MICHELL, Thomas (by 1492-1551), of Worth, Suss.
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Family and Education
Servant of the 2nd and 3rd Dukes of Norfolk by 1513; commr. subsidy, Suss. 1523, 1524, sewers 1534, benevolence 1544/45, relief 1550; j.p. 1543-d.; ranger, Worth forest by 1549-d.2
Thomas Michell’s early career is difficult to disentangle from that of a namesake from the Stammerham branch of the family. An account of the 2nd Duke of Norfolk’s possessions in Surrey and Sussex for 1513-14 names Thomas Michell as receiver of the barony of Lewes, a collector of rents and farms at Seaford, ranger of Worth forest and keeper of Cuckfield Park. It was almost certainly the Member who was the ranger and keeper at this date, for he was settled at Worth by 1521 and by 1549 he held the office of ranger for life; he was also perhaps the rent collector at Seaford as he was to bequeath a lease of property at neighbouring Falmer. Less easy to identify is the receiver of the barony: the only office listed for the Member in 1549 is that of ranger, while his nephew Edmund Michell held that of steward. If the offices of steward and receiver were identical, the ageing Thomas Michell may have resigned in favour of his nephew, to whom he was to leave most of his Sussex lands.3
Apart from his service with the Duke of Norfolk, for which as ranger of Worth and keeper of Cuckfield Park he received a salary of 60s. 10d., the nature of Michell’s occupation is obscure. He seems to have had some business interests beyond his native Sussex for in February 1521 he was bound with two Londoners, John Michell, gentleman, and John Lee, merchant taylor, in an obligation to the crown of £20, and in 1523 one Thomas ‘Mighell’ owed the crown £30. In the subsidy assessment of 1524-5 Michell’s goods were valued at £33. An indication that he acted as a local financier comes from one Roger Cotes, who was examined on 4 Nov. 1541 in connexion with Catherine Howard: Coates stated that six years previously the old Duchess of Norfolk had given him £100 which he then put ‘in stock’ to ‘Thomas Michell of Sussex’, receiving in return £10 annually. In 1528 Michell extended his possessions beyond Sussex, paying £80 for the manor of Redstone in Reigate, Surrey: by the time of the Dissolution he had a lease from Reigate priory of an estate called ‘Allen of Warwicks’ in Horley and Burstow. He joined the ranks of ironmill owners in Sussex in 1536 when he acquired the manor of Chiddingly; in 1546 Sheffield Forge bought 65 tons of iron from him. He also obtained the lease of the Hampshire alnage worth £10 yearly.4
Michell doubtless owed his return for Reigate in 1529 to his master the duke, who had the patronage of the borough, although his claim to represent it was strengthened by his ownership of land in the vicinity. It is probable that he sat again in June 1536, in accordance with the King’s general request for the return of the previous Members, and he may have done so in 1539 and 1545, when the names of the Members for Reigate are lost. Nothing is known of his part in the work of the Commons. Michell did not live to see the restoration of the Duke of Norfolk after the catastrophe of 1546. Although he was reappointed to the commission of the peace in May 1547 the strongly Catholic preamble to his will, made on 6 June 1551, suggests that he could hardly have commended himself to his new landlord, Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley, to whom Norfolk’s large Sussex estates fell in August 1547.5
Michell asked in his will for his ‘sinful body and poor carcass’ to be buried in the chancel of Worth church, next to his wife, or in any other holy place approved by his executors. Having no children of his own he made generous bequests of goods and money to his nephews and nieces, and left substantial marriage portions for their daughters. To ‘poor Browne, that worketh at the furnace’, he gave £6 13s.4d. and also three kine. A servant, Thomas Coulstock, received the lease of Bevingdean farm, Falmer, where Michell had 600 sheep, and also the leases of the farm in Fletching and that of a moiety of Hale Park. Michell granted the lease of the Hampshire alnage to his younger nephew, Richard, while another nephew, John, received Redstone manor and the lease of the other moiety of Hale. His eldest nephew, Edmund, was to receive the rest of his landed property. Michell named James Skinner and John Apsley† executors and (Sir) Thomas Saunders and John Culpeper overseers. The will was proved on 5 Nov. 1551.6
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: S. R. Johnson
- 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Comber, Suss. Genealogies (Ardingly), 265; PCC 31 Bucke.
- 2. LP Hen. VIII, iii. iv, vii, xx; CPR, 1547-8, p. 90; 1553, p. 359; Suss. Arch. Colls. xiii. 130.
- 3. Suss. Arch. Colls. xiii. 126, 130; liii. 109 seq.; Suss. Rec. Soc. lvi. 86; Comber, Suss. Genealogies (Horsham), 238; PCC 31 Bucke; Add. 5701, ff. 48, 49v, 51; E101/637/1; Req.2/3/383; Wards 7/3/33.
- 4. Suss. Arch. Colls. xiii. 130; LP Hen. VIII, iii, xvi; E101/637/1; Suss. Rec. Soc. xix. 98; lvi. 88; Surr. Fines (Surr. Rec. Soc. xix), 134; VCH Surr. iii. 204, 238; PCC 31 Bucke; E. Straker, Wealden Iron, 408; Req.2/7/110.
- 5. CPR, 1547-8, p. 90; Suss. Arch. Colls. xiii. 118; Add. 5701, f. 49v; PCC 31 Bucke.
- 6. PCC 31 Bucke.