ALVARD (ALFORD), Thomas (by 1493-1535), of London and Ipswich, Suff.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1493, 1st s. of Thomas Alvard of Ipswich and Woodbridge by Anne, da. and h. of John Rivers of Ipswich, wid. of William Wimbill of Ipswich. m. by 1524, 2da. suc. fa. 1504.2

Offices Held

?Yeoman of guard by 1520; spigurnel in Chancery, 1521-d.; jt. (with Thomas Rush) customer, Ipswich by July 1521; servant of Wolsey by 1524; receiver, duchy of Lancaster, Camb., Norf. and Suff. 1527-d.; gent. usher of chamber by 1 Nov. 1529; keeper, Whitehall palace, Mar. 1530-d.; paymaster, King’s works at Whitehall by 1531-d.; commr. sewers, Suff. 1534; other commissions 1524-d.3


The family of Alvard of Woodbridge flourished in the 15th century as mercers and merchants, and acquired property in several places in the county through the marriage of Thomas Alvard, the Member’s grandfather, to Margery, daughter of John Kempe also of Woodbridge. Their son, another Thomas, moved to Ipswich and was elected there in the last two Parliaments of Henry VII. Since the inquisition on his lands is missing, the age of his heir is not known, but that this heir was Thomas Alvard is evident from the reference to him in his grandmother’s will of 1493.4

The re-marriage of his mother by 1509 to the influential Thomas Rush must have enlarged the prospects of the young Alvard and led him to forsake his father’s calling for service with Wolsey and the crown. Allied to leading Ipswich families, Alvard was doubtless already well-known to Wolsey in December 1520, when he was responsible for delivering to the cardinal grain sent by Richard Gresham from London. The office of spigurnel or sealer in Chancery, of which Alvard received a new grant in 1530 jointly with William Hale in survivorship, may have been a sinecure; by July 1521 he had become a customer with Rush at Ipswich, securing a licence to exercise this office by deputy as he was in Wolsey’s service. His office under Wolsey has been described as keeper of the cardinal’s wardrobe, but the only indications of this are that in 1528 he delivered some new cloth to the dean of the college at Ipswich for making vestments, and that in 1530, when an inventory of household goods was taken, he had charge of part of the cardinal’s napery. His status when he entered Wolsey’s household appears to have been fairly modest; his payment towards the subsidy of 1524 amounted to only £1 6s. among many ranging from 1s. to £18. During the next few years Alvard’s career advanced rapidly; he succeeded Edward Peyton as a duchy of Lancaster receiver, and enjoyed marks of favour from Wolsey, varying from joint grants with Cromwell and John Gostwick of wardships in the bishopric of Durham to the trusteeship of the cardinal’s properties in several counties. In 1528, when he was present at Hampton Court for the attestation of the foundation charter of Cardinal college, Ipswich, he was described as a gentleman of Wolsey’s privy chamber.5

His service with Wolsey brought Alvard into closer association with Cromwell, to whom Rush wrote in January 1529 asking him to continue his favour to ‘my son Alvard’ and trusting in Wolsey’s ‘grace’ to further him as promised. Cromwell, in his will drawn up in July 1529, left his friend Alvard £10 and his best gelding, and it was to Cromwell that Alvard reported at great length on 23 Sept. 1529 his own optimistic interpretation of rumours concerning their master’s fall from royal favour. If this letter was sincere, Alvard’s assessment of the situation must have changed quickly, for by 1 Nov., with other servants of the cardinal, he had been sworn into the King’s service. As keeper of Whitehall palace and later as paymaster of the royal works there he received large sums from the King’s privy purse for new buildings. His household duties also included the transfer of clothes and jewels. Three of his letters to Cromwell (then at Calais) in the autumn of 1532 indicate a very friendly relationship between the two men. On 9 May of the following year Alvard’s office was extended to include the keepership of the new park at Westminster with tennis courts and bowling alleys, and the receivership of certain rents there lately acquired by the King. In the following month he was granted the reversion of property in the precincts of the old palace of Westminster including houses called Paradise and Hell. As a trusted official, he was present at Lambeth on 28 May 1533 at the pronouncement of the validity of the King’s marriage with Anne Boleyn.6

There are grounds for thinking that Alvard would have been returned to Parliament in 1529 but for last-minute decision by Thomas Cromwell. As it was, he was almost certainly by-elected for Ipswich in 1534. One of the town’s Members, Thomas Hayward, died on or about 16 Jan. of that year; this was a day or so after the opening of the sixth session, and if the news had been reported promptly (which it is likely to have been in view of Cromwell’s association with the town) the by-election could have been held, and the new Member have taken his seat, before that session closed on 30 Mar. In any case, these steps must have been taken before the seventh session began on 3 Nov.: neither Cromwell nor the town itself would have tolerated a longer vacancy. That the new Member was Alvard is made all but certain by the appearance of his name on a list of Members drawn up by Cromwell probably in the following month. Believed to be a list of those having a particular connexion, perhaps as a committee, with the treasons bill then passing through Parliament, it includes the name of Sir Thomas Rush, who had been sitting for Ipswich since 1529, followed by Alvard’s. If to be one of the Members so listed may be reckoned a promising start to Alvard’s career in the Commons, that career was not to outlast the session, for within two months of its close he was dead. The King recommended Anthony Denny (who had perhaps been Alvard’s superior at Whitehall) to succeed him, but with what result is not known.7

Alvard had inherited considerable property in Suffolk. In 1530 he acquired with Rush a lease of the manors of Aldeburgh and Snape, belonging to the suppressed priory of Snape, at an annual rent of £45 6s.8d. In 1533 he made a settlement of part of his lands, appointing Rush one of his trustees. At Ipswich, where Alvard lived when not at court, he had been well placed to secure after Wolsey’s fall the site and lands of the priory of St. Peter, with which Cardinal college had been endowed: to these he added, by a further grant in 1534, ‘Brokes’ and other lands in Ipswich and elsewhere lately belonging to that priory.8

Alvard made his will on 29 Jan. 1535 and died within a fortnight. He desired that a marble stone showing his arms should be placed in St. Stephen’s church in Ipswich. The executors, including Cromwell, Thomas Heneage, Rush and his brothers-in-law Roger Austen and William Bamborough, were to hold his property for 12 years to fulfil his will and to keep his sister’s children ‘to learning and other promotions’. As he had no male heirs, certain lands descended to his sisters Agnes Austen, Elizabeth Bamborough and Alice, wife of Edmund Burwell, and the husbands of the two last-named were left leases of lands they held of Alvard in Suffolk. He left jewellery and silver to Cromwell, Heneage and Rush and remembered his servants. One of these was Christian Wimbill; she and her sister Thomasin each received £6 13s.4d. and a black gown. Probate of the will was delayed until 27 Nov. 1538, and at some time between that year and 1544 the executors were sued in Chancery by Robert Hobson and John Sharp, the husbands of Christian and Thomasin Wimbill, for property in Ipswich, claimed in right of their wives as grandchildren of William Wimbill. The inquisition on Alvard’s lands was not taken until July 1543, when it was found that his daughters and heirs, Anne the wife of Richard Holdiche and Margaret Alvard, were aged 19 and 12 respectively; livery of this inheritance was granted on 4 Nov. 1547*. Margaret was to marry William, son and heir of John Latton.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. K. Dale


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament; LP Hen. VIII, vii, 1522(ii) citing SP1/87, f. 106v; Ipswich central lib. letters, accession 2672, no. 2.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Add. 19114, ff. 295-8; PCC 19 Stokton, 20 Dogett, 18 Holder, 30 Holgrave; Wards 7/1/76; CFR, 1485-1509, p. 357.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, iii-v, vii; The King’s Works, iii. 10, 15, 52; Ipswich ct. bk. 8, p. 41.
  • 4. PCC 19 Stokton, 30 Holgrave, 20 Dogett; Copinger, Suff. Manors, ii. 314; iv. 232; vii. 272-4; CIPM Hen. VII, i. 909; CFR, 1485-1509, p. 357; N. Bacon, Annals Ipswich, 158-77 passim.
  • 5. Ipswich ct. bk. 7, p. 245; 8, p. 41; LP Hen. VIII, iii-v, add.; E179/69/9; Somerville, Duchy, i. 597; Ellis, Orig. Letters, i(1), 307.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, iv-vi, add.; Merriman, Letters, Thomas Cromwell, i. 62; E351/3322 ex inf. H. M. Colvin.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, vii, 1522(ii); Ipswich central lib. letters, accession 2672, no. 2.
  • 8. PCC 30 Holgrave; Wards 7/1/76; LP Hen. VIII, iv-vii, add,
  • 9. PCC 22 Dyngeley; Wards 7/1/76; C1/1010/47-49; CPR, 1553; p. 313; Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvi), 105.