BROWNE, alias BEVILL, Thomas (by 1521-96), of Halsdon, nr. Cookbury and Langtree, Devon.

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 1521, poss. s. of John Browne (d. bef. Oct. 1542) of Langtree. educ. ?L. Inn, adm. 19 July 1536. m. by 1564, Joan, da. and h. of John Lene of Launceston, Cornw., 3s. inc. Brutus 6da.1

Offices Held

Escheator, Devon 1562-3; feodary, Cornw. by 1564-75 or later; coroner, Devon by 1570.2


Thomas Browne claimed gentle birth but he may have been illegitimate as he alone of his family used an alias. A grounding in the law would have been of value to his career in local administration and he was perhaps the Thomas Browne admitted to Lincoln’s Inn in 1536. His inheritance under the will of John Browne of Langtree, and a dispute between the residuary legatees and executors, of whom he was one, resulted in a suit against two relatives in the Star Chamber following an incident in October 1542. The outcome is unknown but Browne’s settlement at Langtree early in Elizabeth’s reign after many years at Halsdon shows that he came into the family property. In 1561 he was himself the defendant in an action in the court of requests, being accused of wrongful dispossession on one of his manors in north Devon.3

Browne’s services were much in demand in Devon. His friendship with the Southcote family presumably accounts for his return to the Parliament of 1558, when his fellow-Member was George Southcote: he was joined in the House by Thomas Southcote and by Humphrey Specote, for whose father he had recently acted as trustee. Nothing is known of Browne’s part in this Parliament save that his name is one of those marked with a circle on a copy of a list of its Members, an annotation whose significance is unexplained. As this was to be his sole Parliament he may have been a Catholic. Under Elizabeth he was an active figure in the two counties in which he held land until shortly before his death on 2 May 1596. At the inquisition held during the following autumn Browne’s heir was said to be his son Brutus, but as Brutus had died off Puerto Rico in the previous year Browne was succeeded by his third and only surviving son William.4

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Devon, ed. Colby, 26; Vis. Devon, ed. Vivian, 112; C142/211/162.
  • 2. CPR, 1563-6, p. 35; 1569-72, p. 22; 1572-5, p. 447.
  • 3. St.Ch.2/19/278; Req.2/42/79.
  • 4. Cat. Anct. Deeds, v. 471-2; C142/113/11, 211/162; PCC 2 Noodes; CPR, 1563-6 to 1572-5, passim; Wm. Salt Lib. SMS 264.