John MARKHAM of Cotham (Sir)

Born: BEF 1486, Allerton, Nottinghamshire, England

Died: BEF 1559

Father: John MARKHAM of Cotham (Sir)

Mother: Alice SKIPWITH

Married 1: Anne NEVILLE



2. Henry MARKHAM (Precentor of Lincoln Cathedral) (d. ABT 1550)

Married 2: Margery LONGFORD (dau. of Sir Ralph Longford and Isabel Ferrers) 1518


3. Robert MARKHAM

4. Henry MARKHAM

5. Alice MARKHAM

6. Ellis MARKHAM

7. Elizabeth MARKHAM 

8. Philippa MARKHAM

Married 3: Anne STRELLEY (dau. and coh. of Sir John Strelley of Strelley and Sancha Willoughby) ABT 1526, Allerton, Nottinghamshire, England


9. Thomas MARKHAM of Ollerton (Esq.)

10. William MARKHAM of Okley (MP)



The details in this biography come from the History of Parliament, a biographical dictionary of Members of the House of Commons.

Born by 1486, only son of Sir John Markham of Cotham by Alice, dau. of Sir William Skipwith of Ormsby, Lincs. Suc. family 22 Feb 1508. Kntd. 25 Sep 1513. Commr. musters, Notts. and Nottingham 1511, subsidy, Lincs. 1512, 1514, Notts. 1523, 1524, benevolence 1544/45, contribution 1546, chantries, Derbys., Notts., Derby and Nottingham 1546, relief, Notts. 1550; other commissions 1521-d.; sheriff, Notts. and Derbys. 1518-19, 1526-7, 1534-5, 1538-9, 1545-6, Lincs. 1532-3; j.p. Notts. 1521-d.; lt. Sherwood forest by 1523; dep. receiver, Southwell by 1533, jt. receiver 1550, sole by 1552, jt. keeper 1546; gen. receiver, possessions formerly of Jasper, Duke of Bedford in Derbys. and Notts. 1542; chamberlain and receiver, ct. gen. surveyors 1545; lt. Tower of London by Nov 1549-31 Oct. 1551.

The Markham family traced its descent from Claron, who had held the manor of West Markham at the time of the Norman Conquest, and whose successors adopted the name of their residence. From the 12th century they established themselves as one of the leading families in the shire, and in the 15th produced two lawyers who rose to be judges.

John Markham’s father, ‘a man of great prowess’, had fought for Henry VII at Stoke and continued in his service: Dugdale’s story of his being involved in an affray with the villagers of Long Bennington, Lincolnshire, rests on the evidence of Thoroton and cannot be confirmed. His son John stated in his own will of 1559 that his father had died outlawed and that he had ‘paid and fined for the goods’ that he had. The younger Markham inherited, besides the manor of Cotham, several manors near Newark, one or two east of Southwell and a group near Tuxford in north Nottinghamshire, including Great Markham, together with Lincolnshire lands concentrated mainly in an area north of Spalding in Holland. At about this time Markham was in the service of Henry VII’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, with whom he could claim alliance through his marriage to Anne Neville. Archbishop Cranmer, when in 1537 he reminded Henry VIII of this claim that Markham had on his favour, went on to say that he had been ‘in all the wars which the King hath had ... except he had wars in divers places at one time, and then he was ever in one of them’. He first saw service against the French early in the reign, helping to mobilize troops and then accompanying the King to the capture of Tournai, where he was knighted on the day the city surrendered.

As a leading landowner in Nottinghamshire, where he was first appointed sheriff in 1518, and a man with court connexions, Markham may well have sat in Parliament before 1529. Even the evidence of his Membership on that occasion was in danger of being lost: the only contemporary list of Members is torn at the point where the names of the Nottinghamshire knights occur, but enough of his name is left to show that Markham was the first of them. The King had arranged for the writs for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire to be delivered by Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, and the sheriff, Nicholas Strelley (who was perhaps already related by marriage to Markham), doubtless received them accompanied by nominations. Nothing is known of Markham’s part in the proceedings of the Commons but he was probably as ardent a supporter of royal policy there as he was to prove himself elsewhere. He was presumably returned again in 1536, in accordance with the King’s general request for the return of the previous Members. Three years later he could not return himself as sheriff but he found a seat as senior Member for Nottingham, which had its own sheriff: his son John had married a daughter of the former recorder Sir Anthony Babington and his fellow-Member George Pierrepont was also Babington’s son-in-law. Markham was to sit for the borough again in 1545 with his kinsman Nicholas Powtrell and may have done so in the intervening Parliament of 1542, when only the christian names of the Members are known: if he did, he must have contented himself with the junior seat, as ‘John’ stands second on the dorse of the writ. In that event, it was probably he who introduced the private bill passed during this Parliament for the partition of the lands of his father-in-law Sir John Strelley.

Markham had attended the King at Calais in Oct 1532, between the fourth and fifth sessions of the Parliament, and in the following year he was a server at Anne Boleyn’s coronation; in 1540 he was present at Blackheath for the reception of Anne of Cleves, and at Henry VIII’s funeral in 1547 he bore the twelfth banner of Lancaster. Meanwhile he had shown himself a vigorous supporter of royal policy in religion. He was actively concerned in the dissolution of the monasteries, and was one of the commissioners who, when visiting the Charterhouse at Beauvale with John Constable in 1535, tried to persuade the procurator Trafford in ‘an exhortation friendly ... that the Kings of England by good just title ought to be Supreme Head of the Church of the same’: he also took part in the suppression of Lenton priory and was present at the execution of the prior in Apr 1538. He frequently informed Cromwell of local religious feeling, especially among the clergy. That his zeal did not spring merely from loyalty is evident from Cranmer’s description of him to the King as one that ‘hath unfeignedly favoured the truth of God’s word’.

With the outbreak of the Lincolnshire rebellion in Oct 1536 Markham was called upon to assist in the restoration of order. He was informed of the rebels’ movements and his timely warning to expect them at Newark enabled George Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury to alter his plans and to be ready at Nottingham with all the force at his disposal. Markham afterwards served as one of the commissioners for the trial of the Louth rebels and was present at their executions. By Mar 1537 it was reported that ‘no shire is now in better quietness’, and Sir William Parr praised Markham’s work and asked Cromwell to obtain some reward for his services from the King. Although not a member of the jury which tried the Yorkshire rebels, Markham had evidently supported the King’s forces against them, being employed on one occasion by Thomas Manners, 1st Earl of Rutland, on a mission to Newark to discover the state of the fords and the problems involved in the defence of the Trent. The authority which he wielded in the Newark area by 1539 led John Marshall to describe to Cromwell how those parts ‘are much ruled by one Sir John Markham, the great ruffling is past and poor men may now live at peace by the great men’.

Markham was to be associated with Rutland again in 1542. In that Aug, after numerous border disputes, the King planned to send Norfolk ‘with a main force’ against the Scots, and Markham was appointed to Rutland’s inner council, with Sir Robert BowesJohn Harrington and John Uvedale, when the Earl went north as lord warden of the marches. Three years later Markham served in Scotland under the Earl of Hertford, to whom he was distantly related. His connexion with Hertford was to have an important bearing on his career under Edward VI. His return as knight of the shire for Nottinghamshire in 1547 must have been acceptable to Hertford, by then Duke of Somerset and Protector; it may even have owed something to him personally as Markham’s fellow-knight was Sir Michael Stanhope, brother-in-law to both Somerset and to Markham’s wife Anne Strelley. Both Members were also related to the sheriff, Sir Gervase Clifton.

Markham’s official career culminated in his appointment as lieutenant of the Tower in 1549. He had evidently satisfied the Council as to his reliability, for his appointment coincided with the period of Somerset’s first imprisonment: other prisoners under his charge included the Duke of Norfolk and Bishop Gardiner. In Oct 1551 they were rejoined by Somerset and Sir Michael Stanhope, this time to Markham’s disadvantage. During Somerset’s second confinement, noted Edward VI in his journal, the lieutenant allowed him to walk in the grounds and to receive and despatch letters without informing the Council of these privileges, and for this indiscretion Markham was dismissed and replaced by one of his assistants, Sir Arthur Darcy. His show of sympathy for the doomed Protector was also probably enough to keep Markham out of the Parliament called by Somerset’s victorious rival, the Duke of Northumberland, in Mar 1553, but he was soon afterwards appointed one of the King’s visitors to the clergy and laity of the deanery of Doncaster. He was present at the funeral of Edward VI, but nothing is known of his behaviour during the succession crisis which followed.

Markham’s Protestant sympathies did not preclude his employment under Mary. Early in 1557 he was requested to lead a levy of 300 men from Nottinghamshire to Berwick, and in Jul of the following year, ‘being a man of good experience’, he was appointed with Sir John Forster to attend upon Henry Neville, 5th Earl of Westmorland ‘at his commandment at all such times as his lordship shall require their counsel and advice’. He was also knight of the shire for at least the third time in the last Parliament of the reign, when his name was marked with a circle on a copy of the Crown Office list, and he had presumably had a hand in the earlier return of his distant kinsman Ellis Markham for the shire and of his own sons Thomas and William for the borough of Nottingham. If Markham had himself been passed over for the earlier Parliaments of the reign, his reinstatement may have owed something to the patronage of Henry Manners, 2nd Earl of Rutland, with whom he had maintained his connexion after the death of his father Thomas Manners, 1st Earl, in 1543: although Rutland was likewise a Protestant and had at one time been imprisoned for his support of Lady Jane Grey, he had come to terms with the Marian regime.

Markham appears to have been on friendly terms with his prominent neighbours, such as the Willoughbys of Wollaton, but this did not save him from being involved in legal disputes, mainly over property. The controversy with Anthony Foster and John Longland, Bishop of Lincoln over rights of pasture, claimed by the inhabitants of Newark and upheld by Markham and Sir William Mering, led to a suit before Chancellor Audley in 1535: when Cranmer interceded with Cromwell for both men, he described Markham, whom he had known for over 30 years, as ‘a gentleman of very good qualities’. Markham augmented his large inheritance by various leases and grants, particularly of monastic property; his most important acquisition was the house and site of Rufford abbey in Oct 1537, but he later obtained leases of the Augustinian friary in Newark and of the site of Newbo abbey, Lincolnshire, which in 1543 he transferred to a kinsman.

Markham was in his seventies when he was returned to the first Parliament of Elizabeth’s reign and he may not have lived to see it through. He made his will, on 1 Apr 1559, when it had several weeks to run, and his death may have taken place at any time before the following 28 Oct. when the will was proved. His eldest son John had predeceased him and his heir was his grandson Robert Markham, whom, however, he clearly disliked, limiting his inheritance as far as he could. Markham’s son-in-law John Harrington, married to his daughter Isabella, commemorated him in a short poem.


Black, C. J.: MARKHAM, Sir John (by 1486-1559), of Cotham, Notts.

to Bios Page  to Family Page
to Peerage Page to Home Page