PHELIPS, Thomas (by 1514-90), of Sock Dennis by Montacute, Som.

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



Oct. 1553
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1514, 1st s. of Richard Phelips of Poole and Charborough, Dorset; Southwark, Surr. and London by 1st w. Emily. m. by 1535, Elizabeth, da. of Matthew Smith of Bristol, Glos., at least 4s. inc. Edward suc. fa. 1558/60.3

Offices Held

Member, household of Queen Catherine Parr 1543; hayward, manor of Shapwick, Dorset 1547.4


During the 1520s Richard Phelips leased a moiety of the manor of Sock Dennis for the lives of himself, his wife, and his sons Thomas and Bertram. By the time that Phelips obtained this lease, he was probably settled in Dorset permanently, and it was left to his eldest son Thomas to take up residence: Thomas Phelips, his wife and young children were living at Sock when his errant brother wrote from Louvain asking him to intercede with their parents on his behalf. Thomas Phelips’s decision to live at Sock was perhaps influenced by his family’s long association with Montacute, in which parish the hamlet was situated and where his uncle Thomas ‘the elder’ (1483/84-1565) and his shortlived cousin ‘the younger’ Thomas (d. by 1565) had their home. Thomas Phelips of Sock was sometimes described as of Montacute, and his contemporaries did not often distinguish between him, his uncle and his cousin, so that attribution of the numerous references to the three namesakes is problematic. After an early period at court the uncle’s sphere of interest appears to have been restricted to his native shire, and this suggests that it was his nephew, the servant of Catherine Parr, whose parliamentary career began in 1545 with the help of his father Richard Phelips. After 1547 there are no certain references to Thomas Phelips ‘the younger’, so that the senior Member for three different Dorset boroughs over a span of 13 years is presumed to have been the son of Richard Phelips.5

In March 1533 Thomas Arundell asked Cromwell to continue his goodness to ‘young Phelips’, for whom his father was probably seeking a place at court. This attempt to advance his career was jeopardised several months later when he was accused of instigating a prison break at Ilchester. When the inquiry was unduly drawn out, his father protested about the manner of his treatment and begged Cromwell not to end his favour towards the young man. In the following year, when Phelips had thrown himself on the King’s mercy in the matter, Arundell wrote again to Cromwell evidently with success, as not long afterwards Richard Phelips was to ask the minister to take Thomas into his service. Thomas Phelips did not enter Cromwell’s household but instead found employment with several of the more important families in the south-west. One of the families with which Phelips and his father had dealings was that of Seymour, and this business link could explain his admission to the household of Catherine Parr on her marriage to Henry VIII.6

As one close to Queen Catherine and himself returned as a knight for Dorset in 1545 Arundell presumably promoted Phelips’s return for Wareham, but his nomination there as it was elsewhere later was almost certainly the work of his father. Arundell doubtless played a similar role two years later when Phelips was chosen for Melcombe Regis, a borough amenable to the influence of his brother-in-law, Sir John Horsey, and when the returning officer, John Sydenham, was one of his co-lessees with Edward Napper of Montacute priory from (Sir) William Petre four years previously. In the autumn of 1554 he was re-elected at Melcombe at ‘the contemplation’ of his father who undertook to pay his wages. Phelips joined the opposition to a government measure in 1555, and may have done so again in 1558 when his name is one of those marked with a circle on the copy of the list of Members in use during the second session of the Parliament of that year. Along with his father and his kinsman John Phelips he was found to be absent at the call of the House early in January 1555 and for this dereliction he was informed against in the King’s bench during the following Easter term. He was distrained for non-appearance for a year when he was fined 53s.4d. and gave as a surety Thomas Phelips of Montacute, esquire. His father died shortly before the accession of Elizabeth, and with his death Phelips lost his parliamentary patron and maybe the urge to sit in the Commons. He did not cut much of a figure in the remaining 30 years of his life.7

By his will made on 25 Sept. 1588 he asked to be buried without pomp and provided for his family. As his three elder sons had proved unsatisfactory, it was his youngest son Edward whom Phelips made his executor and to whom he left his house at Montacute, instructing him to pay £650 for it to his eldest brother. Thomas Phelips died on 28 May 1590, and Edward Phelips justified his father’s choice by becoming an eminent lawyer and Speaker of the House of Commons.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. K. Dale


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.; Weymouth and Melcombe Regis ms misc. deeds, v. 1.
  • 3. Date of birth estimated from marriage. Burke, LG (1957), 2018; Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. xi), 23; Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. xx), 76; Collinson, Som. ii. 292; Hutchins, Dorset, iii. 357; LP Hen. VIII, ix; PCC 38 Drury.
  • 4. E101/423/12 pt. ii, ff. 8, 40; C1/1461/34-35.
  • 5. E315/385, f. 29v; C1/1167/30-32; LP Hen. VIII, ix.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, vi, vii; Elton, Policy and Police, 112; M. L. Robertson, ‘Cromwell’s servants’ (Univ. California Los Angeles Ph.D. thesis, 1975), 539; HMC Bath, iv. 124-332 passim; E101/423/12 pt. ii. f. 8.
  • 7. C1/1456/8; Bodl. e Museo 17; Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, misc. deeds, v. 1; KB27/1176-8; Guildford mus. Loseley 1331/2; CPR, 1557-8, p. 347; Wm. Salt Lib. SMS 264.
  • 8. PCC 38 Drury; C142/228/6.