PHAER (FAYRE), Thomas (c.1510-c.61), of Forest, Cilgerran, Pemb.

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.1510, s. of Thomas Phaer of Norwich, Norf. by Elery, da. of Sir Richard Godier or Goodere, prob. of Herts. educ. ?L. Inn; Oxf. MB and MD 1559. m. (1) at least 1da.; (2) by 1553, Agnes or Anne, da. of Thomas Walter, alderman of Carmarthen (d.1547), wid. of John Revell of Forest, 2da.

Offices Held

Steward, Cilgerran 1549, constable of castle from c.1552; crown researcher, Milford Haven by May 1556-d., collector, tonnage and poundage from 1559; solicitor, council in the marches of Wales by 1558; j.p. Card., Carm., Pemb. from 1559; custos rot. Pemb.1


Phaer was brought up in the household of William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester, to whom he probably owed his appointment as solicitor in the council in the marches. His introduction to the Revell family, and so to a fortunate second marriage, was probably through their neighbour Sir John Perrot. But where Phaer acquired his learning in the law, medicine and classics is not known. Anthony Wood’s conjecture that he went early to Oxford and then to Lincoln’s Inn is not confirmed by the records of either, nor does his name appear in those of Cambridge or of any of the inns of court. Yet apart from his appointment as solicitor, he was writing legal treatises from 1535, and some ten years later he translated a French medical work, with added chapters of his own. It was on the score of this work, and his claim that he had been studying medicine for 20 years, that his Oxford medical degrees were conferred in 1559. His greatest achievement was his pioneer translation of the Aeneid. He had completed nine books and commenced the tenth when death overtook him; the first seven were published under the protection of a royal patent, with a dedication to Queen Mary, in 1558. He was also the author of many pieces of occasional verse, including a derogatory poem on Owain Glyndwr which he contributed to the Mirrour for Magistrates in 1559.2

Phaer’s stewardship of Cilgerran—perhaps acquired as a result of his second marriage—carried with it a 40-year lease of the demesne lands and of the herbage of the royal forest; he also held shorter leases of sundry rectories in the area. Cilgerran lies just beyond the border of Cardiganshire, into which the demesne land no doubt extended. This would account for his nomination as sheriff of Cardiganshire in 1552 (though in the event another name was pricked) and for his parliamentary seat at Cardigan Boroughs. Phaer was a loyal Marian, but this does not mean that a cryptic clause in his will, that his widow should ‘pay £5 where she doth know by an appointment between her and me’, refers to his burial with Roman rites. In any case, the minimum of conformity required at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign was no bar to his inclusion, by virtue of his office, in the court of the marches, on the commission of the peace for the three shires of west Wales and of the quorum for those in which he held land.3

Phaer’s will, dated August 1560, was proved the following 30 June. He left legacies to his daughters, and the will provided that if his widow and sole executrix should remarry, she was not to alienate the lands Phaer bequeathed to them. Phaer’s estate at Forest, as well as lands he had enjoyed during his stepson’s minority, passed eventually to Thomas Revell. George Owen of Henllys described Phaer as ‘a man honoured for his learning, commended for his government, and beloved for his pleasant natural conceits’, and in 1563 Barnaby Googe published a flattering epitaph on him in his Eclogues.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: A.H.D.


  • 1. Dwnn, Vis. Wales, i. 148, 150; Ath. Ox. i. 316-20; Reg. Univ. Oxf. ed. Boase, i. 239; CPR, 1555-7, p. 74; 1558-60, p. 146; PCC 23 Loftes; Augmentations, ed. Lewis and Davies (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. xiii), 471; Phaer, Seven first bookes of the Eneidos (1558), dedication; Welsh Port Bks. (Cymmrodorion Rec. Ser. xii), 329-30; E159/336 Trin. 23; Lansd. 1218, ff. 94-5; Stowe 571, f. 74.
  • 2. CPR, 1555-7, p. 74; 1557-8, p. 309; Arch. Camb. (ser. 2), iv. 134-8.
  • 3. Exchequer, ed. E. G. Jones (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. iv), 297; CPR, 1553 and App. Edw. VI, p. 387; 1557-8, p. 363; 1560-3, p. 570; DNB.
  • 4. PCC 23 Loftes; J. R. Phillips, Cilgerran, 102-3; Desc. Pemb. (Cymmrodorion Rec. Ser. i), 239.