SEYMOUR, Sir Thomas I (by 1476-1535/36), of London, Saffron Walden, Essex and Hoxton, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. by 1476, s. of John Seymour of Saffron Walden by Christian. m. by 1515, Mary, wid. of Robert Imber (d.1512); 1da. illegit. Kntd. June 1520.2
Warden, Mercers’ Co. 1509-10, master 1517-18, 1525-6; alderman, London 1515-d., auditor 1515-17, 1526-8, sheriff 1516-17, mayor 1526-7; mayor, staple of Calais 1523, staple at Westminster 1530; commr. subsidy, London 1523, 1524; j.p. Essex 1530-d., Herts. 1531-d.3
Thomas Seymour’s father was a London stockfishmonger with property in Saffron Walden. Seymour himself lived in Walden before coming to London, where after serving his apprenticeship he was made free of the Mercers’ Company in 1497, became a merchant of the staple of Calais and a merchant adventurer, and set up house in the parish of St. Stephen’s, Walbrook. In March 1502 he exported 40 sacks of wool in nine different ships bound for Calais and on 27 June he shipped 9 more sacks of wool and 2,000 wool fells. In 1506-7 he exported 132 cloths and in 1512-13 80 cloths; in 1509 he and two other London merchants were licensed to export wool and cloth through the Straits of Gibraltar. As both a stapler and merchant adventurer he was a suitable go-between in the conflicts of the two companies: thus in December 1509 the mercers authorized him to speak to Sir John Tate, the mayor of the staple, for the settlement of one such dispute, and in April 1512 he was chosen by the staplers to present their case against their rivals.4
When Seymour was a warden of the Mercers he was prominent in a quarrel between the merchants of London and the government over the levy of customs. Early in August 1509 the Mercers heard from him of a Council order forbidding the import of goods free of custom. He and his fellow-wardens of the company thereupon joined with the wardens of other companies to take counsel’s opinion, which was that, as the grant of customs had been made to Henry VII for life, merchants need not pay tonnage and poundage to his son and successor unless these duties were given him by Act of Parliament. In reporting this opinion to his fellow-mercers, Seymour ‘bade every man do as they should think best’. There the matter rested until the approach of Parliament, when Seymour called on the company to consider ‘what things be to be remembered for the general wealth of this realm and specially of this city of London’, in order that ‘the burgesses may be clearly instructed and advised whereof they shall speak or desire anything that may be for all our wealths’. The matter being of such general interest, the Mercers decided to consult other companies and on 10 Jan. 1510 a joint meeting of ‘divers fellowships adventurers’ elected 17 men to ‘study and devise what things be necessary to be sued for at the said Parliament’.5
Parliament opened on 21 Jan., and two weeks later Seymour, although not a Member, ‘perceived well that it was the King’s mind to have the subsidy [of tonnage and poundage] granted at this Parliament’ and added that as ‘the most part of the Parliament’ were gentlemen, who would be unaffected by the grant, it would certainly pass unless action were taken to stop it. The next day, therefore, the Merchant Adventurers decided on a petition to the King; Seymour meanwhile, with the mayor, the City’s legal counsel and ‘certain burgesses of the Parliament’, drew up provisos to be added to the Act by the Commons, deferring its date of commencement (except in the case of the staplers) until Michaelmas 1510 and providing for payment at the old rate of Henry VII’s first year, not the enhanced rate of the end of his reign. By 12 Feb. it was obvious that the grant would be made retrospective to the first day of the reign, but the merchants still hoped that something might be done about the rate, and agreed to present a book of rates of 4 Hen. VII to the King and the Lords for inclusion in the Act. Two days later, however, it passed with no concessions, and on 16 Feb. Seymour advised the Merchant Adventurers to sue to the King for a remission of all payments from the first day of his reign until the day of the grant, as under Henry VII. Seymour and others presented the petition to the King on the following morning as he came from mass; ten days later Seymour reported the Council’s request that the suit should be for Londoners only, not for the whole country, but in the conclusion finally reached in October the Merchant Adventurers were pardoned only one third of the payments due.6
Seymour was considered for election to the next Parliament, but was not chosen; on 19 Jan. 1512, however, he was appointed by the court of aldermen ‘to hear matters’ for the Parliament, due to begin in two days’ time. By a similar arrangement before the Parliament of 1515, he and ten others were appointed to discuss possible reforms and ‘to have the examination of all such bills as shall be exhibited to this Parliament, before that they be presented to the same’. Later in 1515 Seymour was committed to ward by the court of aldermen for refusing to give up custody of his stepdaughter: he was not long in disgrace, and before the end of the year, after five nominations since February, he was elected alderman. In 1516 he was the mayor’s choice for sheriff and thus held office at the time of ‘evil May day’: ten years later, when he was elected mayor, his behaviour during the riot was still held against him and the commons unsuccessfully opposed him. In the meantime he had received his knighthood from the King at Calais.7
Within a few days of becoming mayor Seymour was summoned to the Star Chamber to hear a peremptory demand from Wolsey for the election of John Scott as recorder of London in place of William Shelley. The court of aldermen agreed to stand firm against this encroachment and elected one of the under sheriffs of London, John Baker I. A few months later the City again defended its privileges when the King called for the discharge of Paul Withypoll from the aldermanship to which he had been unwillingly elected: this time the mayor and aldermen were less successful, a series of visits to the cardinal and a deputation headed by Seymour to the King proving of no avail. These episodes brought Seymour into unfortunate prominence at court and may have conduced to his later difficulties, although they were without immediate consequences.8
In 1529 Seymour was elected senior Member for London. Before Parliament met the mayor and aldermen asked the city companies to suggest topics for consideration there, and the wardens and six liverymen of the Mercers (not including Seymour) drew up five ‘articles’ of grievances particularly affecting London. On 20 Nov., after two and a half weeks of the session, Seymour reported to the Mercers that the Lords and Commons, ‘for certain high considerations them moving’, had remittted to the King the loan recently advanced to him by his subjects,
which his grace accepteth and taketh right thankfully, declaring that unless right urgent causes move him (which shall be evident to all his said subjects) his grace will never demand penny of them during his life natural; and further, in case they could study anything that might be for the public wealth of this his realm and city of London, his grace would right gladly condescend thereunto.
When the whole company heard Seymour’s account of the proceedings, ‘they all admitted the same to be very well done, and prayed God to save his grace and send him prosperous fortune and long life’.9
By 1532, however, Seymour was ‘in the King’s danger’ for illegal acts committed during his mayoralty of the staple; it was said that the ‘causer of his trouble’ was Cromwell. The offences included the liberation of prisoners on bail, illegal export of goods and breaches of statutes relating to the staple. Seymour was eventually pardoned but fined £2,000: he paid 500 marks at once and bound himself to pay the rest in instalments over five years, a fellow-mercer, Rowland Hill, being associated with him in the obligation.10
Seymour was not to live to discharge his bond. In June 1535 the court of aldermen decided to ask him whether he would agree to retire; in July they renewed the request by letter, insisting that he should reside in London and fulfil his aldermanic duties or be replaced. He had evidently given up his house in London, where he had been assessed for the subsidy of 1523 at £3,500 in goods, but he promised that ‘as soon as God shall send him health’ he would ‘provide him of a house within this city’ and attend to his duties as an alderman. On 2 Dec. 1535, in ‘extreme sickness’, he sent word that he was willing to vacate his seat in Parliament: it is doubtful whether he had attended recent sessions, for when in January 1534 his three fellow-Members were granted their accustomed wages and fees there was no mention of Seymour. On 11 Dec. 1535 the testament which Seymour had made on 14 May 1533 was read over to him in the presence of witnesses. He bequeathed £10 for the maintenance of the almshouse at Walden, £40 to his poor kinsfolk living in or near Walden, and £600 to other charities: his executors were his wife and his ‘trusty friend’ Rowland Hill, and his overseers John Baker and Henry White, then the under sheriff. On the same day, or soon after it, Rowland Hill, who ‘knew much of the intent and purpose’ of Sir Thomas Seymour, seeing that he had not provided for his only child, an illegitimate daughter, asked him if it were not his intention that all his lands should descend eventually to her: Seymour, stricken with palsy and unable to speak, signified his assent by raising his hand.11
The testament was proved on 31 Jan. 1536 but the provisions of the will were contested by Seymour’s nephew and namesake: he claimed the remainder to all the lands after the death of the widow, whereas she supported the daughter, Grace, and her husband Edward Elrington. Rowland Hill described the circumstances in which the will had been made, and the court of Chancery found for the defendants, ordering the young Thomas Seymour to pay their costs. The estate was considerable: the manor of Widdington, four miles south of Walden, and two other manors in Essex, the manor of Hoxton in Middlesex, one manor in Gloucestershire and three in Lancashire. All were to go to Lady Seymour until her death and then, with the exception of the capital messuage at Hoxton, which Sir Thomas bequeathed to Rowland Hill for life, to Grace Elrington and her heirs. Hoxton had been Seymour’s home in his later years and he was buried in the parish church of St. Leonard, Shoreditch; Lady Seymour, when she made her will in 1555, asked for burial in the same church.12
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: Helen Miller
- 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
- 2. Date of birth estimated from admission to freedom of Mercers’ Co., List of mercers (T/S Mercers’ Hall), 445. PCC 31 Hogen, 28 Fetiplace; City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 3, f. 18; C1/887/14.
- 3. Acts. Ct. of Mercers’ Co. ed. Lyell and Watney, 325, 446, 698; City of London RO, rep. 3, f. 61v; 7, f. 143; jnl. 11, ff. 227, 265v; 12, f. 354v; 13, f. 32; LP Hen. VIII, iii-v.
- 4. List of mercers (T/S Mercers’ Hall), 445; LP Hen. VIII, i; C67/62 m. 1; E122/79/9, 80/4, 82/9 ex inf. Prof. P. Ramsey; E179/251/15v; Acts Ct. of Mercers’ Co. 344, 401.
- 5. Acts. Ct. of Mercers’ Co. 326-7, 345-6.
- 6. Ibid. 346-53, 380-1.
- 7. City of London RO, rep. 2, ff. 125v, 127, 205v; 3, ff. 4v, 6, 18, 47v, 53, 60v; jnl. 11, f. 265v; Grey Friars Chron. (Cam. Soc. liii), 33.
- 8. City of London RO, rep. 7, ff. 145, v, 148, 171v-80.
- 9. Ibid. rep. 8, f. 66; Mercers’ Co. acts of ct. 1527-60, ff. 25v-26.
- 10. SP1/69, f. 270; LP Hen. VIII, v, vi, viii.
- 11. City of London RO, rep. 9, ff. 41v, 110, 116v, 117v, 141v; jnl. 13, f. 446v; E179/251/15v; PCC 31 Hogen; W. K. Jordan, London Charities, 93, 327; C1/783/13. Beaven, Aldermen of London, ii. 24 gives 11 Dec. as date of death but without citing evidence.
- 12. PCC 31 Hogen, 13 Ketchyn; C1/783/7-13, 887/14-18; Stow’s Survey of London, ii. 75.