LONG, Thomas (1539-93), of Westbury; later of Semington, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. 1539, 1st surv. s. and h. of Henry Long, clothier, of Whaddon by Mary, da. of Thomas Horton of Iford. m. Joan (d. c.1601), at least 5s. 3da. suc. fa. 1558.
On a balance of probabilities the above identification has been adopted for the 1571 Westbury MP, but there are two other candidates, both namesakes: his uncle Thomas, a clothier of Trowbridge, and a younger brother.
Long was only 19 when his father died, and his wardship was granted to his uncle, Thomas of Trowbridge. Henry Long, a prosperous clothier, left lands in Westbury and a number of other Wiltshire parishes, with a manor house at Heywood near Westbury. After 1558 the son may have carried on his father’s business, but it seems more likely that it had been a family partnership, and that the elder Thomas continued to supervise it from his home at Trowbridge. Thomas the younger apparently lived mainly on his property at Semington in the parish of Steeple Ashton, near Westbury: he also owned the Bear inn at Reading.
His mother, who died about 1562, left him £60, plate and household linen, on condition that he behaved well and did not interfere with his brother Henry, the executor for their father. This clause may have been purely formal, but taken in conjunction with Henry Long’s will, which omitted Thomas from the executorship, although it named four of his younger brothers to act if necessary, it may be significant. Perhaps Long’s parents shared the opinion expressed later in the House of Commons, that he was ‘a very simple man and of small capacity’.
For some reason Long was so anxious to be returned in 1571 that he paid the authorities at Westbury £4 for the seat. This came to light, and after debating the matter on 10 and 11 May the House of Commons ordered that the mayor of Westbury and another local official should be sent for and committed to ward. They were ordered to return Long his £4 and to cancel the bonds relative to his burgess-ship: the ‘corporation or inhabitants’ were also fined £20. At first sight the matter poses several problems. Long’s behaviour was no doubt cruder than the usual inducements held out to small boroughs at election time, but the reaction of the House was excessive. Then there is the question of who reported the transaction. The defeated candidate for a county seat might consider his local prestige sufficiently involved to justify an expensive lawsuit, but this would hardly apply to Westbury. A marginal note to the 1571 journal written by John Hooker makes the matter clearer. ‘Thomas Long was lice[nse]d to depart home, but immediately after he was sent to Bridewell’. He was apparently already in trouble for
his seditious words viz. that the Queen should be [i.e. was] dead, which he affirmed that being at the Duke of Norfolk [’s] house one of the servants of the said Duke should so say unto him and willed him to tell the same to others.
At a time of Catholic plots against Elizabeth’s throne, the spreading of this kind of rumour was a crime, subject to heavy penalties. This, then, might have provoked an inquiry into Long’s credentials as a privileged person. Whoever provided the information about the Westbury election—a paid informer, a disgruntled rival or the ‘very simple’ Long himself—made it easy to effect his expulsion from the House. He could then receive public punishment for his spreading of seditious rumours, Hooker reporting that ‘on Whitsun Eve the second of May [recte June] he [was] set upon the pillory in Cheapside’. In fact by this time Parliament had been dissolved.
Long spent the remainder of his life in Wiltshire. From about 1576 to 1578 he or his younger brother Thomas was churchwarden of Steeple Ashton, the parish church to which he paid rent for his Semington property. His will, made a short time before his death on 30 June 1593, was proved in November the same year. Three sons were each to have £50, two at the age of 28 and the third at 29, and three daughters the same amount, one when she became 26 and the other two on their 30th birthdays. Long left 6s. 8d. to Semington church ‘for breaking the ground to bury me’, and 2s. to poor prisoners. He appointed his wife and son Thomas executors and residuary legatees.
E150/999/19; Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv, cvi), 116; PCC 71 Woodhall, 77 Nevell, 25 Streat, 75 Noodes; CPR, 1558-60, p. 347; Wards 7/24/113; CJ, i. 88, 89; Trans. Devon Assoc. xi. 483; Wilts. N. and Q. vi. 372, 421-2.