CHAFFYN, Thomas I (by 1498-1558), of Salisbury, Wilts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1498, 1st s. of Thomas Chaffyn of Salisbury and Warminster, by Margaret, da. of Richard Erleigh of Wolf Hall. m. by 1519, Scolastica, da. of Thomas Coke I of Salisbury, at least 2s. inc. Thomas II 3da.1

Offices Held

Member of the Forty-Eight, Salisbury 1520, of the Twenty-Four 1523, assessor, New Street ward 1522, auditor 1523, 1528, 1533, 1535-7, 1539-42, 1544, 1546-52, clerk of the recognizance of the statute merchant 1548; ?commr. subsidy 1523, 1524; j.p. 1540; ?escheator, Hants and Wilts. 1547-8; commr. chantries, Wilts. and Salisbury 1548, goods of churches and fraternities, Salisbury 1553.2


Thomas was a baptismal name much favoured by the Chaffyns, and the Member for Salisbury in 1529 had many namesakes among his relatives. The family, originally from Warminster, was divided in the 16th century into two main branches. The first of these had settled in the parish of Mere, at the south-western corner of Wiltshire; a Thomas Chaffyn of Mere, gentleman, died in 1555, leaving a father and son of the same name, and a Thomas Chaffyn the elder died at Zeals Clevedon in the same parish in 1570. The Member came from a cadet line settled at Salisbury. He, too, had a father and a son of the same name and although he is the first of his family described in the visitation of 1623 as a resident of Salisbury, a John Chaffyn of St. Thomas’s parish had died there in 1498 and a Thomas Chaffyn, cardmaker of Warminster, had held property in the city as early as 1417. The Member’s father, another Thomas Chaffyn of Warminster, claimed property there: the date of his death is not known and he may have been the subsidy commissioner between 1512 and 1524, as the Member himself did not begin his civic career until 1520. In 1525 either the Member or his father was assessed for subsidy on goods worth £120 in the Market ward: 12 years later the Member, now Thomas Chaffyn senior, was assessed on goods valued at £180 and in 1550-1 at £100, although in 1552 the rating dropped to £60; none the less, William Webbe II was the only citizen who paid higher taxes in Salisbury throughout this period.3

Chaffyn’s civic career, and perhaps his parliamentary one, were hampered by ill-health. On 16 Oct. 1534 he was discharged from the office of mayor for one year on account of sickness and on payment of £30. Despite a promise that he would later undertake the office ‘if it please God to send him health’, he was again discharged for a year on 27 Sept. 1535 and told that thereafter he could secure permanent release for another £30. Chaffyn took advantage of this concession, making the final instal ment of 56s.8d. ‘in full payment’ of £60 at the end of October 1536, when it was agreed that ‘he shall be in the company of the mayors and go in the order as though he had been mayor next unto Mr. Webbe’. It may well have been on the score of ill-health that Chaffyn, unlike his fellow-Member William Webbe, was not re-elected in 1536, despite the general directive for the return of the previous Members. Of his activity in the Commons there are two glimpses: his name follows Webbe’s on a list thought to be of Members opposed on religious or economic grounds to the bill to restrain appeals enacted in 1533; and in a letter wrongly ascribed to 1530 but undoubtedly written in mid 1536 Chaffyn informed Cromwell that he had asked a fellow-citizen to wait upon the minister as desired by him ‘in the Parliament house’.4

Sickness did not keep him from heading local opposition to the reformer Nicholas Shaxton, consecrated bishop of Salisbury on 22 Feb. 1535, over episcopal rights in the city. In 1537 the bishop complained to Cromwell that ‘this busybody Chaffyn’ had interrupted a hearing of their dispute by telling the justice of assize that, whatever they might decide, the city would sue to Cromwell; no sentence had then been given and Chaffyn had continued to usurp the bishop’s liberties, by discharging his prisoners, claiming that Salisbury was the King’s city and abusing Shaxton as a heretic. He also imprisoned one of the bishop’s serjeants, who sued him in Chancery, and Shaxton himself brought an action for detention of deeds; the court ordered that Chaffyn, being ‘impotens’, should be examined in Wiltshire, after which the defendant replied that the case had only been brought through the malice of John Goodale, the bishop’s under bailiff. Goodale himself informed Cromwell in February 1538 that Chaffyn was one of a group of merchants breaking the regulations against the export of gold. Whereas Chaffyn survived all these attacks, Shaxton was forced to resign his see in the following year after the passage of the Six Articles.5

The dispute between the citizens of Salisbury and Shaxton arose as much from the long-standing issue of civic independence as from religious incompatibility. Chaffyn was therefore not necessarily devoted to the old order, although his will opens with the traditional bequest of his soul to God, the Virgin Mary and the saints. On the other hand the good relations which he cultivated with Cromwell do not imply that he was a reformer; as a champion of local liberties he would seek to invoke the authority of the King against the bishop, whoever that might be. Towards the end of his life Chaffyn seems to have challenged the government of Mary by refusing to subscribe to a loan, for on 24 Aug. 1556 he was ordered to send £100 or appear to defend himself before the Privy Council. It was probably his son or one of the Chaffyns of Mere who was elected to Parliament for Heytesbury in November 1554; the return throws no light on this, but the younger Chaffyn is known to have sat for Salisbury in 1555.6

Thomas Chaffyn, styled ‘the elder’ and a mercer, made his will on 5 May 1558. After asking for burial in ‘the grave the lady anchoress was buried ... next to my pew’ in St. Thomas’s church, Salisbury, and remembering the poor, he provided for his surviving children and for the discharge of his debts. His ‘eldest’ and ‘youngest’ sons, both of them called Thomas, were appointed executors, with John Hooper as overseer, and the will was proved on 28 Oct. 1558.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Salisbury corp. ledger B, f. 244; Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv, cvi), 36; PCC 10 Bodfelde, 64 Noodes; Churchwardens’ Accts. of St. Edmund and St. Thomas, Sarum (Wilts. Rec. Soc. 1896), 273.
  • 2. Ledger B, ff. 244-308v passim; Statutes, iii. 80, 113; LP Hen. VIII, iii, xv, xxi; E179/197/154; CPR, 1548-9, p. 135; 1550-3, p. 396.
  • 3. PCC 37 More, 35 Lyon, 28 Horne; Wards 7/13/59; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxix. 323-4; xxxvii. 554, 556; Req. 2/11/184; C1/382/6, 1151/33-36; St.Ch.3/1/45; 4/5/10; Churchwardens’ Accts. of St. Edmund and St. Thomas, Sarum, 24; C. Haskins, Anct. Trade Guilds and Companies of Salisbury, 308; Ledger B, f. 244; LP Hen. VIII, iii; E122/121/8, 207/2; 179/197/154, 240; 198/256, 260, 262.
  • 4. HMC Var. iv. 217; Ledger B, ff. 277v, 280, 282; LP Hen. VIII, iv; ix, 1077 citing SP1/99, p. 234.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, vi, xii, xiii; C1/890/1-4, 924/26; Elton, Policy and Police, 103-4; VCH Wilts. vi. 103.
  • 6. PCC 64 Noodes; APC, v. 335.
  • 7. PCC 64 Noodes; LP Hen. VIII, xxi.