PURCHAS, Thomas (-d.1638), of St. Clement's, Cambridge, Cambs.

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

s. of Ambrose Purchas, and Helena, da. of one Tybbe.1 m. by 1621 Elizabeth, 1s. 1da.2 d. 9 Nov. 1638.3 sig. tho[mas] Purkis.

Offices Held

Freeman, Cambridge by 1607, treas. 1607, common cllr. 1609-24, auditor 1609, 1612, 1615, 1617-18, 1621, 1623-4, 1631, 1636, bailiff 1610-13, alderman 1624-d., mayor 1624-6, 1632-3;4 j.p. Cambridge 1624-d.;5 commr. gaol delivery, Cambridge 1624-d.,6 sewers, Gt. Fens 1631-5.7


Purchas, whose background is obscure, rose steadily through the Cambridge municipal hierarchy and ultimately served three mayoral terms. His financial abilities were clearly well regarded, as he frequently served as an auditor to the corporation. However, there was some disquiet within the corporation at the manner of his election as an alderman in 1624. Despite the custom that aldermen were always nominated by their fellows, Purchas and another man were selected by the common council, which then proceeded to elect Purchas as mayor. Some of the aldermen thereupon complained to the city’s high steward, Sir Francis Bacon*, who referred the matter to the Privy Council. The Council ruled that although the election was illegal ‘there is no exception taken to the quality of the men’, who were therefore ordered to be raised to aldermanic status. Purchas was subsequently re-elected mayor.8 He served in the same capacity in the following year, and again in 1632-3, although only after requesting four days in which to consider whether to accept the position.9

Purchas’s involvement with Parliament began in 1614, when he was ordered by the common council to help choose the eight members of the corporation whose responsibility it was to determine the identity of the town’s parliamentary representatives.10 Purchas himself was returned to Parliament for Cambridge in 1628, but he left no impression on its records, except to be granted one week’s leave of absence on 22 May for ‘special occasions’.11 He received parliamentary wages at 4s. a day, totalling £21 8s. for the first session and £13 16s. 4d. for the 1629 session.12

Purchas drafted his will on his deathbed in November 1638, and a day later was buried at St. Clement’s church. His son-in-law Francis Sheldrake acted as executor after Purchas’ widow declined either to execute the will or to undertake the disposal of her late husband’s personal property.13 No further member of the family sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Chris Kyle


  • 1. Cambs. RO, St. Clement’s par. reg., unpag. transcript.
  • 2. Downing Coll. Lib., Camb. Liber Rationalis, 1611-28, f. 176v; PROB 11/179, f. 119v.
  • 3. PROB 11/179, f. 119v; Cambs. RO, St. Clement’s par. reg., unpag. transcript.
  • 4. Cambs. RO, Box II/9, ff. 6, 6v, 24, 29v, 33; Mun. Rm. Shelf C.7, ff. 22, 23, 27, 54v, 75, 83, 101v, 119, 125, 130, 133, 140, 194v, 213, 242.
  • 5. CUL, UA Collection Admin. 5, f. 40; C181/3, f. 135; 181/5, f. 37; C231/4, f. 173.
  • 6. C181/3, f. 135v; 181/5, f. 79v.
  • 7. C181/4, f. 95; 181/5, f. 11v.
  • 8. J.W. Cooper, Annals of Camb. iii. 167-8; APC 1623-5, pp. 318-9; Cambs. RO, Mun. Rm., Shelf C.7, ff. 130, 131v, 133.
  • 9. Cambs. RO, Mun. Rm., Shelf C.7, f. 213.
  • 10. Downing Coll. Lib., Camb. Bowtell ms 11, Metcalfe’s Thesaurus, f. 120.
  • 11. CD 1628, iii. 526.
  • 12. Downing Coll. Lib., Camb. Liber Rationalis 1611-28, f. 418; 1629-42, f. 27v.
  • 13. PROB 11/179, ff. 119v-21.