CAMMELL, Thomas, of Shaftesbury, Dorset.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



May 1382
Apr. 1384
Nov. 1384
Feb. 1388
Jan. 1390

Family and Education

m. (1) by 1394, Maud; (2) Joan.1

Offices Held

Mayor, Shaftesbury Mich. 1390-2, 1400-1.2

Escheator, Som. and Dorset 18 Nov. 1395-16 Nov. 1397.

Tax collector, Dorset May 1398.

Jt. controller of works, Gillingham forest Dec. 1402.


Cammell’s background is obscure, but he was probably a native of Dorset and a kinsman of William Cammell, precentor of Wells from 1361 until his death in 1386 and sometime master of the hospital of St. John the Baptist at Bridgwater. His many contacts with the Dorset gentry suggest that his ability as a lawyer was noted soon after his first, and only, return for Dorchester in 1372. In the following year he acted as attorney in the court of common pleas for William Latimer’s wife, Margaret, at the registration of a settlement of land in Alton Pancras, and he later served Latimer himself as a feoffee of his portion of the manors of Melbury Sampford and Melbury Osmond. In 1374 he provided securities at the Exchequer on behalf of the abbess of the Cistercian house at Tarrant Keynston, who was granted custody of the manor of Manston pending judgement in her dispute with the Crown over its ownership. A few years later he was a trustee of lands in Broadwindsor for another local gentleman.3

Cammell made Shaftesbury his main place of residence, and evidently served the borough ably in the Commons, being returned 12 times in the course of 20 years. There was some local disquiet regarding his third return in the spring of 1384, however: the mayor and commonalty elected Thomas Seward* and Walter Hanley† as their representatives in this Parliament, but the sheriff of Dorset, Sir John Stretch*, believing that Seward would act in the King’s interest, arbitrarily returned Cammell instead. The burgesses complained vociferously about this, but their main reason seems to have been that they had already paid Seward’s expenses, not that they objected to Cammell himself. Indeed, he was clearly well regarded in the town, for he was re-elected to Parliament just a few months later, and was eventually to be chosen as mayor on no fewer than three occasions. In August 1386 he and John Cory, as ‘good men of Shaftesbury’, obtained a royal grant of pavage for three years for improvements to the High Street. After his own parliamentary service was over, Cammell travelled to Dorchester to report the results of the Shaftesbury elections to the Parliaments of 1407, 1413 and 1414.4

Throughout his career Cammell was involved in the affairs of prominent Dorset landowners. In Richard II’s reign he appeared at the Dorchester assizes as attorney for the abbot of Abbotsbury and for Sir Ivo Fitzwaryn*, and in 1385 he acted similarly in Chancery on behalf of Fitzwaryn’s wife, Maud, and the other heirs of Sir John Argentine†. Two years later he joined Sir John Moigne* in supporting Moigne’s father-in-law, John Belvale, who was then facing charges of debt. Cammell may have already been concerned with the administration of the royal forest of Gillingham, near Shaftesbury, of which Belvale was keeper; certainly, a week after the dissolution of his 13th Parliament in 1402 he was appointed with Moigne’s son-in-law, William Stourton* to supervise the sale of ‘rothers’ (old oaks) and also repairs to the lodges in the forest. In 1404 he witnessed the grant of the reversion of Belvale’s manor of Buckhorn Weston to Stourton.5 Perhaps Cammell’s most important dealings concerned the estates of Richard, Lord Poynings (d.1387), during the minority of his heir, Robert. In 1388 he and other mainpernors were bound to pay £100 should Morgan Gogh, lessee of two-thirds of the Poynings estates, default on his payments into the Exchequer; in 1394 he stood surety for Poynings’s widow when custody of the inheritance was transferred to her; and in the same year Sir William Scrope leased to him all the Poynings lands in Sussex, Surrey, Norfolk and Suffolk, for payment of 100 marks p.a. He was also permitted to cull the deer in the Poynings parks. Then, in 1398, he obtained the Exchequer lease of lands in Twineham, Sussex, of which Poynings had been the chief lord. In 1409, after Lord Robert had come of age, Cammell provided assurances to the Somerset bench that he would keep the peace. There may have been some dispute between them later, for in November 1415 Poynings made a formal release of all legal actions against Cammell; but amicable relations were quickly resumed. In the following year Cammell was acting as a feoffee of several Poynings manors and in June 1416 the lord granted him the manor of Durweston and Knighton, Dorset, for the term of 20 years.6

As well as this manor, for which he was obliged to pay an annual rent of £20, Cammell held for life that of Bryanston, rendering Alan Buxhall (son of Maud, countess of Salisbury) £22 13s.4d. a year. During the lifetime of his second wife he also held lands in East Melbury of the inheritance of Elizabeth, wife of Sir John Berkeley I*. In 1412 the annual value of his property in Shaftesbury was assessed at £13 6s.8d. a year, and he was also said to own real estate in London and Bristol worth £5 6s.8d. more. However, the assessors in London reported that he had an annual income of as much as £40.7 He is not recorded after 1416.8

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. JUST 1/1502 m. 215; Dorset Feet of Fines, ii. 277.
  • 2. Shaftesbury Recs. ed. Mayo, 43; Egerton 3155, ff. 36, 46v.
  • 3. Dorset Feet of Fines, ii. 126, 186, 210; CFR, viii. 262; ix. 271.
  • 4. C219/8/10, 10/4, 11/2, 3, 5; CPR, 1385-9, p. 208.
  • 5. JUST 1/1495 mm. 49, 49d, 50d; CFR, x. 104; CCR, 1385-9, p. 69; 1389-92, p. 106; 1402-5, p. 273.
  • 6. CFR, x. 246; xi. 112, 282; CCR, 1405-9, p. 512; 1413-19, pp. 283, 360; 1419-22, p. 122; Winchester Coll. mun. 20217.
  • 7. Egerton 3135, ff. 67, 79; JUST 1/1519 m. 29; CPR, 1405-8, p. 183; Feudal Aids, vi. 420; E179/144/20 m. 7; Dorset Feet of Fines, ii. 277; Arch. Jnl. xliv. 75.
  • 8. He was probably related to John Cammell, who that same year inherited lands in Dorset, Northants. and Surr. (including ‘Cammell’s’ in Shapwick, Dorset, and Burton Plecy, Northants.) as heir general to the Plecy family (CFR, xiv. 157; CCR, 1422-9, p. 228).