LUTTRELL, Thomas (d.1571), of Marshwood and Dunster Castle, Som.

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

2nd s. of Sir Andrew Luttrell of Dunster Castle by Margaret, da. of Sir Thomas Wyndham of Felbrigg, Norf. m. Margaret, da. of Christopher Hadley of Withycombe, 3s. inc. George and John 4da. suc. fa. to Marshwood 1538, bro. 1551.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, Som. 1570-1.


Thomas was the younger brother of Sir John Luttrell, a captain in Protector Somerset’s Scottish wars. The family purchased the barony and castle of Dunster in 1375. He was probably born in the early 1520s, the second of at least eight children. His father cultivated an acquaintanceship with Thomas Cromwell, to whom he left a silver cup so that he should be a ‘good lord to my wife and children’. There is nothing to suggest, however, that Thomas benefited from this request. The first definite references to him occur in 1548 when he was serving in the army in Scotland. He acted as a messenger between his brother and the Duke of Somerset and was able, from personal observation, to report to the Duke on the size of the French and Scottish force at Leith. He was also actively engaged in paying and recruiting men and, interestingly, a false report reached the government that he was killed when Sir John was repulsed from Dundee on 7 November.2

Sir John Luttrell died on 10 July 1551 and left all his property to Thomas, his male heir; but because of two important factors he was able to take possession of only a small portion of the barony of Dunster. Firstly, the law required that at least one third of the property should be given to Sir John’s three daughters, and accordingly some of the estates, including Minehead, were held in trust for them until they came of age or married. Secondly, two Luttrell widows held estates as their jointures for life. Dame Margaret Luttrell, Thomas’s mother, who lived until 1580, some time after Thomas’s own death, held the wealthy manors of Carhampton, Quantoxhead, Rodhuish, Eveton and Vexford, together with the priory of Dunster. Similarly Sir John’s widow, Dame Mary, who also outlived Thomas, held the castle and borough of Dunster, together with the rectory and tithes of the church, and the manor of Kilton. This arrangement, with a woman holding the caput of a barony, was rare. Thomas, therefore, had to be content to remain at Marshwood, which he had inherited from his father in 1538. It seems evident, however, that he spent much time consolidating the property and buying out his relatives. Thus he bought Hopcot, near Minehead and also acquired some of Mary’s rights. Further, between 1560 and 1564 he was able to purchase from Sir John’s daughters and their husbands all the estates which had been left to them, including part of the manor of Minehead.3

Thomas also acquired the lease of Dunster Castle from Robert Opy who had obtained it from Mary Luttrell, but he re-let most of the castle, including the hall, parlour, kitchen, stables, mill, and some pasture rights, to Opy. Perhaps he preferred to live at Marshwood. His marriage brought him more lands. On the death of her elder brother Arthur, in 1558, Margaret Hadley inherited her father’s property, which included the manors of Heathfield, Williton Hadley and Withycombe Hadley, all adjacent to Dunster. The circumstances surrounding this marriage are particularly interesting. The date of the original union is not known, but towards the end of Mary’s reign it was declared invalid because of consanguinity. The couple were distantly related but, more to the point, Thomas’s mother was Margaret’s godmother and so there was a spiritual bond. By a bull issued on 28 Nov. 1558 Paul IV validated the marriage on the condition that it was solemnized in church. This took place nearly two years later, in August 1560, at East Quantoxhead church. In the parish register the bride is entered as ‘Mrs. Margaret Hadley’, and the inscription on Thomas’s tomb records that he was ‘lawfully married’ to his wife. The date of this second ceremony was probably governed by the anticipated birth of their first son a month later.4

Minehead was dominated by the Luttrells, and Thomas Luttrell was the senior Member for the borough when it sent its first representatives to Westminster in 1563. He is not known to have taken any part in the proceedings of the Parliament and was dead before the next one was summoned. In fact he had been at odds with the borough authorities for some time over the question of who had the right to impose dues on shipping, the Luttrells or the borough. In 1564 the burgesses invoked Luttrell’s assistance in repairing the quay, and acknowledged him as permanent ‘principal burgess’. In 1570 he sent a circular letter asking his friends to help him create ‘a harbour such as there is not the like of in the west part of England’.5

Luttrell did not enjoy undisputed possession of his lands in the last years of his life. In 1565 a lawyer named Stukeley, whose daughter was later to marry Luttrell’s son George, unsuccessfully claimed Minehead park on a foreclosed mortgage. In like fashion Richard Hadley, presumably a relative of Luttrell’s wife, claimed—also unsuccessfully—that the Hadley lands were entailed to heirs male and thus did not belong to Margaret and her husband. For the last ten years at least of his life Luttrell was firmly established in county affairs, training local forces and preparing coastal defences against invasion. He died intestate while in office as sheriff on 16 Jan. 1571, being buried 6 Feb. at Dunster, where a monument to him can still be seen. His wife was granted the administration of his property in 1573. She remarried twice and died in 1607.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: M.R.P.


  • 1. Harl. 1385, f. 12; Burke, Landed Gentry; Collinson, Som. ii. 12; CPR, 1550-3, pp. 67-8.
  • 2. Lyte, Hist. Dunster, 134; LP Hen. VIII, vii. 522; xii(2), p. 112; Som. Wills, ed. Weaver, iii. 41-2; CSP Scot. i. 112-13, 167; HMC Rutland, iv. 203-4.
  • 3. PCC 37 Bucke; 166 Lyte; Machyn Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii), 7; Arch. Jnl. xxxvii. 287-8; CPR, 1560-3, p. 86; 1563-6, pp. 48, 270.
  • 4. Arch. Jnl. xxxvii. 287-8; Lyte, Som. Manors, 267; Collinson, iii. 254; Lyte, Dunster, 167-8; Hancock, Dunster Priory, 85-6.
  • 5. HMC 10th Rep. VI, 79; Hancock, Minehead, 38-9, 245-6; 430-8; Lyte, Dunster, 169-70; LP Hen. VIII, xx(2), p. 448.
  • 6. Chancery Proc., bills and answers, ser. 2, bdle. 113, no. 76 and bdle. 95, no. 13; Hancock, Minehead, 191-2; Lyte, Dunster, 170-1, 172; CSP For. 1562, p. 58; Green, Preparations in Som. against the Armada, 10; PCC Administrations. ed. Glencross, ii. 29; Hancock, Dunster Priory, 84-6.