THYNNE, John (?1550-1604), of Longleat, Wilts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

b. ?1550, 1st s. of Sir John Thynne of Longleat by Christian, da. of Sir Richard Gresham, mercer of London; bro. of Thomas I. educ. Oxf. BA 1573. m. 1575/7, Joan (d.1612), da. of Sir Rowland Hayward, clothworker of London, by Joan, da. of William Tillesworth, goldsmith of London, 2s. inc. Thomas II 2da. suc. fa. 1580. Kntd. 1603.2

Offices Held

J.p. Wilts. from c.1583, sheriff 1593-4; j.p. Som. from c.1583, rem. c.1587, rest. 1591; Glos. from c.1583, rem. c.1587; Salop from 1596.


Thynne made no mark in Wiltshire during his father’s lifetime. In the mid-1570s, however, he acquired land in Shropshire in right of his wife. Grandson of one lord mayor of London, he became son-in-law to another; and his wife, her mother’s coheir, brought by the marriage settlement Caws castle and the manor of All Stretton. Thus John Thynne became lord of the manor next to that on which his forbears had been small freeholders, and he may have lived there before he inherited Longleat. The property was not free from dispute; in March 1579 the Privy Council was exercised about the controversy between Lord Stafford and ‘young Thinne’ over Caws castle, and although the matter was committed to Justice Gawdy in 1590 for speedy hearing it was still unresolved in 1594. Thynne must have retained this property, as his widow retired to it, but in 1593 Lord Stafford was claiming that, after a long suit of riotous entry in the Star Chamber, he had only been cheated of victory there by the substitution of et for vel in the indictment. When he came into his patrimony Thynne continued his father’s building operations, completing the hall and adding the oak screen and wainscoting. But he leaves the impression of being a less efficient man. He did not resume the detailed building accounts which had lapsed before his father’s death; he failed to erect the tomb for which (Sir) John had provided ‘a plot thereof made and signed with my own hand’ and £100 in his will; and in other respects he appears not to have discharged his duty as executor.3

Although he was born into the governing class of the shire, Thynne’s wish to be of service did not extend to soldiering; he declined the captaincy of 200 men raised for Ireland in July 1580, pleading the necessity of clearing up his father’s affairs. Within the county he carried on a long and bitter feud with Sir James Marvyn, which, perhaps originating in abortive negotiations for his marriage to Marvyn’s daughter in 1574, flared up in 1589 in connexion with a dispute over subsidy assessments, when it spread to partisans and servants and provoked an affray at Hindon. In November 1589 Thynne was called before the Council to answer for his share in the disturbances. It was not his only brush with that body, for in the course of much litigation about his manor of Horningsham, one widow Daniel moved their lordships to order him to give her satisfaction. In February 1597 Burghley received a complaint of his harsh treatment of the Earl of Derby and in the following year another from the Earl of Pembroke that Thynne had commenced a suit against his servant about a weir in the Wye. When early in the following year he offered to make one of a party of gentlemen to accompany (Sir) Robert Cecil on his French embassy, his offer was evidently declined. Thynne’s relations with Marvyn at least improved sufficiently for him to allow Thomas, his heir, to marry Marvyn’s grand-daughter, an earl’s sister, about the turn of the century. John, Thynne’s second boy, settled at Church Stretton, in Shropshire, presumably on his mother’s property of Stretton Hall, and both daughters were to connect themselves with families from other parts of the country, Dorothy marrying Charles Roscorrock, of Roscorrock, Cornwall, and Christiana Francis Leigh of Addington in Surrey.4

From the time of his succession to Longleat Thynne sat in every Parliament, usually for Heytesbury, the borough nearest to his house and a safe seat for himself or his nominees. Nevertheless the continuity of his representation of this borough was not entirely of his own choosing. In July 1592 he wrote from Caws castle to the bailiffs of Shrewsbury offering himself for election there. He was moved to do so, he said, both by friends in the corporation and by his own inclination, ‘for that my ancestors were near inhabitants, and that I conceive a special good liking of your town and the good government thereof’. Besides gratifying his own ambition, Thynne’s acceptance by Shrewsbury would have left him free to nominate at Heytesbury, which his uncle Thomas, who was to sit with him for that borough in the next Parliament, may already have coveted. Any such hope was disappointed by Shrewsbury’s failure to adopt him. The greater honour, that of sitting for the shire, he enjoyed on two occasions. On the first, eight years and three Parliaments after his succession to Longleat, Thynne received the Earl of Pembroke’s grudging promise of ‘neutrality’, and reproaches from the Earl’s servant, John Penruddock, who had been employed as intermediary, for giving his enemies too early notice of his intentions. True, the moment was not propitious—Thynne’s feud with Marvyn was nearing its climax and opinion in the county may well have been divided between them—yet it cannot be said to have been premature. For if the Earl sincerely ‘would have all gentlemen to have their due reserved unto them’, in the matter of shire representation, as he maintained, then Thynne, well-established in one of the first estates and nearing 40 years of age, could reasonably expect his first taste of that honour. Nevertheless, anxious as Thynne appears to have been to get to Westminster, his service on committees in the Commons was not outstanding. He sat (or could have sat) on the subsidy committees in the Parliaments of 1589 (11 Feb.) and 1593 (26 Feb.), and on committees concerned with Mary Stuart (4 Nov. 1586), poor relief (12 Mar. 1593), cloth (15 Mar.), the order of business (3 Nov. 1601), the Michaelmas law term (11 Nov.) and monopolies (23 Nov.).5

This comparatively poor record in the better reported later Parliaments suggests that Thynne was less regarded there than his father had been. He was probably less regarded everywhere. With contacts at court (where his sister Catherine was lady-in-waiting and the John Thynne who was an esquire of the body was probably his younger brother), with many connexions in the shire (for his father’s widow had married Carew Raleigh and the same sister Catherine became the wife of Sir Walter Long), and possessing in Heytesbury what amounted to a family borough, Thynne enjoyed such honours as were due to the owner of Longleat, but earned no more for himself. He was dropped from the commission of the peace for Somerset and Gloucester about 1587 and the fact that he was not knighted in Elizabeth’s reign must have reflected some lack of esteem for him. He may, moreover, have lacked such support as he had reason to expect. Tied to the Seymour, as opposed to the Herbert, interest in the shire, he looked to the Earl of Hertford for favours. But Hertford, who had shown little gratitude to Thynne’s father, was not the man to carry over an obligation to a second generation. His letters and papers record three occasions on which Thynne stood surety for his debts but no mention of reciprocal benefits. When in 1601 the death of the Earl of Pembroke left Hertford in the position to exert undisputed influence in an election, he put forward other candidates to represent the shire and solicited Thynne’s support for them. What Thynne could not do for himself was unlikely to be done through patronage.6

Thynne died 21 Nov. 1604.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Muriel Booth


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv, cvi), 192-3; Collins, Peerage, ii. 499-500; PCC 24 Dixy, 22 Fenner.
  • 3. APC, xi. 64; xix. 291; HMC Hatfield, iv. 426, 554; Hoare, Wilts. Heytesbury, 62, 72; PCC 44 Arundel and de bonis n. 1651.
  • 4. APC, xii. 105; xxv. 79; VCH Wilts. v. 125; Lansd. 83/128/177; HMC Hatfield, viii. 16, 220; Hoare, 64; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxxv. 173.
  • 5. HMC 15th Rep. X, 56; D’Ewes, 394, 431, 474, 499, 501, 624, 635, 649; HMC Hatfield, iv. 295.
  • 6. Collins, 500; LC2/4/4; Lansd. 121/66/246A; 68/246B; HMC Bath, iv. 202, 347.
  • 7. C142/195/118.