WELPLEY, Thomas (c.1483-1534 or later), of Bath, Som.
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Family and Education
Alderman, Bath by 1530, mayor c.1530.2
Thomas Welpley was a flourishing clothier in the last of the great days of the Bath cloth industry. (Whether he was related to George Whelplay, the London haberdasher turned professional informer, is not known.) He was assessed, as a parishioner of St. Michael’s, Bath, for the subsidy of 1524 at £25 on goods, a sum well below that of the three most important Bath clothiers but one of the larger ones in the city. His election to Parliament was a natural extension of his civic career.3
In a Star Chamber case of 1534 Welpley deposed to the violent and threatening behaviour of William Crowche, who had caused many quarrels and affrays among the citizens. His colleague in Parliament, John Bird, alleged that Crowche had been the cause of Welpley’s departure from Bath to Salisbury: he had used ‘to make cloth and set the people of the said city in work’ but had been so troubled by Crowche that he had left Bath, to his own and his workpeople’s loss. It is probable, however, that deeper causes were behind Welpley’s move. Writing about 1540 Leland remarked of the cloth industry at Bath that since the death of three great clothiers of the 1520s ‘it bath somewhat decayed’. The centre of the broadcloth industry was moving east to Salisbury and its environs, and Welpley may have been swimming with the economic tide. He has not been traced at Salisbury or elsewhere, but his departure from Bath presumably means that he was not re-elected there in 1536 when the King asked for the return of the previous Members.4