FARNEFOLD, Sir Thomas (1599-1644), of Gatewick House, Steyning, Suss. and Westminster

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



1640 (Apr.)
1640 (Nov.) - 15 Mar. 1644

Family and Education

b. 28 Jan. 1599, 2nd s. of Richard Farnefold (d.1609) of Gatewick and Dorothy, da. and coh. of Thomas Parson, yeoman of Steyning. m. (1) 10 June 1616, Dorothy (bur. 17 Nov. 1636), da. of Bartholomew Rogers, usher of the Ct. of Wards, of Westminster, 9s. (3 d.v.p.) 1da.; (2) 28 Oct. 1637, Elizabeth (d.c.1661), da. of Richard Benion of Coggeshall, Essex, wid. of John Cudmore, counsellor at law, of Kelvedon, Essex, s.p. suc. bro. 1611;1 kntd. 22 Dec. 1621.2 bur. 15 Mar. 1644.3

Offices Held

Gent. pens. 1626-at least 1638;4 usher of the Ct. of Wards 1627-37.5

Gov. of Steyning g.s., Suss. 1630;6 j.p. Suss. 1633-7;7 commr. sewers 1637.8


Farnefold came from an ancient, but obscure, Sussex family, which represented Steyning as early as 1399. By the 1540s they had settled at Gatewick House, just outside the town. The family owned burgage property in the borough and Farnefold’s father voted there in the 1604 parliamentary election.9

On the death of his elder brother in 1611, Farnefold inherited the family estate, but aged only 12 he became a ward of the Crown. His father’s friend and executor, Sir Thomas Leedes, the father of Sir John*, acquired his wardship. However, in 1613 Leedes converted to Catholicism and moved to the Spanish Netherlands. Farnefold was transferred first to the care of (Sir) Edward Sackville*, and then, presumably by sale, to Bartholomew Rogers, usher of the Court of Wards. Rogers married him to his eldest daughter and, on the excuse of repurchasing land left to Farnefold’s sister, obtained permission from William, 1st Viscount Wallingford (William Knollys†), the master of the Wards, to cut down woods on the Farnefold estate to the value of £1,400. Petitioning the Commons in 1621, Farnefold, now no longer a minor, complained that Rogers, by now dead, had left the property completely bare of timber and embezzled £3,000 from the proceeds.10 There is no evidence that the petition was even read in the third Jacobean Parliament. The following year the Privy Council committed Farnefold to the Marshelsea over a dispute with Wallingford, presumably arising from the latter’s failure to provide Farnefold with redress.11

Farnefold was returned for Steyning in 1624 and 1625 on his own interest, but left no mark on the records of either Parliament. By early 1626 he seems to have aroused the enmity of the electors, for at the beginning of January the Sussex steward of the earl of Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield*) predicted that he would be ‘denied for himself’ in the forthcoming election for the second Caroline Parliament.12 It is likely that there was a contest between Farnefold and Sir Edward Bishopp*, whose father, Sir Thomas*, had been sued by Farnefold the previous year over disputed property in Surrey.13 Bishopp was victorious and it was reported on 16 Jan. that Farnefold had been ‘cashiered’.14

Although unsuccessful at the polls, Farnefold secured Court office in June 1626. Moreover, the following year his long running disputed with Rogers’ heirs bore fruit. Rogers had acquired the next reversion to his office of usher for his eldest son, said to be worth £400 a year. Farnefold alleged that it had been purchased with the proceeds from the timber sales and in 1627 secured a judgment in the Court of Wards transferring the ushership to himself. According to a subsequent Chancery suit, Farnefold had Rogers’ son, a youth ‘of weak capacity’, sent abroad as a soldier, where he died. It may have been the financial strain of the suit in the Court of Wards that obliged him to mortgage his Sussex lands. In 1628 he was elected for the third time after Bishopp’s conviction for manslaughter. He again left no trace in the parliamentary records.15

In 1637 Farnefold sold his office in the Court of Wards and was removed from the Sussex bench for non-attendance. Early in the following year he suffered a further term of imprisonment, for an unknown cause, on the orders of the Privy Council.16 In the summer of 1639 he seems to have joined the army raised by Charles I to fight the First Bishops’ War, and consequently drew up his will in anticipation of having ‘lost his life in His Majesty’s wars’.17 In the event he survived the conflict and the following year was returned for Steyning at both elections in 1640. He played no known role in the Civil War. The last of the family to sit in Parliament, he was buried at Steyning in March 1644.18

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. C142/325/196; W.P. Breach, ‘Farnefold of Steyning’, Suss. Arch. Colls. lix. ped. facing p. 84; Memorials of St. Margaret’s, Westminster ed. A.M. Burke, 110, 122, 125, 142, 324, 565; Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 387.
  • 2. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 178.
  • 3. Soc. Gen. Steyning par. reg. 45.
  • 4. Badminton House, FM H2/4/1, f. 17; PC2/50 f. 37.
  • 5. WARD 9/421, p. 159; 9/430, f. 213.
  • 6. W.P. Breach, ‘William Holland, Alderman of Chichester, and the Steyning g.s.’, Suss. Arch. Colls. xliii. 80.
  • 7. C231/5, pp. 113, 253.
  • 8. C181/5, f. 69v.
  • 9. OR; VCH Suss. vi. pt. 1, 207, 227; Breach, ‘Farnefold’, 98; C219/35/2/84.
  • 10. Harl. 6803, f. 14; Breach, ‘Farnefold’, 99.
  • 11. HMC 4th Rep. 124; APC, 1621-3, pp. 254, 271.
  • 12. Procs. 1626, iv. 253.
  • 13. C2/Jas.I/F6/36.
  • 14. Arundel, Autograph Letters, 1617-32 Peers to Spiller, 16 Jan. 1626.
  • 15. PC2/53, f. 11; C78/520/8; Suss. Manors ed. E.H.W. Dunkin (Suss. Rec. Soc. xix), 179; Wiston Archives ed. J.M.L. Booker, i. 170.
  • 16. A. Fletcher, County Community in Peace and War, 129; CSP Dom. 1637-8, pp. 156, 185.
  • 17. PROB 11/192, f. 81v. In October 1640 he stated that he had been recently absent ‘in His Majesty’s service’. PC2/53, f. 11.
  • 18. M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 174.