NEVILLE, Thomas (by 1484-1542), of Mereworth, Kent and London.
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Family and Education
b. by 1484, 5th s. of George, 4th Lord Bergavenny, by 1st w. Margaret, da. and h. of Hugh Fenne of Sculton Burdeleys, Norf. and Braintree, Essex. m. Catherine, da. of Humphrey, 1st Lord Dacre of Gilsland, wid. of George, 8th Lord FitzHugh (d. 28 Jan. 1513), 1da.; (2) lic. 28 Aug. 1532, Elizabeth, wid. of Robert Amadas (d.1531/32) of London. Kntd. 8 Feb. 1515.1
Councillor to Henry VII and Henry VIII; under sheriff, London Nov. 1509-14; j.p. Kent, Surr., Suss. 1512-d., Mdx. 1514-d.; commr. subsidy, Kent 1512, Kent and Mdx. 1514, 1515, 1523, 1524, loan, Kent 1524, tenths of spiritualities 1535; other commissions, London, Kent and Mdx. 1517-40; surveyor of liveries c.1514-d.2
Speaker of House of Commons 1515.
Thomas Neville was a Councillor to Henry VII and became a trusted servant of Henry VIII. About 1514 he began to assume a general supervision over the suing out of liveries by the heirs to the estates of any tenant-in-chief. He was probably appointed orally and to duties which were unspecified: it was only under his supervision that a definite office of liveries began to develop apart from the administration of wardships. In 1529 he was formally appointed to oversee all liveries of possessions in England, Wales and Calais. Associated with him in this grant and in later re-issues was an eminent lawyer, Robert Norwich. Neville remained the effective head of the office until the year of his death and of the merger of the office of liveries in the newly established court of wards and liveries.3
On 8 Feb. 1515 Neville was presented to the King by the Lower House as their choice for Speaker; after the customary disabling speech had been rejected and Neville admitted to office he was knighted by the King in the presence of the assembled Lords and Commons, a mark of distinction thought to be without precedent. His constituency is unknown but it is likely to have been his native shire of Kent, where he had been named a subsidy commissioner in 1512 and 1514. If so, he had presumably sat for the same shire in the previous Parliament and perhaps earlier, but all that is known of his parliamentary experience before 1515 is that, as under sheriff of London, he had twice been asked to speak to his father about bills in which the City was interested. As Speaker, he had to face problems with the subsidy and over ecclesiastical rights of jurisdiction, but he appears to have handled them to the satisfaction of the King.4
Neville was one of the most frequent attenders at the Council between 1516 and 1527. He was one of the Councillors appointed to hear poor men’s causes and sat in the Star Chamber as well as in the court of requests; in the division of subjects between Councillors ordered in 1526 he was put down to deal with matters of law. There is no record of his having had any formal legal education, but his post under Catherine of Aragon would suggest it; he received a fee of £3 6s.8d. as ‘retained of the Queen’s counsel’.5
In 1521 Neville’s brother, the 5th Lord Bergavenny, fell into disgrace and was forced to sell his manor of Birling, Kent, to the crown: Sir Thomas and Sir Edward Neville and their wives formally gave their consent to the surrender. Neville was not otherwise involved in this family crisis and it made no difference to his career. He played an active part in the attack on the monasteries and was one of the commissioners who visited Malling abbey, Kent, for this purpose. He himself wanted to be high steward of Malling or, better still, after the Dissolution to receive a grant of the abbey: he offered Cromwell 500 marks for it, while his son-in-law, Robert Southwell, added his persuasions to the suit. Southwell was personally interested, for his wife, Margaret, was Neville’s only child but most of her father’s lands would go to the heir male. Perhaps it was lack of land which frustrated Neville’s earlier efforts to marry his daughter to Cromwell’s son, Gregory; but relations between the two fathers remained friendly, and Cromwell recommended Robert Southwell as a husband for Margaret. Neville did not get Malling, but in March 1539 he was granted, for £400, the manor of Shelwood in Surrey for his lifetime, with remainder to his daughter and son-in-law.6
Southwell was named overseer of Neville’s will of 23 May 1542 and among the executors were Neville’s cousin Sir Thomas Willoughby, chief justice of common pleas, and (Sir) John Baker I. Neville died on 29 May 1542 and was buried in Mereworth church.7