SPURWAY, Thomas (1481/83-1548), of Exeter, Devon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. 1481/83, 2nd s. of John Spurway of Spurway in Oakford by Anne, da. of one Sherron. m. (1) da. of Geoffrey Lewis of Exeter; (2) Anne, da. of one Gale of Kirton in Crediton; at least 2s. 2da.2

Offices Held

Receiver-gen. to Edward 8th Earl of Devon by 1507-9, William 9th Earl of Devon 1511, Henry 10th Earl of Devon and Marquess of Exeter 1511-39, Catherine Dowager Countess of Devon by 1523-7; bailiff, Exeter 1529-30, member of the Twenty-Four by Oct. 1534-d., receiver 1535-6, mayor 1540-1; bailiff, manor of Exe Island by Oct. 1536-9 or later; receiver, lands of Queen Catherine Howard, Devon by 1542; jt. (with John Grenville) particular-receiver, lands of Queen Catherine Parr, Devon and Dorset by 1548.3


According to John Hooker, Thomas Spurway was ‘a reasonably tall man of stature, well compact of body, wise [of] nature and discreet, willing to please and loath to offend any man’. He was born at Tiverton, of a gentle family with a tradition of service to the Courtenay earls of Devon, and this he followed until 1539 when the Marquess of Exeter was arrested for treason. His ‘great credit’ with the marquess did not harm him, for he was put in charge of the forfeited estates: he was also given the administration of some of the lands of two queens.4

It was after his marriage to the daughter of a former mayor of Exeter that Spurway was made a freeman, and on his father-in-law’s death he went to live in Lewis’s house in St. Martin’s parish. For a number of years he reconciled the demands of a civic career with his position as the marquess’s representative, but he was no longer filling the second when he was elected to Parliament. Both he and William Hurst were replaced during the second session, ostensibly on account of ill health, but on 12 Apr. 1543, only 16 days after the by-election, Spurway left Exeter to attend the remainder of the session; on the following day his replacement Gilbert Kirk returned there and had his account settled. It was Spurway, not Kirk, who accompanied Hurst to the third and last session a year later; while in the capital he was party to the copying of one of the city’s charters in the Exchequer. He may have had a hand in the election for Exeter to the next Parliament of his colleague in Catherine Parr’s service John Grenville.5

Despite his alleged sickness in 1542 Spurway is not known to have curtailed his activities before his death in 1548, two years after that of his temporary replacement in the House. By his will, made on 29 Mar. 1548 and proved on the following 8 May, he asked to be buried in St. Nicholas’s churchyard at Exeter. After leaving money towards the maintenance of St. Martin’s church where he was a parishioner, he provided for his wife and children, instructing his elder son Thomas to abide in the custody of his friend John Haydon and to set himself to learning in London. His widow married Walter Staplehill.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Aged 56 in 1538 or 1539, SP1/138, f. 130. PCC 6 Populwell; Vis. Devon (Harl. Soc. vi), 274; Vis. Devon, ed. Vivian, 724.
  • 3. SP1/138, f. 130; LP Hen. VIII, iii, iv, vi, ix, xix, xx; Exeter act bk. 1, f. 139v; 2, f. 96v; R. Izacke, Exeter (1681), 115, 118, 130; Trans. Dev. Assoc. lxx. 415; information from W. Harwood; E315/340, f. 4v.
  • 4. Exeter, Hooker’s commonplace bk. f. 346; SP1/138, f. 130; M. R. Westacott, ‘The estates of the earl of Devon, 1485-1538’ (Exeter Univ. MA thesis, 1958), 52, 83; LP Hen. VIII, xix, xx.
  • 5. Exeter Freemen (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. extra ser. i), 69; Exeter, Hooker’s commonplace bk. f. 346; act. bk. 2, f. 57v; J. Hoker, The description of the citie of Excester (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. xi), 897.
  • 6. PCC 6 Populwell.