GATACRE, Thomas (by 1533-93), of London.

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



Apr. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1533, 3rd s. of William Gatacre. educ. M. Temple; Louvain c.1559; Oxf.; Magdalene, Camb. m. c.1570, Margaret, da. of one Pigott of Herts., 3s. 2da.1

Offices Held


It is not known when Thomas Gatacre was admitted to the Middle Temple, but the choice of this inn rather than his father’s may have been prompted by a useful connexion: in 1544 his sister Dorothy married a leading Middle Templar in Robert Broke. Gatacre is next heard of as one of the Members for Gatton in the Parliament of April 1554, of which Broke was elected Speaker. The patron and sole elector at Gatton was then Dame Elizabeth Copley, whose son Thomas was returned with Gatacre: Thomas Copley belonged to the Inner Temple and may have commended his fellow-student to his mother. In the Crown Office list for this Parliament the name of Henry White against Gatton has been struck through and Gatacre’s substituted, while White’s name remains unchanged for Reigate. No indenture survives to elucidate this peculiarity, which might signify that Gatacre was returned at a by-election after White had chosen Reigate but more probably represents the correction of a copying error.2

Gatacre’s progress at his inn can be followed from 23 Oct. 1554, when he was assigned ‘an office and place’ there on payment of 6s.8d., by way of his standing surety a year later for another Shropshireman admitted ‘at the special instance of Sir Robert Broke’, to his own election as one of the masters of the revels for Christmas 1557. It is his son’s first biographer Simeon Ashe who reveals that during these years Gatacre underwent a religious conversion: when visiting ‘some kindred (then high in place and power)’, he was ‘often present at the examination of some Christian confessors of the Gospel’ and was struck both by their bearing and by the ‘harshness of those proceedings’. Who the highly placed relatives were Ashe does not say, but Thomas Copley, a keen Protestant at this time, could have led Gatacre in that direction. His parents, alarmed at this development, sent Gatacre to Louvain, presumably to attend the university, and settled on him an estate leased at £100 a year ‘old rent’, but when neither device succeeded his father recalled him and with ‘great displeasure’ revoked the settlement. These events probably took place after Elizabeth’s accession, for Gatacre’s name disappears from the records of the inn after November 1558.3

Back in England Gatacre found friends to support him at Oxford where, in Fuller’s words, he ‘diverted his mind from the most profitable to the most necessary study, from law to divinity’. Mary’s reign had seen a dearth of divinity students at both universities, and in 1560 Elizabeth promised Cambridge that she would secure preferment for promising graduates. Although Gatacre spent some ten years at Oxford and four at Cambridge, he is not known to have taken a degree at either university. He was ordained deacon by the bishop of London on 4 Aug. 1568 and priest on the following 21 Oct. It may have been at Oxford that he first came to the notice of the Earl of Leicester, who became chancellor in 1564, and his removal to Cambridge was perhaps prompted by a dislike, which Leicester shared, of Oxford’s lingering Catholicism. He became the earl’s domestic chaplain and in June 1572 he was collated to the rectory of St. Edmund, Lombard Street, the patron at the time being Archbishop Grindal. It was there that his first son Thomas was born in 1574, the offspring of a presumably recent marriage: according to his grandson Charles, his wife was ‘of less illustrious stock’ than he was. On 25 Jan. 1576 Gatacre added to the rectory of St. Edmund that of Christchurch, Newgate Street, where the patrons were the city corporation and the governors of St. Bartholomew’s hospital, but this he resigned within two years. By 8 Jan. 1593, when he made his will, he was ‘parson of Newington’.4

With little to bestow upon his wife and children, Gatacre gave to each of them a Geneva Bible and to his sons the remainder of his books, which were either to be sold to provide annuities or, if Thomas chose to keep them, replaced by monetary compensation. The residue he left to his wife, who was to be sole executrix. Probate was granted on 2 Apr. 1593. Gatacre died poor in goods but rich in friends, among them chief justice (Sir) John Popham, his ‘intimate once and contemporary in the studies of the law’, who was to promote the younger Thomas Gatacre’s notable career.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. R. Johnson


  • 1. Presumed to be of age at election Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxviii), 197-8; PCC 29 Nevell; C. Gataker, Adversaria Miscellanea (1659), intro.; DNB.
  • 2. S. Ashe, Gray Hayres crowned with grace (1655), 41; C193/32/1, f. 3v.
  • 3. M. T. Recs. i. 97, 101, 104, 108, 113, 118.
  • 4. Fuller, Worthies (1840), iii. 56; E. Rosenberg, Leicester, Patron of Letters, 121, 138; Newcourt, Repertorium, i. 320, 344.
  • 5. PCC 29 Nevell; DNB (Gataker, Thomas).