WILLOUGHBY, Thomas (d. bef. 1596), of Bore Place, 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

1st s. of Robert Willoughby of Bore Place by Dorothy, da. of Sir Edward Willoughby of Wollaton, Notts. educ. ?Magdalene, Camb., matric. pens. Easter 1551; L. Inn 30 Apr. 1558. m. (1) Catherine, da. of Sir Percival Hart of Lullingstone, Kent, 6s. inc. Percival 5da.; (2) Mary, 4ch.1

Offices Held

J.p. Kent from 1569, sheriff 1573-4, 1590-1; j.p. Suss. from 1592.


The identity of the Member for Downton in 1593 is uncertain. Although it is tempting to connect him with the well-known house of Willoughby of Knoyle and Baverstock, Wiltshire, the only Thomas belonging to that family at this time, a younger son of Henry Willoughby of Knoyle Odierne, was too young (his elder brother was only 16 in November 1591) and probably of too little account to have found a seat in the Parliament of 1593. Nor does Thomas Willoughby of Netherton, Worcestershire, and Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, appear to have any connexion which might have led to his return for Downton. Whoever he was, as one of the burgesses for Downton, he could have sat on a committee appointed to consider cloth, 15 Mar. 1593.2

The identification adopted here is suggested by the pattern of representation at Downton during these years. Between 1584 and 1589 this pattern is two-fold; whereas one of the seats went on two occasions to a client of the bishop of Winchester, and once to a local squire, the other appears to have been at the disposition of Thomas Wilkes, clerk of the council, and since 1582 lessee of Downton parsonage. In 1584 and 1586 Wilkes himself sat, but in 1589, when Wilkes was returned for Southampton, he made room at Downton for Lawrence Tomson, secretary to Sir Francis Walsingham, Wilkes’s own patron. In 1593 Wilkes again sat for Southampton and he may well have expected to wield some influence at Downton; but by then Walsingham was dead, and the 2nd Earl of Pembroke, who in the 1570s had secured the return of at least two of the Members for Downton, probably took the opportunity of reasserting his influence there, as he was to do in 1597 and his successor the 3rd Earl was to do in 1601.

Thomas Willoughby of Kent is likely to have been acceptable both to the Earl and to Wilkes. At Bore Place and Chiddingstone he was a near neighbour of the Sidneys of Penhurst, with whom his relationship was close and friendly. In 1577-8 he sold lands at Penshurst to Sidney for £1,876 10s., and it was at Willoughby’s London house that Sir Henry Sidney, who described it to his wife as ‘a fine lodging’, was to stay when in London in January 1595. Since Sidney was Pembroke’s father-in-law and a frequent visitor to Wilton, he could well have commended his neighbour to the Earl. With the Pembroke country and circle Willoughby already had a connexion through the marriage, about 1560, of his cousin Margaret to Sir Matthew Arundell, who had been the 1st Earl’s ward and who held Wardour castle by fealty from the second. But Willoughby must also have been well known to Wilkes through their common allegiance to Walsingham. Although there is nothing in the suggestion, which arises from a confusion of pedigrees, that his father was a comrade in exile of Walsingham’s, Thomas Willoughby became connected by marriage with Walsingham and he had dealings with the secretary, both officially, as when in September 1585 he was examining suspects in Kent, and privately, as when in August 1582 he was a godfather, with Lady Dorothy Walsingham, at a baptism at Edenbridge.3

Grandson of a lord chief justice, grandson-in-law of a chief baron, and himself a member of Lincoln’s Inn, Willoughby may have combined legal practice with his interests and duties as a landowner and local official. The town house where Sidney lodged and Willoughby himself, probably on his deathbed, was to add a codicil to his will, stood in Lincoln’s Inn Fields (some details of its rooms appear in a lease of its top storey made by Willoughby in July 1595); and his third son, another Thomas, entered the Middle Temple in 1586. The will was proved on 5 July 1596.4

Willoughby’s first marriage, to Catherine Hart, had been fruitful of children. The firstborn son, named Percival after one of his grandfathers, emulated the other by marrying a Willoughby of Wollaton; he settled in Nottinghamshire, which he represented in the Parliament of 1604, and disposed of his Kentish patrimony.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: S. T. Bindoff


  • 1. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. lxxv), 48-9; Al. Cant. iv(1), p. 423; L. Inn Adm. Reg. i. 64; PCC 53 Drake.
  • 2. Al. Ox. 1651; CPR, 1566-9, pp. 355, 406; Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. Trans. xvii. 133; D’Ewes, 501.
  • 3. HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, i. 14, 250; ii. 157-8; Vis. Kent, loc. cit.; Pembroke Survey (Roxburghe Club), p. xlvii; Chanc. II/237/79; Arch. Cant. xlviii. 256, 287; CSP Dom. 1581-90, pp. 267, 269.
  • 4. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. xlii), 144; PCC 53 Drake; MT. Admissions, i. 286.
  • 5. Hasted, Kent, iii. 221.