Sir Thomas RUSSELL of Strensham and Witley, Knight

Born: 1519, Strensham and Witley, Worcestershire, England

Died: 1574

Father: John RUSSELL

Mother: Edith UNTON

Married 1: Frances CHOLMLEY (dau. of Roger Cholmley and Christiana Hurst) BEF 1544




Married 2: Margaret (Mary) LYGON (dau. of William Lygon) (m.2 of Henry Berkeley)



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

Born ABT 1519/20, only son of John Russell. Educ. G. Inn, adm. 1544. Married first, by 1544, Frances, dau. and coheiress of Sir Roger Cholmley of London and Highgate, Mdx.; and secondly Margaret, dau. of William Lygon of Madresfield. Kntd. 17 Nov 1549; suc. fa. 15 Aug 1556. Jt. (with father and John Gostwick) supervisor, lands of bpric. of Worcester 1523, supervisor or surveyor in 1564; sheriff, Worcs. 1551-2. 1559-60, 1569-70; commr. goods of churches and fraternities, Worcs. 1553, to enforce Acts of Uniformity and Supremacy 1572, musters, Worcs. 1573; j.p. 1558/59-d., q. by 1562; steward, manor of Martley, Worcs. by 1570, of lands formerly of Great Malvern and Pershore abbeys, Worcs. at d.; custos rot. Worcs. by 1573/74.

Appointed in infancy joint supervisor of the lands of the bishopric of Worcester, Thomas Russell is mentioned in 1535 as the bearer of letters to his father from Cromwell concerning the affairs of Worcester priory. His next appearance is as a knight of the shire, by-elected on 27 Dec 1542 to replace Sir Gilbert Talbot who had died on the previous 22 Oct. This distinction, while still in his early twenties and before he had exercised any public office, he evidently owed to his father, who had then just completed his second term as sheriff. The sheriff at the time of the by-election, Sir George Throckmorton, who shared an interest in the estates of the bishopric of Worcester with the Russells, probably lent his support.

Russell may have sat again in 1545, when the Worcestershire knights are unknown, and was probably returned before the opening of the Parliament of 1547, when his father was again sheriff, although his Membership is known only from the Crown Office list drawn up for the fourth session. During this Parliament he was one of six knights, including the Duke of Lüneburg and Ambrose Dudley, a younger son the Earl of Warwick, dubbed at Westminster in Nov 1549 and two years later he was pricked sheriff for the first time. He should not be confused with a namesake who served as provost marshal in 1549 and who had earlier been engaged in provisioning Boulogne and Calais. Nothing is known of Russell's role within the House or of any part he may have played in the conflicts of the reign. He may have attached himself to Sir John Russell, created Earl of Bedford early in 1550, with whom the Russells of Strensham claimed kinship and in the household of whose son Sir Thomas Russell's own elder son, John, born in 1551, was to be brought up. Since Bedford supported the Duke of Northumberland, however, this leaves unexplained Russell's failure to sit for his shire in the Parliament of Mar 1553. Whatever the reason for that absence, he was again returned to the first Parliament of the new reign but was one of those Members of it who opposed the restoration of Catholicism. His Protestantism, thus evidenced and later underlined by his friendship with Bishop Sandys whom he assisted in the compilation of the return of 1564, accounts for his failure to sit again before 1559, but he was not entirely excluded from favour, being employed early in 1558 to raise men in Worcestershire for the relief of Calais. In Oct 1557 his father-in-law Sir Roger Cholmley (who had been imprisoned at the beginning of Mary's reign for his role in the succession crisis) was licensed to grant his manors of Broad Campden, Gloucestershire and Over Strensham, Worcestershire, to the Russells.

Russell died on 9 Apr 1574, six days after making his will. His widow and executrix married Henry Berkeley of Somerset.


Habington's Worcs. (Worcs. Hist. Soc. 1899)

G. Scott Thomson, Two Cents. of Fam. Hist.

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