HINSON, Thomas (c.1551-1614), of Parkgate, Tawstock, Devon and Coveney, Cambs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. c.1551,1 2nd s. of Thomas Hinson (d.1570), yeoman, of Fordham, Cambs.2 educ. Christ’s, Camb. 1567, BA 1571, MA (Corpus, Camb.) 1574; incorp. Oxf. 1577.3 m. by 1579,4 Anne (d. 7 May 1600), da. of Sir William Spring of Pakenham, Suff., 5s. (3 d.v.p.) 9da. (4 d.v.p). d. 18 Apr. 1614.5

Offices Held

Fell., Caius, Camb. 1575-6.6

Servant to William Bourchier, 3rd earl of Bath from 1576, surveyor and recvr.-gen. by d.7

J.p. Devon c.1605-d.,8 commr. piracy 1606,9 subsidy 1608.10


Hinson’s inheritance from his father, a prosperous yeoman farmer, amounted to just £16, a featherbed and share of his elder brother’s future barley crops. Accordingly, it was imperative that he make his own fortune, and in 1576 he abandoned a moderately successful academic career to enter the service of one of his pupils, the young 3rd earl of Bath. The peer was a kinsman of Hinson’s wife, but it is not known which relationship came first. As the earl’s surveyor and receiver-general he assumed a central role in his household at Tawstock, and in 1581 obtained from him a lease of the nearby Parkgate estate. He was also elected to three Elizabethan parliaments as a Barnstaple Member on Bath’s interest. However, Hinson came to be viewed locally as exercising too strong a hold over his impressionable employer. In 1591 he was briefly imprisoned in the Fleet in London, after assorted Devon gentlemen complained to the Privy Council that he had abused his position as executor to Bath’s mother and stirred up trouble between the earl and countess. Although he gave good service to the government ten years later by helping to supervise the shipping of troops from Barnstaple to Ireland, allegations of misconduct continued to be levelled at him in Devon, not least by his avowed enemy, John Delbridge*.11

In 1604 Hinson was returned for Barnstaple for the fourth time, once again as the earl’s nominee. He left no mark on the first three sessions of this Parliament, though he presumably took an interest in a bill introduced in the Lords in March 1606, to permit the transporting of timber down the River Taw. This measure was fiercely opposed by Bath, whose fishing rights were likely to be affected, and Hinson may well have helped to mobilize opposition at Westminster prior to the bill’s rejection.12 The earl also objected to the new quay recently built on the riverbank at Barnstaple, and Hinson, who became a Devon magistrate in around 1605, actively campaigned for the structure’s removal. However, although he strenuously pursued this issue at the assizes in both 1607 and 1608, the judges finally ruled in favour of the quay, after concluding that ‘the matter was carried against the town of malice and displeasure’.13

Hinson missed part of the fourth parliamentary session, but he had acquired a powerful ally in the form of Henry Howard, 1st earl of Northampton, who wrote to the Speaker on 14 Mar. 1610 to excuse his absence. As he was nominated on 25 June to help consider a bill to improve the supply of timber in Devon for the Navy, he had presumably returned to the House by then. Nothing is recorded of his activities during the fifth session, when the Great Contract negotiations were finally abandoned. However, Northampton wrote to him in February 1611, acknowledging receipt of a birthday gift, and complaining that Members’ ‘reserved dealings at the breaking up’ of the Parliament had rendered management of the Crown’s finances considerably more difficult.14

By the end of his life, Hinson had acquired both an estate at Coveney, in the Isle of Ely, and, thanks to Bath, property in Gloucestershire, where several of his children settled.15 When the 1614 Parliament was summoned, he was probably too ill to stand for re-election, even had Barnstaple’s electors been prepared to adopt him. He drew up his will on 17 Apr., ‘weak and sick in body’, but materially healthy. To his last remaining unmarried daughter he bequeathed £1,000 in gold, while his younger son was to receive the lease of a Gloucestershire manor. He also left £70 to be distributed among five grandchildren, and assigned a year’s wages to each of his servants. Hinson died on the following day, and was buried at his own request in Tawstock church. A wall-monument erected there in his memory records his Cambridge fellowship, his service with the earl of Bath, and his appointment to the Devon bench, but ignores his parliamentary career. Hinson’s great-nephew, William, who changed his name to Powell on succeeding to a Herefordshire estate, represented that county in the 1660 Convention.16

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Age estimated from date of admiss. to univ.
  • 2. Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 82; Soc. Gen., Fordham par. reg.
  • 3. Al. Cant.; Al. Ox.
  • 4. D. Drake, ‘Barnstaple MPs’, Reps. and Trans. Devon Assoc. lxxii. 256.
  • 5. Vis. Glos. 82-3; Vis. Suff. ed. Howard, i. 192.
  • 6. Biog. Reg. of Christ’s Coll. comp. J. Peile, i. 99.
  • 7. Vis. Suff. i. 192.
  • 8. C181/2, f. 25v.
  • 9. C66/1682; 66/1898.
  • 10. SP14/31/1.
  • 11. Suff. RO, (Bury St. Edmunds), R2/34/49; Vis. Suff. i. 192; Add. 70129; HP Commons, 1558-1603, ii. 318; HMC Hatfield, xiv. 244; APC, 1591-2, pp. 161-2; 1592, p. 294; 1601-4, pp. 262, 302, 313, 489; CSP Dom. 1601-3, p. 200.
  • 12. LJ, ii. 397a-b, 413a; SP14/19/75-7.
  • 13. J.B. Gribble, Memorials of Barnstaple, 286-7, 289-91.
  • 14. HMC 1st Rep. 62; CJ, i. 443b; HMC Portland, ii. 22.
  • 15. Vis. Cambs. (Harl. Soc. xli), 125; R. Atkins, Ancient and Present State of Glos. (1768), p. 125; VCH Glos. x. 161.
  • 16. PROB 11/124, f. 189r-v; Vis. Suff. i. 192; Vis. Mdx. ed. Foster, 52-3; HP Commons, 1660-90, iii. 269.