BROWNE, Thomas (d.1597), of Betchworth Castle, Surr.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
1st s. of Henry Browne of Betchworth Castle by his 1st w. Katherine, da. of Sir William Shelley†; half-bro. of Richard Browne I. educ. St. John’s, Camb. 1547. m. (1) Mabel, da. and coh. of Sir William Fitzwilliam I of Windsor, Berks., 1s. Sir Matthew 2da.; (2) Helen, da. and h. of William Harding of Knowle Park, Cranleigh, Surr., wid. of Richard Knyvet, 1s. suc. gd.-fa. Sir Matthew Browne 1557. Kntd. 1576.1
J.p. Surr. from c.1559, sheriff, Surr. 1570-1, Surr. and Suss. 1582-3; dep. lt. Surr. by 1569, commr. recusants 1577.2
Descended from Sir Thomas Browne, under-treasurer to Henry VI, who had married a Fitz Alan heiress, niece of John Fitz Alan, Earl of Arundel, Browne was related to the viscounts Montagu of Cowdray, Sussex, and also, in the female line to Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst. In 1560 Browne was licensed to enter on his first wife’s lands: these, when added to the property he had already inherited from his grandfather, formed a very considerable estate.3
In 1559 Browne, encouraged by his father-in-law, stood for election as knight of the shire for Surrey in partnership with Sir Thomas Cawarden. Both had the support of William More I of Loseley. Shortly before the election, the appearance of two rival candidates, Sir Henry Weston and Thomas Copley, made Browne seek to withdraw his candidature, but he was dissuaded by his father-in-law. Subsequently the appearance of Charles Howard I, son of William Howard, 1st Baron Howard of Effingham, as an additional candidate, may have shaken Browne’s confidence a second time, but his father-in-law, More and Cawarden all stood firm, and he and Cawarden were duly elected. There is no record of any activity by Browne in his first Parliament. His return for Wallingford in 1563 was probably due to his first wife’s standing in Berkshire, but his actual patron was in all probability Sir Francis Knollys, constable of the castle. As a matter of interest, Browne’s ancestor and namesake, the under-treasurer, had represented Wallingford in 1449. Again there is no evidence that Browne took an active part in the 1563 Parliament. His return for Arundel in 1571 was probably due to Henry Fitz Alan, 12th Earl of Arundel, his distant relative and, it would seem, his friend, for Browne was one of the principal mourners at his funeral. In 1572 and 1586 Browne sat for his local borough of Bletchingley. In each of these three Parliaments Browne took an active part in the proceedings of the House, the clerk for the most part distinguishing him from the other Brownes by stating his first name. In 1571 he served on a committee concerning Catholic priests disguised as servants (1 May 1571), corrupt presentations (25 May), tellers and receivers (26 May) and the sheriffs of Surrey and Sussex (28 May). In the 1572 Parliament he was appointed to committees on presentations (19 May), weights and measures (23 May), the continuation of statutes (26 June), promoters (10 Feb. 1576), vicars and curates (13 Mar.), the subsidy (25 Jan. 1581), counterfeit seals (26 Jan.), the preservation of woods (28 Jan.), bigamy (31 Jan.), slanderous words and practices (1 Feb.), the unlawful hunting of coneys (9 Feb.), the sowing of hempseed in Hertfordshire (23 Feb.) and the inning of Erith and Plumstead marshes (8 Mar.). Browne was among those concerned with the arrest and examination of Arthur Hall in 1581, and was on the committee for the Members in the Tower on 13 Mar. 1587. His other committee work in the 1586 Parliament includes bills for the continuation of statutes (6 Mar. 1587), a learned ministry (8 Mar.), the debts of Sir Gerard Croker (9 Mar.) and supply for the Netherlands (11 Mar.).4