HART, Sir John (d.1604), of St. Swithin's, London and Scampton, Lincs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

s. of Ralph Hart of Sproston Court, Yorks. m. (1) 2da.; (2) 1586 Anne, da. and h. of one Haynes, wid. of Anthony Cage, salter of London, ?s.p. Kntd. ?1590.1

Offices Held

Common councilman, London 1567, warden, Grocers’ Co. 1573-4; alderman 1580, sheriff 1579-80, ld. mayor 1589-90; treasurer, St. Bartholomew’s hospital 1573-4, president 1593-1604; surveyor gen. London hospitals 1594-1602, comptroller gen. 1602-4; gov. Muscovy Co. 1583, 1591, 1592, 1596, 1597, 1598, 1600; member, Levant Co. 1590; gov. East India Co. 1602.2


Hart’s move in 1580 to ‘fair and large builded house’, once the property of the Earl of Oxford, in the parish of St. Swithin reflected his growing affluence. A member of the Grocers’ Company, he was associated with a number of prominent fellow-merchants in overseas trading enterprises. Much of his income was invested in land purchases in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Essex and Sussex. In 1598 he paid £879 13s. 4d. for the crown manor of Drungewick, Sussex. Hart’s wealth attracted the attentions of the court. He assisted in financing Leicester’s Netherlands expedition of 1585, and in 1590 lent £2,000 to the French king. A decade later, the 2nd Earl of Essex was among his debtors. His commercial experience was frequently invoked by the Privy Council for arbitration in prize disputes; often he was appointed sequestrator of a disputed cargo pending decision. For two years he was the senior alderman, and he acted as the spokesman for city interests inside and outside Parliament. In a debate on 9 Mar. 1593 concerning the subsidy, he vigorously disputed a governmental contention that London citizens were under-assessed, and produced figures to reinforce his argument. It is therefore almost certainly he who appears in the printed D’Ewes as Sir John Hare, a member of the subsidy committee appointed on 26 Feb. 1593. In the same year he was appointed to committees concerning wool (9 Mar.) and charitable contributions (30 Mar.); and bills concerning timber (5 Apr.) and coopers (7 Apr.) were delivered to him. He reported the findings of the committee concerned with timber on 7 Apr. In the next Parliament he was appointed to committees dealing with London hospitals (18 Nov. 1597), John Sharpe’s debts (20 Jan. 1598) and pawnbrokers (7 Feb.). Bills concerning cloth and wool were delivered to him on 18 Nov. 1597, and he reported a committee concerning merchant strangers on 23 Jan. 1598. He may have been the ‘Mr. John Hunt’ appointed to the committee concerning soldiers and mariners and/or lessees and patentees on 20 Dec. 1597, unless this was John Kent. The London MPs were on the following committees in 1593: maimed soldiers and mariners (2 Apr.), brewers (3 Apr.), town planning (6 Apr.), and, in the following Parliament, on forestallers and regrators (7 Nov. 1597), penal laws (8 Nov.), Langport Eastover (10 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.), navigation (12 Nov.), the subsidy (15 Nov.), cloth (18 Nov.), import of wool (8 Dec.), seamen (9 Dec.), Exeter merchants (12 Dec.), merchant strangers (13 Jan. 1598), bread (13 Jan.), charitable uses (14 Jan.), mariners and soldiers (26 Jan.), abuses in wine-casks (3 Feb.) and Lady Wentworth’s jointure (7 Feb.).3

Hart died of a ‘tedious and dangerous disease often repeated’ between 3 Jan. 1604 when he made his will, and 23 Jan. when it was proved. The preamble has puritan overtones, Hart expecting to join the ‘elect people of God’. He left his manor of Scampton (value £300) to his wife, the principal beneficiary. There were also bequests to the poor, the hospitals, and the prisons of London. He had founded a free school in his native parish of Coxwold, Yorkshire, and exhibitions at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, to which he left grants for a library and the promotion of a lecturership in Greek. The families of his two daughters, married respectively to George Bolles, a future lord mayor, and Edward Cage, grocer, received substantial bequests. Other legatees included ‘my old, familiar friend and acquaintance’ Robert Johnson of Rutland, Toby Wood, counsellor at law, and officials of the Muscovy Company. Seven members of his household were likewise rewarded.

The executors were George Bolles, his wife and son, and a ‘trusty’ friend, Humphrey Smith of the Grocers’ Company.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: H.G.O.


  • 1. Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 367; Remembrancia, 311; CSP Dom. Add. 1566-90, p. 224; London Mar. Lic. (Harl. Soc. xxv), 149; PCC 1 Harte; A. B. Beaven, Aldermen, i. 419; ii. 41.
  • 2. Vestry Mins. of St. Bart’s Exchange, ed. C. Freshfield, 1; Wardens of Grocers’ Co. ed. Grantham, 21; Beaven, ii. 41; T. S. Willan, Early Hist. Russia Co. 286; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 567.
  • 3. Stow, Survey, ed. Kingsford, i. 224; VCH Yorks. N. Riding, ii. 280, 394; Lincoln Rec. Soc. xxiii. 347; Suss. Arch. Colls. lvii. 213; PCC 1 Harte; HMC Hatfield, vii. 524-5; viii. 453, 481; x. 214, 348; xii. 255; xiii. 288; CSP Dom. 1591-4, pp. 36, 41, 59, 560; CSP Col. 1574-1660, p. 1; APC, xxi. 51, 433; xxii. 352, 460; xxv. 8, 46, 198; xxix. 37; D’Ewes, 474, 495, 496, 512, 513, 514, 518, 519, 520, 552, 553, 555, 556, 557, 558, 559, 570, 571, 575, 579, 580, 583, 586, 588, 592, 594; Townshend, Hist. Colls. 69, 76, 77, 78, 103, 106, 121, 122, 125; Neale, Parlts. ii. 311.
  • 4. PCC 1 Harte.