WALLER, Sir Thomas (c.1569-1613), of Groombridge and Dover Castle, Kent; formerly of Brenchley, 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




Family and Education

b. c.1569, 2nd s. of Sir Walter Waller† (d.1599) of Groombridge and Anne, da. of Philip Chute of Bethersden, Kent.1 educ. vol. Ireland 1597; G. Inn 1601.2 m. 5 Sept. 1593, Margaret, da. of Sampson Lennard* of Knole, Kent, 2s. 1da.3 kntd. 19 July 1597.4 d. 4 July 1613.5

Offices Held

J.p. Kent and Suss. 1598-d.;6 provost-marshal, Kent 1601;7 dep. to lt. of Dover Castle, Sir Thomas Fane† 1603, lt. of Dover Castle (jt.) 1604-6, (sole) 1606-d.;8 commr. sewers, Dengemarsh, Kent and Suss. 1604, Rye, Suss. 1604, Rother valley, Suss. 1609-at least 1611, Gravesend, Kent 1610;9 freeman, Dover 1604;10 commr. piracy, Cinque Ports 1609-d.;11 capt. militia horse and dep. lt. Kent 1608-d.12; commr. subsidy, Kent 1608, aid 1609, 1612.13

Bailiff, butlerage 1605;14 commr. starch licences 1607;15 chief butler 1607-d.16


Waller’s ancestors had bought Groombridge on the Sussex border in either the mid-fourteenth or early fifteenth century, and a member of the family represented Guildford in three Lancastrian parliaments.17 His father, who was in constant financial difficulties, became a soldier in the Low Countries, serving under Leicester between 1585 and 1588. During this time Waller may have been brought up in the household of his second cousin Sir Thomas Fane of Badsell (d.1590), who left him £10 in his will.18 Despite being the younger of two brothers, Waller was provided for by his paternal grandmother, Lady Elizabeth Fane (d.1596), who had obtained from the Crown a grant of the lands belonging to Waller’s father, which had been forfeited for debt. In 1589, at around the time that he reached his majority, she conveyed to him three manors in west Kent, including the manor of Barnes, in Brenchley, which Waller briefly made his seat.19 His prospects for finding a suitable bride having thereby been much enhanced, he married into the Lennard family of Sevenoaks five years later.

Waller served as a volunteer in Ireland in 1597, and received a mention in dispatches after being shot in the hand at the Blackwater fort in July.20 Knighted in the aftermath of the skirmish by the lord deputy, Lord Burgh, he soon after returned to England to live with his wife’s family at Knole, and became a magistrate for both Kent and Sussex in 1598. Upon the death of his father in July 1599, the Groombridge estate passed to Waller’s elder brother George.21 However, George apparently had little use for the family property: by 1601 he had married Dame Mary Ashenden, with whom he went to live at Chartham, and consequently, it seems, he conveyed Groombridge to Waller.22

In the autumn of 1603, following the downfall of the lord warden of the Cinque Ports, Henry Brooke alias Cobham†, 11th Lord Cobham, Waller was appointed deputy to the lieutenant of Dover Castle, Sir Thomas Fane† of Burston.23 Fane was related to Waller twice over, his father George Fane of Badsell (d.1572) having married both the sister and subsequently the widow of Waller’s paternal grandfather.24 This arrangement evidently proved entirely satisfactory, for under the new lord warden, Henry Howard, earl of Northampton, Waller either remained in post as Fane’s deputy or was appointed joint lieutenant himself. Either way, in February 1604 Northampton recommended Waller to Dover’s corporation for election to the first Stuart Parliament. The corporation was only too glad to oblige, for when Waller took out the freedom of the borough, the customary £5 fee was returned to him ‘in respect of his pains to be taken in the affairs of this town’.25

Between 1604 and 1610 Waller was appointed to 38 Commons’ committees. The first of these, for the relief of veterans of the Irish wars (26 Mar. 1604), was of a personal rather than a constituency interest. On 28 Mar. 1604 he was one of the Members chosen to attend the king over the Buckinghamshire election, and on 14 Apr. following he was among those selected to hear the Lords’ propositions on Union with Scotland.26 At the second reading on 20 Apr. 1604 of the bill to abolish benefit of clergy for stabbing, he proposed to make the carrying of daggers an offence. Five days later he introduced a separate bill to this effect. This was not given a reading but was instead presented to the committee charged with considering the earlier measure, of which he himself was a member.27 As Dover’s representative, Waller spoke on 18 June 1604 in the debate about a proviso that it was proposed to add to the bill for the continuance or repeal of expiring statutes. This proviso was of considerable interest to his constituents, as they were anxious to obtain a renewal of an Act which gave them the right to levy charges on ships using Dover harbour to pay for harbour maintenance. However, ‘the penning’ of the proviso was ‘disliked and much disputed’. Instead the statutes committee produced a separate bill imposing a general levy on shipping using the port of London, and this was passed.28 On 17 July, following the prorogation, a grateful Dover corporation voted Waller half a tun of wine, ‘and a great fair sugar-loaf’ for his wife.29

Waller was among the members of Kent’s gentry who accompanied Northampton to Windsor for the latter’s investiture as a knight of the Garter in May 1605.30 The following month he was sent back to Dover by the king after a Dutch fleet drove the remnants of a Spanish squadron into Dover after a battle at the harbour mouth. James instructed Waller to treat ‘with all courtesy and favour’ the Spaniards, who complained that their goods had been unjustly seized by the English.31 Waller had returned to Westminster by 5 Nov., when he was named to the committee of inquiry into the Spanish Company.32 The parliamentary session was subsequently interrupted by the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, allowing Waller time to prosecute some poachers in Star Chamber.33 When it resumed in January, Waller proposed that the forfeited estates of the plotters should be declared inalienable from the Crown, whereby the Crown might be enriched and ‘the commonweal eased and disburdened’. On 10 Feb. 1606 he supported calls for a committee to draft the subsidy bill, which was duly appointed. However, as the representative of one of the Cinque Ports, which were exempt from payment of subsidy, he was not named to the committee himself.34 On 13 Mar. following he brought in a bill to abridge the fees of officeholders, the House having decided three days earlier that a previous measure on this subject was unsatisfactory.35 At a joint conference with the Lords on recusancy on 14 May, Northampton declared ‘that his lieutenant is a worthy gentleman as ever served in that place’, and refused to accept any transfer to the municipal authorities of his responsibilities for administering the oath to travellers. It is unclear whether the lord warden was referring to Waller or to Fane.36

On 18 Oct. 1606, one month before Parliament reassembled for its third session, Sir Thomas Fane died, whereupon Waller became sole lieutenant of Dover Castle.37 Once back at Westminster, Waller attended the joint conference of 24 Nov. 1606 on the instrument for the Union with Scotland. Two days later he was appointed to a committee for a bill to explain the Act passed in the previous session for free trade with Spain, Portugal and France.38 It was perhaps his services in connection with this bill, and the grant of an award for an addition to Dover pier - a structure he once described as ‘his lordship’s darling and an ornament of state’ - that prompted his constituents to send him a hogshead of claret during the Christmas recess.39 When the session resumed in the New Year, Waller was named to several more legislative committees, one of which concerned the Kent lands belonging to Sir William Selby I* (30 Apr. 1607). Others included committees for bills ‘to reform the negligent, unfaithful, and treacherous dealing of mariners and sailors’ (1 May 1607) and to extend the Unlawful Assemblies Act (1 July 1607).40 Perhaps the most important bill of the session, so far as Waller was concerned, sought to allow the son (Richard Sackville*) and grandson of Waller’s west Kent neighbour, lord treasurer Dorset (Thomas Sackville†), to surrender their reversions to the office of chief butler of England and Wales. Once this bill had passed into law, the way would be cleared for Dorset to transfer the chief butlership to Waller, whom Dorset had appointed bailiff for the collection of his duties in June 1605.41 Like his father before him, Waller, it seems, was in financial difficulties, and was hoping to overcome them by selling the Groombridge estate to Dorset in return for the butlership. The bill enjoyed a smooth passage through both Houses, Waller himself being named as a member of the bill committee in the Commons (28 Mar. 1607).42 The bill was enacted a little over three months later, and by the end of the year Waller had concluded his negotiations with Dorset.43 In order to stop his creditors from stripping him bare, however, all the income from the office of chief butler was assigned to his mother.44

Following the conclusion of these negotiations, and with Parliament now once again prorogued, Waller was licensed on 20 Dec. to travel abroad for a year.45 However, he made no immediate use of his passport, for a few days after obtaining it he wrote to Rye’s corporation about the incursions of French fishing-boats into English waters.46 Moreover, on 19 Jan. 1608 he was at Canon Row, from where he wrote another letter, this time in connection with a quarrel that he was attempting to resolve. It was because of his role in the fishing business that the corporation of Sandwich decided to bestow upon him ‘some convenient piece of plate of £10 or upwards ... with the town’s arms and the arms of Sir Thomas set and engraved ... as a favour from the town’.47 It may be that Waller intended all along to delay travelling abroad until the spring, for it was not until 18 Mar. that he drafted his will. In this he named among the guardians of his children his cousins Sir Francis Fane*, Sir George Fane* and Sir Walter Covert*, and ‘my dear and loving mother, whose tender love and care over me I am no way able to requite’. He also left £20 to the poor of his constituency and a ring worth £40 ‘to my dear and most honoured lord the earl of Northampton, in acknowledgment of that great duty and zealous affection I owe his lordship’. The will was witnessed in Dover Castle on 4 April.48 However, if Waller was still planning to go abroad he evidently changed his plans, for he remained in England for the rest of the year and throughout 1609.49

When Parliament reassembled in 1610 Waller attended the joint conference with the Lords for the unveiling of the Great Contract (15 Feb. 1610). He subsequently became a member of several committees, among them one for the bill to repair Minehead harbour (23 Feb.), which measure, in seeking to impose duties on passing shipping, bore a striking similarity to the 1604 Dover Act. His last committee was on the bill for the restitution in blood of Cobham’s nephew, Sir William Brooke*.50 He left no trace on the scanty records of the fifth session, but was awarded a butt of sack by his constituents in November as a token of thanks for the great charges he had incurred on their behalf.51

In 1612 the Cinque Ports awarded him a gratuity of £30 for his efforts to secure their exemption from Privy Seal loans.52 He died on 4 July 1613, aged 44, ‘of a burning fever’, and was buried in the chapel of Dover Castle. His loss appears to have been keenly felt: Sir Francis Barnham*, who was charged with taking over the execution of the chief butlership during the minority of Waller’s eldest son, declared that all the gentry of Kent would want to do him honour at his funeral, while the Brotherhood of the Cinque Ports, most unusually, paid 20s. to a certain Mr. Atkins for his pains ‘in commemoration of Sir Thomas Waller’.53 His widow set up an elaborate memorial, describing him as nimble, tall, robust and comely, and recalling his military service and his offices, but not his membership of Parliament. She commended him for prudent simplicity, benign frugality, seriousness, gentleness, integrity, and piety.54 Waller was the father of Sir William Waller†, the parliamentary general who represented Andover in the Long Parliament, and Middlesex in the Restoration Convention.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Peter Lefevre


  • 1. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. xlii), 130; Berry, Bucks. Genealogies, 3; J.F. Wadmore, ‘Brenchley, its Church and Ancient Houses’, Arch. Cant. xiii. 132.
  • 2. CSP Ire. 1596-7, p. 343; GI Admiss.
  • 3. IGI Kent; T. Barrett-Lennard, Fams. Lennard and Barrett, 216.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 94.
  • 5. WARD 7/49/146.
  • 6. C231/1, f. 145; Cal. of Assize Recs., Kent Indictments, Jas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 121.
  • 7. APC, 1600-1, p. 164.
  • 8. HMC Hatfield, xv. 279; xviii. 423-4.
  • 9. C181/1, ff. 92, 96; 181/2, ff. 88, 106, 150v.
  • 10. Add. 29623, f. 4.
  • 11. C181/2, ff. 85, 185.
  • 12. J.J. McGurk, ‘Letter bk. relating to Lieutenancy of Kent 1604-28’, Arch. Cant. lxxxii. 133, 138.
  • 13. SP14/31/1; 14/43/107.
  • 14. C2/Jas.I/B13/63, f. 1.
  • 15. HMC Sackville, i. 155; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 390.
  • 16. E214/1140; C66/1899/1; PROB 11/122, f. 462.
  • 17. E. Hasted, Kent, iii. 289; Berry, 1; HP Commons 1386-1421, iv. 751.
  • 18. PROB 11/77, f. 73v.
  • 19. E. Suss. RO, SAS CO/1/285-6. For Lady Elizabeth Fane, see VCH Northants. Genealogical Vol. 94.
  • 20. CSP Ire. 1596-7, p. 343.
  • 21. C142/265/70.
  • 22. This is clear from E. Suss. RO, SAS CO/1/291, 1080.
  • 23. HMC Hatfield, xv. 279.
  • 24. Joan Waller (d.1545) and Elizabeth Hendley (d.1596) respectively. For the complex relationship between the Waller and Fane families, see VCH Northants. Genealogical Vol. 94-5.
  • 25. Add. 29623, f. 5.
  • 26. CJ, i. 153a, 157a, 172a.
  • 27. Ibid. 184a, 952a, 956b.
  • 28. Ibid. 241b, 242a, 245b, 994a.
  • 29. Add. 29623, f. 5.
  • 30. Add. 34218, f. 87.
  • 31. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 256; Stowe 168, f. 49; CSP Ven. 1603-7, p. 255.
  • 32. CJ, i. 256b.
  • 33. STAC 8/290/17. See also STAC 8/294/16.
  • 34. CJ, i. 262a, 266b.
  • 35. Ibid. 281b, 283b.
  • 36. Bowyer Diary, 162.
  • 37. Fane is said by HP Commons 1558-1603, ii. 104, to have died in January 1607, but in fact that was when he was buried: Add. 34218, f. 61. For the correct date of death, see HMC Hatfield, xviii. 424; Add. 29623, f. 22v.
  • 38. CJ, i. 324b, 325a.
  • 39. Add. 34218, f. 9v; Add. 29623, f. 13.
  • 40. CJ, i. 365a, 366a, 389a.
  • 41. C2/Jas.I/B13/63, f. 1.
  • 42. CJ, i. 357b.
  • 43. Ibid. 356a, 357b; C.J. Phillips, Hist. of Sackville Fam. 217; C66/1766/79.
  • 44. C66/1899/1.
  • 45. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 387.
  • 46. HMC 13th Rep. IV, 136.
  • 47. Add. 34218, f. 9v; E. Kent AO, Sa/AC 6, f. 370v.
  • 48. PROB 11/122, ff. 462-3.
  • 49. HMC 13th Rep. IV, 139, 142; HMC Hatfield, xxi. 84, 95.
  • 50. CJ, i. 393b, 399a, 417a.
  • 51. Add. 28036, f. 43.
  • 52. Cal. of White and Black Bks. of Cinque Ports ed. F. Hull (Kent Recs. xix), 397.
  • 53. Lansd. 255, f. 349; Cal. of White and Black Bks. of Cinque Ports, 401.
  • 54. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 463; M. Esdaile, ‘Notes on the Three Monumental Drawings’, Arch. Cant. xlvii. 227-9.