ELLIS, Thomas, of Kennington, Kent.
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Family and Education
?s. of William Ellis*. m. Katherine, da. and h. of John Barry of Sevington, Kent, ?2s. 3da.
Commr. of inquiry, Suss. June 1409 (disputed estates), Kent Dec. 1411 (sales of unsealed cloth), Jan. 1414 (lollards), Mar. 1426 (theft of a ship’s cargo); sewers Nov. 1411, Oct. 1415; to assess a tax Apr. 1431.
J.p. Kent 12 Feb. 1422-8, 1 Mar. 1429-32.
Sheriff, Kent 7 Nov. 1427-4 Nov. 1428.
Men of the common surname of Ellis represented the Kentish boroughs of Canterbury, Dover, Romney and Sandwich in Parliaments of the 14th and 15th centuries, but Thomas was the only one to be elected as knight of the shire. He may have been related to his namesake, the wealthy merchant who sat for Sandwich in the 1370s and 1380s and died in 1391, having founded in the town both a chantry in St. Peter’s church and the hospital dedicated to St. Thomas.1 Historians of the prolific family suggest that the shire knight was the son of William Ellis, the Canterbury lawyer whom he succeeded in the manor of Burton in Kennington, that he was related to Guy de Valoignes, who conveyed some land in nearby Willesborough to him in 1409, and that his wife was one of the Barrys of Sevington.2 Some of these statements may be verified: there is no doubt that Ellis owned land in the adjacent hundreds of Wye and Longbridge (in which lay both Willesborough and Kennington) evaluated by the subsidy assessors of 1412 at £20 a year; and a connexion with the Barrys is proved by his acting as patron of the living at Sevington in 1429 and being in possession two years later of certain Barry holdings at Pounds. Other evidence points to a close relationship to the prominent Canterbury family of Ickham: he was a trustee of the property of Joan, widow of Thomas Ickham* (d.1415) for settlements on her son William* (d.1424), and in 1428-9 he made a conveyance to Thomas’s heir of the reversion of certain lands in Eastwell, Westwell and Wye, which William’s widow was holding for life as of his own inheritance.3
Ellis’s activities suggest that he was a member of the legal profession, like his putative father. His career began in 1390, when he witnessed deeds for other members of his family in Hoo All Hallows; and after 1404 he appeared in Chancery on numerous occasions as surety for the peace in suits in Kent and London. He was sometimes asked to act as an arbiter in local disputes, doing so, for example, on two occasions in 1412 in quarrels involving the abbot of Boxley and John Monyn*, esquire.4 He was employed by the Yorkshireman, John Darell*, to help complete the formalities for his acquisition of landed property in Kent, most notably to make arrangements in 1409 with the prior and convent of Christ Church, Canterbury, for the lease of premises in Godmersham and Beltinge (a transaction which involved an application for a royal licence), and to act as a trustee in the following year for Darell’s purchase of Thomas Brockhill’s* estates. Later on, he became Darell’s feoffee of the manor of Mardale, to which the Crown laid claim. In 1416 Ellis was called upon to witness a deed regarding the Kentish estates of Robert, Lord Poynings, and in 1422 he attested other transactions at Boughton Aluph on behalf of Elizabeth, widow of Sir Thomas Swinburne*. In the meantime, in June 1421 he had been named as an executor of the will of William Parker the younger, son of an important London mercer, and had received £10 for his trouble. At some unknown date he was a trustee of the landed inheritance of Richard Brenchesle, son of Sir William Brenchesle, the judge.5
Of Ellis’s official career there is little to relate. In November 1405 he was to have shared the farm of the subsidy of alnage in Kent for ten years, but the arrangement was cancelled on the discovery that it had been previously granted to another. His service on royal commissions began in 1409 and was spread over more than 20 years, culminating with ten spent as a j.p., broken only by his term as sheriff in 1427-8. Returned to Parliament just once, in 1421, he is known to have subsequently attended the parliamentary elections held at Canterbury in 1425. Ellis is not recorded alive after 1431; and it seems likely that he died before the spring of 1434, for his name does not appear on the list of those gentry of Kent then required to take oath not to maintain malefactors.6 He was apparently buried in Willesborough church.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. Kent Chantries (Kent Rec. Ser. xii), 263-4, 277-9.
- 2. Arch. Cant. xv. 5, 15, 28; E. Hasted, Kent, vii. 549-50; W.S. Ellis, Notices of Ellises, 77-82.
- 3. Feudal Aids, iii. 67; vi. 476; Reg. Chichele, i. 257; CP25(1)114/302/212; C1/6/154.
- 4. CCR, 1389-92, pp. 168-9, 319; 1402-5, p. 380; 1405-9, p. 98; 1409-13, pp. 199, 311, 353; 1422-9, p. 470; 1429-35, p. 103.
- 5. CCR, 1419-22, pp. 126, 225, 234; CPR, 1408-13, p. 46; 1436-41, p. 419; Arch. Cant. xxxvi. 132-4; lix. 101-2; CIMisc. vii. 528.
- 6. CFR, xiii. 10; C219/13/3.
- 7. Ellis, 77-82. However, the stained glass there once inscribed ‘pray for the souls of Thomas Ellis and Thomasina his wife’ evidently referred to a younger man (perhaps his son): C1/28/490.