ARSCOTT, John (by 1517-58), of Tetcott, 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, 4th s. of John Arscott of Arscot in Holsworthy by Margery, da. of Richard Floyer of Holsworthy. educ. M. Temple m. bef. 1553, Elizabeth, da. of John Walter of Broxbourne, Herts., 1s.1

Offices Held

Officer, ct. augmentations by 1538; surveyor, ct. augmentations woods beyond Trent 2 Jan. 1547-54, duchy of Lancaster, northern parts 25 Feb. 1548-d., duchy of Cornwall 21 July 1551-2; commr. chantries ?Devon, Cornw. and Exeter 1547, 1548, Cheshire, Lancs. and Chester 1548.2


Five generations of Arscotts, all christened John, can be traced at Holsworthy. In the 16th century members of the family were to establish themselves elsewhere in Devon but only the holder of Tetcott appears to have engaged in affairs outside the county. This John Arscott was the youngest son of a man of moderate means. His eldest brother, another John, was a member of the Inner Temple and he himself must have entered the Middle Temple at some time after 1525, when a gap in the records conceals dates of admission: the Lewis Arscott who was there about the middle of the century was presumably a kinsman. Both brothers may have benefited by association with local families of higher standing. Thus the younger’s connexion with Sir Peter Carew, for whose lands he was to be a trustee in 1546 with Sir Wymond Carew and John Gates, could have dated back to their youth, perhaps even to schooldays at Exeter where Carew began his education. Marriage alliances may also have helped: the elder brother himself married a Devon heiress, Philippa Battyn of Dunsland, and his sister Christian became the wife of John Fortescue of Castle Hill, a descendant of the chief justice, to whose kinsmen John and William Fortescue both the brothers were to make bequests.3

By 1538 the younger Arscott was one of the group of men who had been recruited to the newly established court of augmentations: in that year he and Nicholas Bacon, the court’s solicitor, scrutinized the audit of rents of the dissolved priory of Reigate, Surrey. In 1545 and 1546 he was associated with Sir Edward North and other officers in certifying revenues of the archbishop of York, and in the earlier year he surveyed tenancies in John Gates’s stewardship of Havering, Essex. In the autumn of 1546 he travelled to Devon and Cornwall on official business for which he received expenses amounting to £26 13s.4d. Such varied experience fitted him for one of the new appointments when the court was re-organized: on 2 Jan. 1547 he became surveyor of woods north of the Trent, sharing the rank of seventh officer with Geoffrey Gates, who held the corresponding but more important post for the south of the country.4

Arscott’s election to the Parliament of 1547 for Huntingdon, a town with which he had no known connexion, was clearly the result of official nomination, although on whose initiative is not clear. Huntingdon belonged to the duchy of Lancaster and in February 1548 Arscott was to be made the duchy’s surveyor for the northern parts. If this appointment, the counterpart of his post in the augmentations, had been in prospect at the time of the election it would be sufficient to explain Arscott’s return, but it may have been a consequence, rather than a cause, of that event. For the rest, it is clear that by then Arscott had many influential friends. To such men as Rich, North and Bacon from the augmentations he could add fellow Middle Templars like Thomas Denton and, in Huntingdonshire itself, Thomas Hall II, Oliver Leder and Sir Lawrence Taylard: it may have been Leder, a duchy attorney in Chancery, who brought Arscott’s name forward. Even his marriage, if it had already taken place, is likely to have yielded useful contacts: his father-in-law was a neighbour at Broxbourne of John Cock II, chamberlain to Catherine Parr and master of requests, and himself a Member of the Parliament of 1547. Like other crown officials, Arscott had to combine his attendance in the House with his departmental duties. In 1548 he sat on a commission of inquiry into chantry lands held by the King in Cheshire, Lancashire and Chester, and he was doubtless the John Arscott named in similar commissions for Cornwall, Devonshire and Exeter in 1547 and 1548, since his brother John, when included in commissions of the peace for Devonshire in 1547 and 1554, was styled ‘the elder’. With John Hales II, John Marshe and Henry Fauxe, he was commissioned in 1549 to survey and administer the lands in Sussex which had come to the crown by the attainders of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk and Sir Thomas Seymour II, Baron Seymour of Sudeley. Further offices and fees also came his way. In February 1551, on the recommendation of the chancellor of the augmentations, he was granted for life the office of under steward of the manor of Stokenham, Devon, and in the following July he was appointed surveyor of the duchy of Cornwall; this he was to hold only until the post was abolished in December 1552, when in reward for his services he exchanged a lease of the manor of Tamerton, Devon, for one for 40 years of the manor of Landrake, Cornwall.5

By about the same time Arscott was in a position to emulate his brothers John and Richard, who for some years had been buying monastic land in northwest Devon. In March and December 1552 he acquired from Lord Clinton and Say the manors of Bradford and Hatherleigh, both within a dozen miles of the family home at Holsworthy. He was, however, to settle at Tetcott, a non-monastic manor five miles south of Holsworthy, which he bought in the same year from Sir John Neville. These purchases, to which he added a final one, Gedicote, in 1555, established Arscott in Devon before the loss of his post in the augmentations when that court was dissolved in October 1553. His last known transaction as surveyor was a commission with five others to take the accounts of Sir John Williams, the treasurer, in March 1554.6

Arscott was a sick man when he made his will on 1 Jan. 1558, and he died 13 days later, perhaps at Kensington, Middlesex, as the vicar of that parish was a witness to his will and he left a manor there for his wife’s sole use. His only son Arthur, who had his third birthday on 26 Aug. 1557, succeeded to all his lands in Devon, but his widow was to have most of them, and two tenements in Cornwall, for life with remainder to his brother Richard should his son die without heirs. Arscott also distributed a number of leases, which he specified, and bequeathed all his houses in Chancery Lane to his ‘well beloved in Christ’ Thomas Browne (perhaps the Member for Tavistock) and two others. Browne and Arscott’s brother Thomas were named overseers and were each to receive £6 13s.4d. and a black gown. The executors, Arscott’s widow and his brother Richard, proved the will on 17 Jan. 1558, and on 18 Mar. Elizabeth Arscott was granted the wardship of her son and an annuity towards his education; his descendants continued to live at Tetcott, where the last of the male line died in 1788. Elizabeth Arscott married as her second husband Humphrey Specote.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. K. Dale


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Devon, ed. Vivian, 16, 21; CPR, 1550-3, p. 224; C142/113/7.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xxi; Somerville, Duchy, i. 445-6; E315/223, f. 184v; CPR, 1548-9, p. 135.
  • 3. Al. Ox. i. 32; Cal. I.T. Recs. i. 89, 127; CPR, 1550-3, p. 224; PCC 2 Noodes, 26 Chayre; LP Hen. VIII, xxi.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xxi, add.; W. C. Richardson, Ct. Augmentations, 155, 220, 304-5.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, xxi; CPR, 1547-8, p. 82; 1548-9, pp. 135, 304; 1553-4, pp. 18, 28; E315/222, f. 8; 223, f. 184v; 224, f. 430; APC, iv. 184.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, xx, xxi; CPR, 1550-3, pp. 224, 231; 1553-4, p. 265; Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. n.s. i. pp. xxii, xxvii, xxviii, 54, 106, 109; J. E. Kew, ‘Land market in Devon 1536-58’ (Exeter Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1967), 155.
  • 7. PCC 2 Noodes; CPR, 1553-4, p. 186; 1557-8, pp. 41, 62; C142/113/7.