MATHEW, Tristram (b.bef.1538), of Downton, Wilts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. bef. 1538. ?s. of Edmund Mathew, merchant, of Salisbury and Downton by his w. Joan. m. bef. 1569 Elizabeth, apparently s.p.1

Offices Held

Bailiff and keeper of the warren of Downton 1581-3; reeve of Hindon 1581-3; clerk of the bailiwick of Downton 1585-7; alderman (i.e. mayor) Downton 1586.2


Tristram Mathew’s parentage is not easy to establish. His identification with a younger son of Edward and Cecily Mathew of Dodbrook, Devon, would leave unexplained both his move from that county to Wiltshire and his connexion with the many persons of his name found in the neighbourhood of Downton during his lifetime. Thus the high collector of the benevolence of 1545 in the hundreds of Downton, Downton South, Cawdon, Cadworth and Chalk was Richard Mathew, ‘gentleman’, who was himself assessed in East Downton at 23s.4d. Since in 1576 Tristram Mathew was to be described as of ‘Este End, Downton’, when assessed for the subsidy of that year, he was domiciled in the same place, and perhaps in the same house, as Richard a generation before. But Richard is less likely to have been Tristram’s father than that Edmund Mathew, ‘gentleman’, who was assessed in Downton in 1576 at the high figure of £18. This Edmund may have been the Salisbury merchant who was in business in the city between 1556 and 1562, was a pewholder in St. Edmund’s church from 1550, and was acquiring property in Salisbury in 1564 and in Wilton in the following year. By 1576 Edmund Mathew could have established himself as a landed gentleman at Downton, having perhaps left one of his sons in Salisbury, where an Andrew Mathew, of New Street, was assessed at £3 in that year.3

Of Tristram Mathew the first known fact is that he sued out a pardon as ‘of Downton’ in 1559. Hoare’s statement that he was ‘a considerable copyholder’ there, coupled with the later evidence of the subsidy assessment and of land transactions, support the view that he was a small squire who derived his main income from the land. But in the course of his life he also acquired official standing. Downton belonged to the bishop of Winchester, and the borough officers were also the manorial officials. From 1581 to 1583 Tristram Mathew was bailiff and from 1585 to 1587 clerk of the bailiwick; and on the election return of 1586 he is named ‘alderman’ (or mayor) of the borough. (He was also reeve of Hindon, the bishop’s other Wiltshire borough, in 1581-3.) He may well have filled one or other of these offices at an earlier period. But if he was thus a bishop’s ‘man’, Mathew also owed allegiance to the lessee of Downton, the Earl of Pembroke. He may indeed have been one of the Earl’s household officers, as was the Miles Mathew who was a bearer at the 1st Earl’s funeral in 1570.4

Mathew’s return for Downton in 1563 may thus reflect the patronage of the bishop, or of the Earl, or of both. The bishop concerned was Home, who was responsible for the return of Mathew’s fellow-Member, Henry Kingsmill, and who may have claimed the traditional patronage over both seats. This appears the more likely in that Mathew was not to sit again, as he might have been expected to do if he enjoyed the Earl’s backing. As is usually the case with such birds of passage, we know nothing of any part played by Mathew in the 1563 Parliament.

His further career is illuminated only by occasional references. In 1568-9 he and his wife made a fine of lands in East Downton. In 1577 he took certain deeds as security for a debt of £160 1s., a transaction which was to give rise to a Chancery suit in 1591, after which year no trace of him has been found. Among various other bearers of his name at this time in his part of Wiltshire were Tobias Mathew, precentor of Salisbury and father of a celebrated son, and John Mathew, attorney of the common pleas and under-sheriff of the county in 1588.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: S. T. Bindoff


  • 1. Wilts. N. and Q. iii. 326-7; vi. 354.
  • 2. Winchester bishopric accts. Downton bailiwick, 1581-7.
  • 3. Vis. Devon 1531, 1564 and 1620, p. 156; Westcote, View of Devonshire in 1630, ed. Oliver and Jones, 599; Two Taxation Lists (Wilts. Arch. Soc. recs. br. x), 41, 43, 44, 63, 114, 115, 118, 120; Wilts. N. and Q. iii. 326-7; v. 178, 319; Churchwardens’ accts. of St. Edmund and St. Thomas, Sarum (Wilts. Rec. Soc.), 91, 98, 102; Bishop Jewel bequeathed a gold ring to his ‘very loving friend Edmond Mathew’ in 1571; PCC 43 Holney.
  • 4. CPR, 1558-60, 171; Hoare, Wilts. Downton, 19; EHR, xxiii. 471 n; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xviii. 129.
  • 5. Wilts. N. and Q. vi. 354; C3/269/21; APC, xvi. 62, 76, 101, 110.