BEST, John I (by 1516-73/74), of Colchester, Essex.

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



Oct. 1553

Family and Education

b. by 1516, s. of John Best of Colchester by Margery. m. Joan, d.s.p.1

Offices Held

Alderman, Colchester 1537, serjeant-at-mace 1538, chamberlain 1544-5, bailiff 1547-8, 1551-2, 1557-8, 1559-60, 1563-4, 1567-8, 1571-2.2


John Best appears in the records of Colchester as a clothier or merchant: the port book for 1565 shows him exporting cloth to Danzig and lead and cloth to Antwerp, whence he imported woad, fustians and silk. He began his official career in 1538 as one of the borough’s four serjeants-at-mace, having become an alderman in the previous year; in 1544-5 he served as chamberlain, after two other burgesses had declined to serve and had been fined for their refusal, and his seven terms as bailiff were spread over a quarter of a century. He was assessed for the subsidy of 1546 at £40, a respectable sum but less than many of his fellow-merchants were rated at. As a Member of the first Marian Parliament he may have welcomed the Catholic restoration, for he was not among those Members who ‘stood for the true religion’, that is, for Protestantism; moreover, in April 1556 he was one of the four burgesses who, as justices of the peace within the borough’s jurisdiction, tried and condemned 12 of the many Protestants in Colchester for heresy. A Richard or Robert Best of Colchester is, however, to be found as a Protestant exile in Frankfurt.3

Best made his will on 4 Oct. 1573 and died before 22 Jan. 1574, when probate was granted to his wife Joan as sole executrix. Religious devotion is reflected in the provision of £20 for the preaching of sermons in Colchester and perhaps also in the reference to such goods and chattels ‘as God of his rich mercy hath endowed me with’. Best left £400 for the relief of the poor and the sick in Colchester and numerous small legacies to servants, relatives and friends, among them £5 to his ‘cousin’ Benjamin Clere and 40s. to each child of his ‘late cousin’ George Christmas. Of the two ‘trusty and loving friends’ whom he named to supervise the execution of his will one was the younger George Sayer, son of the Member of the same name.4

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: D. F. Coros


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Colchester town hall, Benham ms 22, p. 79; Colchester Oath Bk. ed. Benham, 175; PCC 2 Martyn.
  • 2. Colchester Red Ppr. Bk. ed. Benham, 165-6; Colchester town hall, Benham ms 24, p. 2; Colchester Oath Bk. 166, 169, 170, 176, 180, 182; Essex Rev. iv. 116.
  • 3. Essex RO, Ass. 35/9/2/28; E179/110/320 sub Colchester; 190/587/5, ff. 1, 3, 4v; Essex Rev. i. 157 seq.; J. E. Oxley, Ref. in Essex, 195; C. H. Garrett, Marian Exiles, 89.
  • 4. PCC 2 Martyn.