HASSARD, John (c.1531-1612), of Lyme Regis, Dorset
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Family and Education
b. c.1531,1 4th s. of Robert Hassard (d.1545), merchant, of Bridport, Dorset and his w. Agnes.2 m. aft. 1561 (with £100), Thomasine, da. of John Parrett, merchant, of Lyme Regis, 2s. 2da.3 d. 7 Nov. 1612.4
Member, Spanish Co. 1605.7
No connection has been established between the Hasard family of Wiltshire, who frequently sat for Malmesbury in medieval Parliaments, and Hassard’s father, a Bridport merchant. The youngest of four brothers, Hassard inherited property in his home town, where he exercised a wine licence. However, like several of his siblings, he transferred his principal business interests to Lyme Regis, becoming a prominent merchant and corporation member.8
In 1604 Hassard was elected for the third time to represent the borough in Parliament, presumably with the backing of his nephew Robert†, a leading figure on the corporation.9 In the first session he was named to the committee for the bankruptcy bill (14 May).10 However, as a minute of 27 Aug. in the Lyme corporation order book makes clear, he also had other business to attend to at Westminster:
The mayor and aldermen gave warrant to Mr. John Hassard the elder by articles of instrument to renew their charter, and therein to procure the mayor for the time present and his last predecessor mayor to be justices of the peace within this borough for ever. And the same Mr. Hassard by mistaking renewed the patent unto the mayor for the time being and to the most ancient burgess that hath been mayor (himself being at this present the same most ancient burgess).
It is unclear whether Hassard was guilty of carelessness or subterfuge. Either way, he had to agree not to act as magistrate, nor to oppose a modification of the charter, and £10 was withheld from his bill of charges pending this renewal.11
In 1605 Hassard was chosen as deputy at Lyme for the Spanish Company, but his health was now in decline.12 When Parliament resumed on 5 Nov. that year, his colleague Sir George Somers certified that Hassard was disabled with the gout, and desired that he be discharged from the Commons. He had evidently come up to London, for he attended the committee for privileges to plead his own case; on 9 Nov. it was reported that ‘he came unto them, [but] walked in fear only’. In the event, the House resolved that he should continue to serve, but he made no further contribution to this session’s proceedings.13 The 1606-7 session coincided with Hassard’s seventh mayoralty, which provided him with a more acceptable reason for absenting himself from Westminster. Nevertheless, a petition from Lyme Regis presented in the Commons on 9 Feb. 1610 claimed that he had actually been missing through illness, and was still too ‘weak and impotent’ to serve, due to the gout and old age. This time the House accepted his excuses, and he was discharged on 14 February.14
Contrary to the impression created in London, Hassard was still active enough locally to participate in the by-election of his successor, John Jeffrey. Indeed, as late as January 1612 he remained keen to assert his authority in Lyme Regis, as the town clerk recorded:
There was of late some talk had between Mr. John Roze, mayor, and Mr. John Hassard the elder in the walk before the Cobb gate concerning the rates of the church. ... Mr. Hassard said that Mr. Mayor could do nothing without him, and said: ‘If ye look in the charter, ye shall find it so’, and then Mr. Mayor said: ‘It is a very good charter indeed, for you have brought the town to four score and odd pounds charges, and to no purpose’.
Hassard vigorously disputed this point, but subsequently acknowledged his fault to the corporation.15 He died in the following November, aged 81, and was buried, at his own request, beneath a new gallery that he had paid for at the west end of the parish church. In his will, drawn up on 12 May that year, he bequeathed £2 13s. 4d. to the poor of Lyme Regis, and 10s. towards Bridport’s almshouses. He divided his property between his two sons, the younger one receiving all his estate in Bridport. Hassard’s memorial mentions his seven terms as mayor, but not his parliamentary career. His great-nephew, Robert Hassard, sat for Lyme Regis in 1621 and 1624.16
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: John. P. Ferris
- 1. Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 69.
- 2. PROB 11/30, f. 331; 11/31, f. 133; 11/41, f. 84.
- 3. PROB 11/44, f. 90; 11/121, f. 185.
- 4. Hutchins, ii. 69.
- 5. G. Roberts, Municipal Govt. of Lyme Regis, 46.
- 6. Dorset RO, B7/D1, pp. 21-2; G. Roberts, Hist. Lyme Regis, 71-3.
- 7. Spanish Co. ed. P. Croft (London Rec. Soc. ix), 99.
- 8. PROB 11/30, f. 331; 11/40, f. 96; 11/41, f. 84; 11/121, f. 185; Som. and Dorset N and Q, vi. 216.
- 9. Dorset RO, B7/D1/1, p. 23.
- 10. CJ, i. 209a.
- 11. Dorset RO, B7/D1/1, pp. 21-2.
- 12. Spanish Co. 24.
- 13. CJ, i. 256a, 257a.
- 14. Procs. 1610, ii. 4, 6; CJ, i. 392b.
- 15. Dorset RO, B7/D1/1, pp. 33, 40.
- 16. Hutchins, ii. 69; PROB 11/121, f. 185.