BIRCHET, Thomas (by 1497-1556), of Rye, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

b. by 1497, 2nd s. of Thomas Birchet (d.1518/23), of Rye. m. Elizabeth, da. and h. of one Young, 3s. 2da.2

Offices Held

Chamberlain, Rye ?1505-6, ?1515-16, 1528-9, jurat 1535, ?1541-d., mayor 1538-40, 1548-9; bailiff to Yarmouth 1546.3


Thomas Birchet was a dealer in building materials. He rented two shops at the Strand from the corporation of Rye for which he paid 10s. and 4s.8d., and he regularly sold to the town such wares as the laths, tiles and old spikes (nails) which he supplied in the autumn of 1543.4

Birchet evidently leaned towards Protestantism. As one of several men of Rye accused of heresy in 1537 he was alleged to believe that every man was a priest, that there were only three sacraments and that neither holy bread nor holy water had any value. Although he denied holding these views, his sympathies were probably the cause of his exclusion from the juratship during the mayoralty of Richard Inglet (1536-7). After two years’ exclusion, Birchet was himself elected mayor on 25 Aug. 1538 and during his term of office he increased the number of jurats from nine to 12, appointing three of the men who had been accused of heresy with him, William Mede, Robert Wood and Robert Wymond, while a fourth, Alexander Welles, was elected common clerk. Another of the ‘heretics’, John Young, was presumably related to Birchet’s wife.5

It was as mayor that Birchet was elected to the Parliament of 1539: after the second session he was paid, at the statutory rate of 2s. a day, £4 16s. for 48 days’ attendance out of the 58 (really 56) which the first two sessions had lasted, and after the third (104 days) £9 2s. for 91 days. Between the second and third sessions he was accused by John Fletcher, the King’s purveyor, of encouraging the local fishermen to withhold their fish from him and was committed to Dover castle by the lord warden. Henry Polsted interceded for him with Cromwell in November 1539 as one who favoured the word of God and loved Cromwell with all his heart. Nine years later the Protector Somerset nominated him mayor as ‘a very honest, wise and discreet man’ who could supply the ‘good order and rule’ which had been so lacking in Rye. He was evidently less in favour with the Marian government: early in 1554 he was one of six men from Rye summoned before the Privy Council and admonished to live ‘like good and quiet subjects’ and in September 1555 he was bound in a recognizance of 1,000 marks to appear before the lord chancellor.6

Birchet last attended the Brotherhood of the Cinque Ports on 21 July 1556 and made his will on the following 26 Oct. After providing for his wife he left his lands to be divided equally between his three sons who were also to have £40 each at the age of 20. His daughter Joan was to have £100 at 18 or on marriage and she and her sister Agnes were each to enjoy an annuity of £5 after the death of their mother. Agnes was probably already married to Robert Sheppard of Peasmarsh near Rye, whom Birchet named overseer and whose first wife had been a daughter of Alexander Welles. The executors were Birchet’s widow and his son Thomas and the will was proved twice, by the widow on 10 Nov. 1556 and by the son on 21 Oct. 1557.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. Rye chamberlains’ accts. 4, f. 344v.
  • 2. Apparently of age when father made his will, PCC 11 Bodfelde. Vis. Kent. (Harl. Soc. xlii), 193; PCC 21 Ketchyn.
  • 3. Rye chamberlains’ accts. 3-6; Cinque Ports White and Black Bks. (Kent Arch. Soc. recs. br. xix), 235. The chamberlain in 1505 and 1515 could have been his father.
  • 4. Rye chamberlains’ accts. 5, ff. 58v, 59v; 6, f. 3.
  • 5. SP1/113, f. 106v ptd. LP Hen. VIII, xi; Elton, Policy and Police, 20, 86-90; Rye chamberlains’ accts. 4, f. 335v.
  • 6. Rye chamberlains’ accts. 4, ff. 344v, 360v; 5, f. 167v; LP Hen. VIII, xiv; APC, iv. 391, 395; v. 181-2.
  • 7. Cinque Ports White and Black Bks. 135-252 passim; PCC 21 Ketchyn.