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John Hooker, John Hoker or John Vowell (c. 1527–1601) was an English writer, solicitor, antiquary, civic administrator and advocate of republican government. He wrote an eye-witness account of the siege of Exeter that took place during the Prayer Book Rebellion in 1549. From 1555 to his death he was chamberlain of that city, though he spent several years in Ireland as legal adviser to Sir Peter Carew during his claim to lands there. He was, for short periods, a member of both the Irish and English parliaments and wrote an influential treatise on parliamentary procedure. He was one of the editors of the second edition of Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles, published in 1587. His last, unpublished and probably uncompleted work was the first topographical description of the county of Devon.
John Vowell Hooker (1526 – 1601)
is my 11th great grandfather
Mary Hooker (1567 – 1617)
daughter of John Vowell Hooker
John (Dr) Greene (1597 – 1659)
son of Mary Hooker
Mary Greene (1633 – 1686)
daughter of John (Dr) Greene
Benoni Sweet (1663 – 1751)
son of Mary Greene
Dr. James Sweet (1686 – 1751)
son of Benoni Sweet
Thomas Sweet (1732 – 1813)
son of Dr. James Sweet
Thomas Sweet (1759 – 1844)
son of Thomas Sweet
Valentine Sweet (1791 – 1858)
son of Thomas Sweet
Sarah LaVina Sweet (1840 – 1923)
daughter of Valentine Sweet
Jason A Morse (1862 – 1932)
son of Sarah LaVina Sweet
Ernest Abner Morse (1890 – 1965)
son of Jason A Morse
Richard Arden Morse (1920 – 2004)
son of Ernest Abner Morse
I am the daughter of Richard Arden Morse
Hooker was born at Bourbridge Hall in Exeter, Devon, England. He was the second son of Robert Vowell or Hooker and Agnes Doble, his third wife. The Vowell family had acquired the name Hooker in the 15th century, but usually retained the earlier name; in fact John Hooker was known as John Vowell for much of his life. By the time he was born the family had been prominent in Exeter for several generations. Hooker received an excellent classical education, reading Roman law at Oxford followed by a period in Europe studying with leading Protestant divines, notably Pietro Martire Vermigli.
In the 1540s he married Martha, daughter of Robert Tucker of Exeter and they had three sons and two daughters. By 1586, Martha had died and he had married Anastryce (c. 1540–1599), daughter of Edward Bridgeman of Exeter. They had seven sons and five daughters. In later life his health failed and he died in Exeter some time between 26 January and 15 September in 1601 and was probably buried in the cathedral. He was the uncle of Richard Hooker, the influential Anglican theologian.
[I denounce those who chose] to supporte the authoritie of the Idoll of Rome whome they never sawe in contempte of their trewe & lawfull kinge, whom they knewe and oughte to obeye.
— Hooker, on the siege of Exeter, in The description of the citie of Excester, 1.67
During the Prayer Book Rebellion in 1549 he experienced at first hand the siege of Exeter, leaving a vivid account of its events in which he made no effort to conceal his religious sympathies. From 1551 to 1553 he was employed by Myles Coverdale during his short incumbency as Bishop of Exeter; and then in 1555 he became the first chamberlain of Exeter, a post that he held until his death.
As chamberlain he was responsible for the city’s finances, he dealt with disputes between guilds and merchants, oversaw the rebuilding of the high school, planted many trees in the city, and collected and put in order the city’s archives. He used these archives to compile his “Annals” of the City in which he details the characteristics of every Tudor mayor of Exeter, and in 1578 he also wrote and published The Lives of the Bishops of Exeter. In 1570/71 he was the MP for Exeter.
At a time when it was deemed essential for cities and nations to have ancient lineage, Hooker described the foundation of Exeter by Corinaeus, nephew of Brutus of Britain, son of Aeneas. He advocated emulating the governmental institutions of the Roman Republic which, in his opinion, brought Rome to greatness, and held the municipal government of Exeter up as a model republican commonwealth worthy of emulation.
In 1568, possibly because he regarded himself as underpaid for the work he was doing for the city, Hooker was persuaded by Sir Peter Carew to go with him to Ireland to be his legal adviser. He also organised Carew’s papers in support of his claim for the barony of Idrone, a task to which he committed himself so deeply that in 1569 he was returned to the Irish parliament as member for Athenry. Hooker later wrote a biography of Carew, The dyscourse and dyscoverye of the lyffe of Sir Peter Carew, in which he almost certainly understated the deceit and aggression behind Carew’s Irish venture.
Until Carew’s death in 1575, Hooker spent much time in Ireland, but he had also been returned to the English parliament in 1571 as one of the burgessesof Exeter. The session had only lasted a few weeks, but he kept a journal in which he accurately recorded the proceedings. His experiences in the Irish and English parliaments led him to write a treatise on parliamentary practice, The Order and Usage how to Keepe a Parlement in England, which was published in two editions in 1572. One edition had a preface addressed to William FitzWilliam, the Lord Deputy of Ireland and was clearly intended to bring order to the Irish assembly; the other was addressed to the Exeter city authorities, presumably to aid his successor burgesses. In writing his treatise Hooker took much inspiration from the Modus Tenendi Parliamentum, a treatise from the early 14th century.
In 1586 Hooker again represented Exeter in parliament. At this time he was one of the editors of the second edition of Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles, which was published in 1587. Hooker’s Order and Usage was included and he contributed an updated history of Ireland, including parts of his Life of Carew and a translation of Expugnatio Hibernica (“Conquest of Ireland”) by Gerald of Wales. In his Irish section he again made his religious and political sympathies very clear, repeatedly denouncing the Catholicism of the native Irish, seeing it as the cause both of their poverty and rebelliousness. Rome, he wrote, is “the pestilent hydra” and the pope “the sonne of sathan, and the manne of sinne, and the enimie unto the crosse of Christ, whose bloodthirstiness will never be quenched”.
a verye ancient towne … and maye be equall with some cities for it is the cheffe emporium of that countrie and most inhabited with merchantes whose cheffest trade in tyme of peace was with Spayne … it is a clene and sweete towne, very well paved…
— Hooker, on Barnstaple, in Synopsis Corographical, 261-262
Hooker continued to serve Exeter in his later years, becoming coroner in 1583 and recorder in 1590. He was also appointed as steward of Bradninch by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1587. By this time he was involved in the long task of organising and writing his historically-based description of his home county that he called Synopsis Corographical of the county of Devon. He probably started work on this before his friend Richard Carew began writing his similar Survey of Cornwall.In writing his Synopsis, Hooker was influenced by the style and structure of William Harrison’sDescription of England, which had been published in 1577 as part of the first edition of Holinshed’sChronicles.
Although Hooker revised Synopsis many times, he probably never completed it to his satisfaction. The work exists today as two almost identical manuscripts which were used as source material for many later topographical descriptions of the county: Thomas Westcote’s Survey of Devon of 1630, and Tristram Risdon’s Chorographical Description or Survey of the County of Devon (c. 1632) are examples.
Orders Enacted for Orphans and for their Portions within the Citie of Exeter, London, 1575
The Antique Description and Account of the City of Exeter: In Three Parts, All Written Purely by John Vowell, Alias Hoker
The order and usage of the keepingng of a parlement in England, 1572
A pamphlet of the offices and duties of everie particular sworned officer of the citie of Excester (sic) 1584
The Life and Times of Sir Peter Carew