PETRE, John II (by 1517-81), of Exeter and Bowhay, Devon.

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



Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1517, prob. s. of Otes Petre of Exeter and Bowhay. m. (1) by 1538, Wilmot, da. of John Petre of Tor Newton in Torbryan, 4s. 1da.; (2) Alice, da. of Walter Smith of Totnes, wid. of John Hurst (d.1555), 4s. 3da.1

Offices Held

Bailiff, Exeter 1553-4, member, the Twenty-Four Sept. 1554-?d., receiver 1555-6, sheriff 1556-7, mayor 1557-8, 1562-3, 1575-6; gov. merchant adventurers 1560-1.2


John Petre’s parentage is variously stated in the visitations, but that of 1620, which makes him the son of Otes Petre, receives some support from the recurrence of this unusual christian name among the Petres of Compton, Devon, to whom he was closely related and to whose properties in various places his own were adjacent. With their and his namesakes of Torbryan he was also connected, perhaps more remotely, before he married one of them and so became the brother-in-law of John Petre I, Robert Petre and (Sir) William Petre. Of Petre’s career before becoming a freemen of Exeter in 1553 nothing else has come to light.3

A merchant whose business included the import of Gascon wine, Petre was one of the founder members of the Exeter merchant adventurers in 1559 and became their first governor. His second wife was the widowed daughter-in-law of the Exeter merchant William Hurst and sister of Bernard Smith of Totnes. He made regular purchases of land, including the manor of Polisloe from Sir Arthur Champernon in 1554 and the manor of Charleston from William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, in 1561, and he is said to have rebuilt his house at Bowhay. His single election to Parliament came early in his civic career; coinciding as it did with the return of John Petre I it may have owed something to his other brother-in-law the secretary of state. He was not one of the Members who quitted this Parliament without leave before its dissolution.4

Petre died on 3 Oct. 1581 and was buried two days later in St. Mary Arches. His heir was his son Otes, aged 30 years and more, his eldest son having predeceased him. By his will, made on 8 Dec. 1579 and proved on 4 Nov. 1581, he made bequests to the surviving children of his two marriages for whom he had not already made provision, and to several others of his kin.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from marriage. Vis. Devon (Harl. Soc. vi), 210; Vis. Devon, ed. Colby, 169; Vis. Devon, ed. Vivian, 592; Trans. Dev. Assoc. xlv. 429; C142/198/41.
  • 2. R. Izacke, Exeter (1681), 52, 127-8, 130, 135; CPR, 1558-60, p. 427; Exeter act bk. 2, ff. 134, 146, 156.
  • 3. Trans. Dev. Assoc. xlv. 417-30; Exeter Freemen (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. extra ser. 1), 79.
  • 4. CPR, 1557-8, p. 66; 1558-60, pp. 52, 427; 1560-3, p. 146; 1566-9, p. 436; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 217; Trans. Dev. Assoc. xliv. 207-8; xlv. 425.
  • 5. C142/198/41; PCC 36 Darcy.