MANSELL, Sir Thomas (c.1556-1631), of Margam, Glam.
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Family and Education
b. c.1556,1 1st s. of Edward Mansell† of Margam and Jane, da. of Henry Somerset, 2nd earl of Worcester; bro. of Sir Robert*. educ. travelled abroad (Italy) 1578.2 m. (1) 30 July 1582 (settlement 11 July with £2,000), Mary (d. by 1603), da. of Lewis Mordaunt†, 3rd Bar. Mordaunt, 3s. (2 d.v.p.);3 (2) by 1603 Jane (bur. 14 Mar. 1624), da. of Thomas Pole of Bishop Hall, Mdx., wid. of John Bussey of Lincs. and John Fuller (d.1592) of Stepney, Mdx., 2da. (1 d.v.p.)4 suc. fa. 1585;5 kntd. by 1593;6 cr. bt. 22 May 1611.7 d. 20 Dec. 1631.8 sig. Th[omas] Mansell.
J.p. Glam. c.1580-d.;9 chamberlain and chan., S. Wales 1585-d.;10 steward, Gower and Swansea, Glam., Penkelly, Brecs., royal manors, Pemb. 1585-d.;11 commr. piracy, S. Wales 1586, 1601, 1615;12 dep. lt. Pemb. 1590-5,13 Glam. 1595-d.;14 commr. recusants, Carm. 1592;15 sheriff, Glam. 1593-4, 1603-4, 1622-3;16 Member, Council in the Marches 1601-d.17commr. oyer and terminer, Wales 1602-at least 1626,18 sewers, Glam. 1604-at least 1626;19 collector, Privy Seal loan, Glam. 1605,20 commr. repair of sea walls, Glam. 1607-8, 1627,21 subsidy 1608, 1622, 1624, 1629,22 aid 1609,23 houses of correction 1610,24 public money retained in private hands, 1626,25 subsidy arrears 1626,26 Forced Loan 1626-7.27
Member, Virg. Co. c.1618.28
The Mansell family traced their ancestry back to a follower of William the Conqueror. During the fourteenth century they settled in the Gower peninsula, in South Wales, and after some advantageous marriages they established residences at Oxwich and Penrice.29 In the mid-sixteenth century Sir Rice Mansell purchased the lands of the dissolved abbey of Margam, building a ‘fair and sumptuous house’ there, which provided a more convenient location for an active role in Glamorgan politics.30 Sir Edward Mansell, this Member’s father, married a daughter of Henry Somerset, 2nd earl of Worcester, establishing an important link with the aristocratic dynasty which owned extensive lands in the Gower area.
Although he seems not to have attended university, Mansell travelled on the continent during his early twenties and was praised in bardic eulogies as a scholar and ‘mirror of gentility’.31 In 1585 he succeeded to an estate of over 23,000 acres and the headship of one of the most powerful gentry interests in Glamorgan.32 He also inherited the eminent (if largely honorific) position of chancellor and chamberlain of South Wales and was an active local governor, acquiring several important offices, including membership of the Council in the Marches. Some time before James’s accession, Mansell married the twice-widowed Jane Pole, who brought him ‘a great estate’ in Lincolnshire, which ‘much enriched him’.33
Having been returned for Glamorgan in 1597, Mansell was evidently willing to allow secretary of state Sir John Herbert* to take the seat in 1601. As sheriff in 1604, he was prevented from standing at that year’s general election, when the county seat went to Sir Philip Herbert*, a favourite of the new king, and brother of the most powerful landed interest in Glamorgan, William Herbert, 3rd earl of Pembroke. However, in 1605, Sir Philip’s elevation to the peerage as earl of Montgomery allowed Mansell to be returned at a by-election, and in 1614 he took the seat again.
Although not a vocal Member, Sir Thomas was nominated to committees and conferences on a wide range of topics. His committee appointments suggest an interest in religion: he was named to the committee for the Sabbath bill and later appointed to attend a conference with the Lords on this subject (29 Jan. 1606 and 1 June 1614). He was also nominated to bill committees regarding recusants and non-resident clergy as well as a conference on ecclesiastical grievances (3 Feb. and 10 Apr. 1606; 12 May 1614).34 Despite his lack of legal expertise, Mansell was also nominated to several committees to consider estate bills and the conveyance of land (28 and 29 Jan. 1606; 4 and 7 Apr. 1606; 7 May 1606; 7 and 10 July 1610; 31 May 1614).35 This may reflect the concerns of a landowner who was also involved in lending money by way of mortgage.36
Some of Mansell’s nominations related to Welsh issues, or touched upon his interests as a magistrate, in which office he proved assiduous.37 His appointment on 11 May 1614 to the committee for the bill to prevent the export of iron ordnance (a matter upon which his brother spoke) reflected a particular concern of Glamorgan’s magistrates, the county being notorious for this abuse.38 Disorderly alehouses were also of concern to Mansell, who was active in their regulation, so it is perhaps not surprising that he was one of the few Members specifically named to the committee for executing the statutes against alehouse-keepers (31 May 1614).39 A desire to extend the provisions of the bills for the recovery of small debts to the principality, a measure which also sought to prevent abuses in procuring writs of supersedeas, may explain why he was appointed to consider these measures on 11 and 18 May 1614.40 It is also unsurprising that Mansell was named to consider the bill to establish a preacher and almshouses in Monmouth on 16 May 1614.41
Mansell’s parliamentary interests were not restricted to Wales and the Marches, for since James’s accession he had spent considerable time at Court, thereby troubling bards such as Dafydd Benwyn, who voiced concern at Mansell’s increasing periods of absence.42 On 14 May 1606 he was nominated to the committee for the bill to naturalize Sir David Murray, a gentleman of the Bedchamber, and was one of 40 Members appointed to deliver the Commons’ petition of grievances to the king. On 24 May 1610 he was one of a handful of Members chosen to present the king with the Commons’ written protest at James’s refusal to allow the House to debate impositions. Two days later, on 26 May 1610, he was appointed to attend the Speaker to hear the king’s pleasure in respect of a five-point petition concerning recusants, Jesuits and seminary priests, and on 7 July 1610 he was required to help present to James the Commons’ petition of grievances, chief among which was impositions.43 Mansell did not seek re-election again after 1614, possibly because of his age.
Mansell obtained one of the first baronetcies in 1611, being third in precedence, and served as a canopy-bearer in 1612 at the funeral of Prince Henry.44 In 1624 he was the subject of a petition to Parliament submitted by Henry Doddington of Bristol. Since Elizabeth’s reign Doddington had prosecuted Mansell in various law courts, claiming title to several chapels with their tithes as parcels of Llangynwyd rectory. Mansell had argued that his grandfather had purchased the chapels as parcel of Margam Abbey, but Doddington complained that Mansell ‘was a knight of such great power and countenance’ in Glamorgan that it was impossible to empanel a fair jury or commission there.45 Doddington also claimed that there was ‘no other case of this nature ... which endeavoureth to erect and make a new parish and rectory by oaths against the records where there was never any before’.46 However, it cannot have helped his cause that Mansell’s brother, Sir Robert, now sat for Glamorgan, and his petition was never read.
During the 1620s Mansell continued to play a prominent role in local politics and administration, especially as a deputy lieutenant during the wars with Spain and France.47 He maintained a close relationship with his mother’s family, the earls of Worcester, as steward in their lordships of Gower and Swansea, being addressed as ‘worthy knight and dear cousin’ by Henry Somerset, the 5th earl.48 It is doubtful, however, that he was the ‘Thomas Mansell’ who claimed the right to a wreck on behalf of Worcester at Oystermouth near Swansea in 1629 as most accounts allege.49 This was probably his kinsman, a burgess of Swansea who resided in the town.50
Mansell’s standing at Court and within Glamorgan allowed him to marry off his son and heir, Sir Lewis, to a daughter of Viscount L’Isle (Robert Sidney†) and then to a daughter of the 1st earl of Manchester (Sir Henry Montagu*).51 He presumably arranged the marriage of his stepson Sir Raleigh Bussey, who lived at Margam, to a kinswoman, Cicely Mansell of Llantrithtyd, Glamorgan. This marriage later involved Sir Thomas in a lawsuit over the payment of an annuity from the Lincolnshire lands of Bussey’s mother, Mansell’s second wife.52
Mansell was regarded as a shrewd manager of his estate, and he was also a major moneylender, having over £4,000 loaned out upon mortgages at his death.53 He was probably a patron of local bards, who lauded him as a cultured man of strength and integrity and ‘enaid Morgannwg uniawn’ (‘virtuous soul of Glamorgan’).54 He died at Margam on 20 Dec. 1631 and was buried in the family vault in Margam Abbey church, where a tomb was erected showing him lying between the effigies of his two wives. His will conveyed extensive lands to his executor Sir John Stradling* for the payment of debts, satisfaction of legacies and bequests of over £9,000, and funeral expenses. He also made considerable endowments to his grandson, Bussy Mansel†. He donated money to the poor of 11 parishes in east Glamorgan, provided a stipend for preaching at Margam ‘in English as Welsh’, and paid for the vicar’s upkeep as the chief schoolmaster at Margam.55 His estate passed to his eldest son, Sir Lewis, whose second son Sir Edward represented Glamorgan after the Restoration. The family continued as the most powerful political bloc in Glamorgan down to the eighteenth century. Paintings of Sir Thomas Mansell dating from 1614 and c.1620 hang at Penrice Castle, one of the family’s ancient seats.56
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Lloyd Bowen
- 1. STAC 8/124/3, f. 1; C142/209/35.
- 2. HMC Hatfield, ii. 173.
- 3. D. Lysons, Environs of London, ii. 118; C142/290/35; R. Halstead, Succinct Genealogies of Mordaunt, (1685), pp. 611-13; D.M. Cole, ‘Mansells of Oxwich and Margam, 1487-1631’ (Univ. of Birmingham MA thesis, 1966), p. 123; C2/Jas.I/M15/52.
- 4. C78/319/15; Descriptive Cat. of Penrice and Margam Abbey Mss ed. W. de Gray Birch, ii. 105-6, 114.
- 5. C142/209/35.
- 6. NLW, Penrice and Margam 2965.
- 7. C66/1942/86.
- 8. C142/490/179.
- 9. SP16/31/44. In this letter of 1626 Mansell claimed to have served as a magistrate for 46 years, whereas the modern compilation of Welsh justices dates his tenure from 1585: JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 289-99.
- 10. Cole, 69; E315/310, f. 12; E214/371.
- 11. Cole, 69; NLW, Penrice and Margam L.67; W.J. Hemp Deeds 70; W. Glam. AS, B/S Corp. B1, ff. 104, 159, 202; C66/1709/3; M. Gray, ‘Power, Patronage and Pols.’, in Estates of English Crown ed. R.W. Hoyle, 153.
- 12. APC, 1586-7, p. 144; C181/1, f. 6; 181/2, f. 228.
- 13. APC, 1590, pp. 248, 353; G. Owen, Taylor’s Cussion, pt. 1, f. 36.
- 14. APC, 1595-6, p. 15; E112/275/3; SP16/202/42.
- 15. APC, 1591-2, pp. 544-5.
- 16. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 257.
- 17. P. Williams, Council in Marches of Wales, 352-3.
- 18. C181/1, f. 32v; 181/2, ff. 17v, 201.
- 19. C181/1, f. 87; 181/2, f. 234v; 181/3, f. 201.
- 20. E401/2585, f. 75.
- 21. Glam. RO, Bushby I.12; W. Glam. AS, B/S Corp. B2, f. 126.
- 22. SP14/31/1; C212/22/21, 23; E179/221/286.
- 23. E179/283; SP14/43/107.
- 24. C181/2, f. 122v.
- 25. APC, 1626, p. 114.
- 26. E179/224/598.
- 27. C193/12/2, f. 70v; SP16/53/84.
- 28. Recs. Virg. Co. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, iii. 86, 329.
- 29. G. Williams, ‘Rice Mansell and Oxwich and Margam’, Morgannwg, vi. 33-4.
- 30. Ibid. 41-4 ; R. Lewis, A Breviat of Glam. (S. Wales and Mon. Rec. Soc. iii), 123.
- 31. J.G. Jones, ‘Reflections on Concepts of Nobility in Glam. c.1540-1640’, Morgannwg, xxv. 13-14.
- 32. C142/290/35.
- 33. C2/Chas.I/M30/62, f. 4.
- 34. CJ, i. 261b, 263a, 296b; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 217, 405.
- 35. CJ, i. 260b, 261a, 283b, 293b, 294b, 307a, 447a-b; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 394.
- 36. Cole, 80; PROB 11/161, f. 243r-v; Glam. RO, D/DC 710-18.
- 37. SP16/31/44. For bardic praise of Mansell as a diligent local governor, see Jones, 27.
- 38. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 202; E178/4143; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, v. 205; HMC Hatfield, xx. 170; APC, 1613-14, p. 427; 1616-17, pp. 47-8.
- 39. Procs 1614 (Commons), 392; SP46/69, f. 59.
- 40. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 206, 282.
- 41. Ibid. 257.
- 42. Jones, 14.
- 43. CJ, i. 309a, 432a, 433b, 447a.
- 44. C66/1942/86; J. Nichols, Progs. of Jas. I, ii. 498.
- 45. D.R.L. Jones, ‘Doddington v. Mansel: a 17th Century Dispute Concerning the Par. of Margam’, Glam. Historian, xii. 152-76; D.R.L. Jones, ‘Lewis Thomas and the Parsonage of Llangynwyd’, Afan Uchaf, v. 36-46; C78/319/19; C2/Jas.I/M17/72; Stowe 39, ff. 44-5.
- 46. HLRO, main pprs. 14 May 1624.
- 47. He did face charges of peculation over some of the financial levies towards the war effort, however: E112/275/3.
- 48. NLW, Penrice and Margam L.66.
- 49. SP16/182/69; 16/183/6, 59; APC, 1629-30, pp. 136, 141; CSP Dom. 1629-31, pp. 65, 412, 505; NLW, Badminton 1896-1907.
- 50. W. Glam. AS, B/S Corp. B1, ff. 147, 173; J1, f. 67; E179/221/286; SP16/183/59; C142/490/179.
- 51. C54/2054, mm. 8-9; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, ii. 412-13, iii. 432, iv. 140-1; C142/490/179.
- 52. C2/Chas.I/A10/45, M30/62; C78/473/2, 14.
- 53. PROB 11/161, f. 243.
- 54. Jones, 14.
- 55. PROB 11/161, ff. 241-3v.
- 56. M. Robbins, ‘Gentry of S.E. Glam. 1540-1640’ (Cardiff Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1974), iii. plates 31, 32.