TREVOR, Thomas (1573-1656), of Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, London; Enfield, Mdx. and Leamington Hastings, Warws.

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



by 25 Apr. 1604

Family and Education

b. 24 Mar. 1573,1 5th s. of John Trevor (d.1589) of Trevalyn, Gresford, Denb. and Mary, da. of Sir George Brydges of London;2 bro. of Sir John I*, Sir Richard† and Sir Sackville*. educ. Shrewsbury g.s. ?1581, 1589; I. Temple 1593, called 1603.3 m. (1) 1611/12 (with £2,167), Prudence (bur. 6 Jan. 1615), da. of Henry Butler, wid. of John Meredith (d.1611), Haberdasher of Coleman Street, London, 1s.;4 (2) 22 Apr. 1617, Frances (bur. 12 Jan. 1625), da. and h. of Daniel Blennerhasset of Norf., wid. of William Mann (d.1616) of Westminster, Mdx., s.p.;5 (3) by 2 Nov. 1626 Rebecca (d. bef. 1629), wid. of William Rodway, Merchant Taylor of St. Michael Bassishaw, London, ?s.p.;6 (4) Ellen (d.1654), da. of one Poyntell, wid. of Edward Allen, Fishmonger and alderman of London (d.1626), s.p.7 kntd. 18 May 1619.8 d. 21 Dec. 1656.9 sig. Tho[mas] Trevor.

Offices Held

Feodary, Surr. 1603-14;10 steward, Chobham, Surr. 1604;11 dep. steward, honour of Hampton Ct., Mdx. 1610;12 fee’d counsel, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surr. by 1615;13 sol. gen., Prince Charles’s Household 1616-25;14 auditor, I. Temple 1614, 1616, bencher 1617-25, reader 1620;15 sjt.-at-law 1625; king’s sjt. 1625;16 baron, Exch. 1625-49 (suspended 1641-3);17 judge of assize (and ex officio j.p. and commr. oyer and terminer), Home circ. winter 1626, 1627-8, Norf. circ. summer 1626, winter 1635, 1646-8, Northern circ. 1629-32, Oxf. circ. 1633-4, summer 1639-40, Midland circ. summer 1635-8, winter 1641, Western circ. winter 1639;18 just. in eyre, forest of Dean, Glos. 1634, Waltham forest, Essex 1634, 1638.19

Commr. aid, Surr. 1609, piracy, London and lower Thames 1614, gaol delivery, Havering liberty, Essex 1622, subsidy Mdx. 1624;20 j.p. Flint. 1628-42, Denb. 1629-42, Mdx. 1641-?9;21 member, Council in the Marches by 1633;22 commr. sewers, Kent and Surr. 1645.23

Commr. Prince Charles’s revenues by 1615-25; member, Prince Charles’s Council 1616-25.24

Auditor, duchy of Lancaster, south parts 1617-37;25 commr. recusant composition 1629, 1633; member, High Commission 1633;26 commr. gt. seal Nov.-Dec. 1646.27


Trevor, the youngest of five brothers, was born at Salisbury Court in 1573, and seems to have been registered at Shrewsbury School (as son and heir!) at the unusually early age of eight. His father bequeathed him £50 at his death, and urged his eldest brother, Richard†, to ‘maintain him at school’, which suggests that the future MP was the Thomas Trevor admitted to Shrewsbury a few months later. He entered the Inner Temple in 1593 and was called to the bar ten years later.28 He followed his brother Sir John I* into the service of lord admiral Howard (Charles Howard†), although he was probably only engaged on a part-time basis as legal counsel. Howard was certainly his earliest known patron, as he recommended him as auditor of compositions for assart lands in 1604. Howard influence in Surrey probably also explains Trevor’s appointment as county feodary in 1603, and steward of the manor of Chobham in the following year.29

Trevor undoubtedly owed his first parliamentary seat, at Tregony in 1601, to the local influence of Charles Trevanion† of Caerhayes, whose sister Margaret had married his brother (Sir) John in 1592. Trevanion died a few weeks after the election, leaving an under-age heir who was in no position to influence the borough’s choice in 1604, and Trevor only found a seat at the newly enfranchised constituency of Harwich in April 1604. His patron on this occasion was either Howard, by now 1st earl of Nottingham, who had obliged the town’s request for an autonomous admiralty jurisdiction, or lord chancellor Ellesmere (Thomas Egerton†), who had been the key proponent of the charter under which the town was enfranchised.30

Although the records of the sessions of 1604-10 are incomplete, Trevor was clearly not a prominent Member. Many of his efforts can be connected with the interests of the Howard family, including a conspicuously unsuccessful speech that he delivered at the first reading of a bill for the prevention of fraudulent conveyances:

many cried ‘away with it’; then Mr. Trevor of the Inner Temple, being a follower of the lord admiral, spake in favour of the bill only this far, that it might be vouchsafed a second reading and to be considered of by a committee; but the House without further question threw out the bill, fearing lest it would breed a new office which they thought some great man aimed at.

Trevor’s efforts were not always so ill-starred. He took his seat just in time to be named to the committee for Lord William Howard’s restitution bill (15 May 1604), and was later involved with moves to enable Nottingham’s daughter Lady Kildare to mitigate the impact of the attainder of her husband, the 11th Lord Cobham (Henry Brooke alias Cobham†), who had forfeited his estates for his part in the Main Plot of 1603. Named to the committee for the bill to confirm Lady Kildare’s jointure rights on 30 May 1604, at the end of the following session he added a proviso concerning these rights to Cobham’s restitution bill (26 May 1606).31 Relatively little can be said about Trevor’s other activities during the Parliament. He was said to have opposed the bill to confirm land grants to the London corporation and livery companies, but was nevertheless named to the committee (4 May 1607), while the import of his speech of 15 Mar. 1606 on the subject of deprived ministers is unknown. He and his brother Sir John were jointly named to 10 committees, inviting the speculation that they were nominating each other.32

At the next election Harwich returned another of Nottingham’s clients, Sir Robert Mansell, the Navy treasurer, and Trevor transferred to Newport, Cornwall. The constituency lay at the eastern end of the county, well outside the Trevanion sphere of influence, and Trevor’s most likely patron was Sir Robert Killigrew, who represented the borough himself in 1604 and 1621; as a gentleman of the Privy Chamber Killigrew would have been acquainted with Trevor’s brother Sir John. Trevor was named to two committees, one for a bill to establish a grammar school in Monmouth (16 May), the other the estate bill for Sir Robert Wroth II* (25 May). On 26 May, towards the end of a long and angry debate about Bishop Neile’s criticism of the Commons’ debates about impositions, Trevor interrupted calls for a cessation of business to remind Members that ‘the Lords sit not tomorrow’. If this was an attempt to avert the looming crisis, it failed, as the House went on to agree to a cessation.33

Like many younger sons, Trevor did not marry until he had established himself within his profession, and when he did so his spouses were well-endowed widows whose jointure estates could compensate for his own lack of an inheritance. His first wife, married in about 1611, brought him a dowry of £2,167 and a jointure interest in lands worth £215 a year which lay adjacent to the Trevors’ own Welsh estates. Moreover, after she and two of her three daughters died young, Trevor unsuccessfully sought to obtain a reversion of the lands for his own son Thomas†.34 His second wife, a niece of Lord Chief Justice Sir Henry Hobart*, held a jointure interest in her late husband’s 700 acre estate in Kent. The marriage took place in April 1617, and three months later Trevor joined Hobart on Prince Charles’s Council as solicitor general; he also became a bencher at the Inner Temple, and took possession of a duchy of Lancaster auditorship he had been granted in reversion in 1604, a sinecure he chose to share with his nephew (Sir) John Trevor II*.35

Trevor’s position as the prince’s solicitor gave him access to the duchy of Cornwall’s political patronage, and in December 1620 he was initially nominated for West Looe; he was ultimately returned for Saltash, both then and again in 1624.36 Trevor’s official status required him to play a more prominent part in the Commons than he had hitherto, most notably on 3 Mar. 1624, when he was named to the committee of both Houses appointed to draft a petition to the king for a breach with Spain. On 28 Feb. 1621 he supported the committal of the officially sponsored bill to allow the duchy of Cornwall to make leases which would not lapse at the prince’s death, and he was twice named to the committee for this measure (28 Feb. 1621, 9 Mar. 1624). The bill offered security of tenure following a revocation of Duchy leases after the death of Prince Henry, a legal loophole which had raised £14,500 in entry fines in 1615-17 but made Duchy tenants understandably reluctant to commit themselves to long leases.37 Trevor reported the bill to confirm copyhold tenures on Prince Charles’s manor of Kendal, Westmorland (26 Apr. 1621), and when the Durham enfranchisement bill was reported on 4 May 1624, he approved the proposed grant of parliamentary representation to the prince’s manor of Barnard Castle. At the report of another bill to prevent private creditors securing swift payment of their debts by assigning them to the Crown, he urged that the farmers of the tin revenues, the Duchy’s most profitable income source, be heard before the bill was passed. Finally, he was included on committees for bills confirming the prince’s exchange of lands with Alice, Lady Dudley (23 Mar. 1624) and Sir Lewis Watson* (9 Apr. 1624), and another confirming tenures on the Duchy manor of Goathland, Yorkshire (15 Mar. 1624) - he attended three of the five committee meetings for the latter bill.38

In the early 1620s, Trevor also played a modest role in furthering Welsh parliamentary interests. During the 1621 subsidy debates he twice attempted to secure a reprieve for the principality, first on the grounds that Wales was still liable for the mise due to Prince Charles for seven years after his accession in 1616, and secondly because the 1610 subsidy, which had been deferred during the payment of Prince Henry’s mise, had still not been collected; not surprisingly, English MPs turned a deaf ear to such arguments. In 1621 Trevor took charge of the bill to repeal the prerogative clause of the Welsh Union Act of 1536, and although the order was not repeated in 1624, he was named to the same bill committee (6 Mar.) and to attend a conference on the subject with the Lords (14 April). Trevor also supported another measure of considerable significance to the Welsh economy, the 1621 bill to allow free trade in Welsh cottons, which aimed to break the Shrewsbury drapers’ monopoly of the trade. To the dismay of Francis Berkeley of Shrewsbury, Trevor successfully moved for a committal at the bill’s second reading on 2 March.39

The other identifiable interest which Trevor promoted in the Commons during the early 1620s was the farm of sea coal imposts, in which his brother Sir John held a quarter share. On 21 Mar. 1621 Trevor unsuccessfully raised a lone voice against a proviso in the concealments’ bill protecting a long-disused levy of 2d. a chaldron on coal. This charge had recently been revived by the patentee William Typper, to the irritation of the farmers.40 Sir John did not sit in the Commons in 1624, and thus it was his brother who responded to complaints about various coal duties. The first, heard by the committee for grievances on 12 Mar., concerned the charge of 5d. a chaldron collected on the coastal trade in coal by the Newcastle Hostmen. An earlier complaint about this levy from Robert Brandling* had been smothered in 1621. Three years later Trevor made light of the burden, insisting that it was not levied on aliens, and that it was charged per Newcastle chaldron, twice the weight of a London chaldron, ‘so he [the collector] hath two groats out of the chaldron in effect’. The petition vanished without trace, and the Hostmen were powerful enough to secure themselves an exemption from the 1624 Monopolies’ Act.41 The second complaint concerned the patent for survey of coals, worth 2d. a chaldron, granted to Sir Robert Sharpeigh in 1623. The chief beneficiary of this patent, the duke of Lennox, had died just before the opening of the session, leaving it wide open to attack, but in the event the sea coal patentees persuaded the Privy Council to act before the Commons could take cognizance of the case. On 25 May Robert Snelling of Ipswich complained that the king had barred a debate upon the subject, only to be informed by Trevor that ‘this patent for the survey of seacoal is to the prejudice of the king’s revenue, who hath of his farmers for the custom of this coal £8,000 per annum’. Sir Robert Pye then hinted that there were official concerns that the patent might jeopardise ongoing negotiations for a renewal of the sea coal farm. The Commons decided to list it among the grievances anyway, but although it was never revoked, official disapproval meant that the patent remained a dead letter.42

Trevor also contributed to the debates over several disputed elections. On 7 Feb. 1621 the election at Gatton, Surrey came before the Commons: one of the candidates was Sir Thomas Bludder, son of one of the sea coal farmers, which makes it surprising that Trevor moved for Sir Henry Britton, a rival candidate, to be allowed to address the House. Eight days later, when the House considered the return of Sir Dudley Digges and Maurice Abbot, then abroad on an embassy, Trevor reminded Members of the precedent agreed in November 1606, when several MPs sent abroad as ambassadors had been allowed to retain their seats. Appointed to the privileges’ committee in the next Parliament (23 Feb. 1624), Trevor moved a month later to confirm the return of Sir Thomas Holland and Sir John Corbet in the disputed Norfolk election.43 Most of Trevor’s other recorded activity in the Commons during the early 1620s illustrates the way in which lawyers expedited minor items of business. On 7 Feb. 1621 he successfully moved that no public bill should receive a second reading before nine o’clock in the morning, and he was later added to the sub-committee which vetted petitions submitted to the House (added 2 May 1621). In 1624 he was appointed to compare the draft recusancy bill with that from the previous session (25 Feb.), while in a poorly reported speech on 19 Apr. he apparently supported the exemption of the Subpoena Office from the Monopolies’ bill.44

The duchy of Cornwall’s patronage lapsed at Charles’s accession, and one of Trevor’s first actions in the new reign was to apply to (Sir) Humphrey May*, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster for a nomination for a parliamentary seat at Clitheroe, Lancashire. However, his intentions were swiftly overtaken by events, as Charles quickly promoted him to the offices of king’s serjeant, serjeant-at-law and Exchequer baron; the latter appointment required his attendance in the Lords as a legal assistant.45

As a judge, Trevor was required to rule upon some of the most contentious constitutional issues of the period, none more so than that of Ship Money. The defendant, John Hampden*, was related to Trevor’s nephew Sir John Trevor II*, but this consideration was outweighed by the official pressure put upon the judges to return a verdict favourable to the Crown. In February 1637, before the case came to trial, the judges issued a provisional ruling stating that the king was entitled to raise extraordinary revenue whenever he considered the kingdom to be in danger. Several of the judges, including Hutton and Davenport, who ruled in Hampden’s favour, and (Sir) William Jones I*, whose verdict upheld the Crown’s case on the narrowest of technicalities, examined the case forensically in the light of both constitutional and legal precedents. However, Trevor’s verdict for the Crown was apparently designed to avoid controversy by doing little more than reiterating the general arguments advanced in the earlier interim ruling. He conceded that ‘the laying of a charge upon the people by Parliament is a safe way, if time and occasion will permit’, but quoted the maxim ‘necessity knows no law’ in justification of his decision that ‘when the kingdom is in danger, the king may command a supply for prevention thereof, and who can tell better than the king how to prevent the danger?’ Concluding with a ringing endorsement of the prerogative, he asserted that the levy should be paid

cheerfully, for it is for a general good, for the safety of the whole kingdom: the subjects are not prejudiced by it either in their dignities or properties in their goods; the king’s prerogatives protect the people’s liberties, and the subject’s liberty the king’s prerogative; it is proper for kings to command and subjects to obey.46

When questioned about his conduct in the Long Parliament, Trevor tried to evade all responsibility, protesting ‘that [Chief Justice Sir John] Finch II* came and would have him subscribe’. Suspended in July 1641 after the impeachment charges against him were submitted to the Lords, he was one of the few judges willing to serve Parliament during the Civil War, as a result of which he was allowed to resume his place in the autumn of 1643 upon payment of a fine of £6,000; he eventually resigned in protest at the regicide.47

Trevor drafted a brief will on 14 Aug. 1648, providing for his burial at his parish church of St. Bride’s, Fleet Street if he died in London, and leaving his entire estate to his only son Sir Thomas Trevor, bt. In a codicil made a few weeks before his death, he gave £40 to the poor of each of the five parishes where he held property and provided other modest legacies for various relatives including the lawyer Arthur Trevor of Brynkinallt, Denbighshire, to whom he bequeathed ‘such of my year law books as he shall require’. He also asked to be buried in the family vault which he had recently constructed at Leamington Hastings, Warwickshire. He died on 21 Dec. 1656; his son, who had sat in the Long Parliament until Pride’s Purge, died without male heirs in 1676.48

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. E. Suss. RO, GLY/213-14.
  • 2. Ped. in Glynde Place Archives ed. R.F. Dell.
  • 3. Shrewsbury Sch. Regestum Scholarium comp. E. Calvert, 71, 118; I. Temple Admiss.; CITR, ii. 2.
  • 4. C2/Chas.I/T38/44; GL, ms 6538, unfol.
  • 5. C2/Jas.I/T14/62; C142/376/118; GL, ms 6538, unfol.
  • 6. C2/Chas.I/D38/21; CLRO, Reps. 41, f. 1v.
  • 7. C142/429/125.
  • 8. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 171.
  • 9. W. Dugdale, Antiqs. Warw. ed. W. Thomas, i. 319.
  • 10. WARD 9/275, unfol.
  • 11. E315/310, f. 24.
  • 12. W.R. Prest, Rise of the Barristers, 397.
  • 13. Ibid.
  • 14. WARD 9/535, p. 27; DCO, Letters and Warrants 1615-19, f. 48v; 1623-6, f. 161v.
  • 15. CITR, ii. 102, 118.
  • 16. Order of Sjts.-at-Law ed. J.H. Baker (Selden Soc. suppl. ser. v), 358-60; List of Eng. Law Officers comp. J. Sainty (Selden Soc. suppl. ser. vii), 18.
  • 17. Sainty, Judges, 123.
  • 18. J.S. Cockburn, Hist. English Assizes, 270-3.
  • 19. CSP Dom. 1634-5, pp. 143-4, 227-8; 1638-9, p. 41.
  • 20. Surr. Hist. Cent. LM 1495; C181/2, f. 214v; 181/3, f. 78; C212/22/23.
  • 21. JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 70-4, 107-10; C231/5, p. 484.
  • 22. Eg. 2882, f. 163.
  • 23. C181/5, f. 263v.
  • 24. DCO, Letters and Warrants 1615-19, f. 3; 1623-6, f. 161v; G. Haslam, ‘Jacobean Phoenix’, Estates of English Crown ed. R.W. Hoyle, 276.
  • 25. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 70.
  • 26. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 570; 1633-4, pp. 326-7.
  • 27. A. and O. i. 885-7.
  • 28. Shrewsbury Sch. Regestum Scholarium, 71, 118; PROB 11/74, f. 105v; I. Temple Admiss.; CITR, ii. 2.
  • 29. HMC Hatfield, xvi. 335-6; xvii. 347.
  • 30. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 501-4; HARWICH.
  • 31. Bowyer Diary, 53; CJ, i. 211a, 224a, 229a, 312b.
  • 32. CJ, i. 285a, 1040a.
  • 33. Ibid. 486a, 496a, 499a; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 347.
  • 34. PROB 11/117, ff. 316-17; PROB 6/8, f. 43v; 6/11, f. 110v; 6/12, f. 87v; C142/335/19; C2/Chas.I/T38/44.
  • 35. C142/376/118; C2/Chas.I/P1/49; CITR, ii. 102, 118; Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders, 70.
  • 36. DCO, Letters and Patents, 1620-1, f. 39v; Prince Charles in Spain, f. 33.
  • 37. CJ, i. 531b, 676b, 680a; CD 1621, v. 530; G. Haslam, ‘Jacobean Phoenix’, 293-5; C.R. Kyle, ‘Prince Charles in the Parls. of 1621 and 1624’, HJ, xli. 614-16.
  • 38. CJ, i. 548b, 592b, 686a, 697b, 747a, 756b, 758b; CD 1621, iv. 258; HLRO, main pprs. 8 Apr. 1624 (Prees manor).
  • 39. CJ, i. 529a, 534b, 537b, 544a, 730a, 767a; T.C. Mendenhall, Shrewsbury Drapers and Welsh Wool Trade, 170-3, 237-8.
  • 40. CJ, i. 567b; J.U. Nef, Rise of Brit. Coal Industry, 219, n. 5.
  • 41. CJ, i. 575a; CD 1621, vii. 87-9; ‘Earle 1624’, f. 80v; Nef, 129, 268-9.
  • 42. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 221; CJ, i. 794b; Nef, 240-8.
  • 43. CJ, i. 512a, 522b, 671b; Bowyer Diary, 188-9; CD 1621, v. 461; ‘Spring 1624’, p. 161.
  • 44. CJ, i. 511b, 602b, 673b; CD 1621, ii. 34; ‘Pym 1624’, f. 72v.
  • 45. HMC Kenyon, 31; List of Eng. Law Officers, 18; Order of Sjts.-at-Law, 358-60, 438; Sainty, Judges, 123.
  • 46. CSP Dom. 1636-7, pp. 416-18; State Trials ed. T. Howell, ii. 1125-7; C. Russell, ‘Ship Money judgments of Bramston and Davenport’, EHR, lxxvii. 314-8.
  • 47. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 628; CJ, ii. 194; iii. 251, 282; vi. 134-6; Cal. Wynn Pprs. no. 1689; LJ, vi. 562.
  • 48. PROB 11/261, f. 57; DWB (Trevor of Brynkinallt, Trevor of Trevalun); D. Underdown, Pride’s Purge, 387.