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Page history last edited by Peter Tipton 12 years, 4 months ago

Sir John White of Aldershot, MP

Lord Mayor of London, died 1573


Page prepared by Peter Tipton, The Yateley Society, 10 October 2006 and revised Jan/Feb 2010


Phil Stevens of the Surrey Heath History Club, a professional historian, has suggested to me that if my hypothesis is true that there was an important city merchant involved with the Blackwater Valley pottery business then I should first investigate the White family of Aldershot:


Phil Stevens wrote (20 Sep 2006): John White, member of a local family (not to be confused with his brother the Bishop of Winchester of the same name who opposed the religious reforms), could have been a borderware / London commercial link. He bought up the manors of Aldershot, Frimley and Tongham (local clay pits) at the Reformation and eventually, as a member of the Merchant Tailor's Company, became Lord Mayor of London in 1563. His son Robert followed in his father's manorial and commercial steps in 1567 (I think), but not as Lord Mayor, as far as I know. He could well have seen the value of emigre potters seeking sanctuary in Elizabeth‘s reign. At the turn of the century the White family married into the Tichbornes who had ambiguous Catholic connections. Robert would seem to be the window of opportunity.


Although there are certain problems with the 'facts' stated by Phil I do agree with him that the Whites are the most likely to have been involved in the potteries. However since there is as yet no evidence that there was any 'Mr Big' involved with the Blackwater Valley potters, and the potters may have made all the commercial running themselves, I have not placed this biography in the Borderware pages.


Sir John White of Aldershot was a member of a family of several generations of merchants from Farnham. By 1500 two branches of the White family already had extensive landholdings in NE Hampshire, Berkshire and Surrey (the area covered by this website).


Sir John's grandfather was John White of Farnham, who died 1469. He was 'of Farnham' but died seized of lands in Woking. The information I am reading  (1) was probably derived from an inquisition post mortem which should be checked.


This John White's son, Robert White merchant of Farnham, was Sir John White's father. Robert White's will was proved 27 Sep 1518. Eight sons are mentioned in the will: Henry, Robert, Thomas, William, John the elder, John the younger, Leonard and Eustace. Three daughters are also mentioned in Robert White's will: Alice, Agnes and Elizabeth. Note that Robert's will leaves bequests by name to two sons named John - differentiated by Robert as the elder and the younger. John the elder was the future Bishop of Winchester d.1560 and John the younger was the future Sir John White, MP, Lord Mayor of London who died 1573, subject of this biography.


I am immediately in conflict with the new entry in the DNB for John White, Bishop of Winchester. Part of the first paragraph of the new DNB reads:


He was the brother of Dr Henry White and of Agnes, who married their cousin Sir Thomas White of South Warnborough. The latter had a sister, Sibill, who was married to a John White thought by some (including the diarist Henry Machyn) to have been another brother of the bishop. While this cannot be ruled out, it is made more unlikely by Bishop John's standing as godfather in 1559 to the son (yet another John White) of John and Sibill; if the two older Johns were brothers then it would have been thought inappropriate for godfather and godson to enter into the spiritual relationship which baptism created when they were already so closely related by blood.


I am basing my own biography of Sir John White MP on a 1936 book by Henry Curtis, FRCS. Curtis constructed his family trees of the White family from primary sources such as wills, inquisitions post mortem and the records of the Inns of Court and Oxford University, as well as from secondary sources. Curtis says Robert White of Farnham had two sons named John (the bishop and the merchant/MP respectively) and a daughter named Agnes who married Sir Thomas White. So Curtis claims a brother and sister of one branch of the White family married a brother and sister of another part of the White family. However the new entry in the DNB for John White, the Bishop of Winchester, whilst stating that these double marriages 'cannot be ruled out', states that it would have been unlikely. This is of course an opinion, not based on any documentary evidence. I have therefore downloaded Robert White's will, proved 1518, and found Curtis to be correct in claiming he had two sons named John. Furthermore I have also downloaded Robert's eldest son Henry's will and found that he also mentions his two brothers, John the elder, and John the younger, just as Curtis stated, and that the bequests of land are consistent with Curtis' claims. If it should be deemed that Curtis' evidence that John, Bishop of Winchester, did have a brother of the exact same name is insufficient, then I point any sceptics to the will of Sir John White's second wife and widow, Katherine White 1576,  In her will she directs that John White, her son by Sir John White, should receive 3 gilden items which had been the gift of his uncle, former Bishop of Winchester. Thus the will of Sir John White's widow confirms that John White, the Bishop of Winchester was the uncle of her son John White, and thus the brother of Sir John White her husband.


Robert White's will of 1518 mentions he had landes and tenements with their appurtenances in the Counties of Southampton, Surrey and Berks including, specifically mentioned, in Aldershot. He had, according to Curtis, devised lands before his death to each of his sons. However Dr Henry White (d.1538) Robert's eldest son, who became Principal of the Canon Law School at Oxford, was the residual legatee. Robert's namesake, his second son, became a 'clothier' (ie manufacturer of woollen cloth) at Farnham, but died in 1534 before Henry White, the priest and eldest son.


Sir John White MP was thus a member of a remarkable family. On the one hand he had two brothers high in the hierarchy of the church: his eldest brother Henry being Vice Chancellor at Oxford University, and head of the Canon Law School, and his namesake, John the elder, being the Catholic Bishop of Winchester, who gave the funeral oration for Queen Mary on 14 Dec 1538. On the other hand his father and his brother Robert were prominent merchants and manufacturers in the woollen industry.


John White's first wife's family

When Sir John married Sybil White, the sister of Sir Thomas White of South Warnborough he married into another remarkable branch of the White family. Sir John's wife was probably his second cousin twice removed, but no documentary evidence of this has yet been found.


Sybil's greatgreatgrandfather was Robert White who died in 1467 in Farnham, just two years her husband's grandfather, John White, died in Farnham. This Robert White had been born in Yateley. According to the Herald's Visitations for Hampshire in 1530, 1575 and 1622-34 Robert White was a merchant who first moved to Sandwich, became Mayor of the Staple of Calais, then finally moved to Farnham where he died. Curtis therefore identifies him as Robert Whyte, Mayor of Sandwich, 1434, 1435 and 1436, and one of the two 'Barons or Burgesses of Parliament for Sandwich' chosen 9 Sep 1435 to attend Henry 6th's 14th Parliament held 10 Oct 1435. The Visitation also states that this Robert purchased the Manor of South Warnborough.


In Robert White's will he names the children of his son John for specific bequests. Their names were Robert, Richard, John, Margaret and Johanna. The eldest son Robert White was 14 years old when his father John died in 1470 (Inquisition post mortem 9 Edw.4). He was summoned by writs dated 5 Jun 1483 to 'furnish himself' to receive Knighthood at the intended coronation of Edward 5th on 22 June. The ceremony did not take place, but W A Shaw (The Knights of England 1905) includes Robert White as entitled to be called Sir Robert White KB created June 1483.


The eldest son of Sir Robert White KB was another Sir Robert White of South Warnborough. So the descent of eldest sons from the Mayor of Calais now stands at Robert/John/Robert/Robert. This last Robert had several children, but the two important for our story are Thomas (Sir Thomas White of South Warborough) and Sybil (Sibbell or Sibil White). Sybil became the wife of Sir John White MP, the subject of my biography.


Sir Thomas White was created knight 2 Oct 1553, as Master of Requests, the day following the coronation of the Catholic Queen Mary. Sir Thomas' position as one of the Masters of Requests is interesting on two counts: firstly Sir John Throckmorton of Coughton was the other Master of Requests in 1553. The significance of this will become apparent when I write up the Giffard family and the Manors of Cove and Itchell. Secondly it appears that Sir Julius Caesar was Master of Requests (from 1591) when he wrote the famous letter to Sir William More requesting him to facilitate access to the clay in Farnham Park. Curtis states that this Thomas White, together with his son Henry White, was granted in 1545 the office of Constable of Farnham Castle and Keeper of the Chases and Parks. Manning & Bray (iii 135-6) state that a Robert and John, father and son, were granted by Bishop Wainflete the office of Parkers and Keepers of the Great and Little Parks at Farnham. There are at least two such combinations of father and son. But the fact that Sir Thomas White of South Warnborough held this post gives credibility to Curtis' statement that it was Sir Thomas's grandfather and greatgrandfather Sir Robert White KB and John White (d.1470) who held the office before him. It therefore appears that this branch of the White family could have been in control of the clay in Farnham Park for a very long period.


Sir Thomas White married Agnes White the sister of Sir John White MP, Lord Mayor of London, and subject of this biography. Agnes died 4 Jan 1571 at Canterbury and was buried at South Warnborough as Dame Agnes White. Sir Thomas' will was proved 1 Feb 1567 so Dame Agnes was probably responsible for their tomb in South Warnborough church.


Sir John White, MP

All the preceeding is explanation as to Sir John White's family and his first wife Sybil's family. Since he was younger than the Bishop of Winchester, his brother said by the DND to have been born about 1509/10, Sir John was probably born about 1512. His father died in 1518. After the two Johns two more sons were born, both of whom were old enough for their father to devise estates before he died. Sir John was created knight when he became Lord Mayor of London in 1563-4. Curtis says that previously he had been Master of the Grocer's Company 1555-6, and Sheriff of London 1556-7. He was Alderman for Cornhill from 1566 to 1571 and Member of Parliament for the City 1566-2. Sir John also had a particular concern for hospitals. He was treasurer of St Batholomew's Hospital, 1549; President of Bethlem and Bridewell, 1569-73, and of Christ's Hospital. He was Surveyor-General of Hospitals in the year before his death in 1573. Sir John's second wife Katherine also left substantial bequests to the London hospitals.


That Sir John was an important and influential person, who maintained this influence into Elizabeth's reign, through turbulent times, despite his brother's strongly Catholic conviction, is not in doubt. But what of his business activities? His will reveals that he had the leases of three different mills in Farnham: the 'boorne' mill, the malt mill and the 'willen' mill. Since his father was a cloth manufacturer I take the latter to be a woollen mill but, being no expert, this seems to me to refer to a mill indicating more vertically integrated production than might have been usual at the time. The will of Robert White his eldest son contains a bequest of a fulling mill in Farnham, which he may well have inherited from his father.  That Sir John operated a vertically integrated business is also indicated by the arms displayed in Aldershot church: his own arms, the City of London, the Merchant Adventurers, and the Grocers Company. Displaying the arms of the Company of Merchant Adventurers undoubtedly indicates he was trading overseas, and this is confirmed by the single entry I have so far found in the London Customs Accounts.


Overseas trade is an area in which we could do with some expert advice. Sir John is listed as being of the Grocers Company when he was Lord Mayor of London, and had previously been Master of that company. The arms in Aldershot church confirms this. However he made no bequest to the Grocers in his will, but is very careful to make sure his bequest to the Merchant Tailors was honoured. This would seem to imply he was free of two city livery companies. Much more research is required regarding Sir John's commercial interests, and his overseas trading activities as a Merchant Adventurer to establish whether he might also have imported pottery from the Rhineland.


Sir John was succeeded in his estates in Aldershot by his son Robert. Robert White and his wife Mary purchased the Manor of Cove by final agreement dated 4 May 1580 from Thomas Brabon and his wife Ann. Although Farnborough and Aldershot were already producing pottery it was at about this time that Cove started to flourish as a centre for Borderware production. So far I have found very little on Robert White‘s commercial interests, so I will eventually make this a separate biography.


Click here to read the will of Sir John White 1573

The will of Sir Thomas White of South Warnborough, Sir John's brother-in-law, 1567

The will of Henry White, Sir John's eldest brother, 1538

The will of Robert White, Sir John's father, 1518,

The will of Robert White, Sir John‘s first wife's ancestor, 1467

The will of Katherine White, Sir John's second wife and widow, 1576

Click here to return to the Biographies main page

Click here to return to Borderware Distribution Answer 2: Merchants and Gentry




by HENRY CURTIS F.R.C.S. (ret) 1936.  4 Crown Office Row, Inner Temple, London E.C.4

(NB I think this booklet of some 29 pages, including very detailed family trees, 66 very detailed footnotes, and notes on wills, was privately published - PJT)


 2. Farnham Mills: La Medmulle, The Story of Weydon Mill by F W Simmonds, published by Farnham Museum, Sept 1968. Current price (2006) 25p. A link is provided to a website containing material still in copyright. This site is only accessible by password to those small number local researchers contributing to this site.


3. The modern DNB entry for John White the Bishop of Winchester as linked in the text. This is a password protected site, but anyone with a Hampshire Library Service library card can enter their own libary card number and access the site.


4. My own transcriptions of wills, mostly from the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.  Links to these wills are provided immediately above these references, and links are also provided within the text.


5. I must apologise for getting the two John Whites around the wrong way in age. The Bishop of Winchester was the elder brother, and Sir John White, the subject of this biography, was the younger. This page was incorrect therefore until 3 Apr 2010. The evidence for this is in the will of  the eldest brother of the two Johns, Henry White, heir to Robert White, merchant of Farnham (d.1518).  Curtis (p24) transcribes this will as stating:

Bequests to: "Broder ['John White the elder'] Scolemaster of Wynchester College, who is to have peacible possession of Testator's lands in ffubchhamstede, Cove and Wynchefelde." Brother John White [elsewhere "John White the yonger"] Grocer of London, who is "to have peacible possession of testator's Londes in Aldershot.

Since Henry White's will was proved 27 Sep 1518 it seems that the White family already owned lands in Aldershot and Cove well before the Reformation. The land tenure in Aldershot may have then been a copyholding form the Prior and Monks of Winchester, the manor being purchased after the Reformation.


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