KEMPE, Sir Thomas (1517-91), of Wye, Kent.
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Family and Education
b. 1517, 1st s. of Sir William Kempe of Wye by Eleanor, da. and h. of Robert Browne. m. (1) bef. June 1543, Katherine (or Cicely), da. of Sir Thomas Cheyne†, 5da.; (a) by 1560, Amy (or Anne), da. and coh. of Sir Thomas Moyle† of Eastwell, 7s.; (3) aft. or in 1571, Joan, da. of Richard Fermor†, wid. of Robert Wilford, merchant taylor of London, and of Sir John Mordaunt†, 2nd Lord Mordaunt, s.p. suc. fa. 1539. Kntd. 1547.2
Household official, prob. by 1537; j.p. Kent from c.1554, rem. by 1582, sheriff 1555-6, 1564-5.3
In May 1540, over a year after his father’s death, Kempe was granted livery of his lands in Kent, and by his second marriage, and by purchase, he increased his property in the county until he was a considerable landowner. His inquisition post mortem gives a long list of Kent manors, including the Moyle inheritance in the Bonnington district, and land in Crundale, Olantigh, Stowting, Waltham and other parts of the county. In March 1549 he and his father-in-law, Sir Thomas Cheyne, received a joint grant of the manors of Tremworth and Fames, formerly belonging to the college of All Saints, Maidstone, with the advowson of Crundale rectory. After the death of Sir Thomas, Kempe bought the manor and castle of Chilham from the heir, Henry Cheyne.4
The first reference found to his court career is at Queen Jane Seymour’s funeral in November 1537, when he was one of the four ‘henchmen that sat upon the chariot horses’. He attended the Earl of Suffolk in the party which met Anne of Cleves on her arrival at Dover, and in the summer of 1543 Sir Thomas Cheyne asked that he should be sent to Guisnes, ‘to gain experience’. No details of any military service have been found. He was evidently in some household office during 1546, since two receipts survive, signed by him, for jugs and knives bought for the King.5 After his knighthood at the beginning of Edward VI’s reign he may have retired from the court.
In Kent he was an important official for over 30 years, serving as justice of the peace, sheriff and commissioner for sewers, an office which he held as early as 1540. In 1552 he sat on the commission for church goods in the lathe of Shepway, and during Mary’s reign there are references to his providing post horses for King Philip on his way through Kent, and supervising the enrolment of troops and the erection of beacons when an invasion was expected in 1558. In September 1565 he was one of those who met Lady Cecilia of Sweden at Dover and escorted her on her way to London. He sat in Parliament once only, being chosen at a by-election on 6 Feb. 1559 to replace the county’s first choice, Sir Richard Sackville, who chose to sit for Sussex.
Kempe was a generous benefactor to his own district of Wye, maintaining an almshouse there ‘only upon his charity zeal’. Towards the end of his life he agreed to repave the north aisle of Wye church, where his ancestors were buried, at his own cost, his ‘sesses’ for church repairs being consequently remitted from 1588 to his death. Further afield he was perhaps less generous: in September 1561 he was reported for not having paid his £10 towards the loan for Rochester bridge.6
In 1564 all the Kent justices of the peace were described by the archbishop of Canterbury as at least ‘outwardly conformable’ in religion. However, after his third marriage Kempe began to cause the ecclesiastical authorities anxiety. In 1578 he and his wife were noted by the ecclesiastical visitors as not having received communion, Kempe was put off the commission of the peace, and in 1583 he and ‘divers of their families’ were charged with absenting themselves from church. Lady Kempe was ‘a hindrance to true religion [who] refuseth stubbornly to communicate’. Kempe died 7 Mar. 1591, and was buried at Wye, 22 Mar. His inquisition post mortem, taken in June the same year, gives the age of the heir, his son Thomas, as 39. Four of his five daughters married Elizabethan Members—Thomas Chicheley, William Cromer, Richard Lee and Thomas Shirley I.7