BILSON, Sir Thomas (1592-c.1647), of West Mapledurham, Buriton, Hants and Southwark, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

bap. 29 Feb. 1592,1 1st s. of Thomas Bilson, DD, bp. of Winchester 1597-1616, and Anne, da. of Thomas Mill† of Southampton, Hants.2 educ. New Coll. Oxf. 1606; L. Inn 1609; travelled abroad, Florence 1609.3 m. 6 Aug. 1612,4 Susanna, da.of Sir William Uvedale of Wickham Hants, 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. (1 d.v.p.).5 kntd. 25 Oct. 1613;6 suc. fa. 1616.7 d. c. 1647.8

Offices Held

J.p. Hants 1614-21;9 commr. sewers, Winchester, Hants 1617,10 subsidy, Hants 1621-2, 1624;11 capt. militia ft., Hants 1628-at least 1640;12 commr. assessment, Hants 1641.13


The Bilson family was descended from a German immigrant brewer who settled in Hampshire in the early sixteenth century.14 This Member’s father, the bishop of Winchester, bought West Mapledurham, near Petersfield, in 1605.15 Bilson himself, a youth of ‘sober and honest disposition’, was permitted at his father’s request to accompany Sir Stephen Lesieur to Florence in 1609, to learn foreign languages and broaden his experience.16 He received a knighthood in 1613, soon after his father had pronounced in favour of the divorce of the countess of Essex, who wished to marry the royal favourite, Somerset, and as a result was nicknamed ‘Sir Nullity Bilson’ at Court.17 It was through his father’s influence that he was elected for Winchester in 1614, perhaps as the final stage in his education, though he left no trace on the records of the Addled Parliament. The bishop’s death two years later deprived Bilson of electoral patronage, and he does not seem to have stood again.

In 1621 Bilson was noted as having left Hampshire and may have moved to Southwark, where he had been granted a lease on the episcopal estate, but he seems to have returned by 1628.18 He drew up his will on 24 Aug. 1647, giving Mapledurham as his address, and desired to be buried in Buriton church next to his late wife. His daughter received £60 p.a. and a portion of £1,000, to be reduced by £200 if she married without her brothers’ consent. His two younger sons were left his Southwark leases and an annuity of £30.19 Bilson’s date of death is uncertain; the will was not proved until 1661. After the Restoration his son Leonard represented Petersfield in five parliaments.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Hants RO, 74M81W/PR1, unfol. (par. reg. of St. Swithun’s, Winchester).
  • 2. Hants Field Club Pprs. xix. 261-4, 273.
  • 3. Al. Ox.; LI Admiss.; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 564.
  • 4. Westminster Abbey (Harl. Soc. Reg. x), 64.
  • 5. Hants Field Club Pprs. xix. 261-4, 273.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 153.
  • 7. C142/353/85.
  • 8. PROB 11/304, f. 11v.
  • 9. C66/1988; C193/13/1.
  • 10. C181/2, f. 296v.
  • 11. C212/22/20-1, 23; I.o.W. RO, OG/BB/36.
  • 12. Add. 21922, f. 151v, passim.
  • 13. SR, v. 88.
  • 14. Gen. Mag. ix. 501-2.
  • 15. VCH Hants, iii. 89.
  • 16. SP14/49/71.
  • 17. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 200; S.H. Cassan, Lives of Bps. of Winchester, ii. 74.
  • 18. GLC Survey of London, xxii. 48, 79; Add. 21922, f. 151v.
  • 19. PROB 11/304, f. 11v.