JOHNSON, Thomas (by 1519-69), of St. Albans, Herts.

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

Constituency

Dates

Mar. 1553
Oct. 1553

Family and Education

b. by 1519. m. (1) c.1536, Joan, wid. of John Kilby and then of William Jones; (2) Grace, d.s.p.2

Offices Held

Yeoman of guard by 1540, of chamber by 1559; mayor, St. Albans 1553-4, 1565-6.3

Biography

There seems no reason to doubt that this Member was the sometime mayor and principal burgess of St. Albans. It is less easy, however, to trace his life, for at least two other men of substance and of the same name lived in Hertfordshire at this time. One owned a manor and land at Watford and died in 1577; another, who lived at Sawbridgeworth, died in 1576. In 1540 the ‘King’s servant’ Thomas Johnson was assessed for the subsidy in Holywell ward, St. Albans, at the relatively large sum of £26 13s.4d., and thereafter this man, evidently the Member, figures regularly among St. Albans contributors to subsidies. In 1547 he purchased Stone Hall, St. Albans, but resold it between 1548 and 1551; his residence at that time was the Bull inn, and he described himself as a yeoman. First-named of ten principal burgesses in the St. Albans charter of incorporation in May 1553, Johnson became the town’s mayor on 29 Sept. following, eight days after the election returning him to Parliament as one of its first two Members.4

Johnson’s prominence at St. Albans suffices to explain his election on that occasion. The patron who had secured his return for Bossiney in Edward VI’s last Parliament was probably Sir John Russell 1st Earl of Bedford. Russell owned land near Watford and may have employed Johnson in its management; alternatively, Johnson could, as a yeoman of the guard, have been known to the earl in his capacity as a former comptroller of the Household. In view of Johnson’s later claim that his strong Protestantism endangered him under Mary, it is surprising not to find him among the Members of her first Parliament said to have ‘stood for the true religion’, but it may be that the mark against the next name on the Crown office list, that of Humphrey Coningsby, senior knight of the shire for Herefordshire and a man in favour with the Marian regime, was misplaced and should have applied to Johnson.5

In June 1559 Johnson brought an action in the court of requests for recovery of lands and goods, including the Bull inn, which he claimed to have conveyed to the defendant Kilby in 1557 to hold on trust for him in case

your said servant should have been for religion troubled or have been for the same enforced to have forsaken his country whereunto he then was very like to have been compelled having a great number of adversaries of much credit and wealth lying for the same cause in continual await to trouble and put in danger your said subject and servant.

Kilby replied that all these transfers were outright gifts, conditional only on Kilby’s maintaining Johnson from the income of the land, which he had done. He denied all knowledge of danger to Johnson as a Protestant and claimed that the gifts were made from natural affection. Johnson, he said, was the third husband of Kilby’s mother, ‘being a very great rich and wealthy woman by reason whereof the complainant came to great substance’; before the marriage he had been