STOWELL, John (by 1517-50/51), of Exeter, Devon.

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




Family and Education

b. by 1517, s. of Richard Stowell of Exeter. m. Elizabeth, 1s.2

Offices Held

Servant of John Hull II by 1538; v.-adm. Devon 4 Dec. 1545.3


John Stowell’s Membership of the Parliament of 1547 has to be deduced from an entry in the Commons Journal. This records that on 17 Dec. 1547 an unsuccessful bill for buying of wool in Devon and Cornwall was delivered after its third reading to ‘Mr. Stowell’. Since the known Members of this Parliament do not include anyone bearing that name, the questions of his identity and of his constituency have to be considered together. As to the first, the starting-point is the fact that he must have been dead by the end of 1551—otherwise his name would have been included in the list of Members which was revised at that time. In the matter of his constituency, this is most likely to have been within one or other of the two counties affected by the bill which was committed to him. Out of the four knights and 40 city or borough Members returned there in 1547, only the two knights for Devon and 12 of the Devon city or borough Members are known by name from returns made at the time: the names of the Members for Exeter are known from a by-election return, payments of wages and other references in the city’s records as well as in the Journal, but those of the Cornish Members occur only on the list of Members produced towards the end of 1551 in preparation for the fourth session. It follows that ‘Mr. Stowell’ could have been elected in 1547 for any of the Cornish constituencies without his name having survived on the later list, and it is for one of them that he must be presumed to have been returned: his presence in the House during the first session may equally be taken to eliminate the possibility that he was by-elected.4

The man who best suits the requirements is John Stowell, a merchant of Exeter. When he became a freeman of the city in December 1538 he was described as a servant of John Hull II. A lawyer sprung from a merchant family of Exeter, Hull was a client of Cromwell and at the time customer of Exeter and Dartmouth. It was evidently on the maritime side of his activities that Hull employed Stowell, for by 1545 Stowell had become vice-admiral of Devon. (In earlier years he has to be distinguished from his namesake, a justice of the peace for Somerset, but this John Stowell died in 1543.) Within Exeter Stowell appears to have seized the opportunity of the western rebellion to pillage churches, for in August 1552 an inquiry was held into the church goods ‘taken away in the commotion time by one John Stowell of Exeter now deceased’.5

The Cornish boroughs present too wide a field of possibility to be considered individually. No less than seven of them returned Members for the first time in 1547 and a number of the men elected appear to have been clients of Admiral Seymour. If, as is likely, Stowell was still vice-admiral of Devon at the time of his election, he could well have been nominated by his chief who might have nominated at any of the new Cornish boroughs.

Stowell sat for only the first three sessions of the Parliament. He made his will on 28 Sept. 1550, during the prorogation between the third and fourth sessions. He left £10 to his son John, who was still a minor. His wife Elizabeth was to have his house during her widowhood: she was also left all his goods and made sole executrix, the overseers including Stowell’s father. The will was proved on 29 Sept. 1551.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: P. S. Edwards


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament; CJ, i. 3.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from admission as freeman. PCC 26 Bucke.
  • 3. Exeter Freemen (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. extra ser. i), 74; LP Hen. VIII, xx; R. M. S. Tugwood, ‘Piracy and privateering from Dartmouth and Kingswear’ (London Univ. M.A. thesis, 1958), 44.
  • 4. CJ, i. 3.
  • 5. CP40/1142, r. 300; LP Hen. VIII, xiii-xxi; Edwardian Inventories for Exeter (Alcuin Club Colls. xx), 77-78, 80.
  • 6. PCC 26 Bucke.