WALSINGHAM, Sir Thomas (1561-1630), of Scadbury, Chislehurst, Kent.

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. 1561, s. of Thomas Walsingham. m. Etheldreda or Audrey (d.1631), da. of Sir Ralph Shelton of Norf., 1s. suc. bro. Edmund 1589.1 Kntd. 1597.

Offices Held

J.p. Kent from c.1592, dep. lt. 1595, commr. musters Apr. 1597; keeper, Eltham park 1600; chief keeper of the Queen’s wardrobe 1603; warden of Rochester bridge 1615.2


By his father’s will Walsingham was left an annuity of £24 from Croydon vicarage, to be followed after seven years by another of £50 from Burwell, Cambridgeshire and elsewhere. Five years later he inherited the family estates on the death of his brother Edmund. These, which had been built up by the family from the reign of Edward III, included Scadbury and lands in Chislehurst, St. Paul’s Cray, Footscray, St. Mary Cray, North Cray, Eltham, Mottingham, Lee, Orpington, Bromley and Bexley. But they were heavily encumbered both by his father’s debts and by the generous provisions of his will.3

Walsingham was a patron of literature; the playwright Christopher Marlowe was his servant and was living with him in May 1593 when summoned before the Privy Council for atheism. In 1598 Marlowe’s posthumous poem, Hero and Leander, was dedicated to Walsingham by his publisher, ‘knowing that in his lifetime you bestowed on him many kind favours’. The poem was completed by George Chapman, who also enjoyed Walsingham’s patronage.4

From about 1594 there are numerous references to Walsingham as an official in Kent. In November 1596, during the preparations for defence against the second Armada, he and five other captains were ordered to conduct men to Upnor castle, to man boom defence ships across the Medway. In July 1597 the Queen visited him at Scadbury, where she planted oak and fig trees which survived to the present century. Perhaps as a result of her visit, Walsingham obtained a lease of the manor of Dartford, together with lands in Chislehurst, Peckham and Mereworth, known as Richmond’s lands, which had previously been held by his father and brother successively. It was also, presumably, at this time that he received his knighthood.5

Described in 1603 as one of Rochester’s ‘principal friends’, Walsingham played no prominent part in the proceedings of either of the Elizabethan Parliaments to which he was returned by the borough. However, as a Rochester burgess he was put on the monopolies committee, 10 Nov. 1597. By September 1598, when he was appointed a commissioner in Kent to apprehend rogues, vagabonds and highwaymen marauding in the city of London, he must have been familiar with the problems of vagabondage—an issue dealt with at length in the 1597 Parliament. During the last few years of Elizabeth’s reign he became steadily more influential in his county, taking part, for example, in the negotiations for the 1598 Kent by-election, and intriguing for the keepership of Eltham park before (Sir) William Brooke was cold in his grave. He obtained the reversion to this post in 1599 and the office itself on the death of Lord North in December 1600. In 1599 he exchanged gifts with the Queen. Sir Thomas, who about this time became an honorary member of Gray’s Inn, was occasionally employed on ceremonial duties, such as meeting the French ambassador, Biron, when he arrived at Dover in the autumn of 1601; but most of the references to him until 1603 are still concerned with his regular county duties.6

In 1603 Walsingham and his wife walked in Elizabeth’s funeral procession, and early in the new reign Lady Walsingham accompanied Anne of Denmark from Scotland to London. This led to the joint appointment of husband and wife as keepers of the Queen’s wardrobe. Walsingham died in August 1630, between making his will on the 5th and its proof on the 25th. Most of his lands were bequeathed to his son Thomas, whom he advised to ‘lessen his household’. He left 20 marks to the poor of Chislehurst, money to his servants, and a £1,000 dowry to his grand-daughter Katherine. His funeral expenses amounted to £300 and his debts to over £3,000.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: R.C.G.


  • 1. E. A. Webb, G. W. Miller and J. Beckwith, Hist. Chislehurst, 112, 137, 420.
  • 2. PRO Index 4208, ff. 78, 246; APC, xxvii. 109; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 341; 1603-10, p. 79; F. F. Smith, Rochester in Parl. 106.
  • 3. PCC 6 Watson; Hst. Chislehurst, 111-12, 137, 143; Hasted, Kent, ii. 7, 8, 15, 18, 88, 130-8 passim, 393, 498, 499.
  • 4. APC, xxii, 244; J. L. Hotson, Death of Christopher Marlowe, 10, 48-9; E. K. Chambers, Eliz. Stage, iii. 252, 257.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1595-7, 306; APC, xxvii. 109, 298, 308; Chambers, iv. 110; HMC Hatfield, vii. 331; Hist. Chislehurst, 138; Hasted, ii. 6.
  • 6. K. M. E. Murray, Const. Hist. Cinque Ports, 98; HMC Hatfield, vii. 484; D’Ewes, 555; APC, xxix. 142; xxxii. 190, 213, 257, 289; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 341; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, ii. 413; Nichols, Progresses Eliz. iii. 453, 463, 591.
  • 7. LC 2/4/4; Hist. Chislehurst, 137, 140-1, 144-5, 420; Chamberlain Letters ed. McClure, i. 516; PCC 70 Scroope; Kent AO, U. 119. A.2.