STERNHOLD (STERNELL), Thomas (by 1517-49), of Westminster, Mdx.

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. by 1517. educ. ?Oxf. m. by 1546, Agnes, prob. da. of one Horswell, 2da.1

Offices Held

Servant of Cromwell by 1538; groom of the robes 1540-d.; receiver-gen. ct. gen. surveyors of the King’s lands, attainted lands, Yorks., Jan. 1545; j.p. Glos. 1547; master, St. Bartholomew’s hospital, Gloucester Sept. 1547-d.; commr. chantries, Glos., Bristol and Gloucester 1548.2


Thomas Sternhold, the versifier of the psalms, is said by both Bale and Holinshed to have been a Hampshire man—Holinshed says that he was born at Southampton—but a much later account has it that he was born at Awre in Gloucestershire and lived there as a neighbour of his fellow-translator John Hopkins. There is no evidence that the two were ever acquainted or that Hopkins had any connexion with Gloucestershire but there were Sternholds in the shire and towards the end of his life Thomas Sternhold was appointed to commissions there and granted the mastership of a hospital in Gloucester, although most of the land which he obtained lay in Cornwall and Hampshire.3

Sternhold’s education at Oxford rests on the unsupported statement of Wood and his first appearance is as a servant of Cromwell: like many of his fellows he secured a post in the royal household on the minister’s fall. In 1543 he was one of the group of Protestants in the Household who were imprisoned for their involvement with one of the Windsor Martyrs but were soon pardoned and restored to favour: Henry VIII, indeed, left Sternhold 100 marks in his will. He was to act as feoffee and as surety for one of his fellow-prisoners, Sir Philip Hoby, and his widow was almost certainly ‘that worthy Sternhold’s wife’ who married Hoby’s brother William Hoby of Hursley, Hampshire. He was also a feoffee for the poet William Grey II who belonged to the same Protestant circle. He served in the French campaign of 1544 and in the following year was returned to Parliament for Plymouth. He was a friend and probably a relative by marriage of James Horswell, a local Protestant and former client of Cromwell who may, however, have died before the election, and he must have known his fellow-Member George Ferrers, a writer who had also passed from Cromwell’s service to the King’s. Ferrers’s return for Cirencester in 1547 at the hands of Admiral Seymour may have owed something to Sternhold, an annuitant of Catherine Parr and a man of influence in that town.4

In 1541 Sternhold obtained a 21-year lease of Bodmin priory, Cornwall, from the crown, converting it into a grant in fee three years later when he also leased the Hampshire manor of Merdon; he later purchased another Hampshire manor, Slackstead, from Sir Ralph Sadler. By his will of 22 Aug. 1549, made the day before his death and proved on the following 12 Sept., he left two thirds of his lands in Bodmin and Slackstead to his wife and executrix for life together with all his goods and chattels. One of the witnesses, Edward Whitchurch, was presumably the Protestant publisher who had printed the first edition of Sternhold’s version of the psalms: the date of publication is unknown but the dedication was to Edward VI who, Sternhold said, had taken pleasure in hearing him sing them.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-40, p. 539; PCC 37 Populwell; I. Gray, ‘The Sternhold mystery’, Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. Trans. lxxxvii, 209-12; CPR, 1548-9, p. 245; DNB.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xiv, xvi. xx, add. CPR, 1547-8, pp. 84, 193; 1548-9, pp. 136, 244.
  • 3. Gray, 209-12.
  • 4. M. L. Robertson, ‘Cromwell’s servants’ (Univ. California Los Angeles Ph.D. thesis, 1975), 566; APC, i. 97; ii. 244; LP Hen. VIII, xviii, xix, add.; Test. Vet. ed. Nicolas, i. 44; CPR, 1547-8, p. 224; 1549-51, p. 312; Gray, 210; Vis. Worcs. (Harl. Soc. xxvii), 80; SC6, Edw. VI/726, ff. 21v, 25; Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. Trans. xi. 119.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, xvi, xix; VCH Hants, iv. 444; PCC 37 Populwell; C142/88/12; Lit. Rems. Edw. VI, pp. lv-lvi and n; CPR, 1553-4, p. 298.