BELL, Thomas (1485/86-1566), of Gloucester.
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Family and Education
b. 1485/86. m. Joan (d. 12 June 1567), 1s. Kntd. 22 Feb. 1547.3
Sheriff, Gloucester 1522-3, 1526-7, 1529-30, alderman by 1533-d., mayor 1535-6, 1543-4, 1553-4, master of the guild of Holy Trinity 1545-6, coroner 1552-3; commr. goods of churches and fraternities 1553; j.p. Glos. 1554.4
The defaced inscription on Thomas Bell’s funeral monument recorded: Thrice with free voice eke hath this town allowed This worthy man a mayor’s room to wield, And thrice him called in Parliament to sit.Although this was correct about the number of Bell’s mayoralties, he had served in Parliament for Gloucester on four occasions, if not five. It may have been either he or his younger brother of the same name, from whom he is usually distinguishable, who sat in 1539, when the chancery official who listed the names of those approached in connexion with the subsidy omitted to style the two Members for Gloucester, but the elder one’s seniority in municipal appointments (it was only in 1534 that the younger was made sheriff, and only in 1540 that he became an alderman) makes it likely that he sat on that occasion also. Some confusion between the two brothers has also resulted from the elder’s choice of the younger’s daughter, with her husband Thomas Denys, as his heirs when his own son died without issue.5
Thomas Bell the elder, whose early career is obscure, was a prosperous clothier; in the claustral buildings of the Blackfriars, Southgate Street, granted to him on 21 July 1539 and then converted into a residence (Bell’s Place) for himself, he set up a manufactory which specialized in cap production. In 1544 and 1548 he acquired property from augmentations, on the second occasion together with Richard Duke. Bell leased lands in and around Gloucester from the crown, which benefited by loans from him. In 1544 he was assessed for the subsidy on lands worth £70.6
During 1536 he expressed concern at the bishop of Worcester’s handling of seditious preachers. The bishop’s defenders asserted that Bell had called him a heretic. When eventually Bell was summoned to London in 1537, Nicholas Arnold hoped that Wriothesley’s arbitration would ‘defend true preachers from such ungodly people’ as Bell, who was alleged to have boasted of trimming the bishop by means of bills preferred to the 3rd Duke of Norfolk and Parliament. Shortly afterwards he was entrusted with correspondence for Cromwell.7
Soon after receiving a pardon from the crown Bell made a will dated 20 Sept. 1559 which contained a number of charitable bequests, including the endowment of an almshouse, the residents of which were to assemble daily to say five paternosters and a creed, as well as provision for his wife and relatives. He died on 26 May 1566 and was buried in the church of St. Mary de Crypt contrary to his wish to be buried in the Lady chapel of the cathedral.8
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard
- 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
- 2. Gloucester Guildhall 1375, ff. 124v-7; Hatfield 207.
- 3. Aged 80 at death according to MI. Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 17; Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. Trans. xxxi. 214-15.
- 4. T. D. Fosbroke, Gloucester (1819), 208; LP Hen. VIII , xv; CPR, 1550-3, p. 397; 1553, pp. 361, 416; 1553-4, pp. 19-27; 1554-5, p. 106; Gloucester Guildhall 1300.
- 5. Fosbroke, 165; Fuller, Worthies, i. 566; Gloucester consist. ct. wills 1561, 1566; Gloucester Guildhall 1300; 1375, f. 28v.
- 6. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. Trans. xxx. 119; liv. 167-202; lxxxii. 168-74; LP Hen. VIII, xiv, xix; CPR, 1548-9, p. 40; DKR, ix. 166; Arch. Jnl. xxxix. 296-306; Gloucester consist. ct. wills 1566; E179/114/245.
- 7. LP Hen. VIII, x, xii, xiii; G. R. Elton, Policy and Police, 30-31, 36-37, 121-2.
- 8. CPR, 1558-60, p. 173; Gloucester consist. ct. wills 1566; Fosbroke, 165.