HOWELL, John, of Exeter, Devon and of London.

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 John Howell, bailiff of Exeter. m. Joyce, da. of James Walker, goldsmith of Exeter, and niece of Geoffrey Tothill.

Offices Held

Gov. Exeter Merchant Adventurers 1591; sheriff, Exeter 1592, mayor 1599; victualler to the Earl of Essex’s Irish expedition 1599; dep. v.-adm. Devon by 1606.


Howell was an Exeter merchant whose contacts at court made him a convenient representative, though in fact there is no record of any activity by him in Parliament itself. He wrote to Cecil in 1599 complaining of pirates from Dunkirk and Spain, so troublesome that ‘scarce one barque of five escapes the cormorants’, and the mayor of Exeter wrote to Cecil during the course of the 1601 Parliament, 19 Nov. 1601, that the corporation

having divers suits and businesses concerning the state of their city and country adjoining, in Parliament and before the Privy Council, have made choice of Mr. Howell ... to solicit the same ...

In the following year Howell was chosen to offer Cecil the ‘very small annuity’ which the city had previously paid to Lord Burghley. A more curious episode occurred in 1603, following a suggestion of Howell’s that Exeter should ask James I for the right to have a mint. The King replied in a letter to the corporation which he asked them to keep unpublished, for he was

not desirous that the secret love which he bears to his secret friends should be publicly known

and he went on to say that he was

always ready to yield to your reasonable suits that may be for your good, and somewhat the rather if they shall be preferred to us by our well-beloved servant John Howell, of whose loyalty and service we have experience.

The nature of Howell’s services to James is not clear. In the event the city saw no value in a mint and did not pursue the matter. The last reference found to Howell is in 1615.

This biography is based upon that in the Roberts thesis; G. Oliver, Hist. Exeter, 232, 236; W. Cotton, An Eliz. Guild of Exeter, 42.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler