MARTIN, Thomas (c.1530-83), of Park Pale, Tolpuddle, Dorset.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1530, 2nd s. of Robert Martin of Athelhampton by Elizabeth, da. of Sir John Keilway of Rockbourne, Hants. m. Elizabeth, da. of William Gerard (d.1568) of Trent, Dorset, at least 5s. 3da.1

Offices Held


There is some doubt about the identity of the senior Member for Dorchester in the 1563 Parliament. Several authorities have assumed that Thomas Martin, the civil lawyer and strong supporter of Mary’s religious policies, was the Member in question. He was after all an experienced Commons man, having sat in four Marian Parliaments, and came from Cerne, quite close to Dorchester. Nor would his Catholicism bar him from the House in 1563. But other factors make the identity less likely. Though a Dorset man, Martin seems to have severed his connexions with the county many years earlier and was living in Cambridgeshire. Because of this he would have needed a patron to secure his return. The only outsider who enjoyed any regular parliamentary patronage at Dorchester was the 2nd Earl of Bedford, a leading puritan. It is unlikely, therefore, though not impossible, that Thomas Martin, the civilian, occupied the seat.2

Another Martin family had lived in the Dorchester area since the reign of Edward I or even earlier. By the Tudor period, their principal seat was Athelhampton, enlarged by Sir William Martin into a splendid manor house towards the end of the fifteenth century. Besides this, they owned several manors in Puddletown, Tolpuddle and adjoining parishes. When Robert Martin, the head of the family, died in 1548 he left the bulk of his property to the eldest son Nicholas, but he also remembered his younger children. One of these, the second son Thomas, may have been the Dorchester MP. As well as being among the principal landholders in the district, the Martins owned property in the town itself, and it would be natural for the lord of Athelhampton’s brother to be elected by its burgesses as one of their Members.3

Judging by his will, Robert Martin had been a prosperous sheep farmer, for several thousand animals are mentioned. He left Thomas, who was still a minor, a small income from the estate at Faringdon in Shroton, Dorset, but it was also arranged that he should succeed his uncle, Henry, in the possession of all the Martin lands in the parish of Tolpuddle. As a result the manor house of Park Pale became the home of his branch of the family, and there they remained for nearly a century. Next to nothing is known about Thomas’s life after he settled there. Probably, like his father, he was a sheep farmer. The families into which his own relatives married—the Wallops and Keilways of Hampshire, the Wadhams of Somerset, the Tregonwells—show that he was known to a wide social circle in the west country, and one of his brothers-in-law was Sir George Bingham, killed by the Irish after a stormy career as governor of Sligo. As a younger son, Martin had little to do with local government, though the Privy Council are known to have called on his services on one occasion, in 1581, when he and several other Dorset gentlemen were commissioned to examine two men, Hugh Cheverell and George Martin—perhaps a relative—accused of making slanderous statements about Viscount Bindon. In the will of his brother-in-law, Thomas Gerard, Martin was asked to help supervise his property during the minority of the heir. This was in July 1583, but Martin died in the same year. His burial, in Puddletown church close to many of his relatives, is recorded in the parish register. His brother Nicholas was the last of the Martins to occupy Athelhampton, being succeeded by four daughters, but his own family survived at Park Pale until the estate was seized in 1645 following a charge of recusancy.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: M.R.P.


  • 1. Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 582; Genealogist, n.s. iii. 163-4; Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. xx), 66; Vis. Dorset, Add. ed. Colby and Rylands, 32-3.
  • 2. DNB (Martyn or Martin, Thomas, civilian).
  • 3. W. G. W. Watson, House of Martin, 21; Hutchins, i. 447; ii. 586, 589, 615, 617, 627, 632; C142/88/15; PCC 18 Populwell; CPR, 1549-51, p. 190; 1550-3, p. 45; Dorchester Recs. 320, 326, 332, 334, 338, 358.
  • 4. PCC 18 Populwell, 27 Butts; Hutchins, ii. 623, 632; APC, xiii. 150-1.