Grantham Civic Society Column: MP was reprimanded for his ‘lewd speeches’

Arthur Hall Grantham House

Arthur Hall Grantham House

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Arthur Hall, born in 1539, was the son of Francis Hall, and grandson of Thomas Hall, prosperous merchants of the Staple of Calais.

The family had lived in Grantham House, on Castlegate, since the mid-fifteenth century. In 1497 Francis Hall, his father and younger brother John, established a chantry in the chapel of St Catherine, which Thomas had previously founded on the north side of the church. Thomas was interred there in 1504. That same year, Francis became Alderman and deputy surveyor, and then comptroller in Calais. Arthur may have been born in Calais, and was only 13 when his father died. His guardian Sir William Cecil took him back to his house in Wimbledon.

In 1558, when Arthur was about 19 years old, he asked Cecil for his allowance. He gained notoriety for his excesses, and was considered to be a reprobate, exhibitionist and gambler. By 1560 he had lost all his inherited lands in France, but owned over 90 houses in Lincolnshire, some in great need of repair. He was encouraged to continue his studies and began a translation of Homer into English, eventually printed in 1581. After his marriage to a goldsmith’s daughter, he went on a tour of France, Spain and Italy, leaving his wife and child in England. In 1569 he returned to England from Constantinople, via Hungary and Germany.

In 1571 Hall became an MP for Grantham, but was brought to the bar for ‘sundry lewd speeches, used as well in this House as also abroad elsewhere’. He pleaded that he had been so angered by interruptions when speaking that he was unaware of what he had said. He submitted to the House with ‘an undertone of surly defiance’, and was discharged with a reprimand. In 1573 he quarrelled over dice and, following the event, one of Hall’s servants wounded his adversary in the face. The case was heard by a committee of the House and Hall was ordered to pay £100 fine. He refused, but a debate followed, and as a result a principle was established that the House might discipline, as well as protect, the servants of its Members. Hall returned to Grantham and wrote about the event, making slanderous and derogatory remarks, which he had printed and distributed. He was brought before the Privy Council to answer for his conduct, and committed to the Tower for six months, or until he retracted. He was also excluded from Parliament and fined 500 marks. After seven weeks, he submitted and was released, but harboured a sense of grievance. Again in financial difficulties, he once more sought Burghley’s help. The following year, when his wife died, he inherited considerable property, which temporarily relieved his financial situation.

He was returned to Parliament for the third time in 1584, but by 1586 was in trouble again. He began to court Lady Sussex, but when she dismissed him, he once again wrote about what had happened between them and had his work printed and distributed. He was brought before the Privy Council, arrested and put in the Marshalsea prison, where he remained for three years. Hall also made enemies in Grantham and quarrelled with his neighbours. Even the Bishop of Lincoln complained about him to the Privy Council.

Burghley was a good friend and tried to help him throughout his life, but after Burghley died in 1601, Hall was imprisoned for debt. He died on 29 December 1605 and was buried at Grantham on 7 January 1606.