WHATMAN, Thomas (1576-1630), of Chichester, Suss. and the Inner Temple, London

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



Family and Education

bap. 26 Feb. 1576, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Gregory Whatman of Chichester.1 educ. Hart Hall, Oxf. BA 1593; Clifford’s Inn; I. Temple 1594, called 1603.2 m. (1) lic. 1 Nov. 1600,3 Cicely, da. and coh. of John Sackville of Dorking, Surr., 2s. 1da.;4 (2) c.1614, Elizabeth, da. of William Young, wid. of John Polhill of Frenches, Burwash, Suss., 2s. 1da. d.v.p.5 suc. fa. May 1594.6 bur. 27 May 1630.7

Offices Held

J.p. Suss. 1610-d.;8 commr. sewers, Suss. 1610-d.;9 gov. Steyning g.s., Suss. 1614;10 commr. brewhouse survey, Suss. 1620,11 oyer and terminer 1627.12

Fee’d counsel, Hastings, Suss. 1612;13 recorder, Portsmouth, Hants 1615-d.,14 Chichester, Suss. 1618-26, by 1628-?d.;15 bencher, I. Temple 1620-d., reader 1623.16


Whatman, a lawyer of obscure family, inherited a leasehold in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex.17 He probably owed his successful career at the bar largely to a fortunate marriage that brought him a connection with the 1st earl of Dorset (Thomas Sackville†), who reposed ‘special trust’ in him.18 Whatman moved from Hurstpierpoint to Chichester following his second marriage, in part as a result of a quarrel with the vicar, Christopher Swale, a kinsman of his first wife. Swale, who had denounced Whatman from the pulpit, sued him in Star Chamber for abusing his position as a county magistrate, among other things, which charges Whatman denied.19

In 1618 Whatman succeeded (Sir) Edward Morley* as recorder of Chichester, and represented the borough in the next two parliaments. He made his maiden speech on 9 Mar. 1621 in the monopolies’ debate, when he estimated that one of the patentees had spent £37,000 for gold and silver thread and had melted down £800 worth of coin.20 In defence of (Sir) Henry Spiller*, who was accused of profiting from his office for collecting recusancy fines, Whatman argued on 12 Mar. that a search of the records required the authorization of two privy councillors, and even then could not be extended to the revenue, thereby casting doubt on the testimony of Spiller’s detractors.21 He spoke in the debate of 28 Apr. on the rights of creditors in cases of attainder, and was named to the committee to consider the bill.22 The only other committee to which he was appointed concerned the bill to naturalize Sir Samuel Deligne (16 May).23

Whatman failed to give satisfaction as Lent reader of the Inner Temple in 1623, and was fined £10.24 On Prince Charles’s return from Spain, Whatman welcomed the prince to Portsmouth with a lengthy speech ‘full of conceits’.25 Representing Chichester again in the 1624 Parliament, Whatman was among those ordered to draft a bill for the assize of bread (3 Mar.) and to consider bills to abolish trial by battle (22 Mar.) and prevent excessive charges in actions for debt (21 April).26 He took the chair for an estate bill on behalf of Sir Richard Lumley, who had married the daughter of one of his constituents, reporting from the committee on 19 April.27

Whatman did not stand at the next election, probably owing to a quarrel with Chichester’s corporation. In 1626 he was returned for Portsmouth, where he was also recorder.28 Despite representing a port town that had played a major role in the recent naval deployment, Whatman played little part in the debates concerning the conduct of the war except, on 8 Mar., to oppose further discussion of the Council of War’s responses to the Commons’ inquiries.29 Two days later Whatman complained that a doctor of divinity, presumably Swale, had been put into the commission of the peace even though his temporal estate was not worth £20 a year; Whatman was thereupon named to the committee for a bill to restrict the appointment of clerical magistrates (10 March).30 He took the chair for a private bill appointed to settle the debts of Richard, 3rd earl of Dorset, which he reported on 10 March.31 Absent from the call of the House on the morning of 5 Apr., he escaped penalty by attending in the afternoon, but left no further trace on parliamentary records.32

Shortly after the dissolution Whatman was suspended from his post as recorder of Chichester. The corporation alleged that he had been remiss in attending to their affairs, both in Chichester and in London, sown discord resulting in ‘much combustion in the city’, broken his oath by taking fees in town causes, sometimes from both sides, tried to monopolize judicial business, and threatened the corporation with a Star Chamber action. Whatman denied all charges except the last one, which he said was fully justified. On his side he complained ‘of some indirect carriage and fraudulous speeches used’ at the by-election in April 1626, when Edward Dowse*, a servant of the 9th earl of Northumberland, was returned. The Privy Council were sympathetic to Whatman, whom they commended as ‘well known, both for his integrity and sufficiency’, and ordered his reinstatement as recorder; he had resumed the office by 5 Oct. 1628, and no successor was appointed until after his death.33 In 1627 he entertained Bulstrode Whitelocke* at his house in Chichester with ‘a choice variety of seafish’, and accompanied him to Portsmouth to show him the fortifications.34 Whatman, who did not stand at the general election in 1628, died intestate, and was buried in the Temple church on 27 May 1630.35 No other member of the family entered Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Soc. Gen., Chichester par. regs., St. Pancras and St. Peter the Great, 4, 53.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; I. Temple database of admiss.
  • 3. Suss. Rec. Soc. ix. 28.
  • 4. Add. 33929, f. 414; CITR, ii. 124, 141; Berry, Suss. Gen. 357.
  • 5. PROB 11/122, f. 176; STAC 8/273/30.
  • 6. Soc. Gen., Chichester par. regs., St. Pancras and St. Peter the Great, 59.
  • 7. CITR, ii. 335.
  • 8. Cal. Assize Recs. Suss. Indictments, Jas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 31, 144; C66/2527.
  • 9. C181/2, ff. 135, 292v; 181/3, ff. 133v, 167; 181/4, f. 47.
  • 10. Suss. Arch. Colls. xliii. 67.
  • 11. APC, 1619-20, p. 203.
  • 12. C181/3, ff. 216v, 236v.
  • 13. STAC 8/195/28.
  • 14. Portsmouth Recs. ed. R. East, 349, 420.
  • 15. Suss. Arch. Colls. xxxiii. 80-1; SP16/35/75; APC, 1628-9, p. 188.
  • 16. CITR, ii. 121, 134.
  • 17. Sloane 2728A, f. 1.
  • 18. PROB 11/113, f. 1.
  • 19. STAC 8/273/30; A. Fletcher, County Community in Peace and War, 55-6, 79.
  • 20. CD 1621, vi. 50.
  • 21. CD 1621, ii. 208; CJ, i. 550b.
  • 22. CJ, i. 595b.
  • 23. Ibid. 622a.
  • 24. CITR, ii. 137.
  • 25. HMC 1st Rep. 62.
  • 26. CJ, i. 677a, 746a, 772b.
  • 27. Ibid. 771b.
  • 28. Portsmouth Recs. 441.
  • 29. Procs. 1626, ii. 230, 232.
  • 30. Fletcher, 131; Procs. 1626, ii. 246, 248.
  • 31. Procs. 1626, ii. 44, 246.
  • 32. Ibid. ii. 431.
  • 33. Fletcher, 238-9; APC, 1626, pp. 223, 254, 264; SP16/35/74-6; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 414.
  • 34. Add. 53726, f. 33v.
  • 35. CITR, ii. 335; PROB 6/13, f. 172.