THORNTON, Henry (by 1484-1533), of Buckland, Som.

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 1484. m. 2da.2

Offices Held

Yeoman of the crown by 1505, of the chamber by 1509; keeper, Ilchester gaol, Som. by 1505; bailiff and parker, Curry Mallet, Som. 1509-23; serjeant-at-arms 1513-d.; comptroller of customs, Bridgwater bef. 1529; j.p. Som. 1531-d.3


Henry Thornton’s parentage and place of origin are unknown but he was probably from Somerset. He is first heard of on 28 Nov. 1505 when as keeper of Ilchester gaol and a yeoman of the crown he had a pardon for all escaped prisoners. He was no longer keeper when in 1512 he took out a general pardon as yeoman aliasgentleman alias pardoner, but he was still a yeoman of the chamber when granted in 1509 the bailiwick and parkership of Curry Mallet. Four years later he was promoted to be one of the serjeants-at-arms, and the next 20 were to see him become a fairly wealthy and influential man in Somerset.4

The return of two customs officials in Thornton and Hugh Trotter for Bridgwater in 1529 was probably favoured by the town’s recorder, Baldwin Malet, who was unable to take the recorder’s accustomed place in the House owing to his appointment during the summer as solicitor-general. Neither Member appears to have lived in the town and Thornton, at least, was a crown agent who was later to be closely in touch with Cromwell over the election of his nominee as abbot of Muchelney. If the ‘Mr. Paulet’ mentioned in the Bridgwater receiver’s accounts during the 1530s was the courtier Sir William Paulet, then Thornton who moved in similar circles and who owned property near Paulet’s seat may have been able to rely on his support to take the senior place. On 21 Nov. 1530 Thornton was licensed to perform his comptrollership by deputy. The last year of his life was mainly taken up with the dispute over the abbey of Muchelney which he seems to have taken very seriously as affecting his whole position and prestige in the county; he enlisted Cromwell’s influence to procure the election of his candidate, who however had to pay a large sum for the privilege.5

Thornton made his will on 1 Apr. 1533. The only land mentioned is the farm at Buckland, but Thornton also had leases of Ashe manor near Basingstoke, Hampshire, and of the manor of Halse, Somerset, belonging to the order of St. John. The principal legatees were Thomas Tynbry, Thornton’s son-in-law, and his children, and Thornton’s surviving daughter, her husband and children. There were small bequests to Thornton’s nephew and niece, to John Portman, Humphrey Walrond, and servants. The Tynbrys were executors and residuary legatees, with Sir John Fitzjames, William Portman, and Guthlac Overton, auditor of St. John’s, as overseers.6

To judge from the witnesses Thornton made his will in London where the fifth session of the Parliament was approaching its close: as the will was to be proved on 23 Apr. 1533 he may have died before the session ended on 7 Apr., perhaps a victim of the epidemic which claimed at least six Members. There is no record of a by-election, although it is possible that Alexander Popham was chosen to take Thornton’s place.

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. PCC 2 Hogen.
  • 3. CPR, 1494-1509, p. 461; LP Hen. VIII, i, v; E122/27/9.
  • 4. CPR, 1494-1509, p. 461; LP Hen. VIII, i-v.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, iv, v; Bridgwater corp. ms 1437.
  • 6. PCC 2 Hogen; LP Hen. VIII, v; Req.2/5/148.