LYNNE, John (1570-at least 1646), of Exeter, Devon

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. 9 Dec. 1570,1 4th s. of John Lynne of Bassingbourn, Cambs. and Mary, da. of William Sewster of Steeple Morden, Cambs.2 m. (1) by 1605, Mary (bur. 5 July 1619), da. of William Grills of Tavistock, Devon, 5s. (1 d.v.p.) 4da.;3 (2) lic. 8 Nov. 1621, Katherine (bur. 5 Mar. 1646), da. of Richard Lee of Totnes, Devon and wid. of John Eastman (admon. 16 May 1617) of Totnes, 1da.4 d. aft. 16 June 1646.5 sig. John Lynne.

Offices Held

Freeman, Exeter 1607,6 bailiff 1610-11, common councilman 1613-?d., recvr. 1620-1, sheriff 1621-2, alderman 1626-46, dep. lt. 1626, mayor 1628-9,7 commr. subsidy 1629,8 oyer and terminer 1632, 1641.9

Treas., Exeter French Co. 1619-20.10


Lynne belonged to a minor but well established Cambridgeshire gentry family. Obliged, as a younger son, to make his living as a cloth merchant, he settled at Tavistock, where he was assessed for subsidy at £4 in 1602. After moving to Exeter around five years later, he built up a successful business trading with France and, on a smaller scale, with Spain and Portugal. A shipowner by 1619, he became treasurer of the Exeter French Company that same year, and almost certainly served as governor subsequently, though the evidence is now lacking.11 Lynne was one of Exeter’s wealthier residents by 1625, when he was requested to pay a Privy Seal loan of £12. Unusually, he was appointed a city alderman in April 1626 without first serving as mayor. The corporation further demonstrated its confidence in him two months later, when he was deputed to recruit a new muster-master while on business in London.12 The prolonged trade embargo with France during the later 1620s doubtless hit Lynne’s profits, but he endeavoured to compensate for these losses by obtaining letters of marque for four ships between 1627 and 1629. In the latter year his subsidy rating stood at a very respectable £8.13

In Exeter’s disputed parliamentary election of 1628, Lynne headed the corporation’s list of nominees. As he was named on both the returns sent up to Westminster, his membership of the Commons was not questioned. He made no recorded contribution to the business of the 1628 session, but probably supplied the corporation with its copies of the Petition of Right, the Remonstrance against Buckingham, and the king’s prorogation speech of 26 June. Lynne apparently also conducted other business while in London, for on 22 May he was allowed expenses of £13 19s. 10d. ‘for the general occasions of the city’.14

Somewhat surprisingly, Lynne was elected mayor during the recess, and failed to resume his seat at the start of the 1629 session. On 20 Jan. his colleague Ignatius Jourdain moved for him to be discharged from attendance, but the Commons ruled that he should continue to serve, as his parliamentary membership predated his mayoral status. When Lynne failed to appear, however, the House ordered that he be sent for (30 January). Even after receiving the Speaker’s summons, Lynne lingered in Exeter until at least 10 Feb., and can have witnessed no more than the closing stages of the session.15 Meanwhile, under pressure from the Commons, the corporation had agreed to pay Jourdain’s wages for the 1628 session, which had been withheld in response to the circumstances of the election dispute. Lynne was initially obliged to find this money himself, but was reimbursed on 30 June, when the corporation also awarded him £26 11s. ‘for his service at the same Parliament’. He later received a further £12 8s. to cover the 1629 session.16

During his term as mayor, Lynne had Exeter’s market for unfinished cloth moved to a street in his own parish, but the earlier arrangement was restored by his immediate successor.17 In May 1630, Lynne was unexpectedly summoned to London by the lord mayor, Sir James Cambell, who claimed to have nominated him as one of the City’s next sheriffs. It is unclear whether Lynne was even eligible to hold this office, and Exeter’s corporation concluded that the lord mayor was acting maliciously, ‘out of some displeasure for Mr. Lynne’s service’ during his own mayoralty. Whatever the truth of the matter, an appeal was promptly lodged with the Privy Council, and Cambell ultimately nominated another man when London’s shrieval election was held a month later.18

In November 1642 Lynne withdrew from the corporation in protest at the establishment of a parliamentarian garrison in Exeter. A few weeks later, with a royalist siege of the city imminent, he wrote a letter expressing his support for the king. This missive was intercepted and sent to London, and on 14 Dec. the Commons ordered his immediate arrest. He was still imprisoned in the capital in October 1643, when, with Exeter now in royalist hands, the city’s deputy lieutenants unsuccessfully petitioned Parliament for his release, ingenuously observing that ‘this long absence from his affairs ... may tend to the great damage and loss of himself and many others that trade and deal with him’. In July 1644 the Commons agreed to the 3rd earl of Essex’s request for the release of a Mr. Lynne, but it is unclear whether this was the same man. Lynne was still living in June 1646, when he resigned from Exeter corporation on the grounds of his continuing absence. His subsequent history has not been established, and no will or administration grant has been found for him. None of his descendants are known to have sat in Parliament.19

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: George Yerby / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Cambs. RO, Bassingbourn par. reg.
  • 2. Vis. Cambs. (Harl. Soc. xli), 102; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 542.
  • 3. Vivian, 542; Devon RO, St. Mary Major, Exeter par. reg.
  • 4. Exeter Mar. Lics. 1523-1631 ed. J.L. Vivian, 74; PROB 11/129, f. 342r-v; Vivian, 542; Devon RO, St. Mary Major, Exeter par. reg.
  • 5. Devon RO, ECA Act Bk. 8, p. 358. The ‘John Lynn maior’ bur. at Exeter on 19 Sept. 1629 was not this Member, as is generally stated: Devon RO, St. Mary Major, Exeter par. reg.; Vivian, 542; Alexander, 211.
  • 6. Exeter Freemen ed. M.M. Rowe and A.M. Jackson (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. extra ser. i), 113.
  • 7. J.J. Alexander, ‘Exeter MPs’, Reps. and Trans. Devon Assoc. lxi. 211; Devon RO, ECA Act Bk. 7, pp. 80, 636; Act Bk. 8, p. 353; charters and letters patent XCIV.
  • 8. Exeter Tax and Rate Assessments ed. W.G. Hoskins (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. n.s. ii), 11.
  • 9. C181/4, f. 127v; Devon RO, ECA charters and patents CII.
  • 10. W.B. Stephens, ‘Officials of French Co., Exeter in Early 17th Century’, Devon and Cornw. N and Q, xxvii. 112.
  • 11. Vis. Cambs. 102; E179/101/429; E190/940/4; 190/942/1; 190/943/10; 190/945/8; Early Stuart Mariners and Shipping ed. T. Gray (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. n.s. xxxiii), 43.
  • 12. E401/2586, p. 250; Devon RO, ECA Act Bk. 7, p. 640.
  • 13. CSP Dom. 1628-9, pp. 294, 299, 307; 1629-31, pp. 151, 156; Exeter Tax and Rate Assessments, 11.
  • 14. Procs. 1628, vi. 150; CD 1628, ii. 119; HMC Exeter, 184-7; Devon RO, ECA Act Bk. 7, p. 697.
  • 15. CJ, i. 920a, 924b; HMC Lonsdale, 59; HMC Exeter, 188; Devon RO, ECA Act Bk. 7, p. 718.
  • 16. HMC Exeter, 188-9; Procs. 1628, vi. 150; Devon RO, ECA Act Bk. 7, p. 729; J.J. Alexander, ‘Parl. Representation of Devon’, Reps. and Trans. Devon Assoc. lxviii. 108.
  • 17. SP16/320/44.I.
  • 18. Devon RO, ECA Act Bk. 7, p. 756; CLRO, Jors. 35, f. 210.
  • 19. Devon RO, ECA Act Bk. 8, pp. 286, 353; M. Stoyle, Loyalty and Locality, 99-100, 102; E.A. Andriette, Devon and Exeter in the Civil War, 77; England’s Memorable Accidents from 12-19 Dec. 1642, p. 118; CJ, ii. 888a; iii. 563a; SP16/498/20.