THICKNESS, Thomas (d.1411/12), of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs.
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Family and Education
Bailiff, Newcastle, Mich. 1384-5; mayor 1406-8, 1409-10.2
One of the most influential men to represent the borough during our period, this MP owed much of his early success to family connexions. His father, William Thickness, a former coroner of Staffordshire, was currently serving as mayor of Newcastle when, in September 1378 (at the age of 70), he formally recognized as his rightful heirs Thomas and the other children of his marriage to Margery Audley, his second wife. She was a kinswoman, perhaps even the daughter, of James, Lord Audley (d.1386), with whom William Thickness had campaigned in Gascony, and with whose descendants Thomas was to become closely involved. Nothing is known about the young man’s career before his first return to Parliament, which was probably brought about through the intervention of his father and illegitimate half-brother, William (his colleague in the Commons of September 1388). The latter was mayor of Newcastle at the time of Thomas’s admission to the freedom of the borough in 1380, and appears to have used his influence to have him excused the customary fine. Yet the subject of this biography was already a figure of some consequence in Staffordshire, as can be seen from his appearance in February 1378 (and again in October 1382) among the mainpernors whom Fulk Corbet and Philip Fitzwaryn chose to stand surety for them at the Exchequer. He went on to occupy his first municipal office in 1384, when he was made bailiff of Newcastle, and two years later he offered pledges on behalf of a newly elected burgess. At some point between 1389 and 1396 he became one of the prima duodena (or senior members) of the merchant guild, having previously been listed among the secunda duodena of that body.3
Unlike most of his fellow townsmen, and partly because of his links with the baronage, Thickness seems to have assumed a recognized place in county society. In the spring of 1387 he conveyed a tenement and land in Betley (near Newcastle) to one of his kinsmen and in the following year he was sued by Thomas Erdeswyk for a debt of 40s. Being a man of some substance, he was often requested to stand as a mainpernor, and on at least three occasions (twice in 1390 and once in 1401) he offered quite considerable sums on behalf of persons summoned to appear in Chancery. He appears to have been on good terms with the Delves family, which he served as an attorney in 1393 and as a feoffee-to-uses (acting for John Delves† the younger) towards the end of his life, in about 1411.4 By far the most notable of his dealings with Staffordshire landowners were, predictably, those involving the Audleys, which began in 1393 when he became a trustee of Sir Roger Hillary and his wife, Margaret, the sister and coheir of Nicholas, Lord Audley (d.1391). He retained his interest in Margaret’s extensive holdings for the next 16 years at least. Meanwhile, in June 1394, he obtained custody of part of the late Lord Audley’s Staffordshire properties at a farm of £33 6s.8d. a year. His mainpernors on this occasion were the powerful courtier, Sir William Bagot*, and Sir Humphrey Stafford I*, both of whom were parliamentary colleagues of his. Three months later, Sir John Tuchet, who eventually succeeded to the barony, made Thickness one of his attorneys in England. On Tuchet’s death the Audley estates were leased out by the Crown to three of his kinsmen, and it was on their behalf that the MP stood surety at the Exchequer in February 1409.5
The years preceding Thickness’s last return to Parliament in 1411 are comparatively well documented. In March 1401, he entered into a recognizance for six marks payable to Simon Gaunstede, a senior Chancery clerk and future keeper of the rolls, on the security of his property in Staffordshire. In the following year he began a lawsuit against a Newcastle man for setting fire to one of his houses in the borough, and in the Michaelmas term of 1404 he again appeared in court, this time in an attempt to recover damages from a negligent tenant there. Thickness was mayor of Newcastle at the time of the elections to the Parliament of 1407, and as such he witnessed the joint return made by the burgesses of Stafford and Newcastle. His second term in office coincided with a serious outbreak of disorder in the borough, occasioned by the feud then being waged between Hugh Erdeswyk* and certain duchy of Lancaster officials. Although ordered by Sir John Blount, the constable of Newcastle, to hold an inquiry into Erdeswyk’s various offences, Thickness refused because of threats against his life. Judging by the fate of those who attempted to secure an indictment, his fear was more than justified.6
Thickness died at some point between December 1411 and the Michaelmas term of the following year, when his two executors were being sued for a debt of £4 by John Biddulph* and his wife. They themselves attempted to recover £22 from the estate of the late (Sir) John Rochford* not long afterwards, but evidently met with little success.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. T. Pape, Med. Newcastle-under-Lyme, 88-89; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xvi. 81.
- 2. Pape, 156, 173-4; C219/10/4.
- 3. Pape, 88-89, 152, 156, 159-61, 164; Wm. Salt. Arch. Soc. viii. 74; CP, i. 339-40; CCR, 1364-8, pp. 101, 429; CFR, ix. 69-70, 327.
- 4. CAD, i. 439; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xv. 5, 7; CCR, 1389-92, pp. 159, 167; 1399-1402, p. 320; JUST 1/1504 m. 95d; DKR, xxix. 67-68.
- 5. CFR, xi. 116-17; xii. 10-11, 108-9, 142-3; CCR, 1405-9, p. 333; 1409-13, pp. 160-1, 254-5; CPR, 1391-6, p. 272; DKR, xxxvi. 116, 234, 478; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xi. 209, 219; Wm. Salt Lib. Stafford, D1790/A/2/123.
- 6. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xv. 106; xvi. 44-45, 84; C219/10/4.
- 7. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xvii. 43, 45.