CORNWALLIS, Thomas I (1579-1627), of Earl Soham and Ipswich, 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. 1 Oct. 1579, 2nd but o. surv. s. of John Cornwallis of Earl Soham and his 1st w. Katherine, da. of John Blennerhasset† of Barsham, Suff. educ. Brandeston (Mr. Rawson), Caius, Camb. 1596; G. Inn 1600. m. 20 Jan. 1607, Mary, da. of Edward Grimston of Bradfield, Essex, s.p. suc. fa. 1615. d. 23 Apr. 1627.1

Offices Held

Commr. piracy, Suff. 1614, sewers, Suff. 1620-d., gaol delivery, Orford, Suff. 1622-25;2 j.p. Suff. 1624-d.;3 commr. Forced Loan, Suff. 1627.4


Cornwallis needs to be distinguished from two of his kinsmen, one being Thomas Cornwallis II, who came from a Hampshire branch of the family, while the other was a younger son of Sir Charles Cornwallis, who settled in Lincoln. However, neither namesake was sufficiently closely connected with Suffolk to secure election as knight of the shire.5 This Member’s grandfather, Richard, was a younger brother of Sir Thomas Cornwallis† of Brome Hall near Eye, who served as comptroller to Mary Tudor. Sir Thomas was the first member of the family to enter Parliament, having been returned at a by-election for Suffolk by January 1552. Richard married the heiress of a manor in Cretingham, Suffolk and was said to have ‘greatly aided’ Sir Thomas, possibly after the accession of Elizabeth, when Sir Thomas’ Catholic sympathies placed him under suspicion.6

Cornwallis’ father married John Blennerhasset, who was employed in the management of the Howard estates in Suffolk, and it was probably as a result of this connection that the former was able to purchase both the manor of Earl Soham, three miles from Framlingham, and other property from the Howards.7 Although many of his relatives were Catholic, Cornwallis himself was a firm Protestant, as his marriage into the Calvinist Grimston family - to the daughter of the younger brother of Sir Harbottle, 1st bt.* - suggests. Moreover, Sir Michael Stanhope* was ‘fully satisfied’ of his ‘religious uprightness’.8

Stanhope, a prominent Suffolk courtier and landowner, appointed Cornwallis and Sir Lionel Tollemache* executors of his will. The former died in late 1621, giving his executors control over his estate for three years after his death, which responsibility undoubtedly substantially increased Cornwallis’s status.9 By 1622 Cornwallis was residing in Ipswich.10 Elected knight of the shire in 1625, little more than a year after he was added to the Suffolk bench, he was named to three committees: to prevent tippling in alehouses (24 June) and the export of wool (27 June), and to restrict benefit of clergy (25 June). He made no recorded speeches.11

Cornwallis drew up his will on 25 July 1625, during the recess following the adjournment to Oxford, in which he declared that he was in ‘full, perfect and sound health’, but aware ‘that we are but pilgrims and strangers upon earth’. The eloquent preamble, claiming ‘sure and certain hope through Jesus Christ’ and ‘a true and lively faith exercised in good works, not as meritorious, but as declarative fruits of faith and its inseparable companions’, confirms a strong, but not necessarily radical, Calvinist faith. He left £45 to be distributed among the poor of 20 Suffolk parishes ‘by my very good friend, Mr. Francis Fowkes’, whom he described as ‘parson of Sproughton’, a parish close to Ipswich. He was presumably the Francis ‘Folkes’ had been minister of Earl Soham in 1600. Cornwallis also made generous bequests to at least a dozen godchildren.12

There is no evidence that Cornwallis attended the Parliament when it reconvened at Oxford, nor is he known to have sought re-election in 1626. He died on 23 Apr. 1627, after compiling a list of Forced Loan defaulters, and was buried at Cretingham. In accordance with a settlement of 26 Nov. 1619, the bulk of his estate was divided between his cousin John, the younger brother of Thomas Cornwallis II*, and his three nieces, the daughters of his sister Elizabeth Corderoy. No later members of this branch of the Cornwallis family sat at Westminster.13

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. J. Venn, Biog. Hist. of Gonville and Caius Coll. 160; Private Corresp. of Jane Lady Cornwallis ed. Lord Braybrooke, (1842), xxxvi, xxxviii; GI Admiss.; Mistley par. reg. (Soc. Gen. Transcript); W.A. Copinger, Manors of Suff. iv. 244.
  • 2. C181/2, ff. 174v, 255v; 181/3, ff. 13v, 74, 122v, 193v, 201v.
  • 3. C231/4, f. 161v; E163/18/12, f. 76v.
  • 4. C193/12/2, f. 56.
  • 5. C2/Chas.I/C3/52.
  • 6. HP Commons, 1509-58, i. 708-9; Copinger, iv. 243.
  • 7. Copinger, iv. 10, 244, 251-2.
  • 8. PROB 11/139, f. 77.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. APC, 1621-3, pp. 86-7.
  • 11. Procs. 1625, pp. 239, 246, 252.
  • 12. PROB 11/151, ff. 465-7; Al. Cant.
  • 13. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 352; Copinger, iv. 10, 252; Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 470.