FERMOR, Thomas (by 1523-80), of Horde Park, Bridgnorth, Salop and Somerton, Oxon.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. by 1523, 4th s. of Richard Fermor, and bro. of Jerome† and Sir John. educ. ?I. Temple. m. (1) by 1552, Frances (d.1570), da. and h. of Thomas Horde of Horde Park or Bridgnorth Park, Bridgnorth, wid. of Edward Raleigh of Farthinghoe, Northants.; (2) Bridget, da. and event. coh. of Henry Bradshaw of Halton, Bucks., wid. of Henry White of South Warnborough, Hants and London, at least 1s. 2da.1
Sheriff, Salop 1558-9; j.p.q. 1561-4; recorder, Bridgnorth 22 Aug. 1561-d.2
Thomas Fermor adopted his father’s profession, entering the Grocers’ Company and becoming a merchant of the staple, but he may first have spent some time at the Inner Temple, the inn attended by his father, his uncle William Fermor, his eldest brother John and his own son Richard: he is to be distinguished from the Middle Templar Thomas Farmer alias Draper. It was as a merchant of the staple that in 1544 he joined with his brother-in-law Robert Wilford to purchase the manor of Walton in Kings Sutton, Northamptonshire, which had been held by Richard Fermor before his attainder. Four years later Fermor sold Walton to his uncle only to receive it back, together with several Oxfordshire manors, including Somerton, on his uncle’s death in 1552, subject to the life interest of the widow. Fermor could afford to wait for he had by then married a Shropshire heiress and may have abandoned his mercantile interests in favour of the life of a country gentleman, although he was to describe one of the beneficiaries of his will as ‘now my apprentice’: eventually he would hold land in seven or more counties.3
Fermor joined his brother John and his brother-in-law Sir John Mordaunt, knights for Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire, in Mary’s first Parliament but the choice of constituency was probably due neither to the family’s influence in the shire nor to his wife’s possession of land within a few miles of the borough but to the patronage of the 3rd Earl of Derby as lord of Brackley: Fermor’s father had served the earl as steward there in the 1530s and he himself was later to be a friend of Sir Thomas Stanley in Shropshire. Fermor’s nephew Richard Lucy was to sit for Brackley in 1563 and his brother Jerome Fermor in 1588. Not surprisingly, Fermor was not one of the Members who ‘stood for the true religion’ against the initial measures for the restoration of Catholicism. He evidently owed his knighthood for Shropshire in Mary’s last Parliament chiefly to his marriage, which linked him with several of the leading families in that shire, although Derby may again have been able to help.4
Despite his Catholicism, it was in the following reign that Fermor attained the shrievalty and the bench in his adopted county until Bishop Scory’s inclusion of him in 1564 among those ‘deemed not favourable to this religion’ led to his removal: he seems, however, to have held on to the recordership of Bridgnorth. He was one of the Shropshire Catholics who sheltered the Marian priest John Felton and shortly after he had been judged a Catholic by Mary Stuart’s agent he was informed against by a Puritan busybody for his visits to Sir Thomas Stanley at Tong. His will of 15 June 1580 provides an interesting illustration of ‘seigneurial Catholicism’ at work in that he left rent-charges or leases to a number of servants who, or whose families, can be traced among Oxfordshire Catholics for some years afterwards. Among his charitable bequests he arranged the founding of a school at Somerton for the service of God, the crown and the commonwealth, laying down that the schoolmaster should be nominated by one or other of the ecclesiastical, secular or academic dignitaries of Oxfordshire or by the lord of Somerton. The education of his own son Richard he entrusted to a Catholic kinsman George Shirley of Staunton Harold, Leicestershire, who was also to take care of his only surviving daughter Mary and see her ‘bestowed in marriage to a man in like sort inclined’: she married Francis Plowden, a younger son but the eventual heir of Edmund Plowden. Shirley was one of the six executors, all probably Catholic, but the overseers included, besides the legal author Ferdinando Pulton, ‘the writer of the will’ and a Northamptonshire kinsman of Fermor’s, three of his Protestant relatives, Sir Richard Knightley†, Sir Thomas Lucy† and Richard Fiennes†. Fermor died on 8 Aug. 1580 and, according to his request, was buried in Somerton church next his wife Bridget. He had left £40 for the erection of an alabaster tomb.5