PALMER, Thomas (by 1520-82), of Parham, Suss.

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



Mar. 1553
Oct. 1553
Apr. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1520, 1st s. of Robert Palmer of London and Parham by 1st w. Bridget, da. and coh. of John Wesse or West of Millington, Yorks. m. (1) Bridget or Griselda da. of John Caryll of Warnham, Suss., 3da.; (2) by 1557, Catherine, da. of Sir Edward Stradling of St. Donats, Glam., 1 or 2s. suc. fa. May 1544. Kntd. 2 Oct. 1553.1

Offices Held

J.p. Suss. 1547-61, q. 1562-d.; commr. relief 1550, musters, Chichester 1580; other commissions Suss. 1554-65; collector for loan 1562; sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1559-60; dep. lt. Suss. 1569-82.2


Thomas Palmer’s father, an offspring of the family of Angmering, Sussex, bought the manor of Parham in 1540 and established a branch there. Palmer’s early career is not easily disentangled from those of several namesakes. If his age was correctly stated at his father’s inquisition he cannot have been the entrant of 1528 at Gray’s Inn, but he was probably the servant of Cromwell’s who carried letters to France and Calais in 1539 and who went to Winchester to hear a suspect preacher. He served in the Boulogne campaign of 1544 under his future master the 12th Earl of Arundel and alongside his cousin Sir Henry Palmer. His succession to Parham, and his purchase of two manors once the property of Holy Trinity college, Arundel, were followed by his appointment to the bench in 1547. His religious conservatism notwithstanding, he was to retain his place on it for the rest of his life. He was admitted to the Mercers’ Company in 1555.3

Palmer was clearly prepared to conform, but it was to the Earl of Arundel that he looked for immunity in times of stress and of advantage during the happier reign of Mary. In August 1553 Arundel sued to the Queen for Palmer’s lease of a large area of marsh in east Sussex, and in 1555 the earl, as master forester of Petworth honor, appointed him keeper of River park and of all lodges in the honor; later in the reign Palmer bought Lurgashall manor and the lordship of Donnington, both of which formed part of the honor. He and Sir Thomas Stradling acted for Arundel in a land transaction, and during the earl’s absence at Calais in 1555 they managed his affairs: by 1557 he and Stradling had become brothers-in-law.4

It was as Arundel’s nominee that Palmer sat in Parliament. The earl was released from his imprisonment as a supporter of the Protector Somerset in time to nominate Members for the Parliament of March in 1553, which Palmer sat for Arundel. His kinship with the Duke of Northumberland’s henchman Sir Thomas Palmer may explain why a Catholic like Palmer was a Member of this hostile House. Re-elected to its more congenial successor, he was knighted by the earl, who had beyond lord steward of the Household, three days before the Parliament opened, although the return of 23 Sept. had styled him knight. Unlike his fellow-Member, the Norfolk lawyer Thomas Gawdy II, he did not oppose the initial measures towards reunion with Rome; nothing is known of his attitude towards the Act confirming the attainder of his dead cousin (1 Mary st. 2, c.16). Six months later he achieved his only knighthood of the shire, but for the three remaining Parliaments of the reign he was evidently passed over in favour of other clients of the earl. His last appearance was in 1559 for Guildford, a town of which Arundel was high steward.5

Adjudged by Bishop Barlow in 1564 a ‘faint furtherer’ of religion, Palmer was unharmed by the subsequent misadventures of Arundel, and from 1569 he was a deputy lieutenant. He began to build Parham House in 1577 but did not live to see its completion, dying on or about 14 Apr. 1582. In the will which he had made on 24 Feb. 1580 he left small bequests to Parham church and Chichester cathedral, and to his sons-in-law John Leeds and Sir Thomas Palmer. His lands and goods were divided between his wife and the 28 year-old son and heir William.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: R. J.W. Swales


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/70/46. Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 25; PCC 12 Pynnyng; Comber, Suss. Genealogies (Horsham), 45; Suss. Rec. Soc. xix. 166.
  • 2. CPR, 1547-8, p. 90; 1553, p. 359; 1553-4, pp. 24, 28, 37; 1554-5, p. 110; 1563-6, pp. 27, 38, 40, 42; Osborn coll. Yale Univ. Lib. 71.6.41; SP12/6, f. 133; APC, vii. 283; xii. 8; J.E. Mousley, ‘Suss. country gentry in the reign of Eliz.’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1956), 641.
  • 3. Mousley, 621; D. G. C. Elwes and C. J. Robinson, Castles, Mansions and Manors of W. Suss. 164; Suss. Arch. Colls. xxv. 18, 20; LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xiv, xix, xxi; List of mercers (T/S Mercers’ Hall), 381.
  • 4. APC, iv. 329; CPR, 1554-5, p. 305; 1555-7, p. 251; 1557-8, pp. 51, 370, 380; Harl. 606, f. 65; 608, f. 57v.
  • 5. C219/21/151.
  • 6. Cam. Misc. ix(3), 9; VCH Suss. ii. 25, 26; APC, x. 50; HMC 6th Rep. 345; R. B. Manning, Rel. and Soc. in Eliz. Suss. 79, 82-90, 92-94, 100; Nairn and Pevsner, Suss. 290-2; C142/197/60; PCC 18 Tirwhite.