PHELIPS, Richard (by 1488-1558), of Poole and Charborough, Dorset, Southwark, Surr. and London.

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



Mar. 1553
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1488, ?s. of Thomas Phelips of Montacute, Som. by Joan. m. (1) by 1514, Emily, 4s. inc. Thomas 2da.; (2) Emma, wid. of John Spring (d.1533) of Bristol, Glos.4

Offices Held

Yeoman the chamber by 1509; butler, Lyme Regis and Weymouth 1510-13; collector of customs, port of Poole 1511-14, 1520-7; escheator, Som. and Dorset 1520-1; commr. subsidy, Dorset 1523, 1524, 1533, benevolence 1544/45, relief 1550; j.p. Dorset 1523-d., Som. 1536-47; under sheriff, Dorset 1531-2.5


The pedigree of Phelips of Montacute starts in the early 16th century with two brothers Richard and Thomas said to have been the sons of Thomas Phelips, escheator of Somerset and Dorset from 1471 to 1479. This Thomas was probably also a collector of customs in Bridgwater; he owned property in Montacute where he died early in 1501 after making a will providing only for a wife and witnessed by a Richard Phelips.6

Richard Phelips began his career in the household of Henry VII: he was present at the King’s funeral and at Henry VIII’s coronation. His prospects were soon furthered by appointments in the customs administration of Dorset, perhaps through the influence of the Uvedales, who held the comptrollership of Poole during the first quarter of the century: Phelips was to stand bail for William Uvedale in a land transaction of 1518 and to be associated with him in the collection of the subsidy of 1523. As butler in the Dorset ports Phelips was deputy to Sir Robert Southwell, chief butler of England. After his first term as customer of Poole he obtained a pardon in which he was described as late of London, Montacute, Poole and Southwark. He may by then have been living at Sock Dennis in Tintinhull, a mile-and-a-half north of Montacute; about 1525 a moiety of this manor was held on lease from the 1st Marquess of Dorset (d.1501) during the lives of Phelips, his wife Emily and their sons Bertram and Thomas.7

His final accounts for the customership brought Phelips into difficulties with the Exchequer. In 1527 his cousin John Witcombe of Somerset named him executor, provided he discharged himself from the troubles which he then had ‘against the King’. This Phelips succeeded in doing by way of a pardon in the next year, a deliverance to which he referred when writing to Cromwell in 1529 to thank him for the care he had taken and to ask him to intercede with Wolsey. Phelips had occasion to thank Cromwell again in 1533 and 1534 for helping his son Thomas, accused of breaking into the gaol at Ilchester, and to his gratitude he then added an offer of £20 if Cromwell would take Thomas into his service. Phelips may also have been obliged to the minister for his servitorship at the coronation of Anne Boleyn.8

Active in local administration, Phelips improved his status as a minor gentleman. Some time after 1522 he obtained from Sir John Russell the right to the tolls of Poole, and in the 1540s he received from the townsmen there a fee of 20s. a year. In 1539 his daughter Edith married as her second husband the son of (Sir) John Horsey of Clifton Maybank, who named Phelips overseer of his will with a number of Dorset magnates; Phelips was also a feoffee, and overseer of the will dated 1535, of Sir John Rogers of Bryanston. Less propitious was the record of his service from 1524 as surveyor to Cecily, Marchioness of Dorset, and her son the 2nd Marquess for all their manors in Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire. His forceful discharge of his duties brought complaints not only from the tenants but also, before 1530, from the marchioness herself. In a Star chamber suit she complained that Phelips and Nicholas Chauntrell, far from re-establishing good order on her estates after complaints of earlier extortions, had conspired to replace old tenants by new ones from whom they took for themselves large entrance fines, and in other ways had vexed her tenantry. There was more trouble to follow from the same quarter: during the 1540s the 3rd Marquess addressed a bill to Chancellor Wriothesley against Thomas Phelips and another for withholding the deeds of the manor of Sock Dennis.9

Phelips’s first investment in Dorset property was his purchase in May 1522 from Richard Wykes of the remainder of the manor of Charborough; he gained possession in October 1531. Five or six years later he took a 50-year lease of the manor of Canford Priory. He was not officially concerned with the suppression of the monasteries in Dorset, but in 1538 a letter from Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, gave him custody of Muchelney abbey, some seven miles from Montacute. His estates were rounded off by the acquisition in 1540 of the manor of Corfe Mullen from Leonard Chamberlain. His home was then at Charborough, where he was assessed for the subsidy of 1545 at £76 in land, fees and annuities.10

Phelips’s Membership of the Parliaments of 1512 and 1515 is disclosed by the record of payments of 20s. made to him on 25 Feb. 1512, on 20 Jan. 1513 and on a day not specified in February 1515. His election points to government influence since Ralph Worsley, his fellow-Member in 1512 and perhaps again in 1515, was also a customs official: the intermediary may have been Henry Uvedale, a court official at that time comptroller of Poole. It is likely enough that Phelips sat again in 1523 but the loss of most of the names makes this a matter of conjecture. In 1529 Phelips found a seat at Melcombe Regis, where his fellow was Oliver Lawrence who had succeeded him as customer at Poole: their election doubtless owed something to John Horsey, lord of one of the three manors in Melcombe and himself one of the knights for Dorset in this Parliament. His association with the foremost families of the county, notably those of Horsey and Strangways, might have been expected to provide Phelips with a seat in the later Henrician and Edwardian Parliaments, but he is not known for certain to have been returned again until the reign of Mary. He probably sat in the Parliament of 1536, when the King asked for the reelection of the previous Members, and may have done so in its successors of 1539 and 1542, when most of the Dorset names are again lost; but he did not secure his own election in either 1545 or 1547, although his son Thomas was returned on both these occasions. He may have reappeared in the second Parliament of Edward VI’s reign, when a Richard whose surname is lost was Member for Wareham or Weymouth.11

It was in the following year that Phelips for the first and only time attained the knighthood of the shire. The opportunity may have arisen from the outlawry for debt during that summer of Sir Giles Strangways II, who during these years enjoyed a virtual monopoly of one of the Dorset seats; if it did, Phelips’s combination of connexions, experience and interest in Parliament, the last reflected in his many nominations for Dorset boroughs, would have made him an obvious alternative. The same occasion saw Melcombe comply with his request by returning his son, and Weymouth elect a kinsman in John Phelips. For all three the Parliament was to mean trouble. When on its dissolution those Members who had absented themselves without leave were prosecuted in the King’s bench they were all involved: Phelips himself was distrained for non-appearance in every successive term until his death, and at the next shire election, in 1555, when Strangways was returned again, Phelips’s role was limited to that of an elector. It was not his only brush with the government: the fines for offences by ‘old Phillips and his son’ which were referred by the Privy Council to the Star Chamber in May 1558 probably arose out of his conviction for carrying off Joan Camans, a ward already married, and for re-marrying her to one of his sons.12

Phelips made his will on 24 Jan. 1557. After thanking God for his long life and begging forgiveness for his sins he asked to be buried at Charborough or elsewhere without pomp. Masses were to be said for six years for himself and his first wife. He remembered the poor at Charborough, Montacute and elsewhere. His physician Francis Lamme received household goods and a gown for care during his illness and his servants Richard and Margery Knollys recognition of their services. Andrew Horde, his trusted servant for many years, was repaid with an annuity. To his son and daughter-in-law William and Mary Phelips he left £20 a year from lands in Corfe and Poole on surrender of previous annuities made to them; their daughter Elizabeth was to have £20 on marriage. Phelips avowed his special trust in his own son Thomas, appointed him sole executor without an overseer and left him the interest in the property at Charborough. Thomas was also charged with assigning dower and household goods to Phelips’s second wife Emma; their marriage had raised contention, still unsettled, with one John Maye who claimed her as his wife upon a pre-contract. In a codicil to the will Phelips named Sir John Horsey and Horsey’s wife, his own daughter Edith, as co-executors, but this he revoked on 28 Oct. 1557 when Thomas was re-appointed sole executor. (Horsey then owed Phelips £193 and three nests of silver gilt goblets valued at £80 which had been pledged on Horsey’s behalf.) Phelips did not mention his sons Bertram, who had probably died young, and Henry, the black sheep of the family, who after being a student for 20 years had robbed his parents and fled to the Continent, and among other discreditable actions was to betray Tyndale to the imperial authorities at Antwerp in 1535. Phelips died between Trinity term 1558, when he was distrained 6s.8d. for non-appearance in the King’s bench, and the following Michaelmas term when his death was noted beside his name on the controlment roll of the court. His will was proved on 26 Nov. 1560 and on 27 Nov. a sentence concerning the codicils was pronounced on behalf of the executor.13

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. K. Dale


  • 1. Poole rec. bk. 1, p. 26.
  • 2. Ibid. 1, p. 1.
  • 3. Sat for either Wareham or Weymouth; C219/282/7.
  • 4. Date of birth estimated from first certain reference: his brother Thomas was born in 1483-4, Som. Rec. Soc. xxvii. 101. PCC 56 Mellershe, 38 Drury; Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. xi), 85; Burke, LG (1957), 2018; C1/1126/29.
  • 5. Poole rec. bk. 1, p. 1; C67/62, m. 3; LP Hen. VIII, i, iii, iv, vi, xiii, xv-xvii, xx, xxi; CPR, 1547-8, p. 76; 1550-3, p. 435; 1553, p. 352; 1553-4, p. 18.
  • 6. CFR, 1471-85, nos. 8, 10, 12, 83, 93, 149, 458; CPR, 1476-85, p. 335; sede vacante wills, Canterbury F, f. 22; Vis. Som. 85; Hutchins, Dorset, iii. 357.
  • 7. Poole rec. bk. 1, p. 1; C67/62, m. 3; LP Hen. VIII, i, iv; E315/385, f. 29v.
  • 8. LP Hen. VIII, iv, vi, vii; Som. Rec. Soc. xxvii, 273, n. 2; E122/120/6-8, 121/1-6, 207/1-2, 215/20.
  • 9. LP Hen. VIII, v, ix, xii; J. Syndenham, Poole, 388; G. Scott Thomson, Two Cents. of Fam. Hist. 146; Poole rec. bk. 1, pp. 71-72, 87; PCC 8, 40 Alen; St.Ch.2/12/310, 30/69; C1/924/20-21, 1126-29, 1165/52-56, 1167/30-32.
  • 10. Hutchins, iii. 301; LP Hen. VIII, xiii; C1/1167/32; CP40/1107, m. 10; E179/104/156.
  • 11. Poole rec. bk. 1, pp. 1, 26; E122/121/7, 9, 207/3-5; Hutchins, iv. 426; C219/282/7.
  • 12. Weymouth and Melcombe Regis ms misc. deeds, v. 1; KB27/1176-83; 29/188, r. 48v; APC, vi. 316; Harl. 2143 f. 11.
  • 13. PCC 56 Mellershe; LP Hen. VIII, ix, xiv; DNB Tyndale, William; KB27/1183; 29/188, r. 48v.