TOTHILL, Geoffrey (d.1574), of Peamore, near Exeter, Devon.

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

1st s. of William Tothill, mayor of Exeter, by Elizabeth, da. of Geoffrey Matthew of Vorganwg, Pemb. educ. M. Temple 1560. m. (1) Joan (d.1567), da. of Robert Dillon of Chimwell, 3s.; (2) lic. 24 Nov. 1569, Elizabeth (d.1587), da. of Bartholomew Fortescue of Filleigh, wid. of Lewis Hatch of North Molton, s.p.

Offices Held

General attorney, Exeter 1558, recorder from 1563; j.p. Devon from c.1569.


Tothill was a lawyer but the late Middle Temple admission date and the absence of any record of his call to the bar are confusing. The assumption must be that he was qualified by the time he became recorder of Exeter. He received a grant of cranage and wharfage from the city and an annuity of 20 marks for 1564.

The record of Tothill’s parliamentary activity is to be found not in the journals of the House but in the Exeter records. In 1563 he and Thomas Williams were given a ‘remembrance of certain articles’ the city wished to be dealt with—such matters as the repair of highways, apprentices, and the statute staple. A bill concerning Exeter churches was also in Tothill’s possession. Tothill’s handling of the business, together with the good luck of Williams being elected Speaker, resulted in at least three of the six articles being embodied in legislation in this Parliament. Tothill explained his tactics in a letter to John Hooker:

The one for the uniting of churches is first in the Lords House, and the other for orphans in the Lower House ... If we should have put both in at one place then peradventure the House would not be best contented with two bills for our private city.

Exeter wanted to share the privileges of London and Norwich regarding apprentices: when a bill (later the Statute of Artificers) dealing with servants came into the Commons, Tothill saw his chance:

I hope if the bill pass, to get a proviso for all cities in England to take apprentices, and Exeter not named.

Once he asked the mayor to send £10 ‘as I have retained divers in these causes and must give money about the same’. In the 1566 session ‘Trew’s matter’ had to be considered, that is, the haven which John Trew had contracted to build. Exeter wished to clear the estuary of the river Exe of hindrances to navigation, and Tothill no doubt welcomed a bill to remove fish weirs and other obstructions, lost by three votes on its third reading. Tothill worked for at least four other measures on behalf of the city in this session. In the Parliaments of 1571 and 1572, the burgesses again took with them instructions from the city, but Tothill did not play as prominent a part as in the Parliament of 1563. He was paid wages at the rate of 4s. a day for his attendance at the 1571 Parliament.

Tothill died 15 Sept. 1574, having made his will the previous 29 June. His wife and his son Henry were the executors. The will was proved 10 Nov. 1574.

Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 4), iii. 50; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 729; Exeter act bk. 2, f. 159; 3, f. 113; receivers roll, pp. 4-5; Trans. Dev. Assoc. xliv. 212-13; Roberts thesis; PCC 40 Martyn; and see under EXETER.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.