THYNNE, Sir John (1555-1604), of Caus Castle, Salop; Longleat, Wilts. and Cannon Row, Westminster.

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



1604 - 21 Nov. 1604

Family and Education

b. 21 Sept. 1555,1 1st s. of Sir John Thynne† of Longleat and Christian, da. of Sir Richard Gresham, Mercer of London; bro. of Thomas I† and half-bro. of Charles*.2 educ. Oxf. BA 1573.3 m. ?26 Feb. 1576,4 Joan (d. 3 Mar. 1612),5 da. of Sir Rowland Hayward†, Clothworker and ld. mayor of London, of Philip Lane, Cripplegate, London,6 2s., incl. Thomas*. suc. fa. 1580;7 kntd. 11 May 1603.8 d. 21 Nov. 1604.9 sig. John Thynne.

Offices Held

Steward, various Crown manors in Wilts. 1580-d.;10 j.p. Wilts. and Som. by 1583-d.,11 Glos. by 1583-7, 1596-d.,12 Hants by 1583-7, 1597-d.,13 Salop 1601-d.;14 sheriff, Wilts. 1593-4;15 capt. militia horse, Wilts. by 1597;16 commr. subsidy, Wilts. 1598-9,17 oyer and terminer, Western circ. 1602-d., Oxf. circ. by 1602-d.,18 sewers, Som. 1603.19

?Esq. of the body by 1603-d.20


The Thynne family traced its roots to the Botfield family of Church Stretton, Shropshire, but were settled by the mid-sixteenth century in Wiltshire. Sir John Thynne (1513-80), the father of this Member, became steward to Edward Seymour, later Protector Somerset, under whose patronage he acquired a substantial estate, including the former priory at Longleat, which he rebuilt as an Italianate mansion. Four years before his death, Sir John married his son to the 17-year old Joan Hayward, the daughter of a wealthy London merchant, Sir Rowland Hayward. Though Joan was rather plain looking - even her father admitted that her ‘face was not so beautiful as some other’ - the marriage proved highly satisfactory.21 Joan brought with her to the marriage several Shropshire manors, including that of Church Stretton, plus Caus Castle, which her father had purchased from Edward, Lord Stafford in 1573.22 However, due to Stafford’s refusal to vacate Caus,23 Thynne and his new wife spent the first four years of married life with their parents. Following the death of his father in 1580, Thynne, who inherited extensive estates in Somerset and Gloucestershire, as well as Wiltshire, took up residence at Longleat.24 Now among the wealthiest of regional landowners, in 1599 he paid £20 for the subsidy.25 In 1591, with the help of the sheriff of Shropshire, he put an end to Lord Stafford’s occupation of Caus Castle by force. Thereafter, as he himself was often away in London or at Court, it fell to his wife to defend Caus from Lord Stafford, who initiated numerous lawsuits in a vain attempt to recover the castle.26

Thynne was well connected at Court, as his brother-in-law was the courtier Sir Thomas Knyvett*.27 He himself may have been an esquire of the body at Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, although possibly this was his younger son. Despite his Court connections, however, Thynne failed to obtain a knighthood until James’s accession, a source of some bitterness for his wife, who in June 1601 compared him unfavourably with her sister’s husband (Sir) Henry Townsend*, whom it was rumoured would soon be dubbed: ‘I can be but sorry that your standing and credit at Court can not procure you as much grace as he were [in] ... If all your courtly friends can not procure you that title I think they will do very little for you’.28

Thynne had a reputation for irascibility. Indeed, even his friends criticized his ‘choleric outbursts’, and the Privy Council once condemned him for imprisoning a poor widow tenant and seizing her farm after failing to pay rent.29 His relationship with much of the Wiltshire gentry was strained after 1574, when his father compelled him to call off his intended marriage to Lucy, daughter of (Sir) James Mervyn [Marvyn†]. Thynne’s father was angered that the dowry lands on offer would remain entailed to the Marvyn family, and the resulting hostility led to the creation of opposing factions of influential local gentry. Thynne’s supporters, including Henry Knyvet† and Sir Walter Long†, were ranged against (Sir) John Danvers†, Sir Henry Poole*, Sir Edmund Ludlow* and, Thynne was warned, ‘all that depend on that string’.30 His son Thomas’s secret marriage to Marvyn’s granddaughter further embittered the factional rivalry.31 By the end of his life, however, Thynne, encouraged by Mervyn’s attempts at reconciliation and despite his wife’s continuing hostility, was forced to accept the marriage.32 Antipathy even towards Ludlow, whom Thynne’s father had attempted to sue for £5,000, was put aside, and in July 1604 the former rival was a guest at Longleat.33

Improved relations with certain of the county gentry, and the support of his step-father Sir Carew Raleigh*, Sir James Ley*, and the lawyer Lawrence Hyde I*, may have helped Thynne, who had last sat for the county in 1589, secure the honour of representing Wiltshire a second time in 1604.34 His previous recorded activity in Parliament was sparse and his attendance of the House undoubtedly infrequent: in October 1601 the bishop of Salisbury asked Thynne if he could make use of his Westminster residence during sessions.35 In 1604, however, Thynne seems to have spent most of his time in London, leaving his wife to manage the Longleat and Shropshire estates.36 In the Parliament’s first session he was named to 62 committees but made no recorded speeches. Many of these committees dealt with bills pertaining to land ownership, such as those to prevent coppices from being turned into pasture (28 Apr.) and to assure the title of those who owned assart lands (3 May).37 As son of the former estate steward to Protector Somerset, Thynne presumably had a personal interest in the bill to sell off portions of the late duke’s estates (12 June). Personal reasons may also help to explain his inclusion on the committee for the bill to prevent abuses in the Exchequer against sheriffs and other accountants (5 May), as some years earlier he had been fined in connection with his duties as sheriff of Wiltshire.38 Thynne may have chaired the committee for the bill to relieve those places affected by plague, for on 6 June the bill and committee list was delivered to him.39

Many of the bill committees to which Thynne was appointed were concerned with the Church. They included measures on London tithes (10 May), the sale of episcopal lands (19May), pluralism (4 June), the import of popish books (6 June), scandalous ministers (12 June), the multiplicity of episcopal leases (13 June), the abuses of ecclesiastical courts (16 June), and non-attendance at church (27 June).40 One possible reason for Thynne’s inclusion on these committees is that Thynne controlled numerous advowsons, but he may also have been a puritan sympathizer. Thynne was certainly acquainted with the works of Edward Dering, and in later life was associated with Henry Sherfield*, a man whose provocative behaviour at one time branded him a puritan.41 In 1566 Thynne’s father had built a chapel for the Scottish Presbyterian masons working on Longleat.42 Other bill committees to which Thynne was named reflected matters of interest to him in his capacity as a magistrate: the abuses of inns and alehouses (2 May), the excesses of purveyors (7May), usury (9 May, 9 June), the correct measuring of oats (22 May), the repeal or continuance of expiring statutes (5, 21 June), obstructions on navigable rivers (23 June), and the overcrowding of buildings in towns and cities (2 July).43 Thynne formed part of the large deputation sent to explain to the king the House’s position in respect of the Buckinghamshire election dispute on 28 March. Two weeks later he and a somewhat smaller delegation were dispatched to Whitehall to convey the thanks of the House regarding James’ judgment in the case.44

Following the end of the first session, on 11 Nov. 1604, Thynne was ordered by the Privy Council to release ‘an old gent whom he holdeth as a prisoner without cause’.45 Ten days later, though, he died while visiting Longleat, having failed to make a will. The distribution of Thynne’s wealth and property led to considerable family acrimony.46 Thomas, already sitting for Hindon, continued the family’s tradition of representing Wiltshire constituencies. A portrait of Thynne is at Longleat.47

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Henry Lancaster / Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Ex inf. Dr. Kate Harris, librarian at Longleat.
  • 2. Vis. Wilts. (Harl. Soc. cv-cvi), 160; R.C. Hoare, Hist. Wilts. ‘Heytesbury Hundred’, 61.
  • 3. Al. Ox.
  • 4. Two Elizabethan Women ed. A.D. Wall (Wilts. Rec. Soc. xxxviii), p. xix.
  • 5. PROB 11/119, ff. 179v-80; Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxix), 461; Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 164.
  • 6. A.B. Beavan, Aldermen of London, i. 131, 349; CP, vii. 352; London and Mdx. Arch. Soc. vi. 509-27.
  • 7. PROB 11/82, f. 67.
  • 8. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 105.
  • 9. C142/290/110.
  • 10. E315/309, f. 46; 315/310, ff. 5, 35.
  • 11. Wilts. RO, A1/150/2, f. 7; Mins. of Procs. in Sessions ed. H.C. Johnson (Wilts. Rec. Soc. iv), 140; Hatfield House, ms 278.
  • 12. SP13/F/11, f. 15.
  • 13. C231/1, f. 27.
  • 14. C66/1549.
  • 15. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 154.
  • 16. Longleat, Thynne Pprs. vii. f. 102.
  • 17. E179/198/326, 330.
  • 18. C181/1, ff. 27, 51, 52.
  • 19. Ibid. f. 129.
  • 20. LC2/4/4, f. 70v.
  • 21. Two Elizabethan Women, p. xix.
  • 22. C66/1142/33; Hoare, ‘Heytesbury Hundred’, 62.
  • 23. Longleat, Thynne Pprs. v. f. 116.
  • 24. C142/195/118; C66/1280/17, 18; HMC Bath, iv. 122-9; VCH Wilts. v. 115; PROB 11/62, ff. 349-53.
  • 25. E179/198/330, rot. 2; Two Sixteenth-Cent. Taxation Lists ed. G.D. Ramsay (Wilts. Rec. Soc. x), 149.
  • 26. Two Elizabethan Women, pp. xxii-xxiii; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 1), iii. 320.
  • 27. Two Elizabethan Women, p. xxi.
  • 28. Ibid. 19-20.
  • 29. Longleat, Thynne Pprs. vi. ff. 134, 149, 151; APC, 1595-6, p. 79.
  • 30. STAC 5/M3/19; 5/T39/16; Thynne Pprs. i. f. 162; iv. f. 146; v. f. 129; vi. f. 255; A.D. Wall, ‘Wilts. Commission of Peace, 1590-1620’ (Univ. Melbourne MA thesis, 1966), p. 120; A.D. Wall, ‘Faction and Pols.’, Wilts. Arch. Mag. v. 124-5.
  • 31. Two Elizabethan Women, pp. xxvi-xxvii.
  • 32. Longleat, Thynne Pprs. v. f. 82; vii. f. 253.
  • 33. APC, 1578-80, p. 323; Two Elizabethan Women, p. xxi.
  • 34. C219/35/2/114.
  • 35. Longleat, Thynne Pprs. vii. f. 214.
  • 36. Two Elizabethan Women, pp. xxiii, 32-3.
  • 37. CJ, i. 189b, 197b.
  • 38. Ibid. 199b, 237b; SO3/1, unfol., Oct. 1595.
  • 39. Ibid. 213b, 987a.
  • 40. Ibid. 205b, 214b, 231b, 233b, 237a, 240b, 247b.
  • 41. Longleat, Thynne Pprs. v. f. 137v; P. Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, 128, 135, 140, 148; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 52.
  • 42. VCH Wilts. iii. 99.
  • 43. CJ, i. 962b, 202a, 204b, 235b, 987a, 221b, 233b, 244b, 245a, 251a.
  • 44. Ibid. 157a, 169b.
  • 45. Add. 11402, f. 96.
  • 46. Two Elizabethan Women, p. xxix.; Longleat, Thynne Pprs. xl. f. 103.
  • 47. M.L. Boyle, Biographical Cat. of Portraits at Longleat, 115.