PENISTON, Thomas (c.1542-c.1603), of Hawridge, Bucks., Dean, Oxon. and Brilley Michaelchurch, Herefs.

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.1542, 1st s. of Anthony Peniston of Hawridge by his w. Jane Newport of Rushock, Worcs. educ. I. Temple 1559. m. by 1568, Elizabeth, da. of Humphrey Ashfield of Heythrop, Oxon., 2s. 1da. suc. fa. 15601.

Offices Held

Lt. of Woodstock 1571 (for a short time); j.p. Bucks. from c.1569, Oxon. from c.1573-94, temp. rem. c.1587; j.p. Herefs. and Rad. from c.1592.


Peniston’s great-aunt, Lettice Peniston, was the mother of Sir Francis Knollys, from whom Peniston’s father held the manor of Hawridge. Thus in 1563 he was described by an opponent in a lawsuit as ‘a man well friended and greatly kinned and allied’. Though the Penistons had for some time been tenants in the manor of Dean, near Woodstock, it was probably through Knollys that Peniston himself secured the lieutenancy of Woodstock in 1571. In the same year he was returned to Parliament for the borough with Martin Johnson, a servant of Knollys. He sold Hawridge in 1574, and in 1575 it was noted, on a Buckinghamshire list of j.p.s, that he was ‘seldom or never resident to do service’ in that shire.

The reason for his speedily surrendering the lieutenancy of Woodstock, which passed to a relative of himself and Knollys, Sir Henry Lee, is not clear, but it may have been connected with his propensity to quarrel with his family and friends. In 1563 he carried on a long and undignified suit for the return of jewels given by him to a Norfolk lady. He sued his mother’s second husband and his own wife’s family over property, and involved himself in disputes with servants of the locally powerful Earl of Leicester and, after 1578, Knollys’s son-in-law. He used his position as j.p. to persecute the recusant Edward Sheldon, for whose father Leicester had secured a reversionary lease of Dean, and in 1586 the Privy Council warned him not to seize the goods of his wife’s brother and Leicester’s servant, John Ashfield, during Ashfield’s absence in the Netherlands. The Council had cause on several other occasions to complain of Peniston’s behaviour as a justice; in 1592 it received a petition from the inhabitants of Eynsham against his ‘very foul abuses, misdemeanours and oppressions’.2

Peniston’s conduct was the more imprudent if, as is likely, he himself continued to rely on the patronage of Leicester and the Knollys family. The continuance of this connexion would explain the fact that, when Oxfordshire became too uncomfortable for him, he retired, not to Buckinghamshire, but to the borders of Herefordshire and Radnorshire, where he is described as residing in the records of another Star Chamber suit concerning Eynsham in 1594. The Earl of Essex, Lettice Knollys’s son, owned property in Herefordshire and was at that time building up his influence in the marches. As soon as Peniston’s name disappears from the Oxfordshire commission of the peace, it appears in 1597 in the commissions for Radnorshire and Herefordshire. The same commissions included Robert Knollys, Sir Francis’s son; he had married into the marcher family of Vaughan, with whom the Penistons were soon at law.3

Peniston died before 1604, when letters of administration were granted to his daughter, Anne Hanslapp. His eldest son, a second Thomas Peniston, who predeceased him, made his will in August 1601 from the preamble of which it appears that he may have been a puritan. Peniston’s second son had been slain on the Portugal expedition in 1589.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. C142/134/191; Vis. Bucks. (Harl. Soc. lviii), 98-9; PCC 58 Woodhall; C3/1/61, 3/99; VCH Bucks. iii. 368.
  • 2. E. K. Chambers, Sir Henry Lee , 16, 82; C142/129/5; C3/1/61; Stowe 570, f. 13; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 491; C3/1/46, 61, 3/99, 144/106, 168/6; St. Ch. 5/A13/38, P6/37; APC , xiii. 97; xiv. 128; xv. 239-40; xxii. 515-16; Hist. Dean and Chalford (Oxon. Rec. Soc. xvii), 72, 76; The Archdeacon’s Court (same ser. xxiii), 109.
  • 3. St. Ch. 5/P4/18; Star Chamber , ed. Edwards (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. i), 138, 218.
  • 4. PCC admon. act bk. 1604, f. 199; PCC 58 Woodhall; Vis. Bucks. (Harl. Soc. lviii), 99; VCH Bucks. iv. 237.