BOKENHAM, Sir Henry (c.1575-1638), of Great Thornham, Suff.

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

b. c.1575,1 1st s. of Edmund Bokenham of Thelnetham, Suff. and Mary, da. of John Wiseman of Great Thornham and coh. to her bro. Edward.2 educ. Emmanuel, Camb. 1591.3 m. 21 July 1601, Dorothy (d. 1 Oct. 1654), da. and coh. of Guildford Walsingham of Scadbury, Chislehurst, Kent, 1s. 1da. (d.v.p.).4 kntd. 23 July 1603;5 suc. fa. 1619.6 d. c.Oct. 1638.7

Offices Held

Gent. pens. 1603-at least 1609.8

Commr. subsidy, Suff. 1624-5,9 sewers 1626;10 j.p. Suff. 1626-d.;11 commr. Forced Loan, Suff. 1627;12 sheriff Suff. 1629-30.13


Bokenham’s came from a Norfolk family, which the antiquarian Sir Simonds D’Ewes†, whose sister married Bokenham’s eldest son, traced back to the reign of Henry II.14 At the end of the fourteenth century they acquired the manor of Thelnetham, just over the border in Suffolk, where they lived until Bokenham’s father, Edmund, moved to the manor of Great Thornham, which he obtained through marriage. Edmund’s mother-in-law was one of the coheirs of Charles Cutler, who had represented the borough of Eye, three miles from Great Thornham, in the first two Parliaments after its enfranchisement in 1571.15 The other coheir was the mother of Edward Honing, Edmund’s ‘especial friend’, who sat for Eye in every Parliament from 1593 until his death.16

Bokenham was returned for Eye with Honing in 1604, by which date he was a gentleman pensioner. He made no recorded speeches in the first Jacobean Parliament and was named to only two committees, those for repealing the statute of 1542 for the encouragement of archery at the expense of football (26 Apr. 1606), and for a bill to reform disorders and abuses over common rights (10 Feb. 1610).17

In March 1610 Great Thornham was extended for debt, and by 1612 Bokenham’s father was imprisoned in the Fleet. According to a Star Chamber bill, Bokenham himself was persuaded ‘to go and remain beyond the seas, ... forbearing his place of attendance’ at Court.18 It is hardly surprising in these circumstances that Bokenham was not re-elected in 1614.

Bokenham entered into his inheritance five years later, and by 1626 the family fortunes had sufficiently recovered for him to be added to the county bench. He served as sheriff in 1629-30, when he was reportedly fined £200 ‘for not having summoned so many to fine for knighthood as the commissioners found afterwards out’.19 He was also sued in Chancery, by the landlord of an inn in Bury St. Edmunds over the bill for the traditional sheriff’s dinner for the justices at the assizes.20

Bokenham’s will, dated 8 Oct. 1638, contains an elaborate, but conventionally Calvinist, preamble. His legacies to his wife reveal him to have been a working farmer with a remarkably simple life-style for his rank and age. He almost certainly died shortly afterwards (the date given in his inquest post mortem - 7 Oct. - is clearly erroneous). He was buried, in accordance with his wishes, in the chancel of Thelnetham church, Suffolk. His grandson, Hugh Bokenham, was returned for Norwich in 1690.21

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Calculated from date of admiss. to Emmanuel, Camb.
  • 2. W.A. Copinger, Manors of Suff. iii. 314.
  • 3. Al. Cant.
  • 4. IGI; Copinger, Manors of Suff. i. 375.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 124.
  • 6. C142/384/138.
  • 7. C142/604/115.
  • 8. E407/1/36; E179/70/121.
  • 9. C212/22/23; Harl. 305, f. 206.
  • 10. C181/3, f. 201v.
  • 11. C231/4, f. 207; C193/13/2, f. 63.
  • 12. C193/12/2, f. 55v.
  • 13. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 132.
  • 14. Autobiog. of Sir Simonds D’Ewes ed. J.O. Halliwell, i. 280; ii. 14.
  • 15. Copinger, i. 373; iii. 313; HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 689-90.
  • 16. C2/Jas.I/B34/22.
  • 17. CJ, i. 301a, 396b.
  • 18. STAC 8/75/18.
  • 19. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, ii. 96.
  • 20. C2/Chas.I/B1/59.
  • 21. PROB 11/180, ff. 31v-32; C142/604/115; Copinger, i. 375.