BURNET, John (by 1527-57/59), of Arundel, Suss.

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 1527. m. Elizabeth, wid. of Adam Shepherd (d.1549) of Arundel, prob. s.p.1

Offices Held

Burgess, Arundel Nov. 1548-d.2


Nothing has come to light about John Burnet before his first appearance as a burgess of Arundel in November 1548. It was probably two or three years later that he married the widow of a fellow-townsmen, Adam Shepherd. To judge from Burnet’s will, in which two stepsons are mentioned but no offspring of his own, the marriage was childless. Shepherd had been a small tradesman and innkeeper in the town with connexions in London. Burnet may have taken over Shepherd’s business or have pursued a trade of his own to which, however, no reference has been found: at his death his goods were valued at £18 19s.2d.3

In the indenture of the election of 5 Nov. 1554, of which one copy survives in the town records, both Burnet and his fellow-Member Richard Bowyer are described as inhabitants of Arundel. The return of two townsmen is a unique exception to the borough’s record of representation in the early 16th century, although for a number of Parliaments the names of the Members are missing. At first sight this looks like a direct response to the government’s directive in the matter, which was designed to check the representation of boroughs by non-townsmen, but the explanation may be that the 12th Earl of Arundel was deterred from wielding his habitual patronage by the difficult position in which he found himself at court and in the Council during the latter part of 1554. Whatever the reason, Burnet and Bowyer were given an opportunity of sitting in the Commons which they could hardly have expected and which was not to recur. Of Burnet’s part in the proceedings of the House it is known only that, in contrast to Bowyer, he was not among the Members who were prosecuted for withdrawing themselves before the Parliament ended.4

Burnet made his will on 13 Nov. 1557 when a sick man, and he asked to be buried in Arundel church. He bequeathed 12d. and 20d. respectively to Chichester cathedral and Arundel parish, and five quarters of malt to Richard, son of Robert Hennynge. His wife was to receive the residue of his goods, which she did on 4 Apr. 1559. The overseers were three fellow-townsmen, Richard Bowyer, Christopher Haynes and Robert Stiler, and the parson of Slindon.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: R. J.W. Swales


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. W. Suss. RO, wills 7, f. 73v; 9, f. 153.
  • 2. Arundel corp. mins. 1539-1835, f. 6v.
  • 3. W. Suss. RO, admins. A27.
  • 4. Arundel corp. mins. 1539-1835, f. 6; C219/23/128.
  • 5. W. Suss. RO, wills 9, f. 153.