CARPENTER, Thomas (by 1520-65 or later), of St. Pancras without the Walls, Chichester, Suss.
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Family and Education
Gent., household of William Fitz Alan, 11th Earl of Arundel by 1539; steward (surveyor), Suss. lands of Henry Fitz Alan, 12th Earl of Arundel 1545/46-d.; j.p. Suss. 1547-54; commr. sewers 1554-5.2
Thomas Carpenter’s father was sometime under-steward of Burton abbey lands in Sussex and the lessee of several manors in the vicinity of Chichester from the cathedral chapter. Soon after leaving Oxford Carpenter entered the service of the 11th Earl of Arundel, in whose household he was holding a minor appointment by 1539 and with whom he later claimed to have been ‘in good reputation’. He was to remain in the service of the Fitz Alans: the 12th Earl confirmed him in office and on the death of Richard Sackville I he became steward of the earl’s property in Sussex, a post he retained until death. He prospered under the Fitz Alans, leasing property in and around Chichester from them and in 1547 buying Birdham manor from Sir Richard Lee. He was said by an aggrieved client of the 12th Earl to have been ‘a man that might do ... much at my lord of Arundel’s hands’: his accuser had some cause for complaint as Carpenter had led him to expect more than the earl was prepared to give.3
Carpenter’s election for Arundel to the Parliament of 1547 was doubtless the work of the earl. Nothing is known of his role in the House, but shortly before the opening of the final session Arundel was arrested on suspicion of complicity with the Duke of Somerset and confined to the Tower for a year. Some days later the Council ordered Robert Oxenbridge, the sheriff of Surrey and Sussex, to arrest Carpenter and another of the earl’s servants and to send them up to London under guard. Carpenter’s name does not appear among those examined before the Council about this time or held briefly in the Tower: if he did share in the earl’s misfortune he probably missed the final session held early in 1552. Arundel was eventually released on 3 Dec. of that year, and in the following spring he was free to support the election of Carpenter and Thomas Stoughton at Chichester; the borough’s acceptance of these nominees was doubtless made easier by their local standing, but it may also have reflected the hope of securing Arundel’s support for a private bill to demolish the bishop’s fishgarths. In the event this bill was not to be introduced into the Commons until the autumn, by which time Mary was on the throne and Arundel a leading Councillor, but after two readings there it failed, even though Carpenter and Stoughton had both been re-elected for the city. As dependents of so prominent a Marian neither Carpenter nor Stoughton could be expected to figure among the Members who opposed the reintroduction of Catholicism. Both sat again for Chichester in the following Parliament, that of April 1554, but this was the last occasion on which they did so together. In the autumn the Queen asked for the election of townsmen, a request which Arundel as a Privy Councillor could scarcely ignore, and the city complied.4
Under both Edward VI and Mary, Carpenter served as a justice of the peace in Sussex, but on the accession of Elizabeth he was put off the bench. The inference that he was a Catholic is supported by his connexion with Arundel and by his intimacy with the Shelley family, members of which suffered imprisonment for their faith under Elizabeth: Carpenter’s wife was probably a daughter of Sir William Shelley, and by his will Carpenter left £100 to John Shelley, £10 to Sir James Shelley, a knight of the order of St. John of Jerusalem, and the reversion of all his interests to Thomas Shelley of Mapledurham, Hampshire.
Carpenter was a sick man when he made his will on 27 July 1565. After several charitable bequests, he gave his wife all his household goods, plate and jewels with the stock of his farms and the lease of Kingsham manor. He left five marks for a dinner for the burgesses of Chichester and remembered many of his friends there and in the neighbourhood, including Lawrence Ardren. He also left 20 marks to his old colleague in Parliament and in Arundel’s service, Thomas Stoughton, to recompense him for completing his accounts. He appointed William Devenish, William Stapleton and William Porter his overseers. Just before his death Carpenter had made an agreement with the cathedral chapter by which he demised land worth £4 a year for the exhibition of scholars at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he had studied in his youth. The college had places for Sussex men, but although the indenture dated 10 Feb. 1566 survives in the college archives the exhibitions seem never to have been founded.