CHICHELEY, Sir Thomas (1578-1616), of Wimpole, Cambs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. 28 Mar. 1578,1 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Thomas Chicheley of Wimpole and Ann, da. of (Sir) John Bourne I† of Battenhall, Worcs., sec. of state 1553-8. educ. G. Inn 1595. m. 18 June 1607, Dorothy (bur. 31 Nov. 1644), da. and coh. of Sir Thomas Kempe of Olantigh, Wye, Kent, 3s. 3da. suc. fa. 1592;2 kntd. 29 Apr. 1607.3 d. 18 or 19 Nov. 1616.4

Offices Held

Commr. to inquire into the Cambs. lands of John de Vere, 16th earl of Oxford, 1609;5 freeman, Camb. 1610,6 commr. gaol delivery 1613-d.;7 j.p. Cambs. by 1614-d.;8 commr. swans, Cambs. and Hunts. 14 Aug. 1616-d.9


The core of the Chicheley family’s Wimpole estate was acquired in 1428 by Henry Chichele, archbishop of Canterbury. Situated in south-west Cambridgeshire adjacent to the Great North Road, Wimpole enjoyed good access to Huntingdon, 15 miles to the north, and Cambridge, eight miles to the north-east. In 1436 the archbishop settled Wimpole on his great nephew, Henry Chicheley, whose lineal descendants had expanded their holdings by the early seventeenth century to include four of Wimpole’s six manors and all three manors in the neighbouring parish of Wendy.10

Thomas Chicheley, father of this Member, served as sheriff in 1590-1 and was among the four most highly rated landowners in the county for the purposes of the royal loan of 1590.11 By his will of 1592 he denied being seised of any lands by knight service, but his estate included property in the parish of Whaddon, south of Wimpole, which was held of the honour of Richmond.12 Consequently, on his death later that year his 19-year-old son and heir, Thomas, became a royal ward. Thomas’ wardship was sold for £60 to William Walter of Wimbledon, Surrey, the former owner of Wratworth, one of the two Wimpole manors which had hitherto eluded the Chicheleys.13

Chicheley was educated at Gray’s Inn, but never entered university. Returned to Parliament as junior Member for Huntingdon in 1601, by which time he had attained his majority, he probably owed his election to his step-father, Thomas St. John, who lived a few miles east of Huntingdon at Hemingford.14 On the accession of James I Chicheley was in France, having been granted a licence to travel abroad for three years. In the summer of 1603 he was back in England for the marriage of one of his sisters, but in March 1604 he sought permission to return to the Continent as he desired to visit Italy.15 Knighted in the spring of 1607, Chicheley subsequently married the coheiress of a wealthy Kentish gentleman, thereby becoming brother-in-law to his neighbour Sir John Cutts*, heir to one of the most substantial gentry figures in western Cambridgeshire.

In March 1614 Chicheley and Cutts sought election as knights of the shire for Cambridgeshire, but were opposed by Sir John Cotton† and Sir John Cage. During the subsequent campaign, letters in the names of Cutts and Chicheley were circulated urging copyholders, who were not entitled to vote, to turn out on their behalf. These letters infuriated Cage and Cotton who, on the eve of the election in Cambridge, persuaded the sheriff to issue a proclamation ordering all non-freeholders, of whom there were many in the town, to avoid the hustings. Cutts and Chicheley, too, sent word to the local inns and taverns that those not legally entitled to vote should return home. However, the following morning Cage and Cotton were trounced ‘by 500 at least’. Suspecting that many copyholders had simply ignored the sheriff’s order to vacate, they demanded a poll, but their request was refused as it was lodged some two hours after the election, by which time many genuine voters had returned home. Undeterred, Cotton and Cage subsequently petitioned the Commons, many of whose Members proved sympathetic. Edward Duncombe and Nicholas Fuller suspected that the letters requiring the ineligible copyholders to vote had been distributed with the consent of Cutts and Chicheley, while Thomas Martin thought there had been collusion between the sheriff and the two victorious candidates, and dismissed the former’s proclamation as a smokescreen. However, counsel for Cutts and Chicheley denied that his clients had acted improperly, and asserted that the letter addressed to the copyholders was the work of some over-zealous supporters. If anyone was guilty of sharp practice, he argued, it was Cotton and Cage, as they had waited until after many voters had departed before demanding a poll. This point proved decisive, as it persuaded the House to allow Cutts and Chicheley to retain their seats.16

Chicheley took no recorded part in the 1614 Parliament until he had been assured of his place. He made no speeches, and was named to just two legislative committees. These were to consider an apparel bill, to which he was added at the request of Christopher Brooke, and a measure to confirm the grant of a Gloucestershire manor to Sir John Danvers* (31 May).17 Following the dissolution Chicheley returned to his Cambridgeshire estate where, in November 1615, he paid John Wingfield† £800 for a lease of Claydon’s manor in Wimpole, comprising 620 acres.18 ‘Sick and in great weakness of body’, he drew up his will on 29 Oct. 1616, in which he required all his property, including lands leased out to two Cambridge colleges, to be held for his young children until they came of age.19 The precise date of his death is uncertain. Chancery and the Court of Wards were informed that it was 18 Nov., but his monumental inscription states that he expired on the 19th.20 He was interred in the Chicheley chapel in Wimpole church, where his widow erected a large altar tomb. Above the rather crudely executed base was placed a life-size marble effigy of Chicheley depicting him in full armour, with hands clasped in prayer, which has been described as ‘competent but stiff’.21 The wardship of Chicheley’s two-year-old son and heir Thomas, the future chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster and MP, was purchased in 1617 for a down-payment of £450 in cash and land and an annual rent of £46. The purchasers were Chicheley’s widow, Lady Dorothy, and his cousin John Piggott, both of whom were also executors of his will.22

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Calculated from C142/248/29.
  • 2. B. Buckler, Stemmata Chicheleana, 5, 13; MIs and Coats of Arms from Cambs. ed. W.M. Palmer, 201; GI Admiss.; Soc. Gen., St. Michael’s Crooked Lane par. reg.
  • 3. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 142.
  • 4. WARD 9/204, f. 204v; E115/113/84 (a stray from WARD 9); Topographer, iii. 71.
  • 5. E178/3618.
  • 6. Add. 5849, f. 16.
  • 7. C181/2, ff. 181, 229, 291v.
  • 8. C66/1988.
  • 9. C181/2, f. 257v.
  • 10. VCH Cambs. v. 265-6; viii. 137; D. Souden, Wimpole Hall, 5.
  • 11. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 14; Lansd. 63, f. 46.
  • 12. PROB 11/80, f. 283; VCH Cambs. viii. 146.
  • 13. WARD 9/159, f. 43; VCH Cambs. v. 267.
  • 14. Genealogica Bedfordiensis ed. F.A. Blaydes, 84; Cambs. RO, R52/12/14/1.
  • 15. HMC Hatfield, xvi. 48.
  • 16. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 38, 103-8, 239-41; Downing Coll. Camb. Lib. Bowtell ms 11, Metcalfe’s Thesaurus, f. 210.
  • 17. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 268, 395.
  • 18. Cambs. RO, R52/12/8/2; R52/12/11/7 (NRA cat.); VCH Cambs. v. 266 (Wingfield incorrectly styled ‘Sir’).
  • 19. PROB 11/128, f. 391r-v.
  • 20. See above, n. 4. Palmer incorrectly records the date on the MI as 12 Nov.: MIs from Cambs. 201.
  • 21. Souden, 4; MIs from Cambs. 201.
  • 22. WARD 9/204, f. 204v; 9/205, f. 11v.