BROMLEY, Thomas I (by 1505-55), of Eyton-upon-Severn; Wroxeter and Shrewsbury, Salop and London.
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Family and Education
b. by 1505, 2nd s. of Roger Bromley of Mitley by Jane, da. of Thomas Jennings of Walliborne Hall, Church Pulverbatch. educ. I. Temple, called by 1531. m. [?(1) Elizabeth, da. of John Dodd of Cloverley; (2)] by 1526, Isabel, da. of Richard Lyster of Rowton, 1da. Kntd. by June 1546.2
Bencher, I. Temple by 1532, Autumn reader 1533, ?1539, Lent 1540.
Warden, drapers’ co., Shrewsbury 1531-2; alderman, Shrewsbury by May 1532-d., recorder by 1537-Jan. 1547; justice in eyre, South Wales 1534, of assize, Oxford circuit 1541, eastern circuit 1542; j.p. Salop 1536-d., Glos., Worcs. 1540-d., Herefs. 1541-d., five midland counties 1541, Norf. 1542, Suff. 1543; ?King’s serjeant by Nov. 1539; serjeant-at-law June 1540; j.K.B. Nov. 1544, c.j. Oct. 1553; custos rot. Salop 1546; PC 1547; commr. relief, Cheshire, Salop and Shrewsbury 1550, canon law 1551; member, council in the marches of Wales by 1552; receiver of petitions in the Lords, Parlts. of Oct. 1553, Nov. 1554.3
The Bromleys were a gifted and successful Shropshire family who came originally from Eccleshall in Staffordshire. Thomas was a favourite christian name for its sons, and there were several kinsmen who at the outset of the century bore the name. One of these, a younger son of a cadet line, was a man of exceptional talent. The first trace of this Thomas Bromley comes in 1519, when as a student at the Inner Temple he was punished for ‘evilly behaving’ himself during the Lent vacation and undertook to be obedient in the future. This youthful indiscretion was not to be held against him. The sickness to which he was evidently prone sometimes prevented him from performing his official duties, but this ‘debility’ did not impede his advance in the profession of which he was to be reckoned one of the ornaments.4
In 1528 Bromley was admitted to the freedom of Shrewsbury, where at the turn of the century a kinsman George Bromley had held the recordership, and a year later to one of its guilds; his counsel was retained by the townsmen, who promoted him to alderman and recorder. During the 1530s and 1540s he was an important figure at Shrewsbury, representing its interests at court and in the capital although too busy to spend much time there. His services were also retained by the 4th and 5th Earls of Shrewsbury. In 1536 and 1537 he was commended to Cromwell by Bishop Lee, president of the council in the marches, but he does not appear to have enjoyed Cromwell’s patronage, and it was not until the minister’s disappearance that his own career blossomed.5
Bromley was favoured by Henry VIII, Edward VI and, initially at least, Mary. Under Henry VIII’s will he was appointed an executor and member of the regency council and bequeathed £300, which he apparently received in full despite a conciliar move to reduce it to £200. He was noted as one of the three executors not present when the will was opened and read; his absence may have been judged politic. On the next such occasion he avoided witnessing Edward VI’s will, even though he had been constrained by Northumberland to agree to the device settling the crown upon Jane Grey. On Mary’s accession he was confirmed in his office and he soon replaced Sir Roger Cholmley as chief justice of the King’s bench. After the suppression of Wyatt’s rebellion Bromley presided over the trials of several of its leaders. His handling of the trial of (Sir) Nicholas Throckmorton incurred the government’s displeasure: it was thought to have conduced to the unexpected acquittal. He was accused of allowing the prisoner too much latitude, although he refused Throckmorton’s demand to call a witness or to see a statute making for the defence, and his final speech to the jury was anything but impartial. Bromley was not removed from office, but a coolness developed between him and the Queen during the last year of his life.6
It was A. F. Pollard who suggested that Bromley had been by-elected to the Parliament of 1529, his name being included in a list, compiled by Cromwell, of Members thought to be opposed to the bill in restraint of appeals passed during the fifth session (1533) of that Parliament. What constituency he sat for is not known, although the position of Bromley’s name at the end of the list may indicate that he replaced either Richard Bryan alias Croker at Lostwithiel or Lawrence Starkey at Lancaster. Bromley may have served for the same constituency in the following Parliament, that of 1536, when the King asked for the re-election of the previous Members, and again in 1539 when the names of so many Members are lost but when he received a summons to attend a prorogation. From 1542 until his death he regularly received a writ of assistance to the Lords and from 1544 his judgeship debarred him from sitting in the Commons. Nothing has come to light about his work in the Lords, but Mary rewarded him with £80 for his services there in her first two Parliaments. His parliamentary experience is reflected in his judicial pronouncements, notably in the matter of legislative intent: in 1554 he declared that judges sometimes ‘expounded the words quite contrary to the text ... in order to make them agree with reason and equity’, a process he presumed to have been always intended by Parliament.7
Bromley joined in the scramble for monastic and chantry lands, building up a sizeable estate for himself in Shropshire and engaging in some speculative transactions with his friend Sir Rowland Hill. His will, drawn up during one of his recurrent illnesses in January 1552, gives no colour to Burnet’s assertion that he was ‘a papist in his heart’: he commended his soul to God, trusting in the remission of his sins ‘by the merits of the blood and passion of our Saviour Jesu Christ’. He left generous legacies to the poor in Shrewsbury and its suburbs, and monetary bequests to a number of relatives. ‘Thomas Bromley, son of George Bromley, esquire, deceased’—presumably the future lord chancellor—was to receive 40s. a year for ten years out of lands at Oxen