OWEN, Thomas (d.1598), of Lincoln's Inn, London; later of Condover, Salop.
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Family and Education
1st s. of Richard Owen, merchant and bailiff of Shrewsbury by Mary, da. of Thomas Otley of Salop. educ. Christ Church or Broadgates Hall, Oxf., BA 1559; L. Inn 1562, called 1570. m. (1) Sarah, da. of Humphrey Baskerville, 5s. inc. Roger Owen 5da.; (2) Alice, da. of Thomas Wilkes of London, wid. of William Elkin, alderman of London and possibly of Henry Robinson, brewer of London.
Bencher, L. Inn 1579, marshal 1582-3, keeper of the Black Book 1586-7, treasurer 1588-9; recorder, Shrewsbury 1588-92; serjeant 1589, Queen’s serjeant 1593; member, council in the marches of Wales 1590; justice of the common pleas 1595.[footnote]
J.p. Salop from c.1583, many other counties from c.1595.
Owen was a lawyer who retained his connexions with Shrewsbury, his counsel often being sought by the bailiffs on such matters as the holding of a weekly court, and the payment of a public preacher. In 1589 he told the burgesses that they were not obliged to return a resident to Parliament, and in 1591 he was consulted about the ‘Shearmen’s Tree’, a maypole whose appearance had enraged the puritans in the town. His own views on the matter were liberal: he ruled that the tree ‘should be used as heretofore, so it be done civilly and in loving order, without contention’. The borough made him occasional presents, and at his request, returned his eldest son to Parliament in 1597. At his own election in 1584 he received 366 votes, as against the 299 and 176 polled by his opponents. Presumably he did not wish to sit again—it is inconceivable that, as recorder, he could not have obtained a seat if he had wished for one.1
Although Owen bought Condover, near Shrewsbury, in 1586, and built a fine red sandstone house there, he does not seem to have lived in it himself, nor did he spend much time in attendance on the council in the marches of Wales. No doubt this can be explained by the frequent demands made by the Privy Council on his services. From 1577 onwards he received numerous charges: he was instructed to examine the petition of a seaman’s wife, the causes of a riot in London, and several traitors, under torture. He examined charges of corruption, coining and rape. It was his task in 1591 to deport a ‘lewd and unreverent’ Walloon, and in December 1588 he was one of 16 lawyers instructed to consider repealing or reforming certain statutes for the coming Parliament.2
In the Parliament of 1584 he sat on committees concerning common informers (9 Dec.), the preservation of grain (19 Dec.), ecclesiastical livings (19 Dec.), the maintenance of the navy (19 Dec.), fraudulent conveyances (18 Feb. 1585), delays of executions (5 Mar.), assurances (22 Mar.) and the good government of the city of Westminster (22 Mar.). After he became Queen’s serjeant he was often employed to carry bills and messages between the Commons and the Lords. As a judge, he was attached to various committees of the Lords in 1597 and 1598.3
As well as Condover, he owned or leased considerable property in Essex and Montgomery. He must have stood high in Burghley’s estimation, for he was employed in the abortive marriage negotiations between Bridget Vere and William, Lord Herbert. In fact, he was mentioned as a possible successor to Burghley as master of the court of wards, but he died on 21 Dec. 1598. On 9 Dec. he had made his will, ‘considering the uncertainty of this transitory life, that it passeth away as a shadow, and fadeth as the grass of the field’. He left the bulk of his property to his eldest son, and made substantial bequests to his younger children, servants and clerks. The bailiffs of Shrewsbury received money for the relief of ‘decayed householders’ and ‘poor impotent persons’ in the parish of St. Chad, where he was born. There were also bequests to the poor of Condover and Westminster, and the deans of St. Paul’s and Westminster each received a small legacy. His ‘faithful and kind’ wife, although already provided for, was left the wainscot, glass, tables, stools and bedsteads in his house. His funeral was to be ‘without any pomp, or great charge, or any blacks for mourning apparel’. He was buried in Westminster abbey.4