PHILLIPS, Fabian (c.1540-97), of Orlton, Herefs.

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

b. c. 1540, 2nd s. of Robert Phillips of Yarpole and Leominster by Elizabeth, da. of John Price. educ. M. Temple 1560, called 1579. m.Margaret, da. of William Walter of Wimbledon, 1s.1

Offices Held

Member, council in the marches of Wales from 1575; assoc. justice of Chester, 2nd justice of assize, Anglesey circuit 1579-94; justice of assize, S. Wales by 1588; recorder, Carmarthen 9 Feb. 1578 to at least 1585; j.p. many Welsh and border counties from c.1580.2


Phillips was brought into Parliament for Leominster by his great-uncle, Sir James Croft, high steward of the borough, whose faction he naturally supported in local politics. The opposition was thus ready to denigrate him as ‘a young man, an utter barrister of small experience at the bar or bench, of no known living, saving a bailiwick or stewardship’. His activities in enforcing the government’s religious policy gained him further enemies, notably the bishops of Hereford and St. David’s, who complained that he undermined the administration of their dioceses. Still, he did not lack supporters. Whitgift wrote:

For my own part I know not anything whereupon he can justly be charged, unless it be because he is stout and upright in judgment and not appliable to satisfy other men’s affections and pleasures, as peradventure it is looked for. Truly, my lord, I find him one and the same man; but I see how hard it is for such to follow the rules of equity and justice without respect to please all men: and I would to God it were not altogether contrary.
And the bishop of Worcester said that he knew none better than Phillips ‘in painfulness, in courage, in faithful and upright dealing’.3

No record has been found of any activities by Phillips in the first or second sessions of his one Parliament. On 25 Jan. 1581 he was put on the large committee handling both the subsidy bill and the bill for religion which became the Act to retain the Queen’s Majesty’s subjects in their due obedience. He was also named to committees dealing with slanderous words and practices (1 Feb. 1581), the reform of sheriffs (4 Feb.), a hospital at Ledbury, Herefordshire (4 Mar. 1581) and the reformation of fines and common recoveries (10 Mar.).4

In his career generally, his patron was Sir Francis Walsingham. A judicial member of the council in the marches of Wales, he was present at discussions on reform of abuses in 1576 and 1590, and acted as intermediary between Croft and Burghley when this matter was broached in 1589. He was a frequent member of commissions, including those for piracy in Glamorgan and Monmouthshire and for musters in Denbighshire. In 1590, Thomas Atkins, the attorney in the marches, unsuccessfully accused him before the Privy Council of associating with recusants. Phillips instituted a suit for slander in the Star Chamber. The case lasted until at least 1594 and while it was in progress both men were suspended from their attendance at the council in the marches.5

Phillips bought Orlton in 1580. He also possessed the manor of Bovington and other lands in Worcestershire. He died 15 Feb. 1597, and was succeeded by his son Andrew. No will has been found.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: W.J.J.


  • 1. Vis. Herefs. ed. Weaver, 57.
  • 2. Flenley, Cal. Reg. Council, Marches of Wales , 145-6; PRO, add. misc. roll to patent roll 39 Eliz.; HMC Hatfield , ii. 203; P. H. Williams, Council in the Marches , 270-1; APC , xvi. 106; W. R. Williams, Welsh Judges , 89.
  • 3. St. Ch. 5 Eliz. P17/31, P55/17, P59/23; SP12/107/11, 110/13, 131/42, 148/31; Skeel, Council in the Marches , 110, 112; Strype, Annals , iii(1), 171-2; Whitgift , i. 178-9; Lansd. 29, f. 99; 36, f. 68; APC , xii. 286; HMC Hatfield , ii. 203-4.
  • 4. CJ , i. 120, 121, 122, 131, 133; D’Ewes, 288, 302.
  • 5. Egerton Pprs. (Cam. Soc. xii), 104-5; Bull. Bd. Celtic Studies , xvi. 291-2; APC , ix. 165, 298, 317, 339, 341, 379; xi. 48, 116, 190; xvii. 267, 292, 293; xviii. 108, 357; xix. 429; P. H. Williams, 83, 152; Lansd. 60, f. 112, 63, f. 93; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 540, 543, 597, 627; 1581-90, pp. 69, 106; E351/541, f. 223; Flenley, 200; Add. 37045, f. 5; Harl. 6995, f. 161; 7004, f. 274.
  • 6. St. Ch. 5 Eliz./P59/23; C142/254/1.