BURGES, Thomas I (-d.1623), of Truro, Cornw.
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Family and Education
s. of Ellis Burges of Truro. m. by c.1579, Honor (bur. 1 Jan. 1633), da. of Humphrey Sydnam of Tregony, Cornw., 5s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. bur. 13 Aug. 1623.1 sig. Thomas Burges.
Mayor and j.p. Truro 1589, 1620-1, alderman by 1619.2
Although a dearth of local records renders Burges invisible prior to his nomination as Truro’s first mayor in 1589, he had evidently been a prominent figure in the town for some time. By 1594 he was shipping tin, Cornwall’s most lucrative commodity, to France and London, while four years later his partners included the leading London Pewterer, John Catcher. Burges’ 1599 valuation at £10 for the purpose of subsidy confirmed his position as one of Truro’s wealthiest residents, and like many merchants he maximized his capital by lending money.3
Doubtless on the strength of his local standing, Burges was elected in 1604 to serve the borough in Parliament. Though unmentioned in the surviving parliamentary records, he would have been entitled, as a port town Member, to sit on various committees considering legislation relevant to Truro, such as the 1604 measures on free trade and abuses by custom-house officials (24 Apr., 5 May), and the 1607 bill on merchants’ debts (5 June). The committee appointed on 3 Apr. 1606 to examine an anti-usury bill may well also have interested him, since only two months earlier he had taken advantage of his presence at Westminster to file a Star Chamber suit arising from his money-lending activities.4
By 1610 it is impossible to trace Burges’ trading ventures with certainty, since the Truro port books do not distinguish between him and his eldest son, Thomas II*. However, the family had apparently acquired their own ship, the Toy of Falmouth, the use of which was shared with Burges’ younger son Richard and nephew Balthazar, and they were now engaged primarily in the exchange of fish and salt between Truro and La Rochelle. No entries relating to Burges or his heir have been found in the port books later than 1614, though both men continued to call themselves merchants, and remained prominent in local affairs.5 That same year Burges secured one of the borough’s parliamentary seats for Thomas junior. His active role in Truro’s 1619-20 dispute with Plymouth over Ship Money probably contributed to his own re-election as mayor shortly afterwards. As borough returning officer in 1621, he may have contributed to the election victory of Sir John Catcher, the son of his former partner.6 Burges drew up his will on 20 Sept. 1619, by which date he had acquired a small landed estate. Part of this he now bequeathed to Truro borough to fund an annual sermon, and to his wife he left an income of just over £30 a year. Burges was interred at Truro church on 13 Aug. 1623, and his place in borough politics passed, albeit briefly, to his son Thomas.7
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Paul Hunneyball
- 1. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 64; Reg. St. Mary’s, Truro (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc.) ed. S.E. Gay et al. 246, 264, 271; mar. date based on birth-date of Thomas Burges II*.
- 2. C66/1334; C219/37/33-4.
- 3. E190/1018/1, 16; 190/1020/6, 12, 22; 190/1021/6; E179/88/260; STAC 8/61/30; C.A. Markham, Pewter Marks, 127.
- 4. CJ, i. 183b, 199a, 292b, 379b; STAC 8/50/3.
- 5. E190/1024/8; 190/1025/3-4, 13; 190/1026/7; PROB 11/142, f. 471v; 11/149, f. 274.
- 6. Cornw. RO, B/T 294/6, 11, 22, 24, 29.
- 7. PROB 11/142, ff. 471v-2v.