PRINGLE, John (1571-1651), of Dover, Kent

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. Apr. 1571, o.s. of John Pringle, baker, of Dover and Ellen. m. by 1598, Elizabeth (bur. 10 Dec. 1640), 3s. d.v.p. 3da. (1 d.v.p.) suc. fa. 1585.1 d. aft. 4 Jan. 1651. sig. Jo[h]n Pringle.

Offices Held

Common councilman, Dover by 1603-24, chamberlain 1604-6, 1615-17;2 member, Dover fellowship of lodemanage by 1605, kpr. of the box 1608-10, snr. lodesman 1625, master 1625-6, warden ?by 1626-d.;3 churchwarden, Dover St. Mary 1607-9;4 dep. to Brodhull, Cinque Ports 1613, 1616, 1624, 1627, 1628, 1631, 1632, 1639, 1641;5 pounder and droit gatherer, Dover 1623-4, jurat 1624-d., dep. mayor 1626, mayor 1626-7;6 commr. sale of Spanish prize goods, Dover 1626-30, French prize goods 1627-30,7 billeting, Kent 1626-7.8


Pringle’s father, described as a householder at his death, left his son the leases of several tenements in Dover. Pringle himself followed in his father’s footsteps and became a baker. By August 1603 he was a member of the Dover corporation, and the following year he began the first of two consecutive terms as borough chamberlain. At around the same time he joined the Dover fellowship of lodemanage, informally known as the Trinity House of Dover and primarily responsible for providing pilots for the Channel crossing. He quickly became a trusted member, and in December 1608 was appointed ‘keeper of the box’, or treasurer, with an annual salary of 5s. He evidently gave such satisfaction that he was elected for a second term the following year.9 In April 1611 Pringle was singled out to accompany the fellowship’s master to London ‘to follow the business of procuring of the charter for the fellowship according as they shall have order from Dr. [George] Newman* and Mr. [Matthew] Hadde*’. The costs associated with obtaining a new charter were beyond the ordinary means of the fellowship, and in January 1612 Pringle and another member were instructed to borrow £50 between them on their own credit.10

By July 1613 Pringle had achieved sufficient prominence in Dover that he was selected to represent his borough at the Brotherhood of the Cinque Ports. In the following December he was briefly in trouble with his fellow members of the corporation over short weight, but continued to trade.11 He subsequently served two further terms as chamberlain, and in September 1617 was one of six representatives from the Dover fellowship of lodemanage at the meeting to discuss widening the membership of the fellowship to include pilots from the other Cinque Ports.12 In March 1624, following a disputed parliamentary election at Dover, Pringle gave evidence for the corporation before the elections committee.13 Elected a jurat three months later, he was promoted to the rank of senior lodesman by the fellowship of Dover in September 1625. In the following December he was elected master of the fellowship, and chosen by the corporation to carry the canopy at the forthcoming coronation.14

Pringle was elected to the second Caroline Parliament in January 1626 following a contest. Despite having never sat in the Commons before, Pringle, identified simply as a ‘Dover burgess’ by one diarist (and not identified at all by two others who nonetheless took down his words), delivered his maiden speech early in the Parliament, on 27 February. In this he provided a damning indictment of the government’s handling of the war with Spain. Of the 200 Dover men who had taken part in the recent, ill-fated expedition to Cadiz, all but four were now dead, he lamented. Many other Dover seamen were held prisoner at Dunkirk, and the town had lost three of its ships. These losses were compounded by the inadequate state of Dover’s defences, both at sea and on land. Dover Castle was so poorly defended that the night watch consisted of just eight men, he complained, and the ships provided by the Navy were too few, too large and too slow to combat the smaller, more nimble Dunkirkers, with the result that trade had come to a halt. Even were better ships to be provided, though, matters were unlikely to improve unless the Navy improved its rates of pay. The current rate of 4d. a day, declared Pringle, was so small that seamen ‘cannot live on it’. The Navy should be prepared to offer the higher pay given by its enemies and allow its crews a share of any booty taken. These sharp criticisms did not fall on deaf ears, for over the coming months the Navy under the duke of Buckingham attempted to improve pay, build smaller, faster ships and offer its crews a share of prize money. In the short term, however, Pringle kept up his assault. On 6 Mar. he again derided the government’s attempts to protect merchant shipping. The Navy’s ships riding in the Downs were, he observed, ‘not fit to keep the coast’, being too large and cumbersome. What were needed, he implied, were smaller vessels like those of the Dunkirkers.15

Pringle made no further reported speeches during the Parliament, but he was named to four committees. The first, on 8 Mar., concerned a petition for compensation submitted by a merchant named Mark Willes, whose ship carrying oats and malt had been seized by the Dunkirkers in March 1625, before the outbreak of hostilities. Willes had earlier been promised recompense out of the prizes brought into Dover, over which Pringle himself now had some measure of control, as he had recently been appointed to the commission for their sale. However, the goods Willes had been offered had been conveyed by their owners to Dunkirk via Calais.16 Pringle’s second committee was to consider the proposal of Sir Dudley Digges* for a privately financed naval offensive against the Spanish empire (14 March). Eight days later he was instructed to help inquire into naval deficiencies (22 March). His final appointment required him to look into the failure to provide the expedition led by Count Mansfeld in 1624-5 with adequate supplies (also 22 March). There is a strong possibility that Pringle had helped to provision this expedition himself.17

After the dissolution, in July 1626, Pringle attended a conference at Maidstone with a view to persuading the county magistrates of Kent to share in the cost of the shipping that the Crown now ordered the Cinque Ports to provide for coastal defence.18 At a meeting of the Brotherhood of the Cinque Ports on 25 July he was granted £9 15s.4d. for travelling expenses to London to petition the Privy Council for a reduction in the charge of these ships, but his mission ultimately proved fruitless.19 Elected mayor of Dover in the autumn, Pringle secured a retrospective resolution from the corporation on 16 Dec. that he should receive ‘the like allowance former burgesses have had for attendance in Parliament’. Two payments, totalling £25 5s.11d. and also covering his expenses as one of the bearers of the canopy at the coronation, are recorded.20

As mayor of Dover, Pringle was automatically placed on the billeting commission for Kent in September 1626. He was appointed very much against his will, not least because it meant that troops were subsequently billeted on Dover.21 At first he tried to protect private householders by distributing the soldiers among the town’s innkeepers and alehousekeepers. However, his fellow commissioners objected to his policy of posting the soldiers to ‘poor alehouses’, as these were ‘houses of disorder and places of liberty to many errors and vices’, and consequently he was obliged instead to distribute the soldiers among private householders. He himself housed one soldier for 24 weeks. The misdemeanours of the soldiers eventually proved intolerable, and in February 1627 he wrote a letter of protest, subscribed by the lieutenant of Dover Castle Sir John Hippisley*, to Sir Edward Hales*, one of the chief commissioners.22 Hales, however, was powerless to act, and consequently Pringle obtained £17 6s. 4d. for another journey to London ‘about the remove of the late soldiers, and for fees disbursed there to officers in court’.23

Pringle did not stand for re-election in 1628. At the beginning of the second session, in February 1629, the corporation sent him to Westminster ‘to be a solicitor to the High Court of Parliament’ against the water-bailiff of Dover.24 As a leading member of Dover’s fellowship of lodemanage, Pringle was asked by the Trinity House of Deptford in July 1630 if he would oversee the erection of seamarks near Dover.25 In October 1631 he prepared a petition from the Cinque Ports objecting to the commission for knighthood compositions as a breach of their liberties, but he was not confident that it would succeed.26 By 1634, however, his fortunes had suffered a decline. In November the Privy Council described him as ‘heretofore a man of good estate and quality’ who had undergone ‘sundry offices and employments at home and abroad’ but ‘was now ‘much decayed and indebted by reason of many losses at sea, amounting to the sum of £1,000 or thereabouts’. As ‘a man well known to divers of this board to have been heretofore very serviceable to His Majesty and the State’, he was given protection from his creditors in order to gather ‘a charitable Benevolence’.27 His fortunes probably recovered after this setback, as he remained a jurat. He signed the Kent root and branch petition in 1641, and supported Parliament in the Civil War.28 He remained on the borough council under the Commonwealth, signing the letter of 29 Nov. 1650 to Algernon Sidney†, the republican lieutenant of Dover Castle, about payments for harbour repairs.29 He was still alive on 4 Jan. 1651, when he signed the accounts of the fellowship of lodemanage,30 but he must have died shortly thereafter, as his name subsequently disappears from the records of both the fellowship and the corporation. He was the only member of his family to serve in Parliament.31

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Peter Lefevre / Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Soc. Gen., St. Mary’s, Dover par. reg.; Add. 29620, f. 273; Cent. Kent. Stud., PRC 32/35, f. 175.
  • 2. Add. 29623, f. 1; Add. 29620, ff. 186-7, 194-5.
  • 3. Eg. 2118, ff. 19, 30-1, 33, 96r-v, 69v.
  • 4. Soc. Gen. St. Mary’s, Dover par. reg.
  • 5. Cal. of White and Black Bks. of the Cinque Pts. ed. F. Hull (Kent Recs. xix), 400, 413, 431, 438, 442, 452, 457, 472, 475.
  • 6. Add. 29623, ff. 62, 68, 74; Eg. 2120, f. 2.
  • 7. APC, 1625-6, p. 350; CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 61; E351/2508-9.
  • 8. E. Kent Archives Cent., NR/CPC110 (Pringle to New Romney corp. 7 Oct. 1626).
  • 9. For the salary, see Eg. 2118, f. 9.
  • 10. Ibid. ff. 38-9.
  • 11. Add. 28036, f. 112. For evidence that he continued as a baker, see Canterbury Mar. Lics. 1619-60 ed. J.M. Cowper, 185.
  • 12. Eg. 2118, f. 46v.
  • 13. Add. 29623, f. 65.
  • 14. Ibid. f. 71.
  • 15. Procs. 1626, ii. 136-7, 140-1, 144, 204, 209. For the Navy’s attempts to build ships capable of taking on the Dunkirkers, see A. Thrush, ‘In Pursuit of the Frigate, 1603-40’, BIHR, lxiv. 29-45. On the problem of naval wages and the need to reward crews that took prizes, see A. Thrush, ‘The Navy under Chas. I, 1625-40’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1990), pp. 212-14.
  • 16. Procs. 1626, ii. 226, 228, 234-5; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 247.
  • 17. Procs. 1626, ii. 280, 340.
  • 18. Eg. 2120, f. 6.
  • 19. Cal. of White and Black Bks. 436; APC, 1626, p. 163.
  • 20. Add. 29623, f. 74; Add. 29620, f. 201.
  • 21. E. Kent Archives Cent., NR/CPC110.
  • 22. Eg. 2087, ff. 20r-v, 24, 43.
  • 23. Add. 29620, f. 201.
  • 24. Add. 29623, f. 80; CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 483.
  • 25. Trin. House of Deptford Trans. 1609-35 ed. G.G. Harris (London Rec. Soc. xxix), 83.
  • 26. Cal. of White and Black Bks. 456.
  • 27. PC2/44, f. 226.
  • 28. Procs. in Kent in 1640 ed. L.B. Larking (Cam. Soc. lxxx), 62; Eg. 2087, f. 55.
  • 29. CSP Dom. 1649-50, p. 412.
  • 30. Eg. 2118, f. 69v.
  • 31. Eg. 2120, ff. 33v-4.