WALLIS, John (c.1567-1633), of Chequer Street, King's Lynn, Norf.

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.1567.1 m. bef. 1594, Margaret, da. of John Nelson of King’s Lynn, merchant, 5s. (?2 d.v.p.) 6da. bur. 29 Mar. 1633.2

Offices Held

Freeman, King’s Lynn 1591,3 jnr. chamberlain 1593-6,4 chamberlain 1596-?1601,5 common cllr. 1601-7,6 auditor 1606-d.,7 alderman 1607-d.,8 mayor 1609-10, 1616-17, 1623, 1631-2;9 j.p. Norf. 1609-d.10


Wallis rose from obscurity to become one of King’s Lynn’s foremost merchants. In 1591 he was made free of the Lynn corporation through the patronage of another merchant, John Nelson, who later became his father-in-law. He soon became the most prominent merchant-shipper in Lynn.11 Between 1604 and 1614 he made the highest number of overseas shipments (60), and between 1607 and 1609 was the second largest coastal trader. His primary import and export business was to the Netherlands, but he also traded with Norway, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal and the Mediterranean. In April 1616 he was commanded to appear before Sir Daniel Dunne*, judge of the Admiralty, on charges that he had defrauded several Amsterdam merchants of the true value of their goods. Wallis had purchased these goods, being the cargo of a wreck, for £310, but the Dutch merchants claimed they were actually worth £3,000. The Dutch ambassador intervened, and the Privy Council summoned both parties, but because of a gap in the records nothing more can be established.12

By the mid-1590s Wallis was an active corporation official. Besides acting as an auditor for many years, he also served as corn-supervisor, mayor, and town representative.13 It was in the latter capacity that he was appointed to survey Lynn’s stock of timber at Snettisham in 1608 and recommend what was fit to be logged.14 Three years later he journeyed with Matthew Clarke* to Stourbridge Fair to negotiate with the mayor of Cambridge over tolls at the fair.15 In 1613 he again accompanied Clarke, this time on a visit to Colchester to persuade new drapery manufacturers to set up business in Lynn.16 Eight years later he was chosen to represent the town before the Privy Council when the outports were consulted on the causes of the decay of trade.17

Wallis received many of the benefits associated with membership of the corporation. In 1601 he leased a warehouse, and 20 years later, pastures just outside the town walls.18 In addition, he organized water to be piped into his malthouses in 1609.19 Between 1617 and his death he held rights for three ferries across the Ouse between King’s Lynn and West Lynn.20 He also purchased from the corporation a piece of land lay next to one of his tenements in Baxter Row (1625), and was granted permission to latch his residence in Chequer Street (1627).21 As mayor on four occasions he received the customary remuneration of 200 marks p.a. and the lease of a dovecote; although he probably received less in 1623, when he replaced Thomas Snelling, who died half-way through his term of office.

Wallis was elected to the last two Jacobean parliaments. He is not mentioned in the records for that of 1621, but Lynn’s Hall Books confirm his attendance. He may have used the time to arrange a pass for himself and his son, John, to travel on business to Dort.22 In 1624 Wallis was nominated to one committee, for the land sales bill to enable the Cambridgeshire landowner Toby Palavicino to break an entail made by his father, Sir Horatio.23

Wallis’s will, dated 24 Mar. 1633, a few days before his death, divided his properties and houses in Old Wingate, Chequer Street and Baxter Row, between his children, and left the remainder of the estate to his widow.24 No further member of the family sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Chris Kyle


Norf. RO (King’s Lynn), KL/C7/8, f. 305.

  • 1. E157/27/5.
  • 2. Norf. RO, par. reg. of St. Margaret’s King’s Lynn.
  • 3. Cal. Lynn Freemen, 123.
  • 4. G.A. Metters, ‘Rulers and Merchants King’s Lynn’, (Univ. East Anglia Ph.D. thesis, 1982), p. 26.
  • 5. Norf. RO (King’s Lynn), KL/C7/8, f. 103.
  • 6. Metters, 26.
  • 7. Norf. RO (King’s Lynn), KL/C7/8, ff. 384v, 432, 470; C7/9, ff. 4v, 228v, 277.
  • 8. Ibid. C7/8, f. 402v.
  • 9. Metters, 26.
  • 10. Norf. RO (King’s Lynn), KL/C2/48.
  • 11. Metters, 146, 184, 221, 276-8.
  • 12. APC, 1615-16, pp. 505, 507-8. The Admlty. examinations (HCA 13) for 1615-16 are not extant.
  • 13. Norf. RO (King’s Lynn), KL/C7/9, f. 266v.
  • 14. Ibid. C7/8, f. 412.
  • 15. Ibid. f. 489v.
  • 16. Ibid. C7/9, f. 34v.
  • 17. Ibid. f. 176v.
  • 18. Ibid. C7/8, f. 231; C7/9, f. 174.
  • 19. Ibid. C7/8, f. 448.
  • 20. Ibid. unnumb. ms Corporate Leases.
  • 21. Ibid. C7/9, ff. 234v, 270v.
  • 22. E157/27/5.
  • 23. CJ, i. 705a; HLRO, O.A. 21 Jas.I, c. 56.
  • 24. PROB 11/163, ff. 235v-6.