HULL, John II (by 1503-49), of Larkbeare, Devon.

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



Family and Education

b. by 1503, s. of John Hull of Larkbeare by Joan, da. of Nicholas Trickhay. educ. M. Temple, adm. 8 July 1517. m. Joan, da. of Walter French of Ottery St. Mary, s.p.3

Offices Held

Commr. tenths of spiritualities, Devon 1535; collector of customs, Dartmouth and Exeter by 1537-Nov. 1547; j.p. Devon 1543-d.4


John Hull came of a line of merchants with a tradition of civic service at Exeter: he broke with the established pattern by becoming a lawyer. Nothing has come to light about his early career but by 1533 he had been introduced to Cromwell whom he kept informed on affairs in Devon. It was perhaps Cromwell who recommended him as a customer, a post for which he was well qualified and which was to influence the later course of his career.5

The river Exe was becoming rapidly unnavigable and this threatened the economic supremacy of Exeter in the south-west. Hull was soon involved in the matter and his support for the scheme to widen and dredge the river brought him into conflict with property-owners along its bank, including the Marquess of Exeter. His legal knowledge seems to have been used in the drafting of the bill to give parliamentary sanction to the scheme, and on 15 June 1538 (not 1537 as calendared) he wrote to enlist Cromwell’s aid in ‘the expedition of my bill’ which was then imperilled by the opposition of the marquess’s surveyor. As customer he engaged himself to supply 400 workmen towards the construction of the ‘new haven’. His admission as a freeman in succession to his father in March 1539 was doubtless to qualify him for election as one of Exeter’s Members in the Parliament of that year, during the first session of which the city obtained the desired Act (31 Hen. VIII, C.4). It is possible that a wish to secure an inheritance denied to his father by a kinswoman and Sir Hugh Paulet influenced his decision to enter Parliament: he had discussed the problem with Cromwell earlier and his antagonist Paulet was one of the knights for Somerset returned on this occasion. Anxiety over opposition to the city’s bill caused him and William Hurst to start from Exeter over two weeks before the opening of Parliament and difficulties in raising the capital to finance the scheme kept them in London for two months after the prorogation. In November 1539 Cromwell gave Hull £100, which was perhaps intended as a loan towards the work.6

Following the Dissolution Hull leased the rectory of Pinhoe and Bramford Speke, Devon, and the Greyfriars in Exeter from the crown, and in 1543 he bought the freehold of the Greyfriars from Humphrey Colles. On the outbreak of war with France he was exempted from military service but took the opportunity to privateer. With John Furseman, a Devon shipmaster, he formed a syndicate based on Kingswear: initially the partnership flourished but later it soured, and in 1546 Hull was ordered first to wait upon the chancellor and then to accept a judgment made between him and Furseman in the court of Admiralty. On the accession of Edward VI he reappeared in the Commons, this time with Griffith Ameredith as his fellow-Member. Of his part in the proceedings in the first session of the Parliament of 1547 nothing is known, but during the second session Exeter obtained an Act (2 and 3 Edw VI, no.49) enlarging its liberties. The original bill received a reading on 3 Dec. 1548 after which he returned home, presumably to discuss its reception, as he left Exeter for the Parliament again on 13 Dec.: early in the new year copies of the city’s charters were sent to him in London and not long afterwards a new bill was successfully introduced. On the eve of prorogation the Commons ordered that one of Hull’s nephews then in his service should have freedom from arrest: this incident was perhaps the reason behind his slight delay in travelling back as he did not reach Exeter until 23 Mar.7

During the western rebellion Hull played a leading role in the defence of Exeter. After the raising of the siege he served as a commissioner to exact tribute from his less forthcoming neighbours towards the repair of the city’s walls. He died unexpectedly on 10 or 16 Sept. 1549, having made a nuncupative will naming his widow sole legatee and executrix, and was buried in the cathedral. An action was brought against his widow for the recovery of sugar impounded by Hull as customer. Another suit brought during his lifetime suggests, taking into account the plaintiff’s bias, that he performed his office conscientiously: the description of Hull in the petition as ‘a very troublesome and ambitious person’ is the only glimpse we have of his character. Thomas Prestwood replaced him in the Commons for the remaining two sessions of the Parliament.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. Exeter act bk. 2, f. 42v.
  • 2. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 3. Date of birth estimated from education. Vis. Devon, ed. Colby, 140-1; Vis. Devon, ed. Vivian, 492; PCC 11 Noodes; CPR, 1554-5, p. 309.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, viii, xii, xviii, xx; CPR, 1547-8, p. 82.
  • 5. Trans. Dev. Assoc. lxxxiv. 125; LP Hen. VIII, iii, iv, vi, xiii.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xiv; SP1/133, p. 45; Exeter act bk. 2, ff. 41, 42v; Exeter Freemen (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. extra. ser. i), 74.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, xiv, xviii, xix, xxi; J. E. Kew, ‘Land market in Devon 1536-58’ (Exeter Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1967), 199; Devon Monastic Lands (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. n.s. i), 79; R. M. S. Tugwood, ‘Piracy and privateering from Dartmouth and Kingswear, 1540-58’ (London Univ. M.A. thesis, 1953), 35, 70-71, 122, 144; APC, i. 497; Trans. Dev. Assoc. lxxxiv. 130; L. S. Snell, Suppression Rel. Foundations Devon and Cornw. 171-2; Exeter act bk. 2, ff. 97v, 99; CJ, i. 4, 10.
  • 8. HMC Exeter, 22; W. Cotton and H. Woollcombe, Exeter, 192; PCC 39 Populwell, 11 Noodes; C142/90/53, 57; Req. 2/3/336; Tugwood, 108.