FARMER, Thomas (c.1546-1621), of East Barsham, Norf.
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Family and Education
b. c.1546, 1st s. of Thomas Farmer of East Barsham by his 1st w. Anne, da. of Christopher Coote of Blo’ Norton. educ. St.John’s, Camb. BA 1576. m. Mary, da. of Bartholomew Fromond of Cheam, Surr., 1s. 2da. suc. fa. 1549, uncle Sir William Farmer 1558.
J.p. Norf. 1579, rem. 1586, rest. 1587, rem. 1595.
Farmer inherited little from his father, who was killed by the Norfolk rebels in 1549. However, he was fortunate in being made heir to his uncle, who, as a courtier during the reign of Henry VIII, had accumulated land in Norfolk. Farmer succeeded him in 1558, and soon ‘wasted in a great degree his estate’. Among the 15 or 16 manors which he sold were Tattersett, Hampton, Sculthorpe, Tatterford and Pinkey. He acquired Thorpeland Hall, held in fee farm of the Queen as part of the duchy of Lancaster, and Lose Hall, Hempsteade, from Sir William Heydon in 1590, as payment of a debt. Already by 1585 there was ‘deadly hatred’ between the two men, arising from Heydon’s having arrested Farmer’s younger brother Nicholas on a charge of counterfeiting coinage. When Heydon became a deputy lieutenant he was able so to discredit Farmer in the eyes of the Privy Council that in August 1586 he was put out of the commission of the peace, as ‘one against whom many exceptions are made’. In these circumstances it was an achievement on Farmer’s part to survive two contested elections against Heydon’s son to emerge in 1586 as senior knight of the shire for Norfolk. As such he could have attended the subsidy committee appointed 22 Feb. 1587, and he was named to a committee on a religious subject 8 Mar.
Farmer was restored to the commission in 1587, but was soon involved in a fierce quarrel with another Norfolk justice, Martin Barney. Farmer’s daughter Mary had married Barney’s son Francis, and the clash between the respective fathers occurred after the early death of Francis, whose heir was a minor. Apparently Farmer, who had not given his daughter a dowry, sought the wardship and this was opposed by Barney. Barney circulated defamatory verses about his enemy, and, when he made his will in 1594, he did so as a safeguard of his inheritance, so that it might
not be spent and consumed by Mr. Farmer or any of his brood, as he in his life sought and purposed to do in my life, having already, as the whole world knoweth, consumed his own.
Farmer ‘blinded with his old malice’ accused Barney of recusancy, and in 1595 they were both removed from the commission of the peace. Although he lived for another 26 years, Farmer was never restored. Not surprisingly, Farmer acquired a strong prejudice against lawyers: when he heard that Sir Arthur Heveningham had wounded Edward Flowerdew, he remarked that he was not sorry and hoped that many more of the profession would meet the same fate. In religion Farmer was classified by the bishop of Norwich as ‘an observer of law and sufficient’. He died on 9 Dec. 1621, leaving only the manor and rectory of East Barsham, the manors of Sculthorp and West Barsham, a mill at Waterden and some pieces of land in Norfolk. His brief will, proved 19 Feb. 1622, requested burial in East Barsham church, and appointed executrix and residuary legatee his ‘well beloved daughter’ Elizabeth Baxter, widow, ‘in consideration of her great care and pains with me in this my sickness’.
Vis. Norf. (Norf. and Norwich Arch. Soc.) i. 85; Blomefield, Norf. ix. 56-7, 250, 393; vii. 6, 86, 98, 100, 117, 176, 191; A. H. Smith thesis 150, 161, 198-201; St. Ch. 5/F3/17, 23, 27; 5/F8/32; APC, xiv. 196; Egerton 2713, f. 190; D’Ewes, 396-7, 399, 409, 413; W. Rye, Norf. Fams. 201; C142/395/128; PCC 50 Hayes, 106 Swann.