SOUTHCOTE, John II (1510/11-85), of London and Witham, Essex.

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



Mar. 1553
Oct. 1553

Family and Education

b. 1510/11, s. of William Southcote by Alice, da. of one Tregonwell. educ. M. Temple. m. by 1555, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of William Robins of London, 13ch. inc. 1s. 3da.1

Offices Held

Autumn reader, M. Temple 1556, Lent 1559.

Under sheriff, London in 1553-59 or later; justice, sheriff’s ct. London in 1553; j.p. Mdx. 1554, q. Mdx. 1558/59- d. , Essex 1564- d. , Herts., Kent, Suss. 1564, Surr. 1564-79; serjeant-at-law 27 Oct. 1558; commr. to enforce Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity 1559, eccles. causes 1572; j.KB 10 Feb. 1563; justice assize, Essex 18 June 1571; trier of petitions in the Lords, Parlt. of 1572.2


John Southcote’s early career overlapped the close of his uncle’s of the same name, but in their Membership of Parliament the two are readily distinguishable. Until he became a serjeant the nephew was usually styled gentleman whereas the uncle was called esquire or armiger, and the man returned to the two Parliaments of 1553 was designated gentleman on both election indentures. A month before his return to the first of these Parliaments, and again within a fortnight after the opening of the second, Southcote was employed to prepare bills for the city of London, although neither measure is known to have been introduced into the House. These services, however, may have contributed to his election, for which he could also have had the support of another uncle, the eminent civilian John Tregonwell, who joined him in the House in the autumn of 1553: on that occasion Southcote had in his fellow-Member David Lewis, a colleague of Tregonwell and perhaps already a friend of his own. If Tregonwell was Southcote’s sponsor (Sir) Anthony Browne I as sheriff may have been instrumental in his election: Browne was the son-in-law of Sir John Gage, whose servant Thomas Gravesend was Southcote’s fellow-Member in the spring. Southcote did not oppose the initial measures to restore Catholicism passed during Mary’s first Parliament.3

Southcote was probably the John Southcote of Bodmin who in 1544 helped Tregonwell to buy and sell land in the south-west: in 1549 he was to be of similar assistance to Henry Chiverton. He bought land himself near London and late in life settled in Essex. Mary promoted him serjeant and Elizabeth made him a judge, in which capacity he revised the bill settling the form of consecration for bishops before its enactment in 1566 (8 Eliz. c.1) and took part in the conference in 1577 on how to deal with recusancy. According to his descendants he shared their Catholicism and resigned his office rather than condemn a priest, retiring to his house at Merstham in Surrey ‘where for three years he led a penitential life and happily ended his days’, this, however, conflicts with evidence of his continuing to serve as a judge until a year before his death at Witham. His son John was reported as having attended mass in 1584 and his daughters married into Catholic families, but his own conformity is borne out by his retention as a justice of the peace in all the home counties after 1564.4

By his will of 4 Aug. 1580 Southcote provided for his wife, children and other relatives, including his brother-in-law and cousin George Southcote. He named his wife, his son and the clerk of assize John Glascock executors and (Sir) Christopher Wray and (Sir) Thomas Bromley II overseers. Three years later he added a codicil leaving rings to, amongst others, David Lewis, Alexander Nowell, Sir John Petre and Edmund Plowden. Eleven days before his death on 18 Apr. 1585 he named his son sole executor and the will was proved a year later. Southcote was buried at Witham where a monument showing him in judge’s robes was erected. He was remembered as ‘a good natured man ... governed by his wife’.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: R. J.W. Swales


  • 1. Aged 74 at death according to MI. This biography draws on P. R. P. Knell, ‘The Southcott fam. in Essex, 1575-1642’, Essex Recusant, xiv. 1-38, and A. Davidson, ‘Southcott daughters’, ibid. xiv. 88-101. DNB; Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 491-2; Wards 7/21/74.
  • 2. Foss, Judges, v. 541-2; City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 14, f. 110v; jnl. 15, f. 215; CPR, 1553-4, p. 22; 1557-8, p. 457; 1558-60, pp. 65, 118; 1560-3, pp. 279-80, 440, 469; 1563-6, pp. 22-27; 1569-72, pp. 211, 440-2; LJ, i. 703.
  • 3. C219/20/128, 21/153; City of London RO, rep. 13(1), ff. 12v, 86v.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, xix; CPR, 1548-9, p. 177; 1549-51, p. 53; St.Ch.5/C27/38; Strype, Annals, i(2), 230; J. Morris, Troubles of Our Catholic Forefathers, i. 384.
  • 5. PCC 24 Windsor; Wards 7/21/74; Pevsner and Radcliffe, Essex, 429.