THURBARNE, James (by 1567-1627), of New Romney, Kent and Gray's Inn, London; later of Canterbury, 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



5 Nov. 1620 - 4 Jan. 1621

Family and Education

b. by 1567,1 s. of John Thurbarne of New Romney, jurat. educ. Clare, Camb. 1580; Barnard’s Inn; G. Inn 1585; called by 1594. m. 2 Dec. 1599, Mary, da. of Giles Estcourt of Salisbury, Wilts.2 and wid. of William Sudall (d.1598), Haberdasher of London,3 at least 2s. 2da.4 d. 6 June 1627.5 sig. James Thurbarne.

Offices Held

Att. Barnard’s Inn by 1585;6 fee’d counsel, Cinque Ports 1594-d.,7 New Romney 1606-at least 1620,8 Rye, Suss. by 1607-d.,9 Sandwich, Kent 1625;10 reader, Staple Inn 1599, asst. reader G. Inn 1610, pens. 1611.11

Commr. sewers, Kent and Suss. 1604, Kent 1604,12 piracy, Cinque Ports 1612-at least 1616;13 j.p. Kent 1623-at least 1625;14 commr. charitable uses, Canterbury, Kent 1625.15

Patentee (jt.), licensing of inns 1617-21.16


Members of the Thurbarne family had been prominent in the Cinque Ports, particularly Hastings, Romney and Romney Marsh, since 1331.17 During the later Elizabeth period John Thurbarne and his two brothers, William and Robert, were jurats of New Romney, and Robert served as Member for New Romney in 1586. In November 1589 John appeared before the Privy Council for refusing to contribute to a royal loan. He was again summoned to Whitehall in April 1590 after the Council banned his brother William from holding office in New Romney. As supporters of the former mayor, William Southland†, the Thurbarne brothers had defied the Council’s orders for the election of corporation members. James Thurbarne, son of John, was obliged to stand surety for his father’s second appearance,18 but seems otherwise to have distanced himself from his family’s difficulties, having problems enough of his own: in January 1589 he was awarded compensation after being arrested for slandering a fellow member of Gray’s Inn.19

Thurbarne never served as a jurat of New Romney, where he owned a house and garden worth an estimated £2 per annum,20 nor did he ever fill the office of town clerk, as has been claimed.21 Instead he trained as a lawyer, perhaps with the encouragement of his kinsman John Thurbarne of Barnard’s Inn, who served as a clerk in the Court of Common Pleas in 1608.22 In July 1594, perhaps as a newly qualified barrister, he was retained as counsel by the Cinque Ports at an annual fee of 40s. This position meant that his advice on parliamentary matters was often sought by the Cinque Ports. Shortly before the 1614 Parliament met, for instance, he helped draw up a defence of the Ports’ historic exemption from contributing to the subsidy in anticipation of an attack on this privilege in the Commons, for which he received an £8 payment in addition to his salary as fee’d counsel.23 Ten years later, during the 1624 Parliament, he was consulted by the lord warden’s secretary, Edward Nicholas, then Member for Winchelsea, concerning a proposal to reinforce by statute the lord warden’s powers of imprisonment. Though Thurbarne provided Nicholas with reasons for introducing legislation, including the argument that ‘if imprisonment be not exercised the persons ... will be gone from all punishment’, he left it to Nicholas to decide ‘whether it be fitter for your House or the Upper’.24

Thurbarne appears not to have performed any legal duties for his home town of New Romney until 1601, when he aided the corporation in its jurisdictional dispute with Lydd.25 As a reward for these services, he was appointed one of the town’s counsel in May 1606 with a fee of 20s. per annum. At about the same time he was admitted as counsel for Rye, where he advised the corporation on the trial of an alleged witch.26 In 1610 Rye’s corporation appealed to him for assistance in obtaining legislation to raise money for the repair of the town’s haven.27 Though he had apparently offended Rye’s governors by February 1619, his claim that he was guilty of nothing more than ‘being faithful and over careful of you and yours’,28 was evidently believed for he was still in post at his death. In the following year he attempted to enlist the support of the lord warden of the Cinque Ports after hearing from his ‘chamber fellow’ at Gray’s Inn, Ralph Whitfield*, that it was planned to appoint a number of common lawyers to assist the masters of Requests.29

In 1599 Thurbarne married Mary Sudall, the widow of a London Haberdasher. The match may have proved moderately profitable: Mary inherited the lease of her late husband’s town house in Aldermanbury plus £1,000, but was obliged to set aside £600 for her children by her first marriage.30 It is not known if Thurbarne inherited property himself. He presumably derived the bulk of his income from legal fees, though in about 1611 he and Mary entrusted the latter’s brother, Sir Edward Estcourt (d.1608), to invest £100 on their behalf. This sum evidently yielded an annual return of £20, but all payments ceased after 1622, when Estcourt’s son Sir Giles* reached his majority and refused even to return the principal.31

Thurbarne was elected to Parliament for New Romney in November 1620 after writing to the corporation. He had represented the borough in 1597, and at his request it was resolved that he should be awarded wages of 4s. per day rather than the usual 2s.

because he is a very able and sufficient man to do the ports good service at the said Parliament and this town in particular if there shall be occasion to employ him, and because his charges for himself and his man lying there and attending of the Parliament will be more than former burgesses have been.

However, on 4 Jan. 1621 the corporation agreed to cancel his election ‘for some special occasions’.32 Thurbarne was consequently never returned, although in the following month he was summoned before the Commons’ committee for grievances in connection with the monopoly to licence inns which had been granted to his wife’s brother-in-law, (Sir) Giles Mompesson* in 1617. Parliamentary interest in Thurbarne arose from the fact that he was one of Mompesson’s fellow patentees, and there were rumours that he had abused his authority as a Kent magistrate to force men to compound. However, under interrogation on 26 Feb., Thurbarne denied having had any hand in seeking the grant of this monopoly. Though confessing to have signed many licences himself, he claimed to have received no profit from his activities as a monopolist beyond an annual retainer of £100. After being afforded a second hearing on 9 Mar. he was exonerated, though the offending patent was suppressed.33

‘Sick of body’, Thurbarne drew up his will on 4 June 1627, in which he described himself as being ‘of Canterbury’. Just 12 lines long, and witnessed, among others, by the recorder of Canterbury John Finch II*, it conferred all his property on his wife, whom he also appointed his sole executor, on condition that she use the income from half his lands to maintain his youngest son and eldest daughter. No charitable bequests are mentioned.34 He died two days later at Gray’s Inn.35 His son James subsequently represented Sandwich in 1656, 1659 and at the Restoration.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Age estimated from date of admiss. to G. Inn.
  • 2. Al Cant.; GI Admiss.; Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 56; Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xvii), 287; Reg. St. Mary Aldermanbury (Harl. Soc. lxi), 67.
  • 3. REQ 2/154/13; PROB 11/92, f. 200.
  • 4. PROB 11/152, f. 449.
  • 5. HMC 13th Rep. IV, 187.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 266.
  • 7. Cal. of White and Black Bks. of Cinque Ports ed. F. Hull (Kent Recs. xix), 343, 437.
  • 8. E. Kent Archive Office, NR/AC/1, ff. 154, 266.
  • 9. HMC 13th Rep. IV, 137, 187.
  • 10. E. Kent Archives Office, Sa/AC/7, f. 124v.
  • 11. PBG Inn, i. 146, 192, 195.
  • 12. C181/1, ff. 91-2.
  • 13. C181/2, ff. 185, 247.
  • 14. Cal. Assize Recs. Kent Indictments, Jas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 145, 159; Cal. Assize Recs. Kent Indictments, Chas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 3.
  • 15. C93/10/18.
  • 16. CD 1621, vii. 379.
  • 17. E. Hasted, Kent, ix. 207.
  • 18. APC, 1589-90, p. 214; 1590, pp. 5, 7, 80, 208-9.
  • 19. PBG Inn. 78.
  • 20. E. Kent Archives Office, NR/RTa1/3. In 1610 he was fined for building a porch, see E. Kent Archives Office, NR/AC/1, f. 192v.
  • 21. HP Commons, 1558-1603. The position was actually held by John Smith, see E. Kent Archives Office, NR/AC/1, ff. 41v, 52v.
  • 22. WARD 9/528, f. 418v; KB 27/1406, rot. 22. This man was about 53 years old in 1606, and therefore too young to have been Thurbarne’s father.
  • 23. Cal. of White and Black Bks. of Cinque Ports, 403.
  • 24. Eg. 2533, f. 14.
  • 25. E. Kent Archives Office, NR/AC/1, ff. 115, 126v.
  • 26. HMC 13th Rep. IV, 137, 148.
  • 27. Ibid. 146; E. Suss. RO, RYE 61/16, f. 8.
  • 28. HMC 13th Rep. IV, 151.
  • 29. Eg. 2584, f. 123.
  • 30. PROB 11/92, f. 200.
  • 31. C2/Chas.I/T13/14.
  • 32. E. Kent Archives Office, NR/AC/1, ff. 265r-v, 266v.
  • 33. CD 1621, ii. 108; v. 285, 521; vi. 50, 257, 270; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 72; LJ, iii. 62a.
  • 34. PROB 11/152, ff. 448v-9.
  • 35. HMC 13th Rep. IV, 187.