SYWELL, John, of Northampton.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Jan. 1390

Family and Education

Offices Held

Bailiff, Northampton Mich. 1391-2; coroner by Dec. 1400; mayor Mich. 1404-5.1

Commr. of inquiry Dec. 1400 (escapes from Northampton gaol).2


In 1370 a John Sywell of Pisford stood surety at the Exchequer for the custodians of the temporalities of the alien priory of St. Andrew’s in Northampton, and although he is unlikely on chronological grounds alone to have been our MP, he was probably a close relative as well as a namesake. Several years later, in August 1385, one of the two men held office as janitor of the priory, being then owed a debt of £6 by a Northampton draper, who promised (under sureties of 19 marks) to repay the money in three annual instalments. This reference probably does concern our Member, who was returned to Parliament by the borough electors just five years later. His appointment as bailiff of the town followed shortly afterwards, and in July 1394 he and his wife appeared as defendants in a property dispute at the local assizes. They were arraigned together with the prominent Northamptonshire landowners, Sir Richard Waldegrave* and Roger de la Chamber*, on an assize of novel disseisin by one Richard Haweton of Whiston, who lost his case and was obliged to pay them damages. Sywell is known to have had some interest in the cloth trade, for at about this time he paid a subsidy of 9d. to the alnager of Northampton for two lengths of cloth. On the whole, however, little evidence survives about his personal activities, and he is now chiefly remembered as one who held in succession the three offices of bailiff, coroner and mayor of Northampton. While serving as coroner he was commissioned by the Crown to inquire into the escape of certain felons from Northampton gaol, but his career was otherwise fairly uneventful. He took part in the parliamentary elections of 1417 and 1422, offering sureties on both occasions for the attendance of the successful candidates. No more is heard of him after this date, probably because he either died or retired from public life.3

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


Variant: Sewale.

  • 1. Northampton Recs. ed. Markham and Cox, ii. 549, 556; CIMisc. vii. no. 177; Add. Ch. 22369.
  • 2. CIMisc. vii. no. 177.
  • 3. CFR, viii. 83; Add. Ch. 6045; JUST 1/1501 rot. 25, 26; E101/343/16.