SYMNELL, Richard (d.1608), of Colchester, Essex.

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 Thomas Symnell. educ. St. John’s, Camb., matric. pens. 1558. m. (1) Jane; (2) Elizabeth, s.p.

Offices Held

Alderman, Colchester 1597, dep. (to James Morice) town clerk 1578 to at least 1583, bailiff 1598, 1603.


The Symnells were a well-known Colchester family. Thomas, who was probably Richard Symnell’s father, lived in the parish of St. Runwald about 1548, while Symnell himself resided in All Saints parish, where he was churchwarden. He owned at least two other houses in the town, and was practising as an attorney in the Colchester courts before 1578. In 1597 he may well have been elected to Parliament as a suitable successor to his master James Morice. In 1601 he and Robert Barker were re-elected ‘with one general consent of voice’. The Colchester burgesses were put on committees for draining the fens, 3 Dec. 1597 and for a cloth bill, 4 Dec. 1601. Symnell himself, by way of scoring a point against Whitgift, raised in the House, 11 Nov. 1597, the question of marriages without banns and was put on the ensuing committee. He reported (14 Nov.) that their terms of reference were not clear, continued on this committee, and was in addition appointed to a new one that hoped to deal with ecclesiastical affairs generally. On 7 Dec. that year he was appointed to the committee dealing with unemployed soldiers and sailors. He reported and recommended an end to a private bill, 23 Nov. 1601, was one of those named to attend the Queen, 28 Nov., served on a committee concerning the clerk of the market, 2 Dec., and spoke on the subsidy, 5 Dec.: asking ‘their honours that sit about the chair’ to petition the Queen that the terms of the usual general pardon granted at the beginning of a Parliament should not be too narrow. It was he who moved, 8 Dec., that the export of ordnance should be restricted, a motion which led to one of the great debates of this Parliament. All in all a creditable record for the deputy town clerk of Colchester.

Symnell’s will, dated 9 Dec. 1607 and proved 22 July 1608, has a long and pious preamble. He founded a scholarship from the newly established Colchester grammar school to St. John’s, Cambridge, and left £20 to the poor of Colchester. He also gave £10 to the town for two silver gilt bowls for the feasts in the Moot Hall, besides numerous and substantial bequests to his brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces.

Al. Cant. iv. 244; G. Rickward, Bailiffs and Mayors of Colchester, 16; Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. xiii. 166; Essex Rev. iv. 244; li. 180, 183; Essex Arch. Soc., Morant mss; D’Ewes, 555, 556, 567, 569, 648, 657, 663, 668, 670; Townshend, Hist. Colls. 104, 286-7; PCC 71 Windebanck.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.H.