PETTUS, John (1550-1614), of Elm St., Norwich, Norf.

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

b. 1550,1 s. of Thomas Pettus, tailor and alderman of Norwich, and Christine, da. of Simon Dethick of North Elmingham, Norf. m. Bridget, da. and coh. of Augustine Curteys of Honnington, Suff., 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da.2 suc. fa. 1598;3 kntd. 29 June 1607.4 d. bef. April 1614.5

Offices Held

Freeman, Norwich 1598,6 common cllr. 1598,7 sheriff 1598-9,8 alderman 1598-d.,9 mayor 1608-9;10 commr. subsidy, Norwich 1608,11 oyer and terminer 1609-d., seabreaches, Norf. 1610, sewers, Norwich 1611; collector, aid, Norwich 1611.12


The Pettus family had been tailors in Norwich for at least three generations and had lived in the parish of St. Simon and St. Jude since Pettus’ namesake and grandfather purchased a house there in 1536.13 Pettus’ father, who served as mayor in 1590, died in 1598, whereupon Pettus inherited considerable wealth. He subsequently rose swiftly through the ranks of municipal government, and in 1604 he became the first Norwich Member since 1558 to be elected to two consecutive parliaments.

During the 1604 session, Pettus was appointed to 13 bill committees, and also to the joint conference to meet the king at Whitehall on the Union (20 April).14 Norwich, and indeed Norfolk in general, was well known for its beer brewing, and not surprisingly, therefore, Pettus was closely involved in discussions concerning the brewing industry. On 23 Apr. two bills, one concerning deceits in brewing and the other abuses in the regulation of alehouses, were delivered into his care by the Commons.15 He was subsequently appointed to consider these measures (23 May), and on 8 June reported the alehouse bill as fit to proceed. The Commons, however, was not persuaded, and rejected the measure the same day.16 Pettus also belonged to a committee that was appointed to consider a measure to prevent the sale of unwholesome hops (18 May).17 The rest of Pettus’ public bill appointments concerned a variety of measures. Their subjects included letters patent (16 Apr.), usury (9 May and 9 June), bankruptcy (14 May), plague relief (18 May), the handicraft of skinners (19 May) and obstacles in navigable rivers (23 June).18 Pettus was also named to consider private bills which aimed to assure the jointure of Martin Calthorpe’s wife (27 Apr.), settle the title to lands of the late Christopher Le Grys (15 May), restore in blood Lord William Howard (15 May) and confirm the sale of Sir Thomas Rous’s lands (25 May).19

In the 1605-6 session, Pettus was named to five bill committees. Two were for measures that he had been ordered to consider in 1604 - the Rous and skinners’ bills.20 The other three concerned the statute of sewers (31 Jan..), a Norfolk land sales bill (21 Feb.) and the charter of Oriel College, Oxford (18 March).21 In addition, Pettus was ordered to attend the joint conference on the regulation of brewing (16 May), and as a Norwich Member he was eligible to attend the committee for the restitution-in-blood of John and Thomas Holland (27 February).22 Moreover, he must have sat on the committee for the bill to suppress tippling houses, even though he was not one of its named members, for on 26 Apr. he requested that a new day be assigned for the committee to meet.23 Behind the scenes Pettus and his fellow Norwich Member, Sir Henry Hobart, may also have been active, as they had instructions from the corporation to make an agreement with those Norwich ministers who had introduced a bill to increase their stipends.24 Both men were eligible to attend the committee as burgesses for Norwich (13 Feb.), and seem to have fulfilled the wishes of the corporation as the bill was not reported.25

When Parliament reassembled for the third session in November 1606, Pettus was again appointed to consider a measure concerned with alehouses, being named on 3 Dec. to the committee for restraining the sale of beer and ale to unlicensed alehousekeepers.26 In addition, he was appointed to two bills concerning the leather trade, one for the explanation of the 1604 statute on tanners (9 Dec.) and the other to prevent the use of hides made from horses and hogs (1 July 1607).27 Pettus’s remaining legislative committee appointments concerned grants to corporations (21 Nov.), the jointure of Mary Cavendish (4 Dec.), the Warwickshire lands of Henry Boughton (15 Dec.), the naturalization of John Ramsden (26 Feb.), the collection of debts (26 Feb.), the repeal of a clause of the 1604 Watermen Act (13 Mar.) and costs payable to defendants in certain cases (16 May).28 Pettus also preferred a bill to relieve patentees whose names were used in trust for others, a measure which sought to amend an Act of 1601 Act (6 May).29

Pettus served as mayor of Norwich in 1608-9, when he oversaw the construction of the fish stalls by Fye Bridge, near his house in Elm Street.30 When Parliament reassembled in 1610, Pettus continued to take an interest in alehouse legislation, as he was named on 31 Mar. to yet another committee on the problem of licensing.31 His remaining legislative appointments concerned a sale of lands to Sir John Heveningham* (20 Feb.), the Mynne/Beckham estates (21 Feb.), the manufacture of kendall cloth (23 Feb.), Sir Francis Hubbard (27 Mar.), the naturalization of Joan Greensmith (2 Apr.), women tenants in tail (16 Apr.), the foundation of Thetford school (15 June) and relief of Marshalsea prisoners (2 July).32 On 4 May Pettus preferred a bill to regulate dornick weavers in Norwich on behalf of the Norwich corporation, but there was clearly little interest in the subject as it was not read before Parliament was prorogued on 23 July.33 Nothing is known of Pettus’ activities in the fifth session.

In 1610 Pettus paid for the erection of a structure over the spring at Bishopgates, in Norwich, which was to remain closed in order to ensure the cleanliness of the water.34 He drafted his will on 10 Jan. 1614, in which he left tenements and land within the precincts of Norwich Cathedral to his grandson, Thomas. As his eldest son, Sir Augustine, was already dead, Pettus bequeathed land in Brettenham Marshes, Suffolk and houses and tenements in London to his second son, also named Thomas, whom he appointed his executor. Pettus also left £50 for the purchase of coal for the poor of Colegate Ward.35 His overseers, who included Robert Debney*, valued his moveable goods, which included a substantial armoury of nine guns, at £952 19s. 6d. Pettus’ Norwich house contained 27 rooms, and had stables for eight horses.36 His portrait, painted in 1612, hangs in the Blackfriars’ Hall in Norwich and a monument survives in St. Simon and St. Jude, where he was buried.37 Of Sir Augustine’s two children, Thomas received a baronetcy in 1641 for his services to the Crown while John was knighted in 1641, became deputy-governor of the royal mines and represented Dunwich in 1670.38

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Chris Kyle


  • 1. F. Blomefield, Hist. Norf. iv. 231.
  • 2. Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 221; Norf. RO, Rye ms 4, pp. 917-18.
  • 3. C142/255/166.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 142.
  • 5. PROB 11/123, ff. 409-15.
  • 6. Norf. RO, NCR case 16/C/5, f. 188v.
  • 7. Ibid. f. 192.
  • 8. Ibid. f. 192v.
  • 9. Norwich City Officers ed. T. Hawes (Norf. Rec. Soc. lii), 120; HMC Hatfield, xi. 532.
  • 10. Norf. RO, NCR case 16/C/5, f. 367v.
  • 11. SP14/31/1.
  • 12. E403/2730, f. 104.
  • 13. W. Rye, Norf. Fams. ii. 666.
  • 14. CJ, i. 180a.
  • 15. Ibid. 182b.
  • 16. Ibid. 234b.
  • 17. Ibid. 213b, 222b.
  • 18. Ibid. 172b, 204b, 209a, 213b, 214b, 235b, 245b.
  • 19. Ibid. 187a, 210a, 211a, 225b.
  • 20. Ibid. 262b, 304a.
  • 21. Ibid. 262a, 272a, 286a.
  • 22. Ibid. 275, 310a.
  • 23. Ibid. 292, 301a.
  • 24. Norf. RO, NCR case 16/C/5, f. 322v.
  • 25. CJ, i. 267b.
  • 26. Ibid. 327a.
  • 27. Ibid. 329a, 389b.
  • 28. Ibid. 318a, 327b, 331a, 342b, 343a, 1030b, 374b.
  • 29. Ibid. 369b-70a.
  • 30. Norf. RO, NCR case 16/C/5, f. 367v.
  • 31. CJ, i. 417a.
  • 32. Ibid. 397b, 398a, 399a, 415b, 417b, 418a, 440a, 444b.
  • 33. Ibid. 424b.
  • 34. W. Rye, Norf. Fams. 121-2; B. Cozens-Hardy and E.A. Kent, Mayors of Norwich, 69.
  • 35. PROB 11/123, ff. 409-15; Norf. RO, NCR Case 16/D/5, f. 26.
  • 36. Add. Ch. 17750.
  • 37. Blomefield, iv. 231, 359.
  • 38. Rye, ii. 667-8.