PHAER (FAYRE), Thomas (by 1514-60), of Carmarthen, Carm.; Forest, Cilgerran, Pemb. and London.

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

Family and Education

b. by 1514, s. of Thomas Phaer of Norwich, Norf. by Clara or Elery, da. of Sir Richard or Sir William Goodere of London. educ. ?L. Inn; Oxf. MB and MD 1559. m. (1) at least 1da.; (2) June 1548/Dec. 1551, Agnes, da. of Thomas Walter of Carmarthen, wid. of John Revell (d. 23 Apr. 1547) of Forest, 2da.2

Offices Held

Constable and forester, Cilgerran 9 Dec. 1548, steward 1549-d. ; crown searcher, Milford Haven by May 1556-d., collector, customs 23 Aug. 1559; crown solicitor, council in the marches of Wales by 1558; j.p. Carm. 1555, q. Card., Carm. and Pemb. 1558/59; custos rot. Pemb.3


When Thomas Phaer moved to Wales is unknown. On his own showing he was a protégé of William Paulet, later Marquess of Winchester, through whom he first entered the royal service; it was probably Paulet who obtained for him the office of solicitor in the court of the council in the marches at Ludlow. Phaer acknowledged his debt to Paulet, his ‘first bringer-up and patron’, in the dedication to Queen Mary of his translation of a part of the Aeneid in 1558.

Phaer is said to have been in his youth both a student at Oxford and a member of Lincoln’s Inn, but neither statement can be verified. It was, however, with a law book that he first appeared in print. This was his Natura brevium published in 1535 and followed eight years later by A newe boke of presidentes, a comprehensive formula book of legal documents. Within a year he had broken fresh ground, and there appeared an edition of three short medical works with his translation of Lentretenement de vie by Jehan Goevrot, under the title, The regiment of lyfe. His declared aim was to make medicine, in particular paediatrics, intelligible to Englishmen in their own language. Why Phaer should have waited until 1559 for the degree of bachelor of medicine can only be guessed at, but a month after receiving the MB (and leave to practise) he gained his doctorate in medicine. He was also a classical scholar of some note, his greatest achievement being his translation into English of the Aeneid. Phaer had taught himself Latin, and in 1558 he was granted by Queen Mary the sole right to print and sell the first seven books of the epic which came out that year. He was the first Englishman to attempt a translation of the whole poem, but death prevented its completion: his friend, William Wightman, saw to the publication of the first nine books and as much of the tenth as could be found at Cilgerran. Phaer himself was a poet in his own right. He wrote a commendatory poem for Peter Betham’s translation of Jacopo di Porcia’s The preceptes of warre (1544) and his ‘How Owain Glyn Dwr seduced by false prophecies took upon him to be Prince of Wales’ was published in A myrrour for magistrates (?1555).4

In the late 1540s Phaer was living at Carmarthen where he was assessed for taxation at St. Mary’s Street in 1549, his goods being valued at £20. He must have become an important townsman, perhaps making his living in medicine or law, or both, and it was for Carmarthen Boroughs that he first sat in Parliament in 1547. Whether as cause or effect of his establishment there he married a daughter of one of the leading townsmen and widow of a Haverfordwest merchant who had his main residence at Forest. In November 1549 Phaer took a 21-year lease of 110 acres of demesne lands of the lordship of Cilgerran. Cilgerran lies just over the border from the town of Cardigan, and the demesne lands of the lordship may well have extended into Cardiganshire; thus although officially in Pembrokeshire, Phaer was a neighbour of Cardigan and it is from this time that his association with the borough can be dated: his three further appearances in the Commons were all as Member for Cardigan Boroughs. In the reign of Edward VI he and his wife, as administrators of the will of Thomas Revell of Haverfordwest, appeared in Chancery as plaintiffs against Revell’s son-in-law, Richard Howell, for embezzlement. In the early 1550s Phaer prepared a report on the harbours and customs administration in Wales on the orders of Treasurer Winchester: this was enrolled after Phaer’s death on the Queen’s remembrancer’s memoranda roll for Hilary term 1562. In 1552 Phaer was nominated for the shrievalty of Cardiganshire but was passed over.5

During Queen Mary’s reign Phaer was active as crown searcher in the port of Milford Haven. In 1556 his duties involved him in a dispute over the cargo of a Breton ship with a number of Carmarthen merchants, including Gruffydd Done. The periculum Karmerdini which Phaer mentioned at the conclusion of his translation of book five of the Aeneid, penned on 4 May 1556, must be a reference to this affair. In June of the same year Phaer and his wife obtained the wardship of her son Thomas Revell, a grant made eight years earlier to Agnes alone having been left uncompleted. Phaer was evidently in favour under Mary, but the accession of Elizabeth brought no alteration in his fortunes. He made his will on 12 Aug. 1560, requesting George Ferrers to supply a passage of scripture for his tomb at Cilgerran, and died shortly afterwards, being succeeded as steward there by John Vaughan II on 26 Sept. following. Phaer’s widow married William Jenkins.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: P. S. Edwards


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Dwnn, Vis. Wales, i. 148, 150 where the Gooderes are described as of Herefs.; Fenton, Pembs. 505; Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-40, pp. 446-7; PCC 23 Loftes; DNB; DWB; CP40/1142, r. 491; J. Cule, ‘Thomas Phaer MD of Cilgerran’, Trans. Cymmrod. Soc. 1979, pp. 105-28.
  • 3. Trans. Cymmrod. Soc. 1979, p. 109; CPR, 1557-8, p. 363; Stowe 571, f. 74v; E159/336, Trin. 23; Welsh Port Bks. (Cymmrod. rec. ser. xii), 329-30; J. R. Phillips, Cilgerran, 98-102; SP11/5/6; Dwnn, i. 150.
  • 4. Wood, Ath. Ox. ed. Bliss, i. 316-18; CPR, 1557-8, p. 309; Trans. Cymmrod. Soc. 1979, pp. 113, 116-21.
  • 5. E179/263/35; CPR, 1553, p. 387; 1557-8, p. 363; C1/1255/13-14; Bull. Bd. of Celtic Studies, xxiv. 485-503.
  • 6. E159/336, Trin. 23, Easter 12; CPR, 1555-7, p. 74; PCC 23 Loftes ptd. Shakespeare Soc. Pprs. iv. 1-5.