SKINNER, John (c.1535-84), of Reigate, Surr.

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

b. c.1535, 1st s. of John Skinner of Reigate by Anne, da. of Thomas or Walter Newdigate. educ. M. Temple 1553. m. by 1569, Alice, da. of John Poyntz of Alderly, Glos., s.p. suc. James Skinner 1558, fa. c.1571.

Offices Held

J.p. Surr by 1568, commr. musters 1569.1


Between 1350 and 1572 members of the Skinner family represented Reigate at least 25 times, in addition to gaining Surrey county seats on several occasions. Much of Skinner’s inherited property was leased from the Howards of Effingham, lords of the manor of Reigate and parliamentary patrons for the borough. The 1559 return styled Skinner, ‘junior, of Reigate, gent.’, to distinguish him from his father, who was living in the borough, and who eventually left him the rectory manor of Reigate, the manors of Burstow, Hathersham and Horne, and lands in Woodmansterne, Ewell, Horley and elswhere in Surrey. One of his responsibilities was to administer an annuity left to his sister Dorothy, who was not likely to ‘come to ... advancement’ by marriage, being ‘a woman not most quickest in wit’. There is little evidence that Skinner significantly increased his inheritance: about 1569 he bought the manor of Hartswood and other property in the Reigate district, and by 1581 was leasing property at Banstead.2

For many years Skinner was an active local official. The bishops’ letters to the Council in 1564, praising his father as ‘an indifferent minister of justice’, recommended that John the younger should be added to the Surrey commission of the peace. This advice had been taken by March 1568, when father and son both signed a letter to William More I about putting down vagabondage in the county. There are several references to the younger Skinner in connexion with Surrey musters: after he had become head of the family, his assessment was ten lances, to which ‘one light horse’ was later added, and in 1583 he and William Howard ‘craved longer day’ when they were accused of defaulting on their quota. He was one of the commission set up in February 1574 to inquire whether subsidy assessments had been paid. Little information survives about his personal affairs. In April 1569 he was quarrelling with a ‘Mr. Harris’, and William More and other Surrey gentlemen were appointed to act as ‘referees’. In a letter to More, Skinner asked that the arbitrators should either reach some decision and put an end to the dispute, or allow the case to go to law. Though no connexion has been found between the Reigate MP and Guildford, he was probably the John Skinner who about 1580 gave 20s. to the free school there.3

Some doubt might be thought to exist about his return for Reigate in 1572, as one of the three Crown Office lists has ‘mortuus’ in the margin against the name. However, as the return has ‘John Skinner, esq. of Reigate’, and Skinner’s father died between August 1570 and 16 Feb. 1572, when his will was proved, it could not have been he who was returned. The only other namesake found was the serjeant of the woodyard, whose will indicates no connexion with Reigate. It is therefore evident that the marginal entry on only one list, mentioned above, is an error.

Skinner’s will, made 8 May 1584 shortly before his death, states that he had no children and was ‘not likely to have (God doeth all things for the best)’. His coheirs were two sisters, Margaret Knight and Elizabeth Sands, and a nephew Richard Elliott. The will, proved 27 June the same year, is long and diffuse, ending with a statement of religious belief in which Skinner declared himself assured of remission of sins through Christ, who ‘by that one oblation and once sacrificing His immaculate body upon the altar of the cross’ had made salvation possible. There were bequests to his widow, the sole executrix, to his brother-in-law William Poyntz, and for the marriage of the latter’s daughter Anne. £10 was to be given to the poor of Reigate, and £40 to the repair of the parish church there. The testator’s ‘especial good friend Sir Thomas Heneage’, one of the overseers, received a horse and a hawk. The widow remarried, and on 12 Aug. 1606 a grant of administration of the estate was made to Richard Elliott, Alice Skinner alias Palmer not having carried out her duties.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Manning and Bray, Surr. i. 319, 321-5; Harl. 897, f. 40; PCC 6 Daper, 6 Watson; VCH Surr. iii. 225, 243; Surr. Arch. Colls. xi. 195; Surr. Rec. Soc. iii(10), p. 137.
  • 2. C142/204/123(1); VCH Surr. iii. 174, 235, 238; PCC 6 Daper, 6 Watson; H. C. M. Lambert, Banstead, ii. 107.
  • 3. Cam. Misc. ix(3), pp. 56-7; HMC 7th Rep. 620-5; Surr. Rec. Soc. loc. cit.; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 440; Manning and Bray, i. 76 n.
  • 4. PCC 17 Daper, 6 Watson; C142/204/123(1).