YAXLEY, John (-d. by.1626), of The Rose, St. Michael's, Cambridge, Cambs. and Waterbeach, Cambs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

m. (1) 20 Apr. 1594, Elizabeth, da. of one Francis, ?s.p.;1 (2) 1600, Sisly, da. of one Shin, ?s.p.;2 (3) 6 July 1613, Agnes, da. of one Anthony, ?s.p.3 d. by 22 Nov. 1626.4 sig. John Yaxley.

Offices Held

Freeman, Cambridge by 1597, alderman by 1597-d.,5 mayor 1599-1600,6 auditor 1603, 1610, 1612.7

Commr. subsidy, Cambridge 1599, 1608;8 j.p. Cambridge 1598-1616;9 commr. gaol delivery, Cambridge 1602-15;10 steward, Waterbeach-cum-Denny manor, Cambs. 1603-at least 1623.11


The profusion of Yaxleys in Cambridgeshire has made the identification of this Member difficult. One John Yaxley, son of Thomas Yaxley, both of whom were bakers, was resident in the city; however, it seems more likely that it was his namesake and cousin, John Yaxley of Cambridge and Waterbeach, whose parentage remains unknown, who rose to be an alderman, mayor, and representative of Cambridge in three Parliaments.12 Although there is no record of him entering any of the inns of court he was probably a lawyer. Not only was he described in 1598 by the vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, John Jegon, as a ‘young bencher’, he was also satirized in the late Elizabethan play Club Law as an attorney.13

Yaxley was not one of the leading members of the Cambridge corporation, but he was very much involved with the bitter disputes between town and gown in the late sixteenth century. He was in particular seen as an ally of Robert Wallis*, the alderman towards whom most of the University’s polemic was directed during this period. In 1598 Wallis and Yaxley obtained a new commission of the peace for Cambridge that removed the majority of University officials in favour of more townsmen. After Jegon made a complaint, the Privy Council issued a revised commission from which Wallis and Yaxley were removed and replaced by other aldermen ‘far meeter for that purpose’.14

Following Yaxley’s election as mayor in August 1599, disputes between the University and town escalated once again. The University complained that as a subsidy commissioner Yaxley had tried to assess members of the University, who were exempt; that he had usurped the authority of the vice-chancellor at Stourbridge fair; and that he had weighted the scales at the fair in favour of the town.15 In addition, the lord chief justice, Sir John Popham†, remonstrated that Yaxley had hindered the collection and distribution of poor money in the town by refusing to involve the University, ‘and withal is suspected to have been a means to nourish unkindness between the town and University’.16

It was during his mayoralty that Wallis was lampooned in Club Law, which was performed at Clare College. The central character, Niphle (Yaxley), was described as ‘a pretty pettifogging lawyer, a kind of attorney, he will draw blood of these gentle Athenians [the scholars]’.17 It was not only the scholars who appreciated the performance. Many of the townsmen also attended, and it was said that ‘sit still they could not for chafing, go out they could not for crowding’.18 Yaxley and his colleagues on the corporation complained about their treatment to the Privy Council, whose members decided to see the play for themselves in the presence of the townsmen. However, the aldermen withdrew their complaint rather than be forced to suffer a repeat performance.19

Until 1609 Yaxley lived in The Rose tavern, Cambridge, but he also leased The Crown tavern, St. Andrew’s, Cambridge, from the corporation for the annual rental of 33s. 4d.20 In addition, from 1595 he leased the parsonage of Waterbeach and, four years later, the manor farm.21 Yaxley held office as steward of the Crown manor of Waterbeach-cum-Denny from June 1603, but was investigated in 1610 for alleged maladministration.22 He was apparently cleared of any impropriety, for in November 1612 he was reappointed to the post.

In 1604 Yaxley was elected to represent Cambridge for a third time. In the first session he was named to the bills concerning the repeal of an Elizabethan Act for Mrs. Lucas and Mr. Flowerdewe (24 Apr. 1604), and to restrain the erection of weirs on navigable rivers (23 June) - the latter bill being of interest to Cambridge because of the river traffic on the Cam. In the second session his appointments to bill committees for poor relief (23 Jan. 1606), explanation of 31 Elizabeth c.7 against the erecting of cottages (17 Feb.), and fen drainage (4 Mar.), all reflect matters of interest to the Cambridge corporation. The same can be said about the two bills to which he was named in the third session, these being for grants made to corporations (21 Nov. 1606) and the better execution of sewer commissions (12 June 1607). In the fourth session Yaxley’s sole appointment was to a committee to consider messages from the Lords on matters relating to the Great Contract to reform the king’s revenue (17 July 1610).23 Yaxley received 4s. a day from the corporation for parliamentary wages, which were paid in arrears.24

In 1614 Yaxley and Edward Aungier of Cambridge jointly purchased the manors of Waterbeach and Causeway from the Crown for £905.25 Yaxley made his will on 20 Sept. 1624, by which time he was ‘sick in body’, and died sometime before 22 Nov. 1626, when the will was proved. No wife or children are mentioned. After asking to be buried in Waterbeach church, he bequeathed £10 to the poor of the parish and an astonishing £900 to erect six almshouses there. The bulk of the estate, which was not specified, was given to his executor and his deputy as steward of Waterbeach, Robert Spicer, who may have been a stepson.26 No further member of the family sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Chris Kyle


  • 1. Cambs. RO, St. Sepulchre Camb. par. reg.
  • 2. Cambs. RO, Soham par. reg.
  • 3. Cambs. RO, St. Giles Camb. par. reg.
  • 4. PROB 11/150, ff. 152-3.
  • 5. OR, 432.
  • 6. J.M. Gray, Biog. Notes on Mayors of Camb. 32.
  • 7. Downing Coll. Camb. Lib., Liber Rationalis, 1590-1610, f. 264; Cambs. RO, Box II/9, Common Day Bk. 1608-11, ff. 16v, 22.
  • 8. Add. 5852, f. 89; SP14/31/1.
  • 9. C231/1, f. 53; C181/1, f. 39v; 181/2, f. 234, CUL, UA Coll. Admin. 5, f. 38.
  • 10. C181/1, f. 25v; 181/2, f. 207.
  • 11. E315/310, ff. 10, 66v; Harl. 781, ff. 48v, 55.
  • 12. Cambs. RO, Mun. Rm. Shelf D (A), f. 108.
  • 13. G.C.M. Smith, Club Law, xli; CUL, Univ. Archives, Misc. Collection 7, p. 136; Acta Curiæ, 15 Dec. 1598, 7 Dec. 1599; C2/Jas.I/Y1/5.
  • 14. CUL, Univ. Archives, Misc. Collection 7, p. 154; Mm.i.35, p. 387.
  • 15. Add. 5852, f. 89.
  • 16. CUL, Mm.i.38, p. 19.
  • 17. Smith, xli.
  • 18. T. Fuller, Hist. Univ. Camb. ed. J. Nichols, 218.
  • 19. Ibid. 218-19.
  • 20. Cambs. RO, Mun. Rm. Shelf D (A), f. 108.
  • 21. Gray, 32; Reg. St. Michael’s, Camb. ed. J.H. Venn, 3, 110; W.K. Clay, Hist. of Par. of Waterbeach (Camb. Antiq. Soc. iv), 73.
  • 22. SP14/31/1; 14/57/43, 54.
  • 23. CJ, i. 184a, 245a, 258b, 269b, 277a, 318a, 451a, 1051b.
  • 24. Downing Coll. Camb. Lib., Liber Rationalis, 1590-1610, ff. 223, 262v, 348, 413; Liber Rationalis, 1611-28, ff. 15v, 16v.
  • 25. Clay, 98.
  • 26. PROB 11/150, ff. 152-3.