WATSON, Thomas (-d.1621), of Westminster and Halstead Court, Halstead, Kent; formerly of Monkwell Street, London.

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

educ. G. Inn 1614.1 m. by 1597, Elizabeth (d. 9 June 1623), da. of Edward Worsopp, Mercer, of London, 1da. kntd. 25 June 1618. d. 30 Oct. 1621.2

Offices Held

Servant to Henry Maynard† bef. 1599,3 to (Sir) George Carey† by 1599;4 dep. treas. [I] by 1601-at least 1603;5 teller of the exch. and recvr. of first-fruits and tenths 1605-d.;6 recvr. revenues from defective titles by 1615.7

Agent of exchange [I], London by 1601-4;8 contractor, sale of rectories and parsonages 1607-at least 1612;9 j.p. Kent by 1611-d.,10 Mdx. by 1614-d.,11 Westminster 1618-d.;12 commr. sewers, Mdx. 1611-at least 1619,13 oyer and terminer, the Verge 1612, Kent 1615,14 annoyances, Mdx. 1613;15 ?ranger, Hyde Park, Mdx. 1615-at least 1617;16 commr. survey, L. Inn Fields, London 1618;17 feodary and steward of duchy of Lancaster lands, Kent 1616-d.;18 commr. subsidy, Kent 1621.19

Member, Spanish Co. 1605,20 Virg. Co. 1609,21 N.W. Passage Co. 1612.22


Nothing has been ascertained of Watson’s parentage and early life. He should be distinguished from the Elizabethan poet of the same name, and he was probably not the Thomas Watson of Worcestershire who was educated at Oxford and the Middle Temple during the early 1580s, as it seems to have been this man who subsequently became an alderman of Evesham.23 Watson first appears as the servant of Henry Maynard, principal secretary to William Cecil†, 1st Lord Burghley. His next master was Sir George Carey, Lord Justice of Ireland. From November 1599 Carey employed him to carry confidential messages concerning the state of Ireland’s revenue to (Sir) Robert Cecil†, who sent him back with the money for the Irish administration.24 Watson later claimed that in this way £2,000,000 passed through his hands.25 The privy council was impressed with Watson’s discretion and diligence, as was Carey, who recommended in April 1601 that he be granted the reversion to an office in the Irish exchequer.26 By the summer Watson was serving as Carey’s agent of the exchange in London, where he was often referred to as Ireland’s deputy treasurer. Following the summons of Parliament that autumn, Watson was offered a seat by Cecil, whose favour he had continued to cultivate, but he politely declined the invitation as Carey was anxious to perform this favour himself and had nominated him at Totnes. By mid October, however, Watson had heard nothing from Totnes and Parliament was due to meet in only two weeks. He therefore sent the mayor a letter asking for a speedy response.27 By the time Watson learned that he had not been chosen it must have been too late to find another seat. There is no evidence that he sought election again in 1604.

On the restoration of peace in Ireland, Cecil procured for him a reversion of one of the four tellerships in the Exchequer at Westminster.28 He did not have to wait long for a vacancy to arise, for in April 1605 he succeeded Sir Philip Kighley* as both teller and receiver of First-Fruits. In October 1607 he became one of the contractors for the sale of rectories owned by the Crown, along with Sir Thomas Lake I*, with whom he had worked closely in 1601 as agent of the exchange.29 He invested in the Spanish, Virginia and North-West Passage Companies, and by 1609 had bought a small estate at Halstead, in western Kent. A great benefactor to Halstead church, which he partially rebuilt, he provided a house for the rector, Martin Watson, who was presumably a kinsman.30 He was granted arms in July 1613.31

In March 1614 Watson was elected to Parliament for the borough of Rye. He probably owed his return to Sir Thomas Lake I whom he later termed ‘honest Sir Thomas Lake’.32 He was one of four Westminster residents appointed to assist the Speaker in distributing the collection taken at the corporate communion. His only legislative committee (24 May) was for the abolition of the fish-packing monopoly, a matter which was probably of concern to his constituents. When complaint was made of Exchequer proceedings for the recovery of old debts a week later, he was among those appointed to the committee.33 Along with John Bingley* and Edward Duncumbe* he was ordered to apprehend the recusant Francis Lovett, who had received a false certificate of conformity from Bishop Neile. Hearing that Lovell was dining with Bishop Thornborough of Bristol they went up into the latter’s dining room, at which the bishop ‘was much discontented and angry’. Watson stood his ground, however, telling the bishop that since he was a justice of the peace for Middlesex he ‘might search of his own authority’. He and the others returned without the recusant, but produced a lawyer’s clerk willing to depose that Lovett had obtained the certificate for 20s.34

In September 1614 Watson personally notified the Privy Council that he and his colleagues on the Kent bench had arrested the itinerant minister Josias Nicholls, who had incited non-payment of the Benevolence demanded by the Crown following the dissolution of Parliament.35 At around the same time he also attempted to match his only daughter to Sir Robert Sidney*, the eldest son of Lord L’Isle. Before the negotiations could be completed, however, Sidney secretly married a daughter of the 9th earl of Northumberland. When this news leaked out, Watson was so furious that he threatened to sue.36 As one of the creditors and executors of Sir Walter Cope*, Watson may have taken up the duties of ranger of Hyde Park, for he was much embarrassed in 1617 when a greyhound seized for catching a hare proved to belong to the queen, and an elaborate scheme for trapping a poaching gang ended in the death of the keeper.37 In June 1618 the king visited Halstead and knighted Watson after a lavish entertainment. James enjoyed hunting there so much that he returned to Halstead three times over the next two years.38 In February 1620 it was rumoured that Watson would be questioned in Star Chamber for his conduct in Ireland 20 years earlier, but he was evidently protected by his friend John Murray*, one of the grooms of the bedchamber.39 There is no evidence that he sought election to the third Jacobean Parliament.

Watson drew up his will on 1 July 1621 and died on 30 Oct. following, owing the king over £14,900 and his daughter more than half her marriage portion of £5,000. He blamed the size of his debts on the fact that, along with Thomas Warre* and Sir Robert Heath*, he stood engaged in several ‘great and grievous bonds’. He bequeathed a Surrey rectory to John Murray, to whom he declared himself ‘very much beholden for his abundant favours and kindnesses’. It may have been through this connection that his widow married William Murray, a Cambridge don who became a bishop in Ireland and Wales. Each of his overseers, (Sir) George Marshall*, his brother-in-law John Worsopp of Windsor, and his clerk George Smith of Mitcham, was to receive a horse from his stables.40 He was buried, as he had wished, in the chancel of St. Margaret’s church, Halstead.41 Following Watson’s death, Sir Robert Heath bemoaned his folly in allowing himself to become ‘too deeply engaged’ for the latter’s debts, and appealed to his patron Buckingham ‘to be relieved by His Majesty’s means, his own debt being first truly satisfied’. It was not until 1626 that he settled Watson’s account in the Exchequer with a payment of £1,387 15s.3d.42

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Peter Lefevre / Andrew Thrush


  • 1. GI Admiss.
  • 2. St. Helen’s Bishopsgate (Harl. Soc. Reg. xxxi), 7; J. Thorpe, Registrum Roffense, 962; Vis. London (Harl. Soc. cix), 100.
  • 3. Hatfield House, ms 72/28 (Stafford to Cecil, 5 Aug. 1599).
  • 4. CSP Ire. 1599-1600, p. 242.
  • 5. Ibid. 1601-3, p. 107; HMC Laing, i. 93.
  • 6. Exchequer Officeholders comp. J.C. Sainty (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xviii), 234; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 211.
  • 7. LR9/132.
  • 8. CSP Dom. 1601-3, p.109; HMC Hatfield, xvi. 44.
  • 9. HMC Sackville, i. 144; E214/611, 621.
  • 10. Cal. Assize Recs. Kent Indictments, Jas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 98, 134.
  • 11. C66/1988; C193/13/1.
  • 12. C181/2, f. 331; C181/3, f. 15v.
  • 13. C181/2, ff. 140v, 347.
  • 14. Ibid. f. 179v.
  • 15. Ibid. f. 199v.
  • 16. CSP Dom. 1611-18, pp. 440, 460.
  • 17. T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 3, p. 83.
  • 18. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 219.
  • 19. C212/22/20.
  • 20. Spanish Co. ed. P. Croft (London Rec. Soc. ix), 62.
  • 21. A. Brown, Genesis of US, 214.
  • 22. CSP Col. E.I. 1513-1616, p. 239.
  • 23. Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss.; C181/2, f. 127.
  • 24. CSP Ire. 1599-1600, pp. 242, 251, 398; 1600, p. 121; SP63/207, pt. 5, nos. 237, 285.
  • 25. HMC Hatfield, xvi. 462.
  • 26. CSP Ire. 1599-1600, p. 276; 1600-1, p. 281.
  • 27. HMC 3rd Rep. 349.
  • 28. SP63/215/121; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 120.
  • 29. CSP Ire. 1601-3, p. 461.
  • 30. E. Hasted, Kent, iii. 15, 18; PROB 11/139, f. 17.
  • 31. Grantees of Arms ed. W.H. Rylands (Harl. Soc. lxvi), 269.
  • 32. Add. 34218, f. 149.
  • 33. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 332, 391.
  • 34. Ibid. 411-12.
  • 35. Add. 34218, ff. 148v-9.
  • 36. HMC Downshire, v. 22; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, v. 300.
  • 37. PROB 11/125, f. 530v; CSP Dom. 1611-18, pp. 440, 460.
  • 38. J. Nichols, Progs. Jas. I, iii. 482, 487, 554; W. Camden, Annalium Apparatus, 59.
  • 39. BL, HMC Trumbull transcript, ms XVIII, no. 49. The rumour may have stemmed from a complaint made by Paul Gwynn: HMC Hatfield, xv. 378.
  • 40. PROB 11/139, ff. 17-18; PROB 11/143, f. 519v.
  • 41. Thorpe, 962.
  • 42. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 365; Fortescue Pprs. ed. S.R. Gardiner (Cam. Soc. n.s. i), 171.