CURTEYS, Thomas (by 1502-59), of London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

Family and Education

b. by 1502, s. of John Curteys of Enfield, Mdx. m. Mabel, 1s. Kntd. Nov./Dec. 1557.2

Offices Held

Warden, Pewterers’ Co. 1524-5, master 1538-40, 1545-7; auditor, London 1538-40, sheriff 1546-7, alderman 1551-d., mayor 1557-8.3

Biography

Thomas Curteys was a pewterer who carried on his business in the 1530s and 1540s from a house in Lombard Street. He bought his tin in Cornwall, transporting it by sea to Southampton and thence to London; in 1533 he sued the mayor and sheriff of Southampton and the deputy receiver of Cornwall, Wymond Carew, for losing ten blocks of tin which he had deposited in the tin house at Southampton. In 1537 the wardens of the Pewterers’ Company complained to the mayor and aldermen of London that Thomas Curteys, contrary to their ordinances, kept ten apprentices: Curteys bound himself to obey the order of the court of aldermen and, until their decision, to take no more apprentices. Presumably the dispute was settled amicably for Curteys was elected master of the Company in the following year.4

In 1546 he was elected sheriff by the commonalty of London. He tried hard to evade the office and on 2 Sept. petitioned the common council for his discharge ‘by reason of his insufficiency of goods’; he produced letters in support from William Paulet, Baron St. John, Sir John Russell, Baron Russell, and Sir Thomas Cheyne, but his petition was ‘wholly rejected and denied’. He contested this decision until the very day of the swearing-in of the new sheriffs, but when he was called to take his oath before the assembled commons he submitted, ‘with an evil will’, as Wriothesley recorded, ‘and so was sheriff; and he kept it in his own house, and would not paint his house nor change it, saving the morrow after Michaelmas day ... to keep his dinner at the Pewterers’ hall’. His company gave him £7 towards this dinner as well as a present of £35, raised by subscription.5

Less than a week after the end of his year as sheriff Curteys was elected one of the Members for the City. On 22 Nov. 1547 a bill for the river Thames was given its first reading in the House of Lords: four days later the court of common council, having debated the effect of this bill, which it judged against the City’s interest, appointed eight aldermen and 20 commoners, of whom Curteys was one, to prepare an answer to it. Whether or not this answer was used, nothing more is heard of the bill. In this Parliament, too, a bill was introduced in the Commons every session to regulate the export of tin: Curteys’s company must have been interested in this bill, which in 1549 was described as ‘for and for carrying of tin overseas’, but he was evidently not indispensable to it, for it reappeared in the last session, when he was no longer a Member, and was then passed by the Commons, although it failed in the Lords.6

Curteys was replaced for the last session by John Blundell because he had by then been elected an alderman and his withdrawal was necessary to preserve the balance of two aldermanic and two non-aldermanic Members for London. He had been up for election as alderman nine times before he was elected, on 23 Apr. 1551, for the ward of Farringdon Within. By tradition an alderman had to belong to one of the 12 great companies, but when Curteys was asked to change he refused to do so. It was not until 15 Jan. 1555 that he submitted, after having been committed to Newgate ‘for his wilful stiffness and disobedience’ and threatened with a fine of 1,000 marks, and even then his bond for the fulfilment of his promise by Easter day had to be twice renewed before on 6 Sept., after it had again expired, he offered to transfer to the Clothworkers if they would have him. A month later he was again asked to name the company he would join and it was only on 15 Sept. 1556 that the wardens of the Fishmongers acknowledged his entry: the Pewterers agreed to the change but asked the court of aldermen to prevent him from taking any apprentices from that time on. Curteys appears to have been the last alderman whose transfer was thus insisted on: in after years the custom was held to apply only to mayors, but as Curteys was himself elected mayor in 1557 he would have had to leave his original company then.7

On 10 Apr. 1554, during Mary’s second Parliament, the court of aldermen read a parliamentary bill drawn up by one of the under sheriffs ‘to constrain all strangers and foreigners inhabiting within this city to bear like charges in all things as freemen do’, and thereupon ‘agreed that Mr. Alderman Curteys should forthwith cause it to be set forward and preferred with speed’. Neither of the City’s two aldermanic Members, Sir Martin Bowes and the recorder Robert Broke, was present at this meeting, presumably because they were at Westminster, and Curteys must have delivered the bill to one of them later that day, for on the following day it made its appearance in the Commons: it had a second reading on Apr. but went no further, being later passed in substance by the common council itself.8

Curteys was one of the London merchants who on 26 Feb. 1555 were granted letters patent of incorporation as the Merchant Adventurers of London for the discovery of unknown lands. He was not one of the greater London merchants but at the time of his death he had 28 houses in the City, all in or around Lime Street, where his own residence lay. He also had two houses and some land at Walthamstow, Essex, and a small amount of property in Hoxton, Middlesex. So far as is known he left no will: his estate descended to his granddaughter Anne, the daughter of his only son Thomas who had predeceased him. Curteys died on 27 Nov. 1559 and was buried on 6 Dec. in his parish church of St. Dionis Backchurch; the lord mayor and alderman attended the funeral, which was followed by ‘a great dinner for all men that would come’. Anne, who was already married to the adventurer Thomas Stucley or Stukeley, did not long survive her grandfather.