WHEELER, John (-d.1611), of Great Yarmouth, Norf.
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Family and Education
Freeman, Gt. Yarmouth by 1580, member of the Forty-Eight 1580-9,3 chamberlain 1587-8,4 member of the Twenty-Four 1589-1608,5 alderman 1608-d.,6 j.p. 1589-d.,7 bailiff 1589-90, 1598-9, 1609-10,8 auditor 1600-1, 1603-4,9 coroner 1603-9,10 commr. subsidy 1604.11
Churchwarden, St. Nicholas’, Great Yarmouth 1589-90.12
Wheeler’s background remains obscure, but he should not be confused with a namesake whose Treatise of Commerce (1601) in defence of the Merchant Adventurers anticipates many arguments of the free trade debate in the 1604 Parliament.13 No record survives of Wheeler’s admission to Great Yarmouth’s freedom, though entry was a necessary qualification for election to the Forty-Eight, to whose ranks he was admitted in 1580. A merchant, he regularly imported both red and white herrings, and in 1580 may have requested a licence from the Privy Council to transport seed, butter and soap ashes, used in the making of oils.14 He owned a bark, which the corporation ordered to be put to sea in 1586 to provide protection against the Dunkirkers.15 During his first stint as bailiff in 1589 Wheeler served as a churchwarden. This caused a problem when he was sworn in as bailiff, as his oath of office specifically prohibited him from receiving town money. However, the oath was altered to enable him to hold both positions simultaneously.16
In 1600 Wheeler was charged to help redraft Yarmouth’s ordinances.17 Under James I, he reported on the new orders for loading and unloading at the new ballast quay and, on the recommendation of the bishop of Norwich, was among those to consider the better observation of the Sabbath in Yarmouth.18 Like the majority of his colleagues on the corporation, he leased town property, living in a dwelling on the quayside. His lease of two of the town’s salthouses underlines his involvement in the fishing industry.19
Though elected to Parliament in 1604, Wheeler received no mention in its records. Nevertheless, on his return from Westminster after the first session, he and his fellow Member, Thomas Damet, were congratulated by the entire corporation, except Henry Manship the younger, for performing their office ‘with great fidelity, diligence and sufficiency’. Manship had widely declared ‘that the said burgesses behaved themselves like sheep in the Parliament and were both dunces’, but his criticism was not generally supported and he was removed from the corporation.20 In the 1605-6 session Damet and Wheeler undertook unspecified business on Yarmouth’s behalf while they were in London. They wrote to the assembly requesting money, but the corporation described itself as ‘destitute’ and called a halt to their activities.21 In the fifth session (1610), after the corporation asked Damet to resign, probably because of his advanced age and ill-health, Wheeler was also advised to step down. The corporation may have wished to introduce active, younger Members to oppose the Lowestoft bill, which affected Yarmouth’s fishing rights. However, Wheeler probably refused, or explained that the Commons did not normally allow Members to resign, as no by-election took place.22
Wheeler’s only son died in 1610,23 and when Wheeler himself expired the following year his houses in Yarmouth were granted to his four granddaughters, the children of his daughter Diones, who had married another Yarmouth alderman.24 Wheeler’s principal dwelling in the town must have been substantial, for in 1624 the corporation purchased it from his executors for £333 6s.25 According to his will, dated 17 Nov. 1610, Wheeler’s goods and chattels were to be divided between his executors, the granddaughters and his nieces and nephews.26 No further member of the family sat in Parliament.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Chris Kyle
- 1. Norf. RO, Y/C39/1, unfol.; Y/C18/6, ff. 78v-9.
- 2. Norf. RO, Y/C39/1, unfol.
- 3. Norf. RO, Y/C19/4, f. 12v.
- 4. Norf. RO, Y/C18/1, f. 88.
- 5. Norf. RO, Y/C19/4, f. 165v.
- 6. Norf. RO, Y/C2/12; Y/C18/4, ff. 67-76v [1608 charter changed title from ‘24’ to ‘aldermen’].
- 7. Norf. RO, Y/C18/1, ff. 89, 93v-4, 99r-v.
- 8. Ibid. ff. 89, 93v, 99.
- 9. Ibid. ff. 94v, 96.
- 10. Ibid. ff. 96-8v.
- 11. E179/153/535.
- 12. Norf. RO, Y/C19/4, f. 178v.
- 13. Add. 18913, f. 5; W.E. Lingelbach, The Merchant Adventurers of Eng. p. ix; Oxford DNB sub Wheeler, John.
- 14. Lansd. 29, f. 141.
- 15. Ibid.; E190/483/2.
- 16. Norf. RO, Y/C19/4, f. 178v.
- 17. Ibid. ff. 201; Y/C19/5, f. 13v.
- 18. Norf. RO, Y/C19/5, ff. 35, 38.
- 19. Ibid. ff. 56, 80; Y/C19/4, f. 243.
- 20. Norf. RO, Y/C19/5, f. 41v.
- 21. Ibid. f. 55.
- 22. Ibid. f. 83v.
- 23. Norf. RO, Y/C39/1, unfol.
- 24. Norf. RO, Y/C18/6, ff. 78v-9.
- 25. Norf. RO, Y/C20/1, ff. 14v-15.
- 26. Norf. RO, Y/C18/6, ff. 78v-9.