HELE, Thomas (c.1595-1670), of Flete Damarell, Holbeton, Devon

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



1640 (Apr.)
c. 15 Nov. 1640 - 22 Jan. 1644
1644 (Oxf. Parl.)
1661 - 16 Nov. 1670

Family and Education

b. c.1595,1 2nd s. and h. of Thomas Hele of Flete Damarell and Bridget, da. of Sir Henry Champernowne† of Modbury, Devon.2 educ. I. Temple 1615; DCL Oxf. 1642.3 m. (1) 20 Nov. 1629, Penelope (d. 7 Sept. 1630), da. and coh. of Emorb Johnson of South Petherton, Som., 1s. d.v.p.; (2) 16 July 1632, Elizabeth (bur. 14 Mar. 1646), da. of Edward Elwes, Merchant Taylor, of London, 7s. (5 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. 1624;4 cr. bt. 28 May 1627.5 d. 16 Nov. 1670.6

Offices Held

Commr. Forced Loan, Devon 1626,7 piracy 1630,8 j.p. 1635-at least 1643, c.1660-d.,9 sheriff 1635-6,10 commr. survey, Catwater harbour, Plymouth, Devon 1636,11 oyer and terminer, Western circ. 1638-42, 1661-d., exacted fees, Devon and Exeter 1638,12 dep. lt. Devon by 1639-at least 1640, 1661-d.,13 commr. assessment 1642, 1661, 1663-5,14 array 1642,15 corporations 1662-3.16

Col. of horse (roy.) c.1642-6.17


Hele traced his pedigree back through 11 generations of Devon gentry, though his father, Thomas, was apparently the first of the line to reside at Flete. In 1623 Thomas disinherited his eldest son, and in the following year Hele succeeded to an estate in excess of 2,200 acres, much of which lay in or near Plympton Erle. When Sir Warwick Hele* died in January 1626, leaving a minor as his heir, Hele swiftly replaced his cousin as one of Plympton’s electoral patrons, almost immediately securing himself a seat there for the 1626 Parliament.18 A relatively minor figure in the Commons, he was appointed on 7 Mar. to the conference on the defence of the kingdom, and named to a select committee for the presentment of dangerous recusants (2 March). His legislative committees were concerned with intestacy and two naturalization measures (7 and 28 Mar.), the second of which he certainly attended.19 Initially, at least, Hele supported the attack on Buckingham, as on 11 Mar. he called for the complaint regarding the St. Peter to be adopted as a grievance. Four days later, following Charles I’s complaint about Clement Coke, Hele condemned ‘that man that has sought to set division between the king and his people’, by which he probably meant Buckingham. On 20 Mar. the Commons considered the king’s demand for an urgent debate on supply, whereupon Hele, according to Whitelocke, merely repeated ‘what was said before, and to no purpose’.20 He apparently remained silent for the rest of the Parliament, which may suggest that he had moderated his views on Buckingham. He was certainly in favour with the government by May 1627, when he was granted a baronetcy.21

Re-elected at Plympton in 1628, Hele now sided openly with Buckingham. During the inquiry into the Cornish shire election, he backed the duke’s West Country clients, triumphantly informing the Commons on 24 Apr. that his kinsman John Mohun* had been removed from their jurisdiction. Moreover, he was initially chosen to act as one of the tellers for the noes when it was proposed to humiliate publicly the other Cornish offenders at the assizes, but was replaced by Sir Miles Fleetwood, one of Buckingham’s principal clients in the House (13 May).22 It is therefore surprising that on 31 May he was added to the select committee to prepare the impeachment of Roger Manwaring for defending the Forced Loan. Hele was also named to select committees to consider a petition against Sir Simeon Steward* (10 May) and the dispute over the postal monopoly (14 June). His two bill committees of 1628 were concerned with James Freese’s naturalization (7 May) and the begging of forfeitures before attainder (14 May).23 During the 1629 session his Protestant credentials came to the fore. Appointed on 28 Jan. to the committee for the bill against recusancy, he subsequently confirmed the charges brought by Sir Daniel Norton* against Bishop Neile of discouraging sermons against popery, asserting that his witness, Dr. Robert Moore, would maintain the allegations in Parliament with his life (9 February).24

In around 1631 Hele was excommunicated for failing to repair the chancel of Shebbear church, Devon, but retaliated by prosecuting the churchwardens in Star Chamber. As sheriff of his county in 1635-6, he apparently collected the full quota of Ship Money.25 Although he refused to help fund the First Bishops’ War, he fought for the king during the Civil War and sat in the Oxford Parliament. Heavily penalized as a delinquent, he remained a firm royalist during the Interregnum, and returned to public life in the following decade, representing Okehampton in the Cavalier Parliament.26 He died intestate in November 1670, and was buried at Holbeton. His son Thomas had been elected for Plympton Erle after the Restoration, but predeceased him. The next member of this branch of the family to enter Parliament was a great-nephew Richard, returned for Plympton in 1701 as a Tory.27

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Trans. Devon Assoc. lxiv. 493.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 466.
  • 3. I. Temple Admiss.; Al. Ox.
  • 4. Vivian, 466; Trans. Devon Assoc. lxiv. 488, 490; VCH Northants. Families ed. O. Barron, 64-5.
  • 5. CB.
  • 6. Trans. Devon Assoc. lxiv. 493.
  • 7. C193/12/2, f. 11.
  • 8. C181/4, f. 52v.
  • 9. C231/5, f. 171; Devon RO, QS 28/2; C220/9/4.
  • 10. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 37.
  • 11. PC2/45, p. 419.
  • 12. C181/5, ff. 93-4, 109v, 220-1; 181/7, pp. 102, 530.
  • 13. SP16/421/23; 16/462, ff. 35-6; SP29/42/63; SP44/35A, f. 5v.
  • 14. SR, v. 150, 330, 457, 529.
  • 15. Northants. RO, FH 133.
  • 16. Plymouth Lib. Black Bk. f. 17.
  • 17. P.R. Newman, Roy. Officers in Eng. and Wales, 185; Devon RO, 189M-1/F8/4.
  • 18. Vivian, 461, 464, 466; C142/423/79.
  • 19. Procs. 1626, ii. 176, 216, 385; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 229.
  • 20. Procs. 1626, ii. 260, 291, 322.
  • 21. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 193.
  • 22. CD 1628, iii. 62, 386. Mohun was Sir Warwick Hele’s nephew: Vivian, 464.
  • 23. CD 1628, iii. 300, 354, 404; iv. 36, 307.
  • 24. CJ, i. 923b; CD 1629, pp. 51-2.
  • 25. APC, 1630-1, pp. 343-4; M.D. Gordon, ‘Collection of Ship Money’, TRHS (ser. 3), iv. 157.
  • 26. PC2/51, p. 79; CCAM, 698, 1284; CCC, 336, 1239; HMC Portland, i. 584.
  • 27. Trans. Devon Assoc. lxiv. 493.