WOODHOUSE, Sir Thomas (by 1514-72), of Waxham and Great Yarmouth, Norf.

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 1514, 1st s. of John Woodhouse of Waxham by Alice, da. of William Croftes of Wyston; bro. of Sir William. educ. ?L. Inn, adm. 12 Mar. 1525. m. Margaret, da. of William Stubbert, wid. of one Wymer of Scottow, s.p.; 1da. illegit. suc. fa. prob. by 1533. Kntd. 10 Nov. 1549.1

Offices Held

Escheator, Norf. and Suff. 1535-6; collector subsidy, Norf. 1540; j.p. 1542-54, q. 1558/59-d.; jt. v.-adm. Norf. and Suff. 1543-d.; commr. of Admiralty in Nov. 1547, relief, Norf. 1550; sheriff, Norf. and Suff. 1553-4, 1563-4.2


Thomas Woodhouse came of a Norfolk family related only distantly, if at all, to that established at Kimberley. Little trace has been found of his early career but he may be presumed to have augmented his modest patrimony by becoming a merchant and shipowner. From 1542 he was busily and lucratively engaged, generally in partnership with Thomas Waters, as victualler of royal armies and garrisons at home and abroad. Although at one time the Privy Council suspected him of giving ‘overmuch regard’ to ‘his own commodities’, no serious charges against Woodhouse of either inefficiency or malpractice have survived. In 1542 one Henry Dowe of Friesland accused him of buying a ship from pirates who had stolen it from Dowe and of refusing the rightful owner any redress, and in 1546 the Council ordered him and Robert Turcok of Waxham to appear before the commissioners inquiring into the losses from piracy of ‘subjects of both sides’.3

The yield of his various enterprises Woodhouse invested in land. In 1533, when he wrote to Cromwell from Waxham asking that a summons to appear before the Council should be respited, he probably owned only the manor of Waxham and properties in Stalham and neighbouring parishes, but between the Dissolution and 1550 he made extensive acquisitions on and near the coast. In 1546 he paid over £1,400 for Bromholm priory and its possessions, and two years later added £1,000 worth of chantry lands in Norfolk. His inquisition post mortem lists over 20 manors and other properties in that county.4

Woodhouse’s growing importance on land and at sea was reflected in his official progress: he became successively escheator, justice of the peace, vice-admiral and sheriff. Himself inclined towards Protestantism, he appears to have accommodated himself without difficulty to each regime. During Ket’s rebellion he and Sir Thomas Clere successfully defended Yarmouth against attack. After the rebellion had been suppressed he informed the Council through his brother that, while his neighbours were clamouring for redress, he had not sought compensation for his heavy losses of sheep, cattle and corn and that all he asked was to be put on the commission of oyer and terminer ‘that I be not forgotten, for then I shall lose my credit in the county’. Although this plea does not seem to have prevailed, the knighthood conferred on Woodhouse in the following November must have solaced him. But for his brother’s superior claim Woodhouse would probably have been elected for Yarmouth to the second Edwardian Parliament. As it was, the appearance of his name, accompanied by the note ‘to stand for Yarmouth’, on a list of men in different counties dating from 1553 and thought to be of those expected to rally support for Queen Jane, implies that the Duke of Northumberland looked to him to secure that port, of which Northumberland was high steward. There is nothing to suggest that Woodhouse declared for Jane, and his choice as Mary’s first sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk shows that the new government trusted him. He continued to serve it throughout the reign and with the coming of war in 1557 he was put in charge of the defence of Yarmouth. His ascendancy in the town doubtless smoothed his election to the Parliaments of 1558 and 1559, in both of which his brother found seats elsewhere, although he probably shared the support given to his fellow-Member William Barker by the 4th Duke of Norfolk, to whom on the first occasion he was charged by the town to report his election.5

Woodhouse died on 21 Jan. 1572 leaving only an illegitimate daughter, and his heir was his brother’s son Henry Woodhouse.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first office. Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 320-1; LP Hen. VIII, vi.
  • 2. E179/150/293; Norf. Rec. Soc. i. 7; LP Hen. VIII, xvii, xviii, xx; CPR, 1547-8, p. 87; 1553, p. 357; 1554-5, p. 56; HCA 14/2, 25/1, 5; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 22; EHR, xxiii. 747.
  • 3. Bronnen tot de Geschiedenis van den Handel met Engeland, Schotland en Ierland, ed. Smit, ii. 812; APC, i. 123, 325; ii. 78, 207; vi. 109; LP Hen. VIII, xvii.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, vi, xx; CPR, 1548-9, p. 112, 1549-51, p. 322; 1550-3, p. 29; 1553, p. 401; 1554-5 passim; Blomefield, Norf. i. 459; ii. 191, 534, 552; v. 56; ix. 334, 342, 352; xi. 75; C142/161/116.
  • 5. Cam. Misc. ix(3), 58; F. W. Russell, Kett’s Rebellion, 46, 151-3; W. K. Jordan, Edw. VI, ii. 491; H. Manship, Gt. Yarmouth, 88-89, 92, 147, 156 seq., 259, 325; Lansd. 103, ff. 1-2; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 22, 141; APC, vi. 109; Add. 23012, p. 69; Gt. Yarmouth ass. bk. A, ff. 19v, 32v, 104v, 113v, 115, 115v, 150, 180, 213; A. H. Smith, County and Ct. 38.
  • 6. C142/161/116; Pevsner, N.-E. Norf. and Norwich, 338.