Sir Thomas PALMER of Parham

Born: ABT 1520, Parham, Sussex, England

Died: 14 Apr 1582/3

Father: Robert PALMER (Mercer of London)

Mother: Bridget (Beatrix) WESSE

Married 1: Bridget (Griseld) CARRYLL


1. Mary PALMER

2. Elizabeth PALMER

3. Dorothy PALMER

Married 2: Catherine STRADLING (b. ABT 1512 - d. ABT 1585) (dau. of Sir Edward Stradling and Elizabeth Arundell)


4. William PALMER (Sir)

5. Thomas PALMER (Sir) (b. 1548)

6. John PALMER (Sir)

7. Robert PALMER

8. Margaret PALMER

The details in this biography come from the History of Parliament, a biographical dictionary of Members of the House of Commons.

First son of Robert Palmer of London and Parham by his firs wife Bridget, dau. and coh. of John Wesse or West of Millington, Yorks. Married first Bridget or Griselda dau. of John Caryll of Warnham, Suss., 3da.; and secondly, by 1557, Catherine, dau. of Sir Edward Stradling of St. Donats, Glam., 1 or 2s. suc. fa. May 1544. Kntd. 2 Oct 1553.

J.p. Suss. 1547-61, q. 1562-d.; commr. relief 1550, musters, Chichester 1580; other commissions Suss. 1554-65; collector for loan 1562; sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1559-60; dep. lt. Suss. 1569-82.

Thomas Palmer’s father, an offspring of the family of Angmering, Sussex, bought the manor of Parham in 1540 and established a branch there. Palmer’s early career is not easily disentangled from those of several namesakes. If his age was correctly stated at his father’s inquisition he cannot have been the entrant of 1528 at Gray’s Inn, but he was probably the servant of Cromwell’s who carried letters to France and Calais in 1539 and who went to Winchester to hear a suspect preacher. He served in the Boulogne campaign of 1544 under his future master the Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, and alongside his cousin Sir Henry Palmer. His succession to Parham, and his purchase of two manors once the property of Holy Trinity college, Arundel, were followed by his appointment to the bench in 1547. His religious conservatism notwithstanding, he was to retain his place on it for the rest of his life. He was admitted to the Mercers’ Company in 1555.

Palmer held office under Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth, and was described by William Barlow, Bishop of Chichester, in 1564 as a ‘faint furtherer’ of religion.

Palmer was clearly prepared to conform, but it was to the Earl of Arundel that he looked for immunity in times of stress and of advantage during the happier reign of Mary. In Aug 1553 Arundel sued to the Queen for Palmer’s lease of a large area of marsh in east Sussex, and in 1555 the Earl, as master forester of Petworth honor, appointed him keeper of River park and of all lodges in the honor; later in the reign Palmer bought Lurgashall manor and the lordship of Donnington, both of which formed part of the honor. He and Sir Thomas Stradling acted for Arundel in a land transaction, and during the Earl’s absence at Calais in 1555 they managed his affairs: by 1557 he and Stradling had become brothers-in-law.

It was as Arundel’s nominee that Palmer sat in Parliament. The Earl was released from his imprisonment as a supporter of Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset in time to nominate Members for the Parliament of Mar in 1553, which Palmer sat for Arundel. His kinship with the Duke of Northumberland’s henchman Sir Thomas Palmer may explain why a Catholic like Palmer was a Member of this hostile House. Re-elected to its more congenial successor, he was knighted by the Earl, who had beyond lord steward of the Household, three days before the Parliament opened, although the return of 23 Sep had styled him knight. Unlike his fellow-Member, the Norfolk lawyer Thomas Gawdy, he did not oppose the initial measures towards reunion with Rome; nothing is known of his attitude towards the Act confirming the attainder of his dead cousin (1 Mary st. 2, c.16). Six months later he achieved his only knighthood of the shire, but for the three remaining Parliaments of the reign he was evidently passed over in favour of other clients of Arundel. His last appearance was in 1559 for Guildford, a town of which Arundel was high steward.

Palmer was unharmed by the subsequent misadventures of Arundel, and from 1569 he was a deputy lieutenant.

Among a large number of land transactions in which Palmer took part was the purchase from the Crown, in Jul 1557, of £300 worth of Sussex property, much of it formerly belonging to Tortington priory. In Apr 1561 he was one of those to whom Laurence Stoughton apparently enfeoffed the manor of Stoughton near Guildford, though this may have been simply an arrangement under the statute of uses.

The archbishop’s visitation of the diocese during the vacancy of the see in 1569 included him among the gentlemen who ‘at Easter receive communion at home in their chapels, and choose priests from a distance’. With a later bishop, Richard Curteys, he was on bad terms. In Dec 1573, Curteys brought unspecified charges against Palmer, and the Council appointed a commission to investigate them. The matter dragged on for some years, with Curteys citing Palmer for popery, and Sir Thomas and his friends complaining that the Bishop was over-zealous in prosecuting the gentlemen of the shire. At the same time Palmer was involved in the affairs of his son-in-law John Leeds, who had gone abroad for religious reasons. When Leeds’ wife Elizabeth returned to England in 1577, Palmer wrote to the Council that he would refuse to deal with his daughter’s matters unless their lordships approved. The government evidently discounted the charges against Sir Thomas himself: in 1579 he was asked to inquire into the activities of John Apsley’s schoolmaster, Bywater, suspected of being a ‘massing priest’.

Palmer’s name appeared regularly on Elizabethan commissions, from those dealing with important business such as musters, grain supplies and the suppression of piracy, to inquiries into such matters as ‘lewd words’ spoken by the sexton of Chichester cathedral. The last reference found to his official activities concerns the Sussex musters in May 1580.

He began to build Parham House in 1577 but did not live to see its completion, dying on or about 14 Apr 1582. In the will which he had made on 24 Feb 1580 he left small bequests to Parham church and Chichester cathedral, and to his sons-in-law John Leeds and Sir Thomas Palmer, and £100 to a granddaughter, Grizeld Roberts. After making arrangements for payments to the Queen out of his lands at Lyminster, he directed that the residue of his goods should be equally divided between his widow, Dame Catherine, and his son and heir William, aged 28 at the inquisition post mortem.


Swales, R. J.W.: PALMER, Thomas (by 1520-82), of Parham, Suss.

Fuidge, N. M.: PALMER, Sir Thomas (by 1520-82), of Parham, Suss.

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