HOLLAND, Sir Thomas (c.1578-1626), of Quidenham, Norf.

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.1578,1 o.s. of John Holland of Wortwell and Quidenham, Norf., chief steward of the Howard E. Anglian estates, and Mary, da. and h. of Sir Edward Windham of Felbrigg, Norf., wid. of (?Frank) Bulwer of Wood Dalling, Norf.2 m. (1) 19 Oct. 1601, Mary (d. 2 Jan. 1606), da. of (Sir) Thomas Knyvett† of Ashwellthorpe, Norf., 2s.; (2) Elizabeth, da. and h. of Sir Richard Wigmore of Twickenham, Mdx., 2da.3 kntd. 24 May 1608;4 suc. fa. 1612.5 d. 5 Feb. 1626.6

Offices Held

Commr. piracy, Norf. 1604,7 j.p. 1614-d.,8 sheriff 1618-19,9 commr. swans 1619,10 subsidy, Norf. and Thetford, Norf. 1621, 1624,11 dep. lt. Norf. at least 1624-d.,12 commr. fen drainage 1625,13 Privy Seal loan 1626.14

Chief steward, Howard E. Anglian estates 1612-d.


The Hollands were long established in Norfolk and connected by marriage to many of the county’s leading families. They had their origins in Lincolnshire and had flourished since the days of Edward the Confessor.15 Holland’s father was chief steward of the Howard East Anglian estates, a position which Holland himself inherited on his father’s death. Known as ‘an ingenious painter’,16 John Holland left his son the manors of Quidenham and Caulkehill, as well as various properties in Harling and Illington, Norfolk. He also bequeathed the earl and countess of Arundel and Lord William Howard plate worth £20 each, and asked them to continue their favour towards his son, whom they would ‘ever find faithful, loving and to his utmost power ready to do his best services unto their lordships and the House’.17

Only scattered references to Holland’s activities in Norfolk survive and, surprisingly, none concerning his role as an estate steward. His surviving letters are mainly addressed to his sisters, Muriel the wife of Edmund Bell†, and Katherine, who was married to Sir Edmund Paston. Unfortunately, these convey little in the way of family matters or news, although they do illustrate that Holland regularly attended the Norwich assizes.18 As a Norfolk magistrate, Holland was required by the Privy Council to help prevent the destruction of the king’s game in Norfolk, to examine the abuses in the manufacture of new draperies, and to settle a minor land dispute.19

Holland’s election to the Howard borough of Thetford in 1620 was undoubtedly influenced by the earl of Arundel. Unusually for a Thetford election, both Holland and Framlingham Gawdy were elected unanimously, thereby doing away with the need for a formal counting of votes.20 In the Commons Holland made no recorded speeches, but was named to four bill committees, on chantries (22 Mar.), forcible entries (24 Mar.), apparel (21 Apr.) and the sale of Fletton Manor, Huntingdonshire (4 May).21 He was also ordered to attend a joint conference on the perennially contentious Sabbath bill (24 May), and was among those instructed to review the fees charged by officials in the Fleet prison (14 February).22 One reason why Holland seems to have played little part in the Parliament was that he kept a diary of its proceedings, which is preserved as two documents. One part covers the period 23 Feb. to 27 Mar., while the other deals with the period 23 Apr. to 2 June.23 Both are in Holland’s hand and cover each day the Commons sat between those dates. The omission of the period 17 Apr. to 21 Apr. suggests that Holland, like many of his colleagues, was late in returning to the Commons after Easter. There is also no Holland diary for the November-December 1621 sitting, which may suggest that Holland did not attend. The editors of Commons Debates 1621 speculated that one of his Norfolk colleagues took notes for him; this might explain the existence of the ‘Z’ diary, which follows the Holland diaries in the Rawlinson catalogue.24 Holland’s purpose in keeping a diary is unclear, but it may have been compiled to provide information for Holland’s patron, Arundel.

Holland was a methodical note-taker who, judging from the appearance of the manuscripts, wrote while he was sitting in St. Stephen’s Chapel. Both parts of his diary include hand-drawn margins in which he recorded the names of speakers, orders of the House and the stage reached by individual bills. He did not record as many speeches as some others, but did keep a full and accurate record of bill readings and procedural matters. Moreover, he frequently noted the proceedings of grand committees. For example, he recorded five debates in the grievances committee regarding (Sir) Giles Mompesson*, as well as a meeting between both Houses about the same subject on 8 March.25 He was the only diarist to record the discussion on 28 Apr. at the alehouses’ committee, of which he was not a named member.26 The speaker who features most often and most fully in Holland’s account is Sir Edward Coke*. This may reflect the loquacity of Coke or perhaps his Norfolk connection.

In 1624 Holland sought election as knight of the shire for Norfolk, but was disparaged by Sir Hamon L’Estrange*, who considered that he would rather serve ‘his lord in the country than sit in Parliament’.27 The election became a four-way contest, between Holland and Sir John Corbet, 1st bt.* on the one hand, and Sir Robert Gawdy† and Sir Roger Townshend* on the other. Holland was easily elected for the first place, but was forced to muster his supporters to ensure the election of Corbet. In the Commons, Holland again remained silent but was named to ten bill committees. Three concerned public measures: the continuance of expiring statutes (13 Mar.), the re-structuring of the equity courts (14 Apr.) and murdering bastard children (29 April).28 His other appointments included measures to naturalize four Scots (10 and 14 April),29 and a Dutch grain merchant named Peter Verbeake, who lived in Norwich (12 April).30 He was also a member of the committee for bills to drain the Erith and Plumstead marshes in Kent (28 Apr.), and to enable Toby Palavicino to break an entail (19 May). On 30 Apr. he was appointed to a joint conference on two Exchequer bills, concerned with limiting actions and pleading cases.31

Holland again kept a diary in 1624. It records every day the Commons sat until 13 May, when it breaks off 16 days before Parliament ended. As with the 1621 diary, it consists of two manuscripts.32 However, the second part of the diary, which commences on 16 Apr., is in a smaller notebook than the first and records speeches and debates in less detail than its predecessor. Holland adopted the habit of annotating in the margin the number of bills that had passed the Lower House. Both parts of the diary show that Holland regularly attended the standing committee for grievances and that he occasionally attended those concerning privileges, trade and courts of justice. Holland must either have used his 1621 diary as a reference tool while in the Commons in 1624 or relied on a good memory, as many of his entries refer to bills which ‘passed the last time our House’ or were ‘committed the last Parliament’.33 An awareness of activity in the Lords is shown by references to bills that ‘passed both Houses the last Parliament’.34 Despite his impressive grasp of detail, Holland often struggled to keep up with proceedings. A number of Members’ names are recorded in the margin with a space left blank to fill in their speeches, perhaps from memory. Unfortunately, Holland never completed these entries.

For the remaining 19 months of his life Holland remained active in Norfolk affairs. In September 1624, as a deputy-lieutenant, he reported that the Waybourne Hoop forts, constructed to repel the Spanish Armada, had been washed away, and on his own authority he organized beacon watches and ordered the trained band to be ready at the ‘first alarm’.35 The following year he travelled with Sir Simonds D’Ewes† to Brissingham, Norfolk, to view Greek and Roman coins belonging to a collector.36

Holland died on 5 Feb. 1626, to the dismay of Sir Thomas Knyvett of Ashwellthorpe, who lamented to his wife that ‘we have lost the truest friend in the world and the country has lost a great loss ... such a friend as his like is not to be found. I never look to have another’.37 Knyvett’s opinion seems to have been widely shared. Thomas Barsham described Holland as a proper country gentleman who relieved the poor and suppressed alehouses,38 while Holland’s funeral monument records that he ‘was highly esteemed in his country’.39 Holland left a will which shows that he was wealthy. His two daughters were each entitled to receive £2,000 when they reached 16, while his widow was to be provided with a ‘convenient house’, which was to be built on her jointure lands at Buckenham Park, Norfolk. His younger son received lands worth £100, while his heir, John, inherited Quidenham manor and other minor properties. Provision was made for the payment of debts totalling £2,534 which included £1,050 owed to Holland’s sister, Lady Bell.40 John was later created a baronet and was elected to the Short Parliament for Norfolk. Like his father before him, he kept a parliamentary diary.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Chris Kyle


  • 1. F. Blomefield, Hist. Norf. i. 335-6.
  • 2. W. Rye, Norf. Fams. 356; Blomefield, i. 341-2.
  • 3. Blomefield, i. facing 344; Corresp. Lady Katherine Paston ed. R. Haughey (Norf. Rec. Soc. xiv), 30.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 145.
  • 5. PROB 11/120, ff. 421-2.
  • 6. MI, Quidenham par. church.
  • 7. C181/1, f. 143.
  • 8. C66/1988; C193/13/1, 2.
  • 9. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 89.
  • 10. C181/2, f. 337.
  • 11. C212/22/21, 23.
  • 12. SP14/172/48.
  • 13. C181/3, f. 163v.
  • 14. E401/2586, p. 121.
  • 15. Blomefield, i. 341-2.
  • 16. Rye, 356.
  • 17. PROB 11/120, ff. 421-2.
  • 18. Add. 27447, ff. 143, 149, 155, 168, 177-8, 185, 217.
  • 19. APC, 1619-21, p. 263; 1621-3, p.156; 1623-5, pp. 311-12.
  • 20. Norf. RO, T/C1/3, p. 72.
  • 21. CJ, i. 568b, 572b, 584b. 606b.
  • 22. CJ, i. 521b, 626a.
  • 23. Bodl. Rawl. D1098, D998, printed in CD 1621, vi. 3-188.
  • 24. CD 1621, i. 95; Bodl. Rawl. D999.
  • 25. CD 1621, vi. 24-6, 39-45, 57-8, 83, 92-3, 105-7.
  • 26. Ibid. 110-11.
  • 27. Official Pprs. of Sir Nathaniel Bacon ed. H.W. Saunders (Cam. Soc. ser. 3. xxvi), 39.
  • 28. CJ, i. 736b, 766a, 779a.
  • 29. Ibid. 761a, 767a.
  • 30. Ibid. 762b.
  • 31. Ibid. 692a, 695a, 705a.
  • 32. Bodl. Tanner 392; Bodl. Rawl. D1100.
  • 33. Bodl. Tanner 392, ff. 3v-4.
  • 34. Ibid. f. 4.
  • 35. SP 14/172/48.
  • 36. Autobiog. of Sir Simonds D’Ewes ed. J.O. Halliwell, i. 282.
  • 37. Knyvett Letters ed. B. Schofield (Norf. Rec. Soc. xx), 70
  • 38. HMC 11th Rep. iv. 19.
  • 39. Blomefield, i. 335-6.
  • 40. PROB 11/148, ff. 131v-2.