ARRIS, Thomas (c.1622-c.1684), of Great Munden, Herts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1622, 2nd but o. surv. s. of Edward Arris, Barber-Surgeon, of Pye Corner, London, and Great Munden by w. Mary. educ. St. Paul’s; St. John’s, Camb. matric. 29 June 1639 aged 17, BA 1643; MD Oxf. 1651. m. 2 May 1650, Olive (d. Jan. 1697), da. of John Eldred of Stanway, Essex, 4s. 4da. suc. fa. 1676.1

Offices Held

Fellow, R. Coll. Physicians 1644; commr. for assessment, Herts. 1657, Sept. 1660-80, St. Albans 1661-80, Suff. 1661-4, 1667-74; j.p. Herts. and liberty of St. Albans Sept. 1660-3, 1664-d.; comptroller of customs, Exeter 1678-d.; commr. for oaths of allegiance and supremacy, Exeter 1679.2


Arris came from a family of London physicians. His grandfather had been warden of the Company of Barber-Surgeons, and his father, who seems to have acquired Great Munden manor soon after qualifying in 1629, became sergeant-surgeon to Charles I. Nevertheless he took no known part in the Civil War, founded the Arrisian anatomy lecture in 1645 and became Master of his company in 1651. He fined for alderman in 1663.3

It was perhaps because of Arris’s marriage to the sister of John Eldred that the university authorities reported him ‘well-affected to the present Government’ when he was made an MD in 1651, and he was appointed to the local assessment commission under the Protectorate. He owned property in and around St. Albans valued for militia purposes at £125 p.a. at the Restoration, and was returned for the borough at the general election of 1661, surviving a petition from Sir Henry Coningsby. A moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament he served on 78 committees, though most were of secondary importance. In the earlier sessions his most significant committee was for the corporations bill in 1661. His defeat of Coningsby may have rankled with the local Cavalier gentry, for in 1663 he was removed from the commission of the peace; but he was reappointed a year later. He served on the committee for the second conventicles bill in 1669. During the debate of 13 Jan. 1671 on the bill to prevent malicious maiming and wounding, arising out of the assault on Sir John Coventry,

Dr Arris made an extravagant motion for a bill to be brought in, to punish any man that should speak any reflective thing on the King. By some he was called to the Bar; but his explanation and excuse were admitted of. He said he was the only physician in the House, and humanum est errare; he hoped he should be pardoned.

He spoke again on 7 Feb. 1674 in the debate on the standing army, when he avowed that some of the articles of war had been read to a company of troops in Hertfordshire to keep them in order. Arris’s name appeared for the first time as a court supporter on the working lists in 1675 when he was granted the reversion to the comptrollership of the Exeter customs. In the autumn session he was ap pointed to the committees on the bills to hinder Papists from sitting in Parliament, to consider the vindication of Members from accusations of corruption, and to preserve the liberty of the subject. Sometimes he had to be reminded to attend the House for a division, as for example when (Sir) Joseph Williamson noted him as one of three Members ‘to be sure to be here’. Sir Richard Wiseman also observed that he must ‘be spoken to to attend and sit it out’. Shaftesbury classed him as ‘worthy’ at first, but changed this to ‘vile’. In 1678, when Arris’s customs reversion fell in, he was included in the government list only. Though not one of the ‘unanimous club’, he probably did not stand again. He remained a Hertfordshire j.p. until at least 1683 and was last noted as comptroller of customs the following year. The only member of his family to sit in Parliament, he probably died about 1684, for he was not included in the 1684 commission of the peace. Great Munden was sold by his son in 1700.4

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: E. R. Edwards / Geoffrey Jaggar


  • 1. S. Young, Annals of the Barber Surgeons, 549-50; Woodhead, Rulers of London, 18; St. George, Southwark par. reg.; Coll. Top. et Gen. vi. 295.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. iv. 715; v. 1052, vi. 266.
  • 3. Young, 548; VCH Herts. iii. 126; Woodhead, 18.
  • 4. Wood, Athenae, iv. 167; Gent. Mag. n.s. v. 487; HMC Verulam, 105; CJ, viii. 351; Grey, i. 346; ii. 369-70; Cal. Treas. Bks. iv. 715; Angl. Notit. (1684), ii. 246; VCH Herts. iii. 126.