THOMPSON, William (bef. 1574-1637), of Scarborough and Humbleton, Yorks.

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. bef. 1574,1 2nd s. of William Thompson2 (d.1574) of Scarborough and Anne, da. of William Langdale of Hackness, Yorks. and Scarborough, wid. of Peter Fish (d. c.1552) of Scarborough.3 m. bef. c.1583,4 Elizabeth,5 da. of John Barker of Scarborough, 3s. 3da.6 d. 1 Dec. 1637.7 sig. Will[ia]m Thompson.

Offices Held

Common cllr. Scarborough by 1597-d.,8 jnr. bailiff 1597-8, 1605-6, 1620-1, snr. bailiff 1616-17, 1629-30;9 snr. warden, Scarborough Shipowners’ Co. 1609, 1614, 1621.10


Resident near Scarborough by the mid-sixteenth century, the Thompsons were apparently related to Henry Thompson of Esholt, who was granted arms in 1559 for service as a man-at-arms at Boulogne. Thompson’s father married into Scarborough’s merchant class and was bailiff when he witnessed his father-in-law’s will in 1569; the MP’s half-brother, William Fish†, represented the borough in Parliament in 1589.11 By the early seventeenth century the family were the town’s most prominent merchants, and various members served as bailiff at least 18 times between 1603 and 1640.12 Their success was underlined in 1614, when Thompson acquired a country estate in Holderness from William Whitmore*, Edmund Sawyer* and (Sir) Arthur Ingram*, contractors for Crown land sales.13

Thompson played an active role in municipal politics. In 1614 he and another merchant successfully lobbied the Privy Council for a levy on the east coast shipping trade to repair the town’s storm-damaged pier.14 He doubtless endorsed the charter confirmation the borough unsuccessfully sought in 1620, as he would have been the first mayor of the new corporation.15 In 1631 he and several other members of his family were prosecuted in Star Chamber by Sir Thomas Hoby*, who challenged the town’s right to hold its own musters. The dispute went to arbitration, and the defendants paid Hoby £20 costs.16

Thompson’s candidacy in 1625 was apparently backed by the 1st earl of Holderness, governor of Scarborough castle, who may have used him as a local agent.17 However, Thompson’s chances were minimal, as both the former Members stood for re-election and several other strong candidates canvassed the corporation.18 An intemperate outburst from the sheriff, Sir Richard Cholmley*, secured the election of two of his relations, but when John Legard* declined to serve, Thompson, the only resident candidate, was co-opted to fill the place.19 He left no trace upon the records of the Parliament, and, though expected to stand again, he yielded the seat to Stephen Hutchinson, a relation by marriage, at the following election.20 Thompson’s son Francis, customs collector for the town, may have helped John Harrison, a London customs official, secure a seat at Scarborough in 1628.21

When Thompson fell dangerously ill in 1633, he settled his estate upon Francis, but in November 1635 he drafted a will to forestall ‘all future discussion, strife and ambiguities’ among his other children, who were to be disinherited if they questioned his legacies. He rehearsed the terms of the previous indenture and added further minor bequests, including £10 to his infant great-grandson William†. He died on 1 Dec. 1637 and his will was proved in the following March.22 His son, who had been granted Scarborough castle by Holderness’s heirs in 1630, offered it to (Sir) Hugh Cholmley* for £800 at the start of the Civil War.23 Though mostly supporters of Parliament, the family suffered considerable losses at the hands of both sides during the war.24 Thompson’s descendants were regularly returned to Parliament for both York and Scarborough from 1660.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. Mentioned in his fa.’s will of 25 July 1574: Borthwick, Reg. Test. 19, f. 697.
  • 2. Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ii. 489 and iii. 41 wrongly gives Richard Thompson, his childless uncle, as his fa.: Borthwick, Reg. Test. 28, f. 174.
  • 3. Borthwick, Reg. Test. 13, f. 897v; Reg. Test. 19, f. 697; Vis. Yorks. (Harl. Soc. xvi), 183-4.
  • 4. His 2nd s. Francis was born c.1583, see G. Poulson, Holderness, ii. 63-4.
  • 5. Scarborough Recs. ed. M.Y. Ashcroft (N. Yorks. RO, xlvii), 355.
  • 6. Poulson, ii. 63-64; Borthwick, Reg. Test. 19, f. 831.
  • 7. VCH N. Riding, ii. 556.
  • 8. Thompson would not have been elected Bailiff without being a common councilman.
  • 9. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 67; Scarborough Recs. 36, 77, 356, 363.
  • 10. N. Yorks. RO, mic 1320/1906, 1943, 1952-3, 1957-8.
  • 11. Vis. Yorks. ed. Foster 175, 300; Borthwick, Reg. Test. 17, f. 658; Reg. Test. 18, f. 202; 28, f. 174; Grantees of Arms ed. W.H. Rylands (Harl. Soc. lxvi), 251.
  • 12. E190 port bks. passim; transcript of corp. members at N. Yorks. RO.
  • 13. SO3/5, unfol. (Jan. 1614); Poulson, ii. 63.
  • 14. Scarborough Recs. 53, 57-58.
  • 15. SO3/7 unfol. (Feb. 1620); Scarborough Recs. 70-71, 75.
  • 16. Scarborough Recs. 216-17, 223, 225, 227, 240.
  • 17. VCH N. Riding, ii. 542; J.B. Baker, Hist. Scarborough, 224-5; R. Carroll, ‘Parl. representation of Yorks. 1625-60’ (Univ. Vanderbilt Ph.D. thesis, 1964), p. 65. Holderness’s letter (printed by Baker) is no longer extant.
  • 18. Scarborough Recs. 142-3.
  • 19. Ibid. 143-4, 146.
  • 20. Ibid. 159.
  • 21. APC , 1627, p. 229; Scarborough Recs. 187.
  • 22. Borthwick, York wills, Holderness deanery, Mar. 1638; VCH N. Riding, ii. 556.
  • 23. VCH N. Riding, ii. 542; HMC 10th Rep. vi. 90.
  • 24. Roy. Comp. Pprs. ed. J.W. Clay, (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. xv), 3-13, 158-60.