PRESTWOOD, Thomas (by 1500-58), of Exeter, Devon.
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Family and Education
Bailiff, Exeter 1 530-1, member of the Twenty-Four 26 Aug. 1534-d., receiver 1539-40, sheriff 1542-3, mayor 1544-5, 1550-1; commr. goods of churches and fraternities 1550, 1553.3
As a boy Thomas Prestwood so impressed his father by his ‘pregnant wit and forwardness’ that he was sent from Worcester, where he had been born, to be apprenticed to a rich London mercer, Thomas Hynde. After his admission to the Mercers’ Company in 1521 Prestwood continued to work for Hynde and it was while doing so that he first came to Exeter and met John Bodley’s wealthy widow. With Hynde’s consent he married her and settled in Exeter, where he soon had a flourishing business of his own. Admitted by fine to the freedom of the city during 1528-9 he rose to be its mayor and interested himself greatly in its welfare: the repair of the crumbling walls and the improvement of the river Exe were both begun on his initiative.4
During the western rebellion of 1549 Prestwood, a Protestant, both helped to defend Exeter and, with two of his relations, also merchants, put money at the disposal of Sir John Russell, Baron Russell, the royal commander, thus enabling him to take the offensive. This timely loan, which was probably arranged by Russell’s secretary, John Gale, a kinsman of Prestwood, resulted in a close friendship between him and Russell as well as in Russell’s solicitude for the interests of the city. It was shortly after this crisis that Prestwood entered the House of Commons: on the death of John Hull II, he was chosen at a by-election held on 29 Oct. 1549 and sat as a Member for Exeter during the last two sessions of the Parliament then in being. Before the end of the third session Russell wrote on 20 Jan. 1550 to the mayor that he had asked Prestwood and Griffith Ameredith, his fellow-Member, who had ‘behaved themselves very thankfully in the service’ of the city, not to remain at Westminster during Russell’s absence in France, but to repair there on his return ‘for the more sure furthering of the city’s suits’. Prestwood missed the opening of the final session on 23 Jan. 1552 as he did not leave Exeter until two days later, but having arrived at the Parliament he stayed there until its dissolution, returning home on 18 Apr. following.5
Prestwood was rated at £4, on goods assessed at £80, for the relief which he had helped to grant in the session of 1549-50, but gradually in his later years he forsook business for property. He was one of the consortium of Exeter merchants who bought much of the former monastic property in Exeter on behalf of the corporation, to whom it was later sold, and at the time of his death he owned the manors of Butterford, Tynacre and Venny Tedburn, besides a tin-blowing mill, a fulling mill and eight large houses in Exeter. He made his will on 16 Sept. 1558 and died the next day. He asked to be buried in the churchyard of St. Petrock’s without pomp or pride and for a sermon to be preached at his funeral by ‘some virtuous, discreet and learned man’ to the ‘edification of the congregation and testimony of my undoubted and assured faith in the infallible promises of God in his scripture’. After his debts had been discharged and several charitable bequests and small legacies to relatives performed, his property was to be shared between his widow and his only surviving son. The overseers were William Strode and Richard Prestwood, a brother who had followed in his footsteps to Exeter and who had married his stepdaughter.6
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard
- 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
- 2. Date of birth estimated from admission to the Mercers’ Co. Vis. Devon, ed. Vivian, 615; Vis. Devon, ed. Colby, 174.
- 3. Exeter act bk. 2, ff. 34, 44; Exeter receiver’s accts. 1530-1; R. Izacke, Exeter (1681), 122; Trans. Dev. Assoc. lxi. 206; CPR, 1550-3, p. 396; 1553, p. 416.
- 4. The description of the citie of Excester (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. xi), 658; Eliz. Govt. and Soc. ed. Bindoff, Hurstfield and Williams, 166-7; Exeter Freemen (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. extra ser. i), 71; E122/201/1; W. T. MacCaffrey, Exeter 1540-1640, pp. 225-6; List of Mercers (T/S Mercers’ Hall), 378.
- 5. Hoker, 82-83; F. R. Troup, Western Rebellion of 1549, pp. 182, 239-40; HMC Exeter, 22; Exeter act bk. 2, f. 118.
- 6. E179/99/319; HMC Exeter, 291; Eliz. Govt. and Soc. 175-6; Hoker, 410-25; PCC 50 Noodes; C142/120/46.