WOTTON, Thomas (by 1521-87), of Boughton Place, Boughton Malherbe, Kent.

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 1521, 1st s. of Sir Edward Wotton of Boughton Place by Dorothy, da. of Sir Robert Rede; bro. of William. educ. L. Inn, adm. 7 Feb. 1541. m. (1) by 1545, Elizabeth, da. of Sir John Rudston of London, 6s. inc. Edward 3da.; (2) settlement 12 Apr. 1565, Eleanor, da. of William Finch of the Moat, Kent, wid. of Robert Morton, 2s. suc. fa. 8 Nov. 1551.2

Offices Held

Commr. heresies, Kent 1552, goods of churches and fraternities 1553, Rochester bridge 1561, 1571, 1574, piracy 1565, offences against the Acts of Uniformity and Supremacy 1572; sheriff 1558-9, 1578-9; j.p.q. 1558/59-d.; custos rot. 1561-d.3


Thomas Wotton was described by Izaak Walton as ‘a man of great modesty, of a plain and single heart, of an ancient freedom and integrity of mind, ... of great learning, religion and wealth’. He came from a Kentish family which stood high in the esteem of the crown: his father was prominent at the court of Henry VIII, a beneficiary under the King’s will and a Privy Councillor and treasurer of Calais under Edward VI, and his uncle successively an ambassador, Privy Councillor and secretary of state. With the exception of his single (known) appearance at Westminster, Wotton did not try to emulate them: he was of a retiring disposition and rarely visited either the court or the capital, but as a landlord and magistrate he showed exemplary diligence.4

Wotton spent some time at Lincoln’s Inn, presumably to round off his education since he is not known to have been called or to have practised; while a student at the inn he occupied a house in the nearby parish of St. Foster’s, Gutter Lane. His marriage, which may have taken place before he left it, was one of a series between his family and the Rudstons, his father having married the widow of Sir John Rudston and his sister being the wife of Robert Rudston.5

Wotton’s return in 1547 for a newly enfranchised Cornish town was doubtless arranged by his father, with help from another Privy Councillor, Sir John Russell, Baron Russell, an honorary member of Lincoln’s Inn and lord lieutenant in the west. The Journal contains no reference to Wotton, but he missed some of the first session conveying treasure to his father in Calais and in the second he may have interested himself in the Act for gavelkind (2 and 3 Edw. VI, no. 40), which was to his benefit as an eldest son. He doubtless acted for his father and uncle during their absences abroad, and early in 1549 he wrote a letter of advice to the Protector which, coming from one of so little experience, probably offended its recipient. By the next Parliament, that of March 1553, Wotton’s father was dead; his uncle was in favour with the Duke of Northumberland, but in the absence of so many returns it is not known whether he sat again, although his younger brother did. In the previous autumn he had been nominated, but not pricked, sheriff, and he was promised a knighthood of the Bath which the King did not live to confer. Wotton’s Protestantism did not commend him to Mary. On 16 Jan. 1554 he was summoned before the Council, perhaps in connexion with Sir Thomas Wyatt II’s plot, and five days later he was committed to the Fleet ‘for obstinate standing in matters of religion’. His uncle interceded with the Queen on his behalf and averted harsher punishment. It is not known how long Wotton stayed in custody and nothing has come to light about his career during the rest of the reign.6

With Elizabeth on the throne Wotton emerged as a figure of importance in Kent. As her first sheriff he received in 1559 a letter from (Sir) Henry Crispe ‘touching the tranquillity of the realm’ which he sent on to Cecil. In 1564 his religious beliefs were approved by Archbishop Parker, and his efforts to defend extreme Protestants and to extirpate recusancy show where his heart lay. In 1573 the Queen visited Boughton Place and offered him a knighthood, which he declined. Wotton is chiefly remembered as the patron of William Lambarde, whose Perambulation of Kent (1576) was dedicated to him; as a young man he had been similarly associated with The Christian state of matrimony (1543) translated by Miles Coverdale, and later in life Edward Dering dedicated to him The sparing restraint (1568). Wotton made his will on 8 Jan. 1587. He left £400 and some furniture to his wife, provided she quitclaimed her interest in the Wotton estates to his son Edward. He remembered various members of his family and his friends (Sir) Roger Manwood II and Thomas Temple, and appointed as executors his son Edward, his brother-in-law Robert Rudston and his nephew William Cromer. He died three days later and was buried in Boughton church, where a monument was erected to his memory.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/93/113. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. lxxiv), 21-22; (lxxv), 78-79; CPR, 1563-6, p. 196.
  • 3. CPR, 1550-3 to 1572-5 passim; APC, vii. 382.
  • 4. Izaak Walton, Reliquiae Wottoniane (1685), sig. b. 4; DNB (Wotton, Sir Edward and Sir Nicholas).
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, xvii.
  • 6. APC, ii. 148; iv. 351; PCC 33 Bucke; Thomas Wotton’s Letter Bk. 1574-86 ed. Eland, 13-14; CPR, 1553, p. 387; Foxe, Acts and Mons. vi. 413; Walton, sig. b. 4.
  • 7. Arch. Cant. xii. 417-18; lxxxii. 124; Cam. Misc. ix (3), 57; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 560, 685; 1581-90, p. 80; APC, vii. 31, 37, 382; xii. 161; Cantium, ii. 43; Strype, Annals Ref. i(2), 272; ii(1), 44, 465; Parker, 339; PCC 4 Spencer; C142/215/263; J. Newman, W. Kent and the Weald, 167.