FLEMING, Sir Thomas I (1544-1613), of Lincoln's Inn, London and North Stoneham, nr. Southampton, Hants.

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



c. Jan. 1581 - 8 Mar. 1581
1604 - 27 Oct. 1604

Family and Education

bap. 9 May 1544,1 1st s. of John Fleming, mercer, of Newport, I.o.W. and 1st w. Dorothy Harris.2 educ. L. Inn 1567, called 1574; MA Oxf. 1613.3 m. 13 Feb. 1570,4 Mary (d.1614), da. of Richard James, merchant, of Newport, 8s. (2 d.v.p.) 7da. (5 d.v.p.).5 suc. fa. 1574;6 kntd. 23 July 1603.7 d. 7 Aug. 1613.8

Offices Held

J.p. Hants c.1579-d., Mdx. 1595-d., Notts. 1607-d., Yorks. 1607-d.;9 commr. inquiry into admin. of justice, Guernsey 1579;10 freeman, Southampton 1580,11 Winchester, Hants 1582,12 Newport 1590,13 Portsmouth, Hants 1603;14 bailiff, soke of Winchester by 1584-at least 1586;15 member, High Commission, Winchester dioc. 1596, 1597,16 oyer and terminer, London and Mdx. 1601-12,17 the Verge 1604-12,18 Western circ. 1606-d.,19 Poole, Dorset 1611,20 Exeter, Devon 1612,21 gaol delivery, Newgate, London 1601-12, Southampton and Winchester, Hants 1602-d.,22 Poole, Dorset 1611,23 inquiry, Gray’s Inn and Clerkenwell fields, Mdx. 1603,24 nisi prius, Southampton 1603-8,25 piracy, Southampton, Hants and I.o.W. 1603-11, Home counties 1603, Cornw. 1606-7, Devon, 1606-12, Dorset 1611,26 sewers, Mdx. and Essex 1604-d.,27 London and Mdx. 1606,28 Lincs. and Notts. 1607,29 Westminster, Mdx. 1611,30 Surr. 1613,31 subsidy, London, Hants, Winchester, Southampton and I.o.W. 1608,32 swans, Kent, Mdx. and Berks. 1609,33 annoyances, Surr. 1611.34

Recorder, Winchester 1582-95,35 London 1594-5,36 Southampton 1601-3;37 bencher, L. Inn 1587-94, reader 1590, 1594, treas. 1595-6;38 sjt.-at-law 1594-5;39 solicitor gen. 1595-1604;40 member, High Commission, Canterbury prov. 1601-d.;41 c. bar. exch. 27 Oct. 1604-7;42 c.j.k.b. 1607-d.43

Member, Spanish Co. 1605.44


Fleming was born on the Isle of Wight, and inherited property at both Newport and on the mainland at Winchester.45 Sir John Oglander*, who disliked him, recalled that Fleming’s father ‘sold small wares’ in Newport; but despite these humble beginnings Fleming trained as a lawyer, and owed his early advancement to Sir Francis Walsingham†, the high steward of Winchester, who secured his appointment as the town’s recorder.46 After becoming Queen Elizabeth’s solicitor general he maintained close links with his native county, purchasing North Stoneham, four miles from Southampton, in 1600.47 He also held property in the town, and was appointed recorder of Southampton, a post he felt obliged to resign at James’s accession on the ground of his preoccupation with ‘services and employments about the king’s affairs’.48 He nevertheless remained on good terms with the corporation, and was re-elected as Southampton’s senior Member for the first Stuart Parliament.49

Fleming was appointed early in the first session to the committee for privileges and returns (22 Mar. 1604), and to investigate the grievances propounded by Sir Robert Wroth I* (23 March).50 He was among the experienced Members chosen to investigate the Buckinghamshire election (27 Mar.), to consider a bill to disable outlaws from the Commons (31 Mar.), and to interrogate Buckinghamshire’s sheriff (2 April).51 He was also named to two conferences on the Union with Scotland (14 Apr., 4 May).52 He approved the bill to appoint Union commissioners as drafted on 21 May, and the following day was instructed to help resolve the doubts and differences raised by Sir Herbert Croft*.53 In the wake of the arrest of Sir Thomas Shirley I* for debt, Fleming was named on 26 Apr. to the committee for a bill to relieve creditors whose debtors had been freed by Parliament, but on 10 May he agreed with Francis Moore that a new bill was required to secure Shirley’s creditors.54 He assured the House on 14 May that the king had commanded the warden of the Fleet on his allegiance to obey the Commons’ serjeant-at-arms and release Shirley.55

On 23 May Fleming defended the Speaker for delivering to the king a petition from a printer against the bishop of London, on the grounds that it contained charges of treason.56 As a member of the committee (3 May), he opposed the assarts bill at its third reading on 25 May on the grounds that it was prejudicial to the bishop of Winchester. His request to be heard in this debate ‘in respect of the place he held under the king’ drew from both Sir Francis Bacon and Richard Martin the retort that all Members were equally the king’s counsellors.57 On 2 June Fleming was ordered to take care of the Tunnage and Poundage bill.58 In a debate on the import of Catholic books, he claimed on 6 June that to his knowledge many printers were of that faith. He also recited ‘many inconveniences in the abuse of printing’, and was named to the committee subsequently appointed.59 As the representative of a sea port he was appointed to the committee for the free trade bill (24 Apr.), which measure he supported at its third reading on 6 June as ‘very good and necessary’, with minor amendments.60 He attacked the great London Companies for monopolizing trade to the detriment of the outports, claiming that ‘few or none carry cloth in any port towns; almost all in London’. The clothiers, he added, also suffered by having to wait six months for payment or accept a discount. He complained on 23 June of the drafting of the bill to restrain weirs in navigable rivers, but was not named to the committee.61 On 6 July, the penultimate day of the session, he supported a bill to annex certain lands inalienably to the Crown, asserting that it would strengthen the monarchy while safeguarding the subject’s rights.62

As a member of the revived Spanish Company, Fleming tried to secure the free admission of several Southampton merchants as soon as the new charter had been granted in June 1605, although all but one of his requests were refused.63 Fleming’s subsequent appointment as chief baron of the Exchequer ended his Commons career, the House resolving on 9 Nov. 1605 that his office precluded his further membership.64 In his place he supported his son and heir Sir Thomas Fleming II, who was duly returned at a by-election. He continued to take an interest in the affairs of Southampton, receiving regular gifts of claret and madeira in return for his services.65 As chief baron, Fleming presided over the trial of the Gunpowder plotters. After giving judgment in Michaelmas term 1606 for the Crown in Bate’s case, the great precedent that supported James’s right to take impositions, he was promoted to become lord chief justice of King’s Bench. In 1608 he procured a charter for his native town of Newport, where he still occasionally resided.66 He continued to invest in property in the Isle of Wight, acquiring the lease of Carisbrooke Priory in 1606, and the advowson and rectory of Arreston, and various manors nearby, in 1609-10.67

Fleming died on 7 Aug. 1613 and was buried at North Stoneham under an elaborate monument containing his effigy.68 His terse will, drawn up some three years earlier, and omitting any religious preamble, gave his personal property at North Stoneham to his wife and his extensive lands in the Isle of Wight and elsewhere to his eldest son, whom he appointed sole executor.69 Sir John Oglander* later wrote that ‘during his prosperity he carried himself (not remembering whence he came) not only to those gentlemen which by reason of their age were in former time his betters, but also to all of the younger sort, very haughty and scornful’.70 Nevertheless, Sir Edward Coke*, who staunchly opposed Fleming’s exalted view of the prerogative, conceded that he had discharged all his offices ‘with great judgment, integrity and discretion’ and that ‘he well deserved the goodwill of all that knew him, because he was of a sociable and placable nature and disposition’.71 His portrait by an unknown artist, dated 1596, is held by the National Portrait Gallery.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. I.o.W. RO, Newport par. reg.
  • 2. N and Q (ser. 11), ix. 366.
  • 3. LI Admiss.; Al. Ox.
  • 4. Oglander Mems. ed. W.H. Long, 103.
  • 5. N and Q (ser. 11), ix. 366.
  • 6. Soton 3rd Bk. of Remembrance, pt. 4, ed. T.B. James and A.L. Merson (Soton Rec. Ser. xxii), 68.
  • 7. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 114.
  • 8. C142/337/105; Add. 5836, f. 144v.
  • 9. SP12/145, f. 38; SP13/Case F/11, f. 23; C66/1666/20; SP14/33; C181/2, ff. 42v, 43, 188, 189.
  • 10. APC, 1578-80, p. 200.
  • 11. HMC 11th Rep. III, 20.
  • 12. T. Atkinson, Eliz. Winchester, 123.
  • 13. I.o.W. RO, 45/22, f. 3.
  • 14. Portsmouth Recs. ed. R. East, 347.
  • 15. Hants RO, 11M59/B1/285-6.
  • 16. T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 1, pp. 173, 194.
  • 17. C181/1, ff. 11, 13v; 181/2, ff. 177v, 179.
  • 18. C181/1, ff. 93v, 117v; 181/2, f. 179v.
  • 19. C181/1, f. 131v; 181/2, f. 213v.
  • 20. C181/2, f. 139v.
  • 21. Ibid. f. 164v.
  • 22. C181/1, ff. 26, 36; 181/2, ff. 171v, 177, 195.
  • 23. C181/2, f. 144.
  • 24. C181/1, f. 50v.
  • 25. Ibid. f. 54v; 181/2, f. 69.
  • 26. C181/1, ff. 6v, 67v, 73v, 129v; 181/2, ff. 25v, 56, 138v, 159, 175.
  • 27. C181/1, f. 89v; 181/2. ff. 97, 192v.
  • 28. C181/2, f. 19v.
  • 29. Ibid. f. 47v.
  • 30. Ibid. f. 140.
  • 31. Ibid. f. 191.
  • 32. SP14/31/1.
  • 33. C181/2, f. 89.
  • 34. C181/2, f. 142.
  • 35. VCH Hants v. 30; Atkinson, 37, 88-9, 123; Hants RO, W/F2/3, f. 70.
  • 36. W. Maitland, Hist. London, 1206.
  • 37. Soton 3rd Bk. of Remembrance, 68; Soton Assembly Bks. 1602-8 ed. J.W. Horrocks (Soton Rec. Soc. xix), 13-14.
  • 38. LI Black Bks. ii. 10, 13, 15, 20 43.
  • 39. C66/1417; Order of Sjts.-at-Law ed. J.H. Baker (Selden Soc. suppl. ser. v), 511.
  • 40. C66/1433.
  • 41. R.G. Usher, Rise and Fall of High Commission, 350.
  • 42. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 162.
  • 43. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 367; E. Foss, Judges of Eng. vi. 154-6.
  • 44. Spanish Co. ed. P. Croft, (London Rec. Soc. ix), 16, 95.
  • 45. Woodward and Wilks, Hants, ii. 110.
  • 46. Atkinson, 92.
  • 47. VCH Hants, iii. 479.
  • 48. Soton Assembly Bks. 1602-8, pp. 13-14.
  • 49. Soton Ct. Leet Recs. 1603-24, pt. 3, ed. F.J.C. Hearnshaw (Soton Rec. Soc. i), 432.
  • 50. CJ, i. 149b, 151a.
  • 51. Ibid. 156b, 157a, 160a, b, 161a.
  • 52. Ibid. 172a, 199a.
  • 53. Ibid. 222b, 976b.
  • 54. Ibid. 185a, 968b.
  • 55. Ibid. 972a.
  • 56. Ibid. 978b.
  • 57. Ibid. 197b, 226a, 980b.
  • 58. Ibid. 984b.
  • 59. Ibid. 233b, 986b.
  • 60. Ibid. 183b, 987b.
  • 61. Ibid. 245a, 997a.
  • 62. Ibid. 252a, 1002a.
  • 63. Spanish Co. pp. xli, 21, 61.
  • 64. CJ, i. 257a.
  • 65. Soton Mayor’s Bk. ed. W.J. Connor (Soton Rec. Ser. xxi), 63, 96, 111; Soton Assembly Bks. 1609-10 ed. Horrocks (Soton Rec. Soc. xxi), 37-8, 75; Soton Assembly Bks. 1611-14, ed. Horrocks (Soton Rec. Soc. xxiv), 26, 50.
  • 66. Oglander Mems. 23, 107.
  • 67. VCH Hants, v. 150, 151, 229.
  • 68. Add. 5836, f. 144v.
  • 69. PROB 11/122, f. 199v.
  • 70. I.o.W. RO, OG/AA/16.
  • 71. Coke, 10th Rep. 1, 34.