HAWES, Thomas (bef. 1554-1620), of St. Mary's, Bedford, Beds.

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. bef. 1554,1 o.s. of Thomas Hawes, tanner of Bedford and 1st w.2 m. by 1572, Margaret (bur. 30 Oct. 1611), ?da. of Thomas Rolt of Bolnhurst, Beds., 2s. 1da.3 suc. fa. 1598;4 bur. 23 Apr. 1620.5 sig. Thomas Hawse senior.

Offices Held

Chamberlain, Bedford 1574-6, bridgewarden 1579-80, 1588-95,6 mayor 1587-8, 1596-7, 1602-3, 1610-11, alderman 1588-d.,7 assessor, subsidy 1598, 1600, commr. subsidy 1611,8 j.p. 1599-d.9


Hawes was apparently unrelated to Sir James Hawes, lord mayor of London in 1574-5. His father probably came from Potton, Bedfordshire or Gamlingay, Cambridgeshire, as he left money to the poor of both places, and may have been a recent arrival in Bedford when one of his servants was buried there in January 1559.10 An alderman from 1575, Hawes’s father described himself as a tanner,11 but his family prospered as maltsters: during a Star Chamber prosecution of May 1609 for engrossing grain, Hawes himself and his sons admitted having bought 450 quarters of barley for malting since the previous harvest.12 The MP’s sons rose rapidly through the municipal hierarchy, both serving as mayor before they were 30.13

Hawes’s local standing is probably not sufficient to explain his return to Parliament for Bedford in 1604, as the borough had not been represented by an alderman since 1559; he must have been endorsed by the borough’s patron Oliver, Lord St. John†, who was related to his stepmother, Margery St. John.14 He was also lucky that none of the neighbouring gentry sought a place, and that the 1601 MP Thomas Fanshawe I*, whose local patron William Boteler† had recently died, obtained a duchy seat at Lancaster. Hawes left little trace on his only Parliament. He was named to committees for bills regulating the leather industry (28 June 1604) and the sale of butter and cheese (4 Apr. 1606), commercial activities relevant to his town. As a Bedford MP he was also entitled to attend other bill committees for the Bedfordshire estates of Robert Thompson (24 Feb. 1607) and fen drainage (26 Mar. 1610).15 Absent from the House on 13 July 1610 despite having been ‘seen in town’, he may also have missed the autumn session, which coincided with his fourth term as mayor of Bedford.16

Hawes’s obligations as an MP were probably less significant to him than several lawsuits in which he was involved at around the same time. One concerned the corporation’s right to the advowson of St. John’s hospital, claimed as concealed chantry land by a local man, Edward Williams. Hawes and several other aldermen opposed Williams’s attempt to intrude one of the 2nd earl of Essex’s chaplains as master of the hospital in 1599,17 but Williams continued to interfere with the hospital until his death in 1610.18 It is possible that Williams or his ally Sir John Dyve provided some of the evidence for the 1609 Star Chamber prosecution of Hawes and his sons, for engrossing barley and abusing their position as subsidy assessors for Bedford to reduce their own ratings. The main charge was easily refuted, as Hawes and his sons had obtained licences for malting during the winter of 1608-9, but there may have been some justification in the other complaint, as Hawes’s subsidy rating had been reduced from £8 to £7 in goods since 1600. However, the case was probably dropped, as the defendants escaped without a fine.19 Hawes apparently also escaped censure after another Star Chamber case in 1611, which arose from his imprisonment of another alderman for alleged defects in the bridgewardens’ accounts.20

All this litigation suggests a major disagreement within the Bedford corporation, which may have dashed Hawes’s chances of re-election to Parliament in 1614. However, he was by then well over 60 years old, which was in itself a sufficient reason for him to stand aside. He drafted his will on 1 Jan. 1620, leaving modest bequests to a large number of relatives, £17 to the poor of Bedford’s five parishes and shop rents to provide almshouses for four poor widows. He was buried in St. Paul’s church on 23 Apr. 1620.21 Two of his grandsons served as aldermen of Bedford in the 1630s, but none of his descendants sat in Parliament.22

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. Hawes must have been at least 21 when appointed chamberlain in 1574.
  • 2. PROB 11/91, ff. 17v-18v. Hawes’s stepmother Margery St. John of Sharnbrook (d.1601) m. his fa. after 1566: PROB 11/98, ff. 298v-99v; Vis. Beds. (Harl. Soc. xix), 53-5.
  • 3. St. Mary’s, Bedford ed. F.G. Emmison (Beds. Par. Reg. xxxv), 4; St. Paul’s, Bedford (Beds. Par. Reg. lviii), B15. He refers to Rolt’s sons as his bros.-in-law: PROB 11/135, f. 430; Vis. Beds. 133-5.
  • 4. St. Mary’s, Bedford, 60.
  • 5. St. Paul’s, Bedford, B20.
  • 6. Beds. RO, Bor.B/D6/1, unfol.
  • 7. J. Godber, Story of Bedford, 146-7; Beds. RO, Bor.B/F11/4, pp. 38-233.
  • 8. E179/72/222, 229, 255.
  • 9. Beds. RO, Bor.B/F2/5; C181/2, ff. 21, 58, 60, 261v, 343, 350v.
  • 10. A.B. Beaven, Aldermen of London, ii. 37; PROB 11/91, f. 18v; St. Mary’s, Bedford, 58.
  • 11. Godber, 146; PROB 11/91, f. 17v.
  • 12. STAC 8/18/20.
  • 13. In 1601-2 and 1605-6 respectively: Godber, 147; St. Mary’s, Bedford, 4.
  • 14. She was 1st cousin once removed to Lord St. John. Vis. Beds. 53-5.
  • 15. CJ, i. 247b, 293b, 340a, 414b.
  • 16. Ibid. 449a; ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 24; Godber, 147.
  • 17. CPR, 1575-8, pp. 121-5; E112/1/112, 131; STAC 5/W29/28, 5/W34/36.
  • 18. E112/68/32, 34; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 629; SP16/124/84 (should be dated 1608-9); E179/72/255.
  • 19. STAC 8/18/20; E179/72/229, 255.
  • 20. STAC 8/101/12.
  • 21. PROB 11/135, ff. 429-30; Beds. RO, Bor.B/H4/1; St. Paul’s, Bedford, B20.
  • 22. PROB 11/153, ff. 210v-211v; 11/155, ff. 384v-385v; St. Paul’s, Bedford, B24; St. Mary’s, Bedford, 63; Godber, 147.