THELWALL, Simon I (1525/26-86), of Plas-y-ward, Llanynys, Denb.

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. 1525/26, 1st s. of Richard Thelwall of Plas-y-ward by Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Herle of Stanton Harcourt, Oxon. and Aberystwyth, Card. educ. I. Temple 1556, called 1568. m. (1) Alice, da. of Robert Salesbury of Rûg, Merion. and Bachymbyd, 4s.; (2) Jane, da. of Thomas Massey of Broxton and Chester, Cheshire, 1s. 2da.; (3) Margaret, da. of Sir William Griffith of Penrhyn, Caern., wid. of Sir Nicholas Dutton, s.p. suc. fa. 1568.

Offices Held

Commr. piracy, Denb. 1565, tanneries, Ruthin 1574; seneschal Ruthin manor from 1575; sheriff; Denb. 1571-2, j.p. from 1575, commr. musters 1580; dep. justice, Chester circuit 1576, 1579, vice-justice 1580, 1584; member, council in the marches of Wales c.1577.1


The Thelwalls were originally a Cheshire family who migrated to the vale of Clwyd in the fourteenth century. A fortunate marriage brought them Plas-y-ward near Ruthin, and this remained the seat of the main branch of the family. By the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign they were established as one of the county’s leading families.

Thelwall had an extraordinary career. He entered the Inner Temple at the advanced age of 30, in 1556, and was called in 1568, aged 42. He succeeded to his father’s estates in the same year and received the usual local offices in due course. But far from settling down as a country gentleman, he apparently continued his legal career and was deputy justice of the Chester circuit only eight years later, aged 50.

In 1563 Thelwall was elected knight for Denbighshire, while still studying at the Inner Temple and before succeeding to his estates. He also represented Denbigh Boroughs in 1559 and 1571. The only reference to him in the extant Commons journals (22 Mar. 1563) is to his application for leave of absence from Parliament ‘for his necessary affairs’.

In west Denbighshire Thelwall’s interests were firmly linked to those of the pre-eminent county family, the Salusburys of Lleweni. His first marriage had been into the junior branch of that family, and as a committed protestant he allied himself with the Salusburys in support of the Earl of Leicester and court opinion. It was Thelwall who pronounced the death sentence on Richard Gwyn, the first Welsh Catholic martyr, at Wrexham in 1584. The inclusion of his name in a list of Welsh Catholics drawn up ten years earlier in the interests of Mary Queen of Scots may be dismissed as a piece of wishful thinking.

In the course of his life, Thelwall augmented the family estates by the lease of a moiety of the manor of Dinorben, in north-western Denbighshire; he also farmed from the Crown, jointly with Thomas Pennant of Bychton, mill rights in Dyserth, Flintshire, which involved them both in Exchequer proceedings with the Conways of Bodrhyddan in 1580-2. He held the lease of half the episcopal ‘lordship’ of Meliden, until he surrendered it to William Hughes, the venal bishop of St. Asaph, in return for a grant of the vicarage of Mold to his son Eubule, who held it from 1576 to 1594.

He died in April 1586 and was buried at Ruthin. In his will, which was made on 16 Apr. and proved 7 Nov. 1586, he aspired to ‘enjoy eternal bliss amongst the elect of the children of God’. His principal heir, his son Edward, was also an executor of his will. His third wife, who survived him by only a few months, inherited a third of his lands.2

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: A.H.D.


  • 1. DWB; Griffith, Peds. 274; Flenley, Cal. Reg. Council, Marches of Wales, 127, 133, 200, 212; W. R. Williams, Welsch Judges, 71; Add. Chart 41406; P. H. Williams, Council in the Marches of Wales, 358-9; APC, vii. 286; SC2/225/14, 23.
  • 2. DWB; HMC Welsh, i. 291; Harl. 1143, f. 30v; Williams, Parl. Hist. Wales, 160; Read, Burghley, 39, 45, 157, 315, 550; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 685-9, 692; Add. Chart 26069, 51482; J. Y. W. Lloyd, Powys Fadog, iii. 128-64; Cath. Rec. Soc. xiii. 109; Trans. Denb. Hist. Soc. iii. 46-7, 58-9, 87-9; EHR, lix. 350; Augmentations, ed. Lewis and Davies (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. xiii), 372; Exchequer, ed. E. G. Jones (id. ser. iv), 191-2; Arch. Camb. (ser. 5), i. 57; Lansd. 120; f. 24; CJ, i. 70; PCC 55 Windsor.