MAY, Thomas (1570-at least 1629), of the Middle Temple, London and Rawmere, Suss.

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

bap. 1 Oct. 1570,1 3rd s. of Richard May (d. Sept. 1587),2 Merchant Taylor, of Watling Street, London and Rawmere, and Mary, da. of John Hillersdon of Membland, Devon; bro. of Sir Humphrey*.3 educ. St John’s, Oxf. 1586, BCL 1594; M. Temple 1595.4 unm. d. ?aft. 1629.5

Offices Held

Freeman, Liverpool, Lancs. 1618,6 Preston, Lancs. by 1622.7

Dep. clerk, Star Chamber c.1617-23;8 v.-chan. co. palatine of Lancaster 1618-20.9


Thomas May is identified in Liverpool’s town book as the brother of Sir Humphrey May, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster.10 Together they received an expensive education at Oxford and the Middle Temple, sharing lodgings at both establishments with their close friend, James Whitelocke*.11 Although it was rumoured in 1613 that May was about to be married, he seems to have remained single.12 His parents, who were prominent among the Sussex gentry, left wills indicating puritan beliefs. May inherited a small amount of property in Mid-Lavant, west Sussex, and as the sole executor of his mother’s will when she died in 1619, he received her most generous bequest, of £200 plus the residue of her possessions after her other legacies had been paid.13

May’s legal training enabled him to benefit from Sir Humphrey’s patronage on several occasions. When Sir Humphrey became clerk to Star Chamber in 1617, May was appointed his deputy,14 and the following year, on Sir Humphrey’s installation as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, he also became vice-chancellor of the palatinate of Lancaster, a post which probably required him to sit as a judge in the palatinate’s Chancery court.15 As vice-chancellor, May was admitted as an honorary freeman of Liverpool before the elections to James’s third Parliament, when he was returned for the borough. He left no trace upon the parliamentary records of 1621, although as a Lancashire burgess he was appointed to the committee for a bill promoted by Sir Humphrey to confirm various decrees relating to the Duchy’s estates (1 December).16 Two of May’s brothers-in-law, Sir Baptist Hicks and Sir William Heyricke, also sat in 1621.

May resigned from his office in the Duchy after two years, and by 1623 he had apparently been replaced as deputy clerk in Star Chamber by one Henry Parker.17 It seems unlikely that he had died, for although no will or record of his burial has been found, he continued to appear in Liverpool’s burgess rolls until 1629. His nephew, Thomas May of Rawmere, represented Midhurst in the Long Parliament; while a cousin, also Thomas, became renowned as a poet and parliamentary historian.18

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. All Hallows Bread Street (Harl. Soc. Reg. xliii), 8.
  • 2. PROB 11/71, f. 93.
  • 3. J. Nichols, Hist. and Antiqs. of Leics. iv. 548; Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 104.
  • 4. Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss.
  • 5. E.M. Hance and T.N. Morton, ‘The Burgess Rolls of Liverpool during the Seventeenth Cent.’, Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs. and Cheshire, xxxvi. 146.
  • 6. G. Chandler, Liverpool Under Jas. I, 207.
  • 7. Preston Guild Rolls ed. W.A. Abram (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. ix), 76.
  • 8. Add. 41661, f. 76; Stowe 418, f. 2; Lansd. 639/1.
  • 9. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 94.
  • 10. Chandler, Liverpool Under Jas. I, 207, 241.
  • 11. Nichols, County of Leics. iii. 161, 167; MTR, 401, ii. 649-50; Liber Famelicus of Sir J. Whitelocke ed. J. Bruce (Cam. Soc. lxx), 14.
  • 12. Bodl. ms Eng. Hist. c. 481, ff. 21-2, 25-6, 39, 44.
  • 13. PROB 11/71, f. 93; 11/133, ff. 33-4; Suss. Manors in the ‘Feet of Fines’ ed. E.H.W. Dunkin (Suss. Rec. Soc. xx), 308.
  • 14. C66/1809; CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 384, 530.
  • 15. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders, 94.
  • 16. CJ, i. 654a.
  • 17. Add. 41661, f. 76; Stowe 418, f. 2; Lansd. 639/1; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 595.
  • 18. CJ, iv. 410-11; S.A. Allibone, Dict. of Eng. Lit.