POTTER, Thomas (-d.c.1652), of Coventry, Warws.
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Family and Education
m. (1) by 1595, Anne (bur. 17 Mar. 1598), at least 1s. d.v.p. 1da.; (2) 22 Aug. 1598, Anne (bur. 12 July 1649), da. of ?Humphrey Fenn of Coventry, 1s. 9da. (1 d.v.p.).1 d. c.1652.2 sig. Thomas Potter.
Sheriff, Coventry 1613-14,3 member, common council by 1616-17, gt. council 1617-at least 1629, 1637, dep. alderman from 1619, mayor 1622-3, treas. (jt.) from 1626,4 bailiff, Cheylesmore Park by 1642-at least 1648.5
Potter’s career is obscure prior to 1595, by which time he was living in Holy Trinity parish. A dyer by trade, he was appointed in 1608 to take joint charge of Coventry’s building supplies. As sheriff in early 1614 he presumably conducted that year’s parliamentary elections. He joined the city’s great council in 1617, becoming a deputy alderman two years later. During the following decade he occasionally travelled to London on official business.6 In February 1622 he joined a consortium of Coventry merchants which leased land at Hawkesbury, on the outskirts of the city, in the hope of mining coal there. However, the works failed to return a profit, and the lease had to be re-negotiated barely 18 months later.7
Nominated for one of Coventry’s parliamentary seats in 1628, Potter lacked the typical profile of the city’s other resident Members during this period. Neither a leading figure on the corporation, nor especially wealthy, the key factor was undoubtedly his status as a long-term associate of his running-mate, Isaac Walden*. The two men may have been related, as Walden’s aunt married into the Potter family. They certainly knew each other by 1608, when they shared responsibility for Coventry’s building supplies, and they were both involved in the Hawkesbury mining project. Prior to 1623, Potter also lent money to Walden’s drapery partnership.8 They were drawn closer together by a long-running dispute between Coventry’s clothiers and drapers, against which backdrop the 1628 elections were held. In 1627, while this dispute was under investigation by the Privy Council, the Dyers’ Company, which relied on the drapers to supply its members with work, petitioned Coventry’s corporation not to make concessions to the clothiers. This move was actually part of a wider lobbying exercise by Walden and his allies, and it is highly likely that Potter, as the only dyer then on the great council, was involved.9 Tellingly, in January 1628 the council authorized loans simultaneously to him and two of Walden’s closest relatives.10 However, his friendship with Walden must have counted against him in the parliamentary elections. The drapers’ opponents, recognizing Walden’s hold over the corporation, recruited outside candidates to force contests. Although Potter secured the corporation’s nomination for the second seat without difficulty, he was defeated by William Purefoy, a Warwickshire gentleman. On 9 Apr. the Commons voted to accept this verdict even though Purefoy was strictly ineligible to stand, being neither resident nor a freeman.11
Potter’s later life was blighted by financial problems. The root cause was apparently the collapse of the Hawkesbury mining venture, in which he had invested over £800. It was probably on account of his debts that he ceased to attend the great council in February 1629. Six years later, the mining consortium was forced to surrender its lease, and Potter fled to Ireland to escape his creditors. Although he returned to Coventry in 1637, and briefly resumed his place on the corporation, from 1640 he was dependent on a small pension from the council, and a small income as bailiff of one of the city’s parks. As time passed, and the other mining partners died, Potter found himself liable for the project’s cumulative deficit, which by 1652 amounted to nearly £1,800. On 29 Sept. 1652, by now imprisoned for debt, he drafted a desperate appeal for further Council assistance, but he probably died shortly afterwards, as his pension was stopped. No will or administration grant has been found.12
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Paul Hunneyball
- 1. Regs. Holy Trinity, Coventry: baptisms 1561-1653, pp. 33, 59, 68, 70, 74, 80, 83, 87, 89, 91, 94; Regs. Holy Trinity, Coventry: mars., burials 1561-1653, pp. 15, 79, 81, 83, 109, 143.
- 2. Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/20/2, p. 458.
- 3. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 179.
- 4. Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/17/1, ff. 213, 217v, 228v, 253v, 285v, 293v, 350, 352.
- 5. Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/20/2, pp. 371, 427.
- 6. Coventry Archives, BA/A/B/51/1; BA/H/C/17/1, f. 167v; BA/H/C/20/2, pp. 182, 238.
- 7. Coventry Archives, BA/D/1/31/2; BA/H/C/17/1, f. 264v.
- 8. E179/194/315; C2/Eliz./W18/59; 2/Jas.I/H18/66.
- 9. SP16/66/3; Coventry Archives, PA/100/12/18; BA/H/C/17/1, f. 284v.
- 10. Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/20/2, p. 252; PROB 11/162, f. 223v.
- 11. Hants RO, 44M69/L39/35; CD 1628, ii. 44, 374.
- 12. Coventry Archives, BA/D/A/31/47; BA/H/Q/A79/218C; BA/H/C/20/2, pp. 342, 350, 375, 378, 427, 431, 439, 451, 458.