy Council committee on decay of trade in October 1621, the Hull merchants demanded that all merchants of more than seven years’ standing should be admitted to the monopoly companies. Consequently, Lister joined the widespread attack on the Merchant Adventurers in Parliament. On 13 Mar., when deputy governor William Towerson* defended the duty the Merchant Adventurers had imposed on lead to help recoup the £60,000 they had paid for the recovery of their monopoly in 1617, 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, when Sir Edwin Sandys presented a petition against the Adventurers from the Cinque Ports, Lister claimed ‘that 40,000 kersies heretofore transported [from Hull] and now there is but few’.31

Although some of his speeches were clearly planned in advance, Lister was happy to take advantage of opportunities as they arose. At the second reading of a bill to prohibit the import of corn on 8 Mar., he objected ‘that this bill may do much hurt, because much cloth transported into the East countries, whence the only return rye’. While this was not literally true, the Baltic did provide a vital supply of grain in years of dearth, and Lister was supported by Sir Thomas Riddell of Newcastle and Christopher Brooke, who spoke on behalf of his York constituents. Lister later joined Sir Thomas Wentworth and Sir Thomas Hoby in censuring John Lepton’s patent for the engrossing of bills before the Council in the North as ‘a grievance in fees’.32 Lister was named to only one committee in 1621, for a bill to clarify the 1548 Chantries’ Act (22 March). This measure was potentially significant for most of Hull’s charities, including the Trinity House and the Charterhouse hospital.33

Lister’s correspondence reveals much about his activities outside the Commons’ chamber. His initial concern in 1621 was the delivery of the town’s election indenture, in which he was partnered with Maurice Abbot, then abroad on a trade mission to the Netherlands. The corporation was worried about electing an absentee, but Archbishop Abbot, high steward of Hull, who had nominated his brother Maurice, advised Lister to file the return, assuring him that Maurice would arrive ‘in good time’. Lister also suggested that Sir Dudley Digges*, Abbot’s companion on the mission, was likely to be able to avert censure as ‘an ancient and well respected Parliament man’. Pressure of business in the Commons afforded Lister little time to perform the other tasks specified in the corporation’s instructions. As early as 7 Feb. he asked for James Watkinson*, weighmaster of the Hull Woolhouse, to be sent to London to negotiate with the York merchants about lead dues, protesting that ‘I shall never fail to do my utmost, but one man can be but in one place at once’. The corporation quickly sent up a number of documents, including an old draft bill to confirm their lead tolls, but the issue was apparently dropped on Lister’s advice that ‘there is little to do us good in parliamentary courses’. Lister was later sent the town’s assessment for the first of the two subsidies voted at the beginning of the session, which he returned to the Exchequer. He also advised the corporation to prepare to send the Palatine Benevolence collected the previous autumn, which he wrongly guessed would be demanded shortly.34

One of Lister’s earliest letters to the corporation confided that ‘I am in good hope that the Commonwealth shall receive much good by this Parliament’, and during the session he reported a steady stream of political news. Noting the arrest of the projector (Sir) Giles Mompesson*, for instance, he hoped that ‘more of that kind will follow’, and when the ecclesiastical judge Sir John Bennet* was detained on bribery charges after the Easter recess, Lister looked for his censure ‘according to the degrees of his demerits’. As well as relaying news, Lister also forwarded copies of several Proclamations, a speech by the Polish ambassador, and the confession of lord chancellor St. Alban (Sir Francis Bacon*) at the latter’s impeachment. Lister’s contacts at the Custom House and the Exchange also enabled him to relate news of foreign affairs. A firm supporter of the Protestant cause, he lamented ‘I can write no good news from Bohemia, both Morosia [Moravia] and Silesia ... being revolted [from the Elector Palatine] to the Emperor’. In the autumn, he was cheered by the news that the French royal army had raised the siege of the Huguenot stronghold of Montauban ‘and now the Protestants stand upon good terms with him [Louis XIII]’.35

Lister left no trace on the records of the autumn sitting, but wrote to the corporation via the town sheriff’s clerk, who was presumably in London to render his master’s account at the Exchequer. A letter of 26 Nov. explained that the sitting had been called to consider ‘the bleeding business [of the] Palatinate’, and outlined speeches by lord keeper Williams, lord treasurer (Sir Lionel) Cranfield*, and the diplomat [John] Lord Digby*, which revealed the failure of attempts to mediate a settlement of the Bohemian crisis. On 29 Nov. he reported the grant of a subsidy to support Count Mansfeld’s army in the Palatinate, ‘in which the recusants shall pay, [as] aliens, a double subsidy, as making themselves [st]rangers unto us in their hearts and affections, they are re[a]s[one]d to be made strangers in their purses likew[ise]’. He continued, hopefully:

we are now to petition His [Majesty] for the advancement of God’s true religion, and th[at] we may have an end of this session of Parliament before Christmas, so that at our coming into the country we may bring down some good laws and remedy some grievances, together with His Majesty’s free pardon if it may be obtained.

This optimism led him to under-estimate the significance of the free speech dispute between the Commons and the king: on 9 Dec. he made light of the Commons’ suspension of proceedings as ‘some stay and interruption in our parliamentary business’, although it led to the untimely prorogation of 18 December.36

Following the dissolution Lister did not return to London until the spring of 1623, when he arrived with two other aldermen to further two cases being heard before the Privy Council. The first was the continuing dispute with the Greenland Company over whaling rights around Spitzbergen: Sir Arthur Ingram* and Archbishop Abbot negotiated a temporary agreement which allowed four Hull whalers to sail for Trinity Island (Jan Meyen Land),37 and gave the Hull merchants a monopoly of the supply of train oil and whalebone in the north.38 The second dispute was over the Hull corporation’s seizure of ‘certain corn sold by the merchants of York unto country chapmen’ in July 1622, in contravention of a patent of 1532 which required a Hull burgess to be party to every sale within the town. Although they engaged solicitor-general Heath* and John Glanville* to put their case, the Hull men were defeated by the eloquence of the attorney-general, Sir Thomas Coventry*, and Christopher Brooke on behalf of the York merchants. Lister put a brave face on the defeat, assuring the corporation that the order allowing York merchants to trade freely in grain at Hull ‘is penned as well as we could get it, and rightly conceived is rather a restraint than enlargement to what they have formerly used’. More significantly, he also managed to avert Coventry’s threat to bring a quo warranto against Hull’s charters.39 Later that year, Lister took part in negotiations with the York corporation over the lead tolls imposed on York merchants at the Hull Woolhouse, which were chaired by Ingram.40

Hull’s defeat at the hands of the York merchants probably cost Lister his seat at the next general election: in his stead, the corporation returned Sir John Suckling, comptroller of the Household, for ‘divers considerations’, foremost among which was doubtless the wish to acquire new allies at Whitehall. Lister did not sign the entry recording Suckling’s election in the corporation’s records, an omission which may indicate disapproval. However, he was not absent from the Commons for long, as Suckling opted to sit for Middlesex instead, and suggested that the town elect an inhabitant in his place. The corporation chose Lister on 15 Mar., rejecting rival nominations from lord treasurer Cranfield and lord admiral Buckingham.41

Even allowing for his belated arrival, Lister played a much less active role in 1624 than he had in his first Parliament. In the debate of 12 Apr. on the bill to regulate grain exports, he scorned Suckling’s motion to prohibit rye from being exported at above 18s. a quarter, insisting, ‘that in the north rye did bear near the rate of wheat, and if there be not some proportion held in it with wheat it will make little of it sown. He thinketh 24s. a reasonable rate’. As both Sir John Savile and Sir Thomas Hoby advocated a rate of only 20s. per quarter, Lister’s remarks about the price were presumably motivated by animosity. Lister made one other speech, interrupting proceedings on 3 May to move for a formal censure of the pretermitted custom on cloth, from which Hull had been petitioning for exemption since its introduction in 1619. He was also named to the committee for a bill to confirm a Chancery decree awarding George Morgan £22,000 in damages as factor to the bankrupt Yorkshire alum syndicate led by William Turner and Sir John Bourchier* (1 May), and on 28 May he was one of four men ordered ‘to examine the grievances for trade’ a few hours before their presentation to the king.42 Moreover, as a burgess for a port town, he attended one of the meetings of the committee for the customs fees bill on 19 Apr., possibly to complain about recent changes at Hull, where more paperwork and increased fees were being demanded. Lister’s other activities during this session are difficult to establish, as none of his correspondence survives for this Parliament. The corporation sent him several documents relating to the town’s defences, probably to enable him to procure a licence to purchase replacements for ordnance removed from the town’s fortifications during the Elizabethan wars, but whether Lister subsequently took any action is unknown.43

Lister was returned to Parliament again in May 1625, when he was instructed to offer Sir Francis Barrington* £10 or £11 a year in lieu of the tun of Gascon wine given annually by the corporation for access to a local spring. Only one of Lister’s letters written during this Parliament survives. Drafted on 6 July, it was preoccupied with news of the outbreak of plague at Whitehall and the hasty dispersal of the Court. In it Lister confided, ‘I was 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’. He resolved to stay for the passage of the Tunnage and Poundage bill, ‘being a business of the greatest importance that concerneth the ports’, and criticized colleagues who had fled from the plague: ‘if all men do as some do, what might become of these things if none but the courtiers were remaining?’. During the Oxford sitting, which he also attended, Lister warned that ‘the northern coasts [are] as much infested by the Dunkirkers’ as those of the west, and asked for the committee to take the safety of all ports into consideration (11 August).44

Lister’s concern about the threat from the Dunkirkers was not misplaced, for at the end of October, storms dispersed the Anglo-Dutch squadron blockading Dunkirk, and Dutch and Dunkirker squadrons clashed off Scarborough.45 Hull’s trade fell by one-third or more during the winter.46 Security was therefore a major concern at the 1626 election, when the corporation returned Lister once again. He took with him the papers he had used to apply for a licence to purchase ordnance for the town in 1624,47 secured a warrant for the arming of 22 merchantmen, and began shipping guns to Hull. On 17 Mar. he informed Hull’s Trinity House that the question of providing protection for the town’s trade

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. I should as soon certify you as I should willingly hear of some settled course against them.48

This frustration with the inactivity of both government and Parliament may explain his outburst three days later, in a debate on ‘the interruption of the merchants’ trade’, which formed part of the developing attack against the duke of Buckingham.49 Although impositions and the pressing of merchantmen for the royal fleet were both voted grievances, Lister was ignored when he observed that ‘a natural and genuine cause of the stopping of trade [is] the want of wafters and convoy for merchants’ ships’.50 Instead of heeding Lister, the House preferred to concentrate on attacking the duke. Had he not been so preoccupied with the threat from the Dunkirkers, Lister would probably have attacked the seizure of merchantmen himself, as a ship carrying a cargo of his lead had been pressed by the Navy in the first half of 1625.51 On 22 Mar. Lister was named to a committee to consider a petition from the Deptford Trinity House requesting a raise in the pitifully low rates of pay for mariners pressed into royal service, a matter which he had discussed with the Deptford brethren five days earlier.52 On 25 May he was one of the committee appointed to draw up a fair copy of the general grievances, which chiefly concerned trade.53

As approximately one-third of his lead exports went to Bordeaux, Le Havre, Rouen and Calais,54 Lister was unsurprisingly concerned about the deterioration in relations with France. The issue was also of interest to his constituents, as one of the ships the French had seized in retaliation for Buckingham’s detention of the St. Peter of Le Havre was the Gift of God of Hull.55 On 22 Feb. Sir John Eliot’s report of the seizure of the St. Peter provoked attacks on Sir Henry Marten*, the Admiralty judge who had ordered the arrest, and demands for justice for the French. Lister was one of those who asked ‘that those poor [French] merchants may be relieved’, but he also remembered the English victims, moving ‘that our merchants’ goods may not be sold’.56 While Lister played no active part in Buckingham’s impeachment, and was clearly not enthusiastic about the prospect of a breach with France, he may have supported the war with Spain. The only one of his letters which survives from this session refers to ‘a main great project here, to make a Company that shall be confirmed by Act of Parliament to adventure into the West Indies, and if they can, they may take the king of Spain his plate fleet’.57 This project for an Elizabethan-style privateering war occasioned much debate, but was never implemented.

Lister was also active on his constituents’ behalf outside the House. One of his first actions was to procure an a quittance for the money the corporation had received for transporting 2,000 recruits to the Low Countries in the summer of 1625.58 He also acted for the Hull Trinity House, which had briefed him to secure alterations to their charter before his departure. In his letter of 17 Mar. he advised them that a confirmation would cost only £20, whereas a new charter with additional privileges would cost £70.59 On 7 Apr. he formed part of a deputation of Yorkshire MPs which successfully appealed to the Privy Council for a reduction in the county’s contribution to the Privy Seal loan, for which he was partly responsible as the collector for Hull. On the same day it was presumably the Hull MPs who secured a Council order allocating three armed colliers for the protection of the town’s cloth fleet.60 Lister received £42 19s. 8d. from the corporation for his expenses at the Parliament.61

With the town’s trade heavily dependent upon naval protection, the Hull corporation could not afford the luxury of dissent from the arbitrary measures to which the government resorted after the dissolution of Parliament in June 1626. Consequently, Lister swiftly collected the reduced Privy Seal loans, remitting 90 per cent of the town’s £200 quota to the Exchequer on 16 August, shortly before the levy was superseded by the Forced Loan.62 In the following year Lister also served as one of the commissioners for the squadron of armed colliers established to defend the Yorkshire coast, and was involved in the financing of the reinforcements shipped from Hull to the English army at Stade.63

The Dunkirker threat was probably still uppermost in Lister’s mind during the parliamentary session of 1628. On 7 May, when the York Member Thomas Hoyle called for action on hearing news of fresh losses in the north, he was seconded by Lister, who made ‘pitiful complaints’, and warned 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’.64 Lister’s attitude towards the Petition of Right is more difficult to assess. Though he is not known to have spoken on the subject, he clearly appreciated the importance of the debates, as he instructed his clerk to copy ‘the arguments touching the liberties of the subjects of England made at the Parliament’, which he delivered to the corporation in the following September.65 Whatever his views, he was clearly cultivated by the Court: knighted on 23 May, his eldest son, who was admitted to the Middle Temple on 3 June, may have been the John Lister who was appointed an esquire of the Body in extraordinary four days later, at the height of the crisis over the king’s first reply to the Petition of Right.66

Much of Lister’s recorded activity during the session concerned the grievances of the Hull whalers. The agreement which he had helped to arrange with the Greenland Company in 1623 had quickly broken down, and there were accusations of sabotage which led to armed clashes between the rival interests in 1626.67 Because the York and Hull merchants were ‘almost wholly barred from foreign trade elsewhere’, the Privy Council had brokered another truce in 1627, but this had ignored the Londoners’ claims to a monopoly under the Muscovy Company charter of 1613.68 Lister may initially have hoped to circumvent the monopoly by adding a proviso for Spitzbergen to the free fishing bill, as he had previously suggested in 1621, which would explain his inclusion on the bill’s committee on 17 April. This tactic presumably failed, as the dispute was referred to the committee for grievances, which delegated consideration of the petitions from both sides to a committee on which Lister was included (17 May).69 At the beginning of June the Greenland Company agreed to allow the Hull whalers fishing rights for the coming season,70 and on 25 June the issue was reported by George Radcliffe, who criticized the Company’s patent for claiming ‘to restrain all men from fishing without their licence, and to imprison men without conviction’. Lister underlined the reasonableness of his own 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 patent was condemned as a grievance, and Lister was among those charged to draw up a petition to the Crown calling for its revocation.71

Lister was involved in a number of other minor trade issues during the session. He supported the bill for regulating the clerk of the market’s supervision of weights and measures, but may have been drawing attention to regional variations in coal and lead measures on 18 Apr., when he warned that ‘the scope of the bill was to regulate, not to confound weights and measures’; he was named to the committee.72 On 13 June he was named to help consider the petition from the Goldsmiths Company against the recently erected office of Royal Exchanger, which had allegedly led to a drop in gold imports.73 He was named to two other committees on the same day, the first to consider what action could be taken over the long-delayed bill for Tunnage and Poundage, and the second to peruse the list of grievances which he had helped to draft in 1626.74

Although the Hull corporation sent its Members to London with a lengthy list of suits, which included the renewal of the town’s charter, they accomplished little outside the House in 1628: Archbishop Abbot, disgraced at Court for his stance over the Forced Loan, even declined his fee as high steward, claiming that ‘he could do the town no pleasure’.75 Lister secured an a quittance for the sums spent on transporting soldiers in the previous year, and shortly after the session ended he helped to organize an exchange of French prisoners at Hull for the Hull mariners held in France. The corporation’s need for an effective ally at Whitehall probably explains why Lister offered the Privy Council clerk Sir William Beecher* the post of corporation solicitor at the end of the year.76

Lister returned to Westminster in January 1629 with a list of instructions which the town had augmented since the previous year, but which met with an equal lack of success.77 He was added to the committee investigating the seizure of the goods of the merchant John Rolle* (3 Feb.), but left no other trace on the records of the session. As a Yorkshire burgess, he was entitled to attend a committee for a bill confirming a Chancery decree (21 Jan. 1629), though it probably never met because of the abrupt suspension of business two days later.78

England’s war effort largely ceased with the fall of La Rochelle in the autumn of 1628, but enemy privateers remained a problem during Lister’s second mayoralty in 1629-30. Thus in March 1630 burgesses were permitted to buy alehouse licences because of ‘the interruption of the trade at sea by the Dunkirkers and otherwise’.79 A few days later, the corporation were lobbied by mariners whose ship had been seized by Dunkirkers: a collection was arranged in the town churches; Lister wrote to lord president Wentworth for relief, forwarding complaints of similar losses at Newcastle; and within weeks Sir Henry Mervyn’s* squadron had been assigned to convoy protection duties.80 Lister also enlisted Beecher’s help to secure a licence to buy 12 sakers for the town’s defence, for which the corporation had been petitioning since 1624.81

Lister continued as a lobbyist after the end of his mayoralty. In 1635 he was delegated to avert the threat of a law suit by the London lead merchants over dues at the Hull Woolhouse.82 In the following year he presented gifts to lord deputy Wentworth and Bishop Juxon, the new lord treasurer, and in 1637 he negotiated terms for the farm of the Humber ferries with Sir Arthur Ingram*. During the plague epidemic of 1637-8 he was instructed ‘to keep forth of the town for his freer liberty in negotiating the town’s business and his own’, and asked to lobby the justices of the West Riding for relief.83 As Hull’s finances deteriorated, he lent the corporation money: £100 in 1636 and, when this debt could not be repaid, another £620 in 1639 at the usurious rate of ten per cent compound interest.84 Most of all, he helped to defend the town against three courtiers who secured a grant of the lands provided for maintenance of the town’s allegedly decayed fortifications; this neglect meant that the relevant estates were deemed to have escheated to the Crown. As the disputed lands provided about one-fifth of the town’s annual income, the corporation mounted a tenacious defence.85 Lister, sent to London to solicit the case six times in the years 1634-8, eventually reduced it to a stalemate, but it took the support of secretary of state Sir Henry Vane* to secure its dismissal.86

Lister was returned to both the Short and Long Parliaments, but left no trace on the records of either. He drew up his will in London on 4 Dec. 1640, settling landed estates on his two eldest sons. A third received his interest in a chamber at the Middle Temple, the fourth and fifth took over the businesses at Hull and Bawtry, and provision was made for the education of his three youngest sons. He provided £200 to build an almshouse in Holy Trinity churchyard, and generous endowments for its maintenance. He died on 23 Dec., and, in accordance with his wishes, his body was buried in Holy Trinity church on 19 Jan. 1641.87 His son William became recorder of Hull, and represented the borough in the Commons in 1654 and 1656. The family house survives as the Wilberforce Museum, where a picture of the MP in his scarlet alderman’s gown hangs in the parlour.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. Yorks. ERRO, PE158/1, pp. 16, 366; Vis. Yorks. ed. Foster, 546; Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ii. 340-3; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, ff. 25, 260v, 290.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss.
  • 3. Yorks. ERRO, PE158/1, p. 77, 87, 94, 99, 103, 110, 113, 115, 118-19, 122, 124, 126, 130, 132, 136, 425, 439, 461-2; PE158/3, p. 302; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, ff. 325v, 369.
  • 4. Yorks. ERRO, PE158/1, p. 446.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 194.
  • 6. Portrait in Wilberforce Mus. Hull.
  • 7. Hull RO, Merchants’ Soc. Reg. 1647-1706 [DSN 1].
  • 8. Hull RO, Hull RO, freemens’ reg. 1443-1645, f. 164v; Bench Bk. 5, ff. 25v, 30, 98v, 268v.
  • 9. C212/22/20-22; E179/204/415, 425; E179/205/454; E115/254/123; APC, 1625-6, p. 58; 1627, pp. 101, 104-5.
  • 10. E401/2586, p. 312.
  • 11. APC, 1627, pp. 312-13.
  • 12. Order Bk. of Trinity House, Hull ed. F.W. Brooks (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. cv), 16, 50.
  • 13. C181/5, f. 80.
  • 14. Vis Yorks. ed. Foster, 546; Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. i. 114-15; ii. 340-3; Hull RO, D.760; freemens’ reg. 1396-1645, f. 91v; Hull Trin. House, Accts. 2, ff. 223v-59.
  • 15. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, ff. 290, 295, 307v, 340, 347v.
  • 16. Lister’s lead exports were as follows: 1609 104.5 fothers [E190/312/6] 1611 123.25 fothers [E190/312/7] 1613 331.875 fothers [E190/313/5] 1614 211.625 fothers [E190/313/8]
  • 17. A. Friis, Alderman Cokayne’s Project, 121-3; E190/313/8.
  • 18. Hull RO, freemens’ reg. 1396-1645, f. 141; Yorks. ERRO, PE185/1, unfol. (6 Oct. 1615); Borthwick, Reg. Test. 34, f. 412v.
  • 19. Yorks. ERRO, PE158/1, p. 400; Borthwick, Reg. Test. 30, f. 126v.
  • 20. E190/315/3; E179/205/440, 454; E407/35, f. 68v.
  • 21. E112/266/519; E134/17Jas.I/Mich.7; E134/18Jas.I/East.12.
  • 22. Borthwick, York Wills, Feb. 1640/1, Holderness Deanery (Sir John Lister), ff. 2-5.
  • 23. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 25r-v, 27, 30; freemens’ reg. 1396-1645, f. 164v; Merchants’ Soc. Reg. Index.
  • 24. Friis, 123-4.
  • 25. APC, 1618-19, pp. 351-2; E190/314/14, ff. 25v, 27, 29v.
  • 26. APC, 1618-19, pp. 482-3; 1619-21, pp. 90-1; Friis, 125-7; Charters of Hull trans. J.R. Boyle, 91-6; E190/314/14, ff. 31v-37; Lansd. 162, ff. 1-3.
  • 27. Archbishop Abbot knew of their choice on 13 Dec., see Hull RO, L.167.
  • 28. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 34v, 41; APC, 1591-2, p. 531. The most important grants are in Charters of Hull, 64-5.
  • 29. CJ, i. 529b, 568b; CD 1621, vii. 6-17; Hull Trin. House, Accts. 3, f. 248.
  • 30. CJ, i. 626a; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 23; CD 1621, ii. 386; iii. 169.
  • 31. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, f. 46; APC, 1621-3, p. 40; Nicholas, i. 152-3; CD 1621, ii. 365; iv. 339; vi. 60. CJ, i. 620b improbably attributes the cloth figures to King’s Lynn.
  • 32. CJ, i. 544-5; H. Zins, Eng. and the Baltic in Elizabethan Era; CD 1621, iii. 194.
  • 33. CJ, i. 568b; Nicholas, i. 210.
  • 34. Hull RO, L.166-72; Bench Bk. 5, ff. 41, 51.
  • 35. Hull RO, L.168-72, 180, 200.
  • 36. Hull RO, L.178-80; Bench Bk. 5, f. 14v; C. Russell, PEP, 124-6, 134-8, 142-3.
  • 37. For the nomenclature of this island, see Early Voyages to Spitsbergen ed. W.M. Conway (Halkuyt Soc. ser. 2. xi), 83, n. 1.
  • 38. Hull RO, L.197 [should be dated 29 Apr. 1623], L.173 [should be dated 9 May 1623], L.201; APC, 1621-3, pp. 488-9; E190/315/3, ff. 18v-19v; Hull Trin. House, Accts. 3, f. 293.
  • 39. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, f. 51v; York City Archives, House Bk. 34, f. 266; Charters of Hull, 64-5; Hull RO, L.197, 200; SP14/143/94; APC, 1621-3, p. 476.
  • 40. Hull RO, L.200, 202A; York City Archives, House Bk. 34, f. 270.
  • 41. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 60v-1.
  • 42. ‘Nicholas 1624’, ff. 102, 227; CJ, i. 696a, 714a, 782a; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 102; Hull RO, L.190; R.B. Turton, Alum Farm, 92.
  • 43. HLRO, main pprs. 20 May 1624; CJ, i. 747b; York City Archives, House Bk. 34, f. 292; E190/315/3; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, f. 61.
  • 44. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, f. 67; Procs. 1625, pp. 458, 460, 468, 717-18.
  • 45. CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 135, 140; Scarborough Recs. 1600-40 ed. M.Y. Ashcroft (N. Yorks. RO ser. xlvii), 151-3, 155-7.
  • 46. This is best illustrated by Hull Trin. House, Accts. 3, ff. 333-47. Customs revenues also fell, see W.B. Stephens, ‘Cloth exports of provincial ports’, EcHR (ser. 2), xxii. 247.
  • 47. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, f. 70v.
  • 48. Hull Trin. House, ATH/47/1, letter of 17 Mar. 1625/6.
  • 49. Russell, 289-91.
  • 50. Procs. 1626, ii. 323.
  • 51. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 440; 1625-6, p. 29.
  • 52. Hull Trin. House, ATH/47/1, letter of 17 Mar. 1626 and enclosed petition.
  • 53. CJ, i. 865a.
  • 54. E190/314/14; 190/315/3.
  • 55. SP16/42/136; Procs. 1626, ii. 87, n. 7.
  • 56. Procs. 1626, ii. 95.
  • 57. Hull Trin. House, ATH/47/1, letter of 17 Mar. 1626.
  • 58. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 67v, 70v. For the shipment of the recruits, see APC, 1625-6, pp. 58-74, passim; CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 23-46, passim.
  • 59. Hull Trin. House, Accts. 3, f. 346; ATH/47/1, letter of 17 Mar. 1626.
  • 60. APC, 1625-6, pp. 421-2, 424, 426; CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 306, 462.
  • 61. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, f. 76v.
  • 62. APC, 1625-6, p. 426; E401/1913, unfol. (16 Aug. 1626).
  • 63. APC, 1626-7, pp. 101, 104-5, 312-13; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 80r-v, 89v.
  • 64. CD 1628, iii. 308, 310.
  • 65. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 93-4.
  • 66. MTR, 732; LC5/132, p. 18; Russell, 377-83.
  • 67. CD 1628, iii. 343; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 475.
  • 68. APC, 1626, pp. 367-8, 395, 406, 436; 1627, pp. 13-14; CSP Dom. 1627-8, pp. 10, 40.
  • 69. CJ, i. 884b, 899b-900a; CD 1628, iii. 343.
  • 70. CJ, i. 905a, 908a.
  • 71. Ibid. 919a; CD 1628, iv. 474.
  • 72. CD 1628, ii. 550; CJ, i. 885b.
  • 73. CJ, i. 912a; CD 1628, iv. 303.
  • 74. CJ, i. 912a-b.
  • 75. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 91v, 94.
  • 76. Ibid. ff. 91, 92v, 94; CSP Dom. 1628-9, pp. 39, 47, 110, 213.
  • 77. Hull RO, M.150.
  • 78. CJ, i. 926a, 932a.
  • 79. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, f. 106v.
  • 80. Ibid. f. 108; CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 302; 1629-31, pp. 223, 262-3; SCL, Strafford Pprs. 12/105-6, 112.
  • 81. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, f. 109v.
  • 82. Ibid. ff. 187v, 195, 197-8.
  • 83. Ibid. ff. 204, 215, 219v.
  • 84. Ibid. ff. 204, 251v. The interest rate was not explicitly stated.
  • 85. E112/269/11; E134/11Chas.I/Mich.47; E178/5816; Charters of Hull, 69-79; Hull RO, BRF2/490-5 (Myton estate).
  • 86. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 172v, 174, 185v-187v, 191, 195, 197-8, 203v, 206, 215-7, 242v-3, 258-9.
  • 87. Borthwick, York Wills, Feb. 1640/1, Holderness Deanery.; Yorks. ERRO, PE158/1, p. 492.