CORNWALL, Sir Thomas (1472/74-1537), of Burford, Salop.

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. 1472/74, s. of Sir Edmund Cornwall of Burford by Margaret, da. and coh. of Thomas Horde of Bridgnorth. m. by 1499, Anne, da. of Sir Richard Corbet of Moreton Corbet, 2s. inc. Richard 3da. suc. fa. 8 Dec. 1489. Kntd. 17 June 1497, banneret 1513.1

Offices Held

J.p. Salop 1502-d., Cheshire, Flints., S. Wales 1515, Glos., Herefs., Worcs. 1515-d.; sheriff, Herefs. 1502-3, 1514-15, Salop 1505-6, 1515-16, 1519-20, 1531; commr. subsidy, Salop 1512, 1514, 1515, Worcs. 1523, enclosures Cheshire, Derbys., Lancs., Notts., Salop, Staffs. 1517, amicable grant, Cheshire 1525, tenths of spiritualities, Salop 1535; steward of Elizabeth, Viscountess Lisle’s lands in Salop by 1513; member, council in the marches of Wales by 1521.2


The Cornwalls of Burford were the younger branch of an ancient family which traced its descent from an illegitimate son of Richard, Earl of Cornwall, brother of Henry III. It was possibly their sense of this distinguished ancestry which caused them to style themselves Barons of Burford, although none of their line had ever been summoned to Parliament. They owned extensive property in Devon, Herefordshire, Shropshire and the midlands. In 1505 this substantial patrimony was enlarged by the addition of lands in Herefordshire inherited by Sir Thomas Cornwall from Isabel, dowager Countess of Devon.3

The 4th Earl of Shrewsbury obtained Cornwall’s wardship and presumably arranged his marriage into the most powerful family in Shropshire, his kinsmen the Corbets. In 1597 Cornwall took part in the defeat of the insurgent Cornishmen at Blackheath and after the battle was knighted by Henry VII at London Bridge. He and Sir Richard Corbet were accused in the Star Chamber of assembling between 2,000 and 3,000 men to ambush and kill Sir Richard Croft as he returned home from the campaign. The outcome of the case is not recorded, but Cornwall’s local prestige does not seem to have been harmed. In 1502 he attended the funeral of Prince Arthur at Worcester cathedral and in the same year he gained his first footing in local administration.4

In 1512 Cornwall went with the 2nd Marquess of Dorset on the disastrous expedition to Fuentarrabia and in the following year he served under Shrewsbury in the more successful campaign in northern France. On these operations he seems to have been closely associated with the lord chamberlain, Charles, Lord Herbert, who on his return to England in 1514 was created Earl of Worcester. The sudden increase in Cornwall’s role in the marches, marked by his appointment in 1515 to the commissions of the peace for south Wales and the marches and for all the border counties, was probably due to Worcester; it was perhaps at this time that Cornwall also became a member of the council in the marches. In 1520 he attended the Field of Cloth of Gold which Worcester helped to devise.5

During the later years of his life Cornwall was engaged in a struggle to secure his share of the inheritance of the last Lord Grey of Codnor, from one of whose aunts he was descended. After acrimonious lawsuits and some violence he seemed to have triumphed when on 5 Oct. 1527 he and another of the heirs, Thomas Newport, sold their rights to the Grey inheritance in Derbyshire, Essex, Kent, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to Cromwell, and Cornwall alone immediately repurchased them. Cornwall thus obtained two thirds of the inheritance, but the transaction failed in what was evidently its subsidiary purpose, to strengthen his legal position against other claimants. In 1529 the dispute was re-opened and after Cornwall’s death a large part of the inheritance slipped away from his successor. In this successor’s time a general deterioration is evident in the importance and wealth of the family, and this can probably be traced to the heavy expenditure which was the obverse of Cornwall’s achievements.6

Cornwall may have sat in the Commons before 1529, but in the absence of most of the names for the earlier Parliaments of the century this remains a matter for speculation. His election in that year was perhaps a move in his campaign to secure the Grey of Codnor inheritance but, if so, it failed of its purpose. Presumably he had the backing of the council in the marches, and he took precedence over his fellow-knight and kinsman, John Blount. Nothing has come to light about his part in this Parliament, but when Blount died he completed Blount’s term as sheriff of Shropshire and in 1535 he presided over the commissioners charged with preparing the valor ecclesiasticus for the county. He probably represented Shropshire again in the Parliament of 1536, when the King asked for the reelection of the previous Members, and shortly after its dissolution he was called to arms for the last time when the north rebelled. In the following summer he visited London and the court, and it was when setting out on his homeward journey that he died suddenly on 20 Aug. 1537 at Acton, Middlesex, where he was buried.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Alan Harding


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s.i.p.m., CIPM Hen. VII, i. 545. Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxviii), 147; C142/82/63.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, i-viii; Statutes, iii. 79, 114, 174; H. Owen and J. B. Blakeway, Shrewsbury, i. 291.
  • 3. Ld. Liverpool and C. Reade, House of Cornewall, 74-75; CP ii. 421; iv. 327-8; The 15th Cent., ed. Chrimes, Ross and Griffiths, 95; Materials for the History of Hen. VII (Rolls. ser. lx), ii. 534-6; CIPM Hen. VII, i. 545, 549, 562, 649, 667, 679; CPR, 1485-94, p. 376; 1495-1509, p. 431.
  • 4. CPR, 1485-94, p. 336; Lansd. 1, ff. 191, 193v; St.Ch.2/27/84; Leland, Coll. ed. Hearne, iv. 380.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, i-iii.
  • 6. PRO Lists, xiii. 83, 89, 173, 204, 224, 246, 249, 260; LP Hen. VIII, iv; St.Ch. 2/17/68.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, ix; Liverpool and Reade, 208; C142/60/38, 73, 82/63.