FINCH, Sir Thomas (d.1563), of the Moat,, Canterbury and Eastwell, Kent.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir William Finch of the Moat by his 1st w. Elizabeth, da. of Sir James Cromer, wid. of Sir Richard Lovelace. m. 1547, Katherine (d. Feb. 1587), da. and coh. of Sir Thomas Moyle of Eastwell, at least 5s. inc. Henry and Moyle 1da. suc. fa. 1553. Kntd. 2 Oct. 1553.1

Offices Held

J.p. Kent from 1554, commr. sewers 1553; freeman of Canterbury 1559; keeper of the site of St. Augustine’s priory, Canterbury Apr. 1560; knight marshal of the army at Havre 1563.2


Finch was a soldier, like his father, whom he probably accompanied on one or more of his campaigns in Scotland and on the Continent. Reference was made in 1564 to the services he had performed for four sovereigns, but he must still have been young when Henry VIII died, and few details have survived of his later activities. He helped to restore order in Kent after Sir Thomas Wyatt’s rebellion in 1554, but apart from this, and his work with local militia in Kent, little is known of his military career.3

The Finch family, which laid the foundations in the sixteenth century for its political importance in the seventeenth, originally came from east Sussex, where they had owned two rich manors since the 1340s. One of these, Icklesham, near Winchelsea, Finch inherited from his father in 1553, together with his principal seat, the Moat, at Canterbury, and some ironworks in Sussex. The other manor, Netherfield, near Battle, went, for her life only, to his sister-in-law Mary Finch. Thomas acquired this on her death in 1557. While his family’s estates were quite large, his marriage in 1547 to one of the daughters of Sir Thomas Moyle opened up the prospect of a great increase in Finch’s territorial possessions. Moyle, who had no sons, had taken advantage of his position as surveyor of the court of augmentations to select for himself some of the most attractive estates wrested from the Church. When Moyle died in 1560, Finch, through his wife, inherited the fine mansion of Eastwell, which became his family’s main residence for several generations, and half a dozen other manors in the same area of Kent. He also acquired lands in Devon and Somerset, but sold them the following year.4

Because his father lived at the Moat in Canterbury, Finch’s connexions with the city had always been close, and its choice of him as Member of Parliament in 1559 was a natural one. Throughout the 1550s he had performed services of various kinds for the corporation. Shortly after the end of the Parliament he became involved in a minor dispute with Canterbury as to whether the Moat came within the city’s boundaries.5

There is nothing to indicate that Finch had any strong religious beliefs. Loyalty to the sovereign was probably sufficient reason for him to fight against Wyatt and to sit on commissions to try some of the rebels’ supporters. In the same way he helped to ensure the peaceful succession of Elizabeth in Kent. When Dr. Harpsfield, archdeacon of Canterbury, threatened to resist the religious settlement in 1559 by ‘stirring the people, as much as in him lieth, to sedition’, Finch, together with his fellow Member of Parliament, George Maye, was instructed by the Privy Council to investigate the matter thoroughly, hold any suspects and discover what arms were to be found in the religious buildings. The commission was issued while Parliament was sitting. Within a few days of Elizabeth’s accession, Finch had been ordered to take into his charge the manor and park belonging to the archbishopric, following the death of Cardinal Pole. Shortly afterwards he was ordered to admit some of the Cardinal’s officers to dispose of oxen, deer, hay and wood in the park. Finch’s tenure of this property was confirmed in April 1560 when he was appointed keeper for life of the house and site of the priory of St. Augustine, Canterbury, and of the park. In October 1559 he was one of the commissioners appointed to survey all the possessions of the vacant see. For his services to the Queen he was granted, only a month before his death, one of the manors once belonging to the priory—Burmarsh, in Romney Marsh, a property which had been leased to his father.6

Early in 1563 Finch was promoted to knight marshal of the army at Le Havre, and set sail for France on 19 Mar. in the Greyhound with about 200 men, including close relatives of the Earl of Warwick, Lord Wentworth and Lord Cobham. Bad weather driving them back, they unwisely urged the captain, ‘a very good seaman’, ‘to thrust into the haven [at Rye] before the tide’. The ship went aground and all were drowned except seven ‘of the meaner sort’. According to another version, the master was unskilful and had never had charge of a ship before. A ballad was written to commemorate the accident and Burghley said that Finch was ‘as much lamented as any man of his degree in any part of England’.7

Finch’s body was brought back to Eastwell church for burial, the first of many of his family to be interred there. Administration of his property was granted on 31 Mar. 1563 to his widow, who later married Nicholas St. Leger. Finch’s eldest son Anthony died in 1568, still under age, and his second son Moyle inherited his estates.8

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: M.R.P.


  • 1. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. xlii), p. 68; DNB; Collins, Peerage, ed. Brydges, iii. 377-9; P. Finch, Hist. Burley on the Hill, ped. i after p. 120; CPR, 1560-3, p. 468.
  • 2. J. M. Cowper, Freemen of Canterbury, 316; CPR, 1553-4, pp. 20, 28, 36.
  • 3. CPR, 1563-6, p. 119; APC, vi. 226-7.
  • 4. VCH Suss. ix. 107, 187; PCC 9 Tashe; CPR, 1553, p. 259; 1558-60, pp. 135, 141, 380; 1560-3, pp. 132, 134; Hasted, Kent, vi. 436; vii. 335, 389, 393, 403-4, 409, 418, 552; CP, xii. 773, n. ‘h’; B. I’Anson, Hist. Finch Fam. 46.
  • 5. Canterbury chamberalins’ accts. 1553-8; HMC 9th Rep. pt. 1, pp. 155b, 156a; Hasted, xii. 636.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 116; CPR, 1554-5, pp. 62, 92, 291, 302; 1555-7, p. 43; 1558-60, pp. 30, 252; 1560-3, p. 468; APC, vii. 7, 17, 53; B. I’Anson, 20.
  • 7. Stow, Annales (1631), pp. 654-5; Machyn Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii), 302, 308; CSP For. 1563, p. 258; Wright, Q. Eliz. and her Times, i. 127, 133.
  • 8. PCC admon. act bk. 1563, f. 59; VCH Suss. ix. 107; CPR, 1563-6, p. 119; C142/137/27.