LEWKNOR, Thomas (c.1538-96), of Tangmere; later of Selsey, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c. 27 Jan. 1538, 1st s. of Edmund Lewknor of Tangmere, and bro. of Richard. educ. M. Temple 1555. m. (1) Bridget, da. of John Lewes of Selsey, 5s. inc. Lewis 1da.; (2) Anne, da. of Richard Hill, serjeant of the cellar to Henry VIII and wid. of John Bellingham (d. 6 Nov. 1576) of Eringham, s.p. suc. fa. 1544.1

Offices Held

Commr. sewers, Suss. 1564, j.p. from 1575, q. from c.1583, commr. piracy 1578, bailiff of gild lands 1586, commr. grain 1586, musters, Chichester rape 1580, 1584.2


Lewknor belonged to the senior surviving line in Sussex of a family well-known in the county since the thirteenth century. He was born at Tangmere and was 6 years old when his father died, seised of the manor of Fyning and lands in Tangmere and Woolavington. When he came of age he apparently sold the Fyning property, in 1578 acquiring the lease of part of the bishop of Chichester’s estate at Selsey. Despite being listed in the 1564 bishops’ reports among the ‘mislikers of godly orders’, and being described in 1579 as having ‘never been at church but four times’, he remained an active j.p. for over 20 years, the 1587 report on the Sussex commission saying that the two brothers did practically all the work in Chichester rape and that others should be appointed to help them. It was also remarked that they sometimes visited their recusant brother George in Chichester. Another brother may have been the Elizabethan seminary priest Edmund Lewknor. There is no doubt that Lewknor was a crypto-Catholic (a ‘notorious papist’ was a contemporary description); equally there is no doubt of his loyalty. His views, however, brought him into conflict with Bishop Curteys of Chichester who thought him ‘a proud arrogant fool’. Curteys summoned Lewknor and other Sussex gentlemen to a consistory in Chichester cathedral on 2 Mar. 1577 to answer charges on religious matters. In the upshot Curteys was admonished by the Privy Council, whose policy it was to encourage as many gentry as possible to conform for the sake of good administration and the general peace of the realm. Lewknor remained an active justice for almost 20 years until, for an unknown reason, his name was omitted from the commission of the peace drawn up in June 1595. Perhaps this was due to his religious views; more likely it was because of ill-health: he had been obliged on this account to ask for discharge from his captaincy of the footband for Chichester rape in March 1589, and by 1595 he had not long to live. Whatever the reason, in December of that year Lord Buckhurst and Lord Howard recommended his restoration.3

His representation of Midhurst in 1586 was no doubt due to his family’s association with Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu, the borough patron. No contribution to the business of the House is recorded in his name. His brother Richard sometimes witnessed or assisted in Montagu’s legal transactions and was among his executors. Lewknor’s nuncupative will was proved on 17 July 1596, his death having occurred earlier in the month. According to the will, while he was visiting the house of one Mr. Joyner at Blackfriars in London in Hilary term 1595, he had said his son Lewis was to be sole executor and to have the dispoal of all his goods.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.E.M.


  • 1. W. Suss. RO, Tangmere par. reg.; Suss. Arch. Colls. ii. 97; J. Comber, Suss. Genealogies Lewes Centre, 153; PCC 31 Pynnyng; Chichester wills 3/26; C142/75/54.
  • 2. CPR , 1563-6, pp. 38, 40; Lansd. 48, f. 136; 146, f. 19; PRO Assizes 35, S. E. Circuit, Suss. 17-38; E315/309/f. 60; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 183; APC, xii. 8.
  • 3. PRO Assizes 35, S.E. Circuit, Suss. 38; Suss. Arch. Colls. ii. 59; iii. 91, 97; Mousley thesis, 575 seq.; Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 10; R. B. Manning, Religion in Eliz Suss. 82-90, 92-3, 100, 245; G. Anstruther, Seminary Priests, i. 210; C142/75/54; Comber, 153; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 543-5; Harl. 703, f. 59v; 6996, f. 143.
  • 4. PCC 55 Drake.