ASTELL, John (c.1561-1634), of Gray's Inn, London; later of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumb.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. c.1561,1 7th s. of William Astell of Wichnor, Staffs. and Elizabeth, da. of James Eynhurst of Blacknoll Hall, Staffs.2 educ. Pembroke Coll. Camb. 1576; ?Gray’s Inn.3 m. by 1596,4 Mary (d.1658), da. of Robert Wells of Harbledown, Kent, 2s. 3da.5 d. 17 Mar. 1634.6

Offices Held

Commr. piracy, Southampton, Hants and I.o.W. 1603;7 steward, Tower of London liberties by 1604,8 E. Medina liberty, I.o.W. by 1610;9 recorder, Newport I.o.W. 1608-31.10


A younger son of a minor armigerous family, Astell probably trained at Gray’s Inn, where he had chambers, although his formal admittance as a student is not on record. He acquired sufficient knowledge to be styled ‘learned in the laws of England’.11 His connection with the Isle of Wight predates his election for Newport in 1604, since he was named to a piracy commission there the previous year and as such was presumably then resident in the Isle and known to the corporation. Astell left no trace on the records of the first Stuart Parliament. His career outside the Commons remains equally obscure: it is not known through what connection he was appointed steward of the Tower of London, for instance, nor how long he remained in office. He obtained a patent for forging iron and steel in 1606.12 Although based primarily in London, he was appointed recorder of the borough of Newport when it was incorporated in 1608 with an annual fee of four marks.13 However, he seems to have ceased to act by 1611. He probably did not stand for Parliament again.

On 27 Oct. 1621 Astell wrote to his cousin Sir William Smith that his youngest daughter Ursula had received ‘the best education that I and my wife can give her in the place of a waiting woman’, and made arrangements to send her to London.14 By 1627 financial difficulties had driven him to elude his creditors by settling in distant Tyneside.15 In 1630 the Newport corporation resolved to replace him as recorder, but was unable to dismiss him under the terms of its charter. Informed of the dilemma, Astell wrote to the corporation from Newcastle on 3 Feb. 1631, tendering his resignation. He added that ‘I did hope I should long since have overcome my troubles, and returned to London, and then I might have done you service as recorder living there. But seeing God hath otherwise disposed, I am willing to resign my office into your hands’. Acknowledging that he had no right to claim arrears of his fee, he nevertheless begged them ‘from the largeness of your own hearts to be pleased to extend your liberality towards my necessity’, but his plea was ignored.16 He died intestate on 17 Mar. 1634, aged 73, and was buried in St. John’s, Newcastle.17 No other member of the family entered Parliament; but Mary Astell, probably his descendant, achieved considerable fame towards the end of the century for her religious writings.18

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. J. Brand, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 115.
  • 2. F. Black, Parl. Hist. I.o.W. 11; Vis. Norf. (Norf. Arch.), ii. 45.
  • 3. Al. Cant.
  • 4. STAC 5/A36/4; PROB 11/92, f. 145.
  • 5. St. Mary Aldermanbury (Harl. Soc. Reg. lxi), 69, 70, 72, 74, 76.
  • 6. Brand, 115.
  • 7. C181/1, f. 73v.
  • 8. HMC Hatfield, xxiii. 153.
  • 9. I.o.W. RO, OG/BB/23; NBC 45/2, f. 61v.
  • 10. Black, 40.
  • 11. C142/249/59; C2/Jas.I/A1/69.
  • 12. C66/1699.
  • 13. I.o.W. RO, 16a/30, ff. 3, 20v, 22, 41.
  • 14. SP14/123/66.
  • 15. Arch. Aeliana (ser. 3), xiii. 43.
  • 16. I.o.W. RO, NBC 45/2, ff. 61, 61v.
  • 17. Brand, 115.
  • 18. F.M. Smith, Mary Astell, 2, 6.