PORTE, John (by 1514-57), of Etwall, Derbys.

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 1514, s. of Sir John Porte of Etwall by Joan, da. of John Fitzherbert. educ. Brasenose, Oxf. adm. c.1524; I. Temple, adm. 3 Feb. 1528. m. (1) by 1538, Elizabeth, da. of (Sir) Thomas Giffard of Caverswall and Chillington, Staffs., 2s. d.v.p. 3da.; (2) Dorothy, da. of Sir Anthony Fitzherbert of Norbury, Derbys. suc. fa. Mar. 1540. KB 20 Feb. 1547.2

Offices Held

Commr. benevolence, Derbys. 1544/45, musters 1546, relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553, heresy 1557, loan 1557; j.p. 1545-d.; escheator, Notts. and Derbys. 1546-7; sheriff 1553-4.3


The brief ascendancy of the Porte family in Derbyshire was based upon the successful pursuit of the law. Born into a merchant family of Chester, John Porte’s father and namesake the judge married into the shire and by his death was an outstanding figure there; it was he who bought Etwall in the south-west of the county.4

John Porte the younger’s career was less distinguished but more varied. A fellowship at Brasenose on his father’s foundation, and a special admission to the Inner Temple as the son of a judge were followed by a period of service with Cromwell and a recommendation to the service of the crown. His knighthood of the shire in 1539, when comparatively short of years and experience, he owed to his father’s standing, with perhaps the support of the minister in his campaign for a ‘tractable’ Parliament. Before it ended both his father and his patron were dead, but during the next dozen years he established his own position in the shire; he added substantially to his inheritance to become the largest landowner in Derbyshire, and he was knighted at Edward Vl’s coronation. The Catholicism which he shared with his relatives made him an appropriate choice as the senior knight in Mary’s first Parliament and as her first sheriff of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. Unlike his fellow-Member Richard Blackwell he did not oppose the initial measures to restore Catholicism. Porte spent much of tbe Parliament successfully negotiating the purchase of two manors in Derbyshire. He delivered a letter of recommendation from the 5th Earl of Shrewsbury to Stephen Gardiner who passed it on to Speaker Pollard; although Pollard was unable to intervene personally, things went well and on his return to Etwall Porte sent Shrewsbury a dish of wildfowl. Later in the reign he was to help Shrewsbury to raise troops for the war against Scotland.5

By his will of 9 Mar. 1557 Porte left lands in Derbyshire and Lancashire to found a grammar school either at Etwall or Repton; it was established at Repton and maintained under the direction of the Harpur family. He also discharged a wish of his father’s by bequeathing £200 to his old college to establish lectureships in philosophy and in humanity. His many other charitable bequests included the endowment of an almshouse in Etwall and the distribution of alms to poor people in the county gaol and of marriage gifts to 60 poor young women in Cheshire and Derbyshire. To the church at Etwall he gave a ‘cope and one vestment of cloth of gold’ embroidered with his and his wife’s arms, and to four neighbouring churches silk vestments similarly embroidered. His five executors, who included his father-in-law Sir Thomas Giffard and his cousin Richard Harpur, were directed to enter into an obligation of £3,000 with his overseers, Francis Curzon, (Sir) Thomas Fitzherbert and William Fitzherbert, for the performance of the will. The inheritance was divided between Porte’s three daughters, who married Sir Thomas Gerard, the 4th Earl of Huntingdon and Sir Thomas Stanhope.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: C. J. Black


  • 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2]
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from admission to I. Temple. His fellowship at Oxford beforehand was one endowed by his father and it is likely that the usual age of admission was waived in his favour. DNB; Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-40, p. 458; PCC 4 Alenger.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xx, xxi; CPR, 1547-8, p. 82; 1550-3, p. 394; 1553, pp. 352, 414; Strype, Eccles. Memorials, iii(2), 15.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, i, xiv, xv.
  • 5. Ibid. xiii, xiv, xix, xxi; M. L. Robertson, ‘Cromwell’s servants’ (Univ. California Los Angeles Ph.D. thesis, 1975), 545-6; E179/91/118; College of Arms, Talbot ms P, f. 197; HMC Shrewsbury and Talbot ii. 46, 47, 350; C1/1053/48.
  • 6. PCC 20 Wrastley; E150/1052/5; Pevsner, Notts. 134.