BURNELL, Richard (by 1515-57/58), of London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1515. educ. L. Inn, adm. 1 Jan. 1529, called 1534. m. (1) (d.1548/49), at least 3s.; (2) Joan.1

Offices Held

Common pleader, London 10 May 1547-d.2


Richard Burnell’s parentage has not been established, but he was the brother of Thomas Burnell, mercer, who died in 1548 leaving small money bequests to Richard Burnell and his wife, their son John and his wife, two other sons and ‘every other of my brother Richard’s children’. Richard Burnell’s first wife must have died soon after, for on 5 Dec. 1549 the court of aldermen granted his request that, if he married, his wife should be allowed to ‘occupy buying and selling and to keep an open shop’ within the City although he was not a freeman. He was then doubtless planning to take a second wife, and it was to her that he bequeathed ‘all such plate and goods as was in her occupying and custody within the house or tavern of the Three Tonnes’. Burnell himself became a member of the Vintners’ Company in 1551, when he was admitted to the freedom of the City.3

Burnell’s own profession was the law. He was three times called to the bench of his inn, in 1547, 1551 and 1553, but he never accepted the promotion: the reason may have been that he feared to prejudice his appointment as a common pleader of London, one of the barristers permanently retained to serve as counsel in the City’s courts. Before attaining this office, on 10 May 1547, he had presumably practised at the bar. No trace has been found of him in government service, but there is reason to believe that he was related to John Burnell, an officer in the King’s cellar who died in 1551. A court connexion could have helped him to obtain his civic post. Among the miscellaneous tasks he performed for the City was that of keeping the court of piepowder in Southwark in 1551. Nothing is known of his role in the Commons save that he was not among those members who withdrew without licence.4

Burnell made his will on 30 Dec. 1557, having previously made a deed of gift of all his goods. He added further instructions by word of mouth, leaving to his wife, as well as the movable goods in the tavern, ‘all such implements of household as were his in the vicarage house wherein he lay’, and to Christian Stace, probably a stepdaughter, ‘the lease of the houses in Paternoster row’. He also willed that his ‘brother’ John Bathe, son of the chief baron of the Exchequer in Ireland, should have his law books ‘if he come to apply the laws of this realm and continue thereat’. The will was proved on 25 Feb. 1558 and Burnell must have died before the beginning of that month, by which time four lawyers had applied to the court of aldermen for his office.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from education. PCC 25 Populwell; City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 12(1), f. 180; 13 (2), f. 408v.
  • 2. City of London RO, rep. 11, f. 350; 14, f. 14.
  • 3. Stow, Surv. London, ed. Kingsford, i. 132; PCC 25 Populwell, 10 Noodes; City of London RO, rep. 12(1), f. 180; 12 (2), f. 406v.
  • 4. Black Bk. L. Inn, i. 239, 285, 298-300, 304; Trans. London and Mdx. Arch. Soc. xviii (1), 34; HMC Bath, iv. 6; City of London RO, rep. 12 (2), f. 369v; D. J. Johnson, Southwark and the City, 279n.
  • 5. PCC 10 Noodes; City of London RO, rep. 14, ff. 4v, 14, 44.