SAUNDERS, Thomas (by 1513-65), of London and Charlwood, Surr.

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



Mar. 1553
Oct. 1553

Family and Education

b. by 1513, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Nicholas Saunders of Charlwood by Alice, da. of John Hungate of (?Saxton), Yorks. educ. I. Temple, adm. 1527. m. settlement 6 June 1539, Alice (d. 21 May 1558), da. of Sir Edmund Walsingham of Scadbury, Chislehurst, Kent, 3s. 2da. Kntd. ?1550. suc. fa. 29 Aug. 1553.2

Offices Held

Attendant on Lent reader, I. Temple 1546, 1547, Summer 1546, Autumn reader 1546, 1547, treasurer 1556-8, gov. in 1557.

Solicitor, household of Queens Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard 1540; j.p. Surr. 1541-58, q. 1558/59-d.; commr. chantries Surr., Suss. and chantries, Surr., Suss. and Chichester 1548, relief, Surr., Suss. 1550, goods of churches and fraternities, Surr. 1553, musters 1557, conventicles 1557, subsidy 1563; King’s remembrancer, the Exchequer Aug. 1549-d.; sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1553-4.3


The will of Thomas Saunders’s great-uncle Henry Saunders suggests that he was a third son, but when his father died in 1553 he was left heir to extensive property in Surrey. Both his great-uncle, the father of William Saunders, and his uncle William, father of Nicholas Saunders the Catholic controversialist, may have been members of other inns, but he established the family’s connexion with the Inner Temple, where on his admission in 1527 he was pardoned all vacations and offices and allowed to be out of commons at his pleasure. His long upward progress there received occasional checks: his refusal to read in the summer of 1547 cost him temporary demotion from the bench, and in 1560 his work as treasurer was challenged and he was called upon to re-account. No such setbacks appear in his government career. Appointed solicitor of the Queen’s household in 1540, originally for Anne of Cleves but then for Catherine Howard, he obtained the reversion of the office of King’s remembrancer in 1545 and the office itself in 1549. Its previous holder was (Sir) Christopher More, a fellow Inner Templar who had settled in Saunders’s own county; in February 1547 Saunders indemnified More against any harm resulting from his visits to the Exchequer ‘to see and peruse the records and process there for his learning and knowledge of the course of the said office’. He was to retain the post until his death. Similar continuity marked Saunders’s record in local administration: for the last 24 years of his life he served every regime in turn.4

Saunders sat in the Commons under three successive monarchs and at intervals over a span of 16 years. His return for Gatton to the Parliament of 1542 he must have owed to Sir Roger Copley, described in the indentures as ‘burgess and only inhabitant of the borough’, but whether as Copley’s near neighbour at Charlwood or through an intermediary like Copley’s father-in-law (Sir) William Shelley it is impossible to say. In the first session he shared in the passing of the Act (33 Hen. VIII, c.21) attainting his mistress the Queen. Whether he unsuccessfully sought a seat at the two following elections is not known, but when on 1 Feb. 1552 the Council sent a writ for the election of a knight for Surrey to replace either Sir Christopher More, or more probably More’s successor, it was accompanied by an instruction to the sheriff, Sir Robert Oxenbridge, to ‘prefer’ Saunders. This may well have been done on the initiative of William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester: as treasurer, Winchester was Saunders’s departmental chief, and he had probably engineered Saunders’s knighthood in 1550 shortly after his own promotion. In the event the Council’s recommendation was ignored and the sheriff returned John Vaughan I. Twelve months later the Council prepared to intervene again; this time it favoured the re-election of Vaughan and the other previous Member Sir Thomas Cawarden, but whereas Cawarden was chosen Vaughan was passed over in favour of Saunders. What lay behind this reversal can only be guessed at: the implied assertion of shire independence may have been more apparent than real and the explanation lie in an amicable adaptation to circumstances.5

Saunders was not to regain the knighthood of the shire until 1558; at three of the intervening elections it was his ultra-Catholic cousin William Saunders who replaced him, once during Saunders’s shrievalty. Still he was elected for Reigate, where his patron was probably the lord of the manor, Lord William Howard from whom he held property there. Unlike some other Members from Surrey he did not oppose the initial measures for the restoration of Catholicism, and it was in the course of the second session that he was pricked sheriff. He had presumably won the Queen’s confidence by ignoring the attempt of the Council, as soon as Edward VI was dead, to secure Surrey for Jane Grey, and his conduct during Wyatt’s rebellion justified his choice. The invidious duty of sequestering Cawarden’s goods and, with William Saunders, of removing Cawarden’s weapons he appears to have carried out efficiently but humanely, afterwards sending Lady Cawarden a letter of apology and ‘a token of your own’, and he may not have been wholly to blame for the failure to return all the goods with which Cawarden was later to charge him.6

Before succeeding his father at Charlwood in August 1553 Saunders had himself acquired the manors of Flanchford and Hartswood in 1539 and in the following year had had three manors in Sanderstead and Warlingham settled on him by his father on his marriage to Alice Walsingham. In 1543 he took a 21-year lease of a house in the Blackfriars, which presumably became his London residence; from 1550 his landlord there was his Surrey neighbour Cawarden. This transaction apart, Saunders did not interest himself in monastic property. His legal standing made him a suitable choice as an overseer of wills, and among those who named him in this capacity were his father-in-law Walsingham and one of his successors as Member for Gatton, John Tingleden. Saunders’s own will, which he drew up himself, was meticulous in its provisions and requirements. His wife was to have a life interest in most of his property but if she remarried she would have to give the heir written sureties against despoiling of woods or furnishings; the rest of the property was divided among the younger children. Anxious that at least one of his sons should study law, Saunders promised his law books to whichever of them did so. His care for learning showed itself in his ample provision for ‘an honest parish clerk at Charlwood that can play the organ and teach children, for maintenance of God’s service’, and the bequest of his ‘books of humanity and stories in Latin or French’ to his own children. Although he made the will on 7 Mar. 1563, Saunders did not die until 18 Aug. 1565, probate following on 7 July 1566.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. R. Johnson


  • 1. Bodl. e Museo 17.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from education. Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. xliii), 18; Surr. Arch. Colls. iv. 10; xi. 18; C142/141/25; City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 12(1), f. 177; CPR, 1553, p. 357.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xvi, xvii, xx; CPR, 1547-8, p. 90; 1549-51, p. 135; 1550-3, p. 395 1553, pp. 357, 415; 1560-3, pp. 441, 485; 1563-6, p. 137; HMC 7th Rep. 607; The Gen. n.s. xxx. 26; Guildford mus. Loseley 1074; City of London RO, rep. 12(1), f. 177; Manning and Bray, Surr. ii. 190.
  • 4. Manning and Bray, ii. 190; VCH Surr. iii. 185; PCC 15 Ayloffe; Cal. I.T. Recs. i. passim; The Gen. n.s. xxx. 26; LP Hen. VIII, xx; Guildford mus. Loseley 1128/20.
  • 5. APC, iii. 470-1; Strype, Eccles. Memorials, ii(2), 65-66.
  • 6. VCH Surr. iii. 237; Wards 7/10/117; HMC 7th Rep. 608-11, 614, 615.
  • 7. VCH Surr. iii. 237; iv. 239, 336; Wards 7/10/117; Guildford mus. Loseley 1074; Manning and Bray, ii. 190; Surr. Arch. Colls. xvii. 14; LP Hen. VIII, xviii; PCC 25 Coode, 30 Bucke, 19 Crymes.