GODFREY, Thomas (1586-1664), of Halling, Kent; formerly of Winchelsea, Suss.; later of Hoddiford, Sellinge, Kent

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



1640 (Apr.)

Family and Education

b. 3 Jan. 1586, 2nd s. of Thomas Godfrey (d.1624) jurat of Lydd, Kent, being o.s. with 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. and h. of Michael Pix of Ashford, Kent; half-bro. of Richard II*. educ. Challock g.s. (Mr. John Lancashire) 1594; St. John’s, Camb. 1599; M. Temple 1603-6. m. (1) 5 May 1608, Margaret (d. 29 June 1611), da. of William Lambarde† of Westcombe, Kent, 2s. (1 d.v.p.); (2) 28 May 1612, Sarah, da. of Thomas Iles, proctor, of Hammersmith, Mdx., 9s. (2 d.v.p.) 4da. (1 d.v.p.).1

Offices Held

Gent. in ordinary to Henry Howard, earl of Northampton 1606-8.2

Freeman and jurat, Winchelsea, Suss. 1609-11, auditor 1609-10, dep. mayor 1611;3 dep. to the Guestling of the Cinque Ports for Winchelsea 1610;4 lt. militia horse, Kent 1617, scoutmaster 1632;5 commr. sewers, Walland marsh, Kent 1625, Dengemarsh 1632, Kent and Suss. 1645;6 ?freeman, New Romney, Kent 1628; j.p. Kent 1631-at least 1642.7

Sewer (extraordinary), king’s Household 1618.8


Godfrey’s ancestors removed from Old Romney about the reign of Henry V to Lydd, where they ‘continued in good esteem and reputation for above 200 years’. Godfrey’s father, described on his funeral monument as ‘a frank housekeeper, hospitable to strangers, and charitable to the needy’, was a jurat of Lydd, and served for more than 40 years as captain of a troop of light horse in the local militia.9 After completing a conventional education, Godfrey, who kept a short journal of his life, was placed in the household of the lord warden of the Cinque Ports, Henry Howard, earl of Northampton, in whose service he remained until May 1608, when he married the daughter of the eminent Kentish antiquary, William Lambarde. He subsequently took up residence at Winchelsea, where he soon became a jurat. However, in the spring of 1611 he moved to Canterbury, where he had hired a house, and so ceased to be a member of Winchelsea’s town council.10 His sojourn there was of brief duration though. Following the death of his wife in June he remarried, and in May 1612 he and his new bride moved to Halling, in north Kent, where they remained until at least July 1613. Shortly thereafter he decamped to London, where he spent about a year living with his brother-in-law at the Sugar Loaf in Paternoster Row. It was probably to save travelling expenses that in March 1614 Winchelsea elected him to Parliament with his former bedfellow William Byng. The first of his family to sit, Godfrey left no trace on the records of the Addled Parliament.11

In 1616 Godfrey toured the Spanish Netherlands with a small group of friends and relatives, among them his half-brother Richard Godfrey II. At St. Omer he supped with the English Jesuits, and at Louvain visited his former Cambridge tutor, who had turned Jesuit. Next year he removed to a house in Sellinge, five miles north-west of Hythe, which had been bought for him by his father.12 Northampton’s death had deprived him of a patron, but he found means to be admitted to the royal Household above stairs in an honorary capacity, probably through his future son-in-law, the king’s embroiderer. Godfrey was appointed a lieutenant in the local militia in 1617, and the following summer revisited the Spanish Netherlands for a few days.13 The deaths of his father and elder half-brother in 1624 left him head of the family until his nephew came of age. On a sunny, windless day in mid-July 1627, part of Godfrey’s house at Sellinge collapsed. Shortly thereafter he decided to erect a new one at Hoddiford, in the northern end of the parish.14 He remained in Kent over the summer, as his journal demonstrates, and so cannot have been the Thomas Godfrey who was exiled to Somerset for refusing to pay the Forced Loan at the end of June. This man was presumably the Lincolnshire esquire, Thomas Godfrey of Grantham, the brother-in-law of Benjamin Valentine*.15

Godfrey was a friend and neighbour of the Loan refuser Sir Peter Heyman*, whose second wife Mary was godmother to his son Edward. It may have been with the encouragement of Heyman and another of his near neighbours, Sir Edward Scott* (one of Edward’s two godfathers) that Godfrey stood for New Romney in 1628, when he defeated the duke of Buckingham’s preferred candidate Sir Edward Dering*.16 On reaching Westminster, Godfrey administered on behalf of the New Romney corporation the oath of a burgess to his fellow Member, Thomas Brett.17 He was subsequently appointed to 17 committees and made nine speeches. Before Easter 1628 he was not much in evidence, although on 4 Apr. he remarked that since the equivalent of five subsidies had been exacted as a result of the Forced Loan ‘let them see how we give five subsidies in Parliament’.18 Like many of his colleagues, Godfrey evidently expected the House to rise for Easter, and consequently he returned home, where he supervised the erection of a frame for his new house at Hoddisford between 13 and 15 April.19 In the event, however, the king ordered the Commons to continue sitting. Godfrey had returned to the Commons by 22 Apr. when, at the second reading of the marriage bill, he proposed an additional clause for the total abolition of licences, and was named to the committee.20 In both sessions he was among those instructed to consider a bill to prohibit the begging of forfeitures before attainder (14 May 1628 and 23 Jan. 1629) and to hear a petition against Sir Edward Moseley* (18 June 1628 and 20 Feb. 1629).21 On 14 June 1628 he wished Laud and Neile to be named as friends of the papists in the Remonstrance, and two days later urged the solicitor-general to expedite the list of offences to be covered in the pardon bill, ‘for it may be some commissioners for the Loan have been too officious’ and ought to be excepted.22 On 20 June he was appointed to the small committee to consider the fees demanded by the serjeant-at-arms for fetching up the Cornish deputy lieutenants.23 His City connections doubtless explain why he was appointed to consider the monopolies of the Greenland whaling granted to the Muscovy Company (17 May) and the exchange of bullion, granted to Henry Rich*, earl of Holland (13 June). The latter, he said on 23 June, had reduced the annual intake at the Mint by £160,000, and he was appointed to the committees.24 On 25 June he presented a petition against the exactions on malt imposed by the corporation of London, and was the third Member named to the committee.25 In the 1629 session he was among those ordered to inquire into complaints against the postmaster’s patent (9 Feb.), and on 12 Feb. he declared that ‘Tunnage and Poundage is not due till it be granted by Act of Parliament’.26 His experience of Jesuit hospitality in the Low Countries had not made him sympathetic to the order, for on 16 Feb. he demanded to know why Sir Thomas Richardson* had refused to hear evidence of priesthood offered against three of their number seized in their Clerkenwell college.27 As son-in-law and brother-in-law to practitioners in the London ecclesiastical courts, it was doubtless on good grounds that the next day he proposed to obtain a certificate of the papists in Doctors’ Commons.28

Godfrey seems to have abandoned or destroyed his domestic chronicle during the Civil War, only to resume it briefly under the Commonwealth. He took no further part in public life, and made out his will on 8 Apr. 1657, appointing his niece’s husband William Steele† as overseer. He left 10s. a year for a thanksgiving sermon in Sellinge church on the anniversary of Gunpowder Plot. He died on 10 Oct. 1664 and was buried at Sellinge. His monumental inscription recorded that ‘he was a great lover of learning and all ingenuity, which he showed in the generous education of his children’ and that ‘he served his generation eminently and faithfully in several capacities’. His eldest son Lambard Godfrey† represented Kent under the Protectorate. His seventh son was Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, whose mysterious death in 1678 sparked off the hysteria of the Popish Plot.29

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Peter Lefevre / Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. lxii), 132; Top. et Gen. ii. 450-65. Godfrey mistakenly dated his first marriage to 1609.
  • 2. Top. et Gen. ii. 541.
  • 3. Ibid. 452-3; E. Suss. RO, WIN 55, ff. 150v, 162v, 170, 173v.
  • 4. Top. et Gen. ii. 453; Cal. of White and Black Bks. of Cinque Ports ed. F. Hull (Kent Recs. xix), 392.
  • 5. Top. et Gen. ii. 457, 462.
  • 6. C181/3, ff. 166, 189, 253; 181/4, ff. 19, 38v, 107; 181/5, ff. 41, 259; 181/6, f. 367.
  • 7. Top. et Gen. ii. 461; Cal. Assize Recs. Kent Indictments, Chas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 421.
  • 8. Ibid. 457.
  • 9. L.L. Duncan, Lydd MIs, 41.
  • 10. E. Suss. RO, WIN 55, f. 173v.
  • 11. E. Hasted, Kent, viii. 426; C142/408/132.
  • 12. Top. et Gen. ii. 456-7.
  • 13. Ibid. 457-8.
  • 14. Ibid. 461; Hasted, viii. 310-11; The Old Ser. Ordnance Survey Maps of Eng. and Wales: Vol. I, map 39.
  • 15. APC, 1627, pp. 241, 253, 395; Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. li), 406.
  • 16. CD 1628, iii. 30; Procs. 1628, vi. 321, 336, 436, 472; CD 1629, pp. 200, 216, 220.
  • 17. Top. and Gen. ii. 461.
  • 18. Procs. 1628, vi. 63.
  • 19. Top. and Gen. ii. 461.
  • 20. CD 1628, iii. 30.
  • 21. Ibid. 362, 404; CJ, i. 921b, 931b.
  • 22. CD 1628, iv. 321, 334, 336.
  • 23. Ibid. 388.
  • 24. Ibid. 448; iv. 290, 436.
  • 25. Ibid. iv. 467, 472.
  • 26. CJ, i. 927b; CD 1629, pp. 52, 200.
  • 27. CD 1629, p. 216.
  • 28. Ibid. 220.
  • 29. Cent. Kent Stud. PRC17/72/49.