POWLETT, Thomas (c.1588-1644), of Bridy, Burton Bradstock, Dorset

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



22 Apr. 1628

Family and Education

b. c.1588,1 1st s. of William Powlett of Melplash, Dorset and his w. Eleanor.2 educ. Brasenose, Oxf. 1606, aged 18.3 m. (1) by 1613, Anne (d.1626), da. of Francis Chaldecot of East Whiteway, Dorset, 3s. 3da.;4 (2) settlement 18 Aug. 1629, Alice (d.1656/7), da. of Sir William Sutton of Aram, Notts., wid. of Thomas Symcocks (d.1619) of Butleigh, Som., s.p.5 suc. fa. 1621.6 d. 8 May 1644.7

Offices Held

Lt. Sandsfoot castle, Dorset 1623.8

Esq. of body extraordinary 1631-at least 1638;9 commr. finable writs 1640;10 member, Council for Virg. 1641.11


Powlett was descended from lord treasurer Winchester (Sir William Paulet†) through a younger son who acquired the Dorset estate of Melplash by marriage. Although the mansion there was splendidly refurbished early in James I’s reign, Powlett settled at Bridy, where he built himself a new house.12 The inquisition post mortem taken after his father’s death omitted by carelessness or design, most of his property, and following further inquiries Powlett was obliged to pay £154 to the Exchequer. His appointment as second-in-command to Sir William Bampfield* at Sandsfoot castle was of little financial benefit to him, as his salary was merely 9d. a day.13 The owner of a house in Weymouth, Powlett entered into a privateering partnership with a local merchant in 1626-7, employing two ships of 30 and 80 tons respectively, the Hopewell and the Dragon.14

In 1628 Powlett stood for a seat at Bridport, three miles from his house. The corporation initially rejected his candidature, but after the Commons, on the grounds of a restrictive franchise, declared the election result void, he came in at the ensuing election. However, he left no trace on the Parliament’s records.15

The sale of one of Powlett’s manors in 1629 was probably an early sign of the financial problems that marked his later life. He apparently took up residence on his second wife’s dower lands at Butleigh, testifying in 1631 against a local man who had criticized the Crown’s plans to enclose Sedgemoor in Somerset. His role at Court as an esquire of the body, while prestigious, probably added to the strain on his finances, and during the next few years he and his son William mortgaged or sold much of their ancestral estate.16 At the outbreak of the Civil War, Powlett took up arms for the king despite his advancing years, and died in May 1644 of wounds received during a failed assault on Lyme Regis, Dorset. Two of his sons were also slain. His remaining son was living at St. Bartholomew’s, London in 1660, when he sold his title to Melplash to Sir Andrew Henley† for £100.17

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Date estimated from age at univ. admiss.
  • 2. Som. Wills ed. F. Brown, ii. 93.
  • 3. Al. Ox.
  • 4. Hutchins, Dorset, i. 591; ii. 144, 287; CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 377.
  • 5. Dorset RO, ms 3645; PROB 11/261, f. 351v; Vis. Notts. (Harl. Soc. iv), 143; Sale of Wards ed. M.J. Hawkins (Som. Rec. Soc. lxvii), 68.
  • 6. Som. Wills, ii. 93.
  • 7. A.R. Bayley, Gt. Civil War in Dorset, 151.
  • 8. Harl. 1326, f. 70v.
  • 9. LC5/132, p. 229; 5/134, p. 301.
  • 10. CSP Dom. 1640, p. 135.
  • 11. T. Rymer, Foedera, ix. pt. 3, p. 63.
  • 12. Hutchins, ii. 115, 281; A. Oswald, Country Houses of Dorset, 82-3.
  • 13. C142/536/3, 8; 142/537/74; Procs. Dorset Nat. Hist. and Antiquarian Field Club, xxxv. 31.
  • 14. Dorset RO, WYP/AD1/3, f. 58; CSP Dom. 1628-9, pp. 289, 294.
  • 15. CD 1628, ii. 429-30.
  • 16. Hutchins, ii. 111; CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 132; Dorset RO, mss 9783, 9876, 9879.
  • 17. Bayley, 151; CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 377; Dorset RO, ms 9787.