TOMLYNS, Richard (1563-1650), of Broad Sanctuary, Westminster Abbey; later of Richmond, Surr.

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. 12 Nov. 1563, ?e. surv. s. of Richard Tomblins (d.1568), common cllr. of Ludlow, Salop by 1562-d.1 educ. L. Inn 1625.2 ?unm. bur. 12 Sept. 1650.3 sig. Ry[chard] Tomlyns.

Offices Held

Servant to Sir John Fortescue* by 1601-7.4

?Woodward, Devon and Cornw. 1603-27;5 feodary, duchy of Lancaster estates, Essex, Herts. and Mdx. 1603-6;6 freeman, Ludlow 1614;7 steward, Westminster Abbey ?1642-5.8


Tomlyns, born at Ludlow, was probably a son of the Richard Tomlyns who was a common councillor there during the 1560s. He was acknowledged as a cousin by the Tomlins family of Tidenham, Gloucestershire, whose members included a namesake who was called to the bar of the Middle Temple in 1589. The Ludlow man, by contrast, was not a barrister, although he was admitted as an honorary member of Lincoln’s Inn in 1625 at the behest of William Hakewill*, whose services he later used in arbitrating a dispute.9 That said, the offices Tomlyns acquired suggest that he received some form of legal training, perhaps as an attorney.

It was in his capacity as a servant of Sir John Fortescue that Ludlow’s corporation entertained Tomlyns during visits in 1601 and 1605. Fortescue’s position as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster briefly secured Tomlyns a duchy feodaryship in 1603-6, and in 1607 the two men received a joint grant of Crown lands in Buckinghamshire.10 Fortescue died in December 1607, and was succeeded in office by his half-brother, Sir Thomas Parry*. It is possible that Tomlyns transferred to Parry’s service, as he maintained his links with Fortescue’s widow, acting as surety when she obtained the wardship of one of her grandsons in 1617. Yet by about 1614 Tomlyns was living within the precincts of Westminster Abbey, and may have been employed there, perhaps initially in the service of (Sir) James Whitelocke*, steward of the Abbey estates until 1621.11

Tomlyns first stood for election at Ludlow in 1614, but he had no hope of beating the town’s recorder and high bailiff, and the corporation ruled him out of contention by passing a resolution barring non-burgesses from election; Tomlyns did not obtain his freedom until July. Shortly before the next general election, in the autumn of 1620, Tomlyns, while acknowledging that Ludlow ‘will be importuned by letters from great persons’, expressed the hope that the corporation would ‘be constant to hold your ancient and laudable custom, viz. to choose none but your native and sworn burgesses’. With what he clearly hoped was becoming modesty, he confessed

that I distrust my ability, as not worthy to be a member of that honourable, learned and grave assembly, but being confident in myself to be a true hearted Englishman, to love my country and commonwealth as becometh every good subject, I am encouraged eftsoons to be a suitor in this behalf ...

Perhaps more to the point, his residency in Westminster allowed him to offer to serve unpaid. Moreover, he was then negotiating to buy Ludlow’s fee-farm of £33 6s. 8d. from the Crown, a consideration which persuaded George Holland, the corporation’s London attorney, to support his candidacy.12

Tomlyns left no trace upon the voluminous surviving records of the 1621 session, although shortly before the summer recess Holland observed that he was ‘so busy in Parliament he can attend little else’. At Easter he sent the bailiffs a long letter of domestic and foreign news, together with copies of the king’s speech of 26 Mar., which presaged action against monopolists, and the proclamations of 30-31 Mar. which carried this promise into effect. He also offered to send the corporation a gilt cup and advised them of the rapid progress of his plans to purchase the town fee-farm, which he acquired for £400 during the summer.13 Tomlyns did not assign the fee-farm directly to the borough’s use: having little or no inheritance of his own, he proposed to enjoy the revenue during his lifetime, then to bequeath it to the town for charitable uses after his death. This decision was clearly part of a broader plan to secure a regular rental income, as over the next few years Tomlyns acquired two further rentals. One of these was the fee-farm of Sir Edwin Sandys’* manor of Northbourne, Kent, and the other was the lease of an Oxford inn which, together, yielded him an annual income of £122 by the end of the 1620s.14

Tomlyns’ decision to keep the profits of the Ludlow fee-farm clearly caused some friction, and in 1622-3 the corporation refused to pay Tomlyns because the under-sheriff, having failed to receive notice of the sale from the Exchequer, demanded that payment be made to the Crown. In reply, Tomlyns delayed dispatching the gold cup he had earlier promised the corporation, and complained that

my being your burgess of the last Parliament cost me dear, for in this late [Palatine] benevolence or gift my name was found in the roll of burgesses, by reason whereof I was sent for unto the Council table before the Lords, and there between fair persuasions and otherwise I was urged to give £30, which I paid [on 14 Feb. 1622], whereas many of great estates, lands and office gave little more, and I have neither land nor office.

The town’s arrears were eventually settled in the autumn of 1623, and with another Parliament in the offing Tomlyns renewed his promise to send a gold cup, although he also lectured the corporation about the need to develop the town’s industry rather than rely on the Council in the Marches for their prosperity. This undiplomatic language clearly generated some resentment, and a week before the election Holland was obliged to quash rumours that Tomlyns ‘is inclinable to popery, and will (if he be chosen) expect or sue for his charges of attendance in Parliament (according to the statute) from the corporation’.15

Re-elected despite these difficulties, the only issue on which Tomlyns is known to have spoken during the 1624 Parliament concerned a patent for the printing of proclamations, legal breviates and other literature issued on single sheets of paper, which he twice moved to be examined by the grievances’ committee (24 Apr., 15 May); there is no evidence of any further proceedings on this matter. He was also named to five bill committees, none of which concerned issues in which he had any obvious interest, although he is known to have attended one of the meetings for the London artisan clothworkers’ bill.16 In May 1625 Tomlyns applied to the Ludlow corporation for re-election with more tact than he had used 18 months earlier, mentioning only in passing that his fee-farm was a year in arrears. He was also able to claim part of the credit for the Exchequer’s recent confirmation of Ludlow’s exemption from parliamentary fifteenths, a concession he had helped Holland to secure, which was worth £36 off the taxation voted in the 1624 session.17 He left no trace on the records of the 1625 session, the failure of which he claimed ‘hath almost disheartened and discouraged me to desire to be of any more parliaments’. Yet he stifled his doubts before the next election, and offered a discount of £2 from his fee-farm towards the poor of Ludlow as an incentive towards his return, although he conceded

if you shall think upon any other choice more able and worthy (whereof I am assured there are many) I shall not take it in ill part, only let me advise that in your election you do choose such as are approved and known sound, religious and honest men who respect the good of the republic more than any man’s favour or private ends. And surely I am of opinion (if ever) this Parliament will require such persons to be of the House.

The last remark hints at an awareness of the forthcoming attack on the duke of Buckingham, and, like many other Members, he kept a low profile in 1626.18

In the autumn of 1626 Tomlyns assisted Ludlow’s town clerk in lobbying for a new charter. On the eve of the 1628 election he admitted ‘I had resolved with myself, being now grown into years and sickly, not to have been in any more Parliaments’, but allowed himself to be persuaded to stand again by ‘some gentlemen of worth and others my familiar friends’. He was named to a couple of bill committees (13 June 1628, added 23 Feb. 1629) and on 23 June 1628 he presented a letter to the House which had been found under the door to the Commons’ chamber with the melodramatic superscription ‘cursed be he that receives this and delivers it not’. A perusal of the first few lines revealed it to be a Catholic libel. Tomlyns was one of the delegation sent to explain the circumstances of its discovery to the king.19

Tomlyns’ claim of declining health was not mere hyperbole: in 1632-4 he lay gravely ill for 18 months, and he retired to Richmond, Surrey, where he lived out his days. However, he was briefly installed as steward of the Abbey estates by Parliament at the start of the Civil War, an office he surrendered to Bulstrode Whitelocke* in 1645. These years were marred by disputes with both the Sandys family and the Ludlow corporation over arrears on his fee-farms, and in 1649, after many threats, he reneged upon his earlier undertaking to leave the Ludlow fee-farm to the corporation after his death.20 In his will of 23 Mar. 1650 he left £50 to the poor of Richmond, but the bulk of his estate was assigned to his executors, two metropolitan attorneys, who obtained probate on 17 Dec. 1650. The Ludlow corporation threatened legal action to enforce their claims on his estate, and were backed by the MP’s relative Richard Tomlins, an Exchequer baron, but their case was hardly a strong one, and in 1655 John Aston, then Ludlow’s MP, arranged for the corporation to buy out the executors’ interest.21

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. Ludlow (Salop par. reg. soc. xiii), 57, 221.
  • 2. LI Admiss.
  • 3. Richmond (Surr. par. reg. soc. i), 205.
  • 4. Salop RO, LB8/1/125/5, LB8/1/129/4; HMC Hatfield, xvi. 170.
  • 5. E315/310, f. 3v; 315/311, f. 11v; Lansd. 171, f. 396v.
  • 6. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 215.
  • 7. Salop RO, LB2/1/1, f. 104v.
  • 8. Whitelocke Diary ed. R. Spalding, 183.
  • 9. M. Faraday, Ludlow 1085-1660, p. 193; MTR, 232-3; Salop RO, LB7/1710. For connections between Tomlyns and Hakewill, see PC2/43, f. 328; 2/44, f. 77; C2/Chas.I/T51/35.
  • 10. HMC Hatfield, xvi. 170; Salop RO, LB8/1/125/5, LB8/1/129/4; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 320; C66/1699.
  • 11. WARD 9/162, f. 245v; C2/Chas.I/T51/35; WAM, Chapter Act Bk. 2 (23 May 1620).
  • 12. Salop RO, LB7/1677; LB2/1/1, ff. 104r-v, 131.
  • 13. Salop RO, LB7/1678, LB8/2/87; LJ, iii. 69; Stuart Royal Procs. ed. J.F. Larkin and P.L. Hughes, i. 502-8.
  • 14. C2/Chas.I/T16/64; 2/Chas.I/T51/35.
  • 15. Salop RO, LB2/1/1, f. 142; LB8/2/94; LB7/1680-92; SP14/156.
  • 16. CJ, i. 767b, 774a, 789b; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 215.
  • 17. E359/64/2-3; Salop RO, LB7/1693; LB8/2/92-3.
  • 18. Salop RO, LB7/1694.
  • 19. Faraday, 30; Salop RO, LB2/1/1, ff. 151v-2; LB7/1695; CD 1628, iv. 232, 424, 433, 435; CJ, i. 932a.
  • 20. C2/Chas.I/T16/64; 2/Chas.I/T51/35; 2/Chas.I/T54/16; Salop RO, LB7/1697-1709, 1719; Faraday, 30-1.
  • 21. PROB 11/219, f. 379; Salop RO, LB7/388, 1710-12, 1716-17.