PURFREY, Thomas (c.1556-c.91), of Wells and Banwell, Som.

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.1556, s. of William Purfrey ?of Hollingbourne, Kent or of Shalston, Bucks. m. Blandina, da. of Thomas Godwyn, bp. of Bath and Wells.

Offices Held

Freeman, Wells 1588; bailiff of liberty of Wells 1590.


Purfrey owed his parliamentary seat for Wells, and his eventual disgrace, to his connexion with Bishop Godwyn, who had himself married a Purfrey (though perhaps of a different branch of the family). Immediately upon his marriage to the bishop’s daughter he identified himself with Thomas Godwyn, the bishop’s eldest son, and they proceeded to milk the old man and the diocese of all they could. In 1590 Purfrey was appointed bailiff of the liberty of Wells, after the bishop had exerted pressure on the dean and chapter. The grant was conditional upon its not being re-assigned to a Wells burgess and upon Purfrey’s taking an oath to uphold the liberties of the bishop. Purfrey entered into a bond of £100 to secure the observance of these articles. When on the bishop’s death the relations removed his goods, Purfrey’s wife took the carpets and clothes, except for something left ‘for a colour that the sheriff might find something’ when he came to make his inquisition. Purfrey himself had appropriated the box containing ‘treasure’, finding, however, only three silver crowns, 5s. of white money, one piece of gold and three seals, instead of the £500 he and Godwyn expected and needed to pay the moneylenders. In November 1590 an Exchequer commission was appointed to investigate the estate, and the leases and lands were confiscated. Purfrey, however, had in the meantime joined Sir Walter Ralegh’s settlers at Youghal, where he died about 1591.

Browne Willis, Bucks. 262-3; Hasted, Kent, v. 464; Farnham and Herbert, Trans. Leics. Arch. Soc. xiv(1), 88; P. M. Hembry, ‘Bishops of Bath and Wells’ (London Univ. PhD. thesis 1956); HMC Wells, ii. 311, 312, 318-20; Wells Charters (Som. Rec. Soc. xlvi), 190; C2/W18/50; C3/262/7; Proc. Som. Arch. Nat. Hist. Soc. xcvi. 78-107.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Irene Cassidy