PESHALL (PERSALL), John (1484/85-1564 or later), of Horsley, nr. Eccleshall, Staffs.

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. 1484/85 1st s. of Humphrey Peshall of Horsley by Helen, da. of Humphrey Swynnerton of Swynnerton and Hilton. m. (1) by 1506, Catherine, da. of Thomas Harcourt of Ranton; (2) Ellen, 3s. 1da. suc. fa. 3 June 1489.1

Offices Held

Commr. oyer and terminer, Staffs. 1540; j.p. 1547, 1554.2


Early in John Peshall’s life his sister Thomasin cited Thomas Harcourt in the court of requests for a rape of ward, alleging that he had been carried off on his father’s death and married when under age to one of Harcourt’s daughters. Harcourt maintained that the bishop of Coventry and Lichfield had acquired Peshall’s wardship and marriage from the crown and that the bishop had sold both to him. Peshall’s marriage involved him in the long-standing feud between the Harcourts of Ranton and those of Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire, and Ellenhall, Staffordshire, in which he was to figure prominently, often with recourse to litigation.3

In July 1535 Sir Simon Harcourt complained to Cromwell that Peshall had been most abusive towards him and his son, Sir John Harcourt, and had fallen upon the latter’s servants when they had refused him passage through a park in the previous summer: for this offence Peshall had been indicted but later pardoned by the King. Harcourt begged Cromwell to write to the Staffordshire justices so that Peshall might be ‘handled according to his demerits’ at the next sessions, when Harcourt proposed to indict him for felony and riot. Cromwell complied and the indictment was successful, but in January 1536 Harcourt complained that Peshall still maintained ‘unthrifty persons’ about him and asked for Cromwell’s support in a further action which he was bringing by subpoena in the Star Chamber. This case appears not to have come on until Michaelmas 1537, by which time Peshall had enlisted the aid of the 4th Earl of Shrewsbury, who in October wrote to Cromwell soliciting his favour for Peshall, described as an ‘old friend’, in his dispute with Harcourt ‘about a highway’. The affair was still smouldering two years later, when Bishop Rowland Lee wrote to Cromwell in Harcourt’s favour.4

Peshall’s Membership of the Parliament of 1529 was perhaps intended to protect him from his enemies. The fact that he took precedence over his fellow Richard Grey, an illegitimate son of a minor nobleman, may mean that he had sat in an earlier Parliament for which the names are lost. His election was presumably favoured by his kinsman Edward Littleton, who was chosen one of the knights for Staffordshire, but it must have been due to a combination of support from the Earl of Shrewsbury, who held the duchy of Lancaster’s stewardship of Newcastle-under-Lyme, and his family’s influence in the town, of which his stepbrother had been mayor twice, his wife’s uncle three times, and her grandfather four times. Peshall was later to claim that he attended Parliament every day from its opening until its dissolution except when he had been licensed to appear before the King’s justices at Chester and the justices of the peace in Staffordshire to answer certain mistaken indictments against him: however, when in 1536-7 he claimed payment of his wages ‘after the rate of 2s. by the day above the sum of £66’, the mayor, Thomas Bradshaw, and his brethren objected, and when Peshall persuaded the sheriff to pursue the levy of his wages Bradshaw delayed the matter by taking it to Chancery.5

In the course of the proceedings Bradshaw cited the statute regulating parliamentary elections (23 Hen. VI, c.14) to show that Peshall had not been duly elected. He maintained that the sheriff, Sir Edward Aston, had complied with Peshall’s request to return him to Parliament, although neither an election nor an indenture had been made. After Aston had made the return the mayor, Richard Robinson, had been chosen unanimously and had gone up to London but had failed to gain admittance to the Commons because of Peshall’s obstructiveness. Bradshaw also claimed that Peshall had departed from Parliament without a licence, contrary to the statute of 1515 (6 Hen. VIII, c.16), and had thus forfeited his wages. Peshall contended that he should not suffer because a clerk had been neglectful and repeated that both he and Richard Grey had been duly returned. Bradshaw was concerned not so much perhaps with the invalidity of the return as with Peshall’s demand for expenses, which was indeed excessive: the Parliament had lasted for 483 days, not for more than 600 (even allowing for travel) as his claim implies. Unfortunately the outcome of this interesting case is unknown, as is its possible effect upon the next election, that of 1536, when despite the King’s request for the return of the previous Members the town may have decided to do without Peshall. It may be that the decision to contest Peshall’s claim was in some way linked with his concurrent dispute with the Harcourts. A further lawsuit with a parliamentary flavour in which he was involved was one with Richard Bradbury, a London saddler, who accused Peshall of offering—although with the help of an inducement of 40s.—to speak to (Sir) William Coffin, with whom he was travelling to London to attend a session, about an appointment in Queen Anne Boleyn’s household. As the post did not come Bradbury’s way, nor did Peshall return the douceur, he had Peshall arrested in London on a suit for the money, but Peshall regained his freedom by a writ of privilege out of Chancery. Bradbury then petitioned Chancellor Audley for remedy, but with what result is unknown.6

Peshall’s landed income amounted to 100 marks. In the later part of his long life he was given a place in the local government of Staffordshire, even though his opponents had described him as a man inclined to violence. This tendency was twice put to the test on his country’s behalf: in 1513 he served as a captain in the expedition which captured Tournai, and more than 30 years later he returned to French soil with 100 men for the defence of Boulogne. The last glimpse of Peshall dates from 5 May 1564 when he answered charges about tithes in Eccleshall.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Authors: L. M. Kirk / A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/5/26. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. iii(2), 95; v(2), 240; C1/1047/27; Req.2/4/206; Staffs. Rec. Soc. (ser. 4), viii. 138.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, xv; CPR, 1547-8, p. 89; 1553-4, p. 24.
  • 3. Req.2/4/206.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, viii, x, xii, xiv; A. F. Pollard, ‘An early parlty election petition’, Bull. IHR, viii. 161-2.
  • 5. Bull. IHR, 159-66; T. Pape, Newcastle-under-Lyme, 37; C1/862/11-12, 14.
  • 6. C1/732/9, 862/11-14; Bull. IHR, 156.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, i, xiv, xxi; Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, ii. 170; P. and M. H. Spufford, Eccleshall, 38; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. (n.s.) 1907 (pt. i), 84-90; 1933, pp. 4-6; St.Ch.2/57/66; C1/1106/34-37.