John York (Master of the Mint)

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Sir John York or Yorke (died 1569?) was an English merchant who became Master of the Mint and a Member of Parliament.


He was the third son of John Yorke, by his wife Katherine Patterdale or Patterdall. On 3 September 1535 he arrived at Calais from Antwerp with intelligence of a sermon preached against King Henry VIII, by a friar in Antwerp. In 1544 he was appointed assay master to the Mint. In 1547 he was promoted to be Master of the Mint at Southwark, established in the former mansion of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.

In 1549 he was sheriff of London. In October of this year the quarrel had broken out between the Protector Somerset and John Dudley, Earl of Warwick. Somerset as a defensive move had retired with King Edward VI to Hampton Court, and asked the City of London to furnish him with a thousand men for the royal protection. Warwick, in order to counteract him, moved into the city and stayed at York's house in Walbrook from 6 October 1549. The city came onto Warwick's side. On 8 October the confederate lords dined together at York's house, and on the following day the common council responded to their summons of aid by promising a contingent of soldiers to support them. As a reward for his services Edward VI visited York at his official residence in Southwark on 17 October, and, after dining there, knighted him. Somerset, having been confined in the Tower of London, was brought to York's house at Walbrook on 6 February following, and there released on his recognisances. Here the privy council again sat two days after, probably for security.

York appears to have enjoyed at this time the office of master of the king's woods. Edmund Bonner, bishop of London, was deprived of office on 1 October 1549, and the temporalities of the see passed to the crown. York thereupon began felling the bishop's woods. The privy council on 24 February 1550 issued an injunction against him, further prohibiting him from removing the woods already felled, which suggests suspicions of peculation. He apparently disobeyed, for a fresh prohibition was issued on 17 March. On the following 14 June the council again wrote to him, this time forbidding him to continue felling the king's woods near Deptford, the timber to be preserved for naval purposes. Meanwhile, York was active in his duties at the mint, at a time when changes in the coinage followed each other in rapid succession.

During some time in the summer of 1550 York was employed in secret missions abroad. His first business was to smuggle over munitions of war from the Netherlands. To prevent information of this from reaching the Netherlands government, the privy council forbade official of Calais and Dover from searching his goods. In the following February (1551) he was commissioned to repay to the Fuggers the sum of 127,000 florins borrowed by the king in the previous June (1550). In the summer of 1551 he repaid for the king another sum of £23,279 also borrowed from the Fuggers. By way of gratification he received a license to export eight hundred fodders of lead. He was also made under-treasurer of the Mint in the Tower in 1550, and promoted to be master in 1551. He had contrived to render himself acceptable to the two rival parties in the privy council, headed by Somerset and Warwick respectively. To Somerset he had advanced a sum of £2,500.

York enriched himself by foreign trading. He had acquired land in Yorkshire, and also at Woolwich. In May 1553 he formed one of the Russia Company incorporated under a charter of Edward VI. He retained the friendship of the Duke of Northumberland (as John Dudley now was), and he was prominent as a supporter of the claims of Lady Jane Grey. On 23 July 1553, after the collapse of the Grey conspiracy and two days later than the duke, York was put under arrest in his own house by the lord mayor. On 30 July the privy council issued a warrant for his committal to the Tower of London. An inventory of his goods was ordered, and they were seized to Queen Mary's use. Sixty cloths which were being exported by him were stopped at Dover. On 31 July he was sent to the Tower, being confined in the Bell Tower.

On 18 October he was released. The inhabitants of Whitby, tenants of the lands of Whitby Abbey which he had bought from the Duke of Northumberland, took occasion of his imprisonment to bring an action against him in the court of requests for excessive raising of their rents. On 24 October the court gave judgment against him. About the same time another action was brought against him in the same court by Avere or Alvered Uvedale, mineral lessee of the recently dissolved Byland Abbey, complaining that York having purchased the manor of Netherdale, Yorkshire, part of the land of the abbey in June 1553, had refused to allow the plaintiff to cut down timber for his mines, and had seized a large quantity of lead ore belonging to him. The issue of this case has not been preserved.

After his release, on 5 November 1553, York attended at St Stephen's, Walbrook, the sermon of John Feckenham, Queen Mary's private chaplain and confessor. He was at this time an alderman of the city; but his place at the Mint had been filled, and he does not reappear in public life till after the accession of Elizabeth. In 1559 he was elected MP for Boroughbridge, Yorkshire.[1] On 5 October 1560, when a project of recoinage was under consideration, York wrote to William Cecil a letter of advice, winding up with a request for Cecil's interest in his favour. Among his recommendations was one for the employment of foreign refiners, as being of superior skill. It would appear from a letter from a Flemish company to Sir Thomas Gresham, written from Antwerp in this year, that York actually went to Flanders on this business but he was not reinstated in office at the Mint. He died some time before the end of 1569.


York married Anne or Anna, daughter of Robert Smyth of London. According to the ‘Visitation of Yorkshire’ of 1563–4, and Glover's ‘Visitation of Yorkshire’ in 1584–5, Lady York afterwards married Robert Paget of London; but according to the ‘Visitation of London’ in 1560 she was the widow of one Pagett when she married York. Sir John York left ten sons, two of whom were knights, Sir Edmund and Sir Edward, a vice-admiral in the navy. Rowland York is said to have been another. He also left three daughters. The spelling of the name, both in the signature of his letter to William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley and in the plea put in by him in his defence against the tenants of Whitby in the court of requests, is York.


  1. ^ "History of Parliament". History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 2011-11-08. 

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"York, John". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.