BISHOPP, Sir Thomas (1553-1626), of Parham, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press




Family and Education

b. 30 Apr. 1553,1 o.s. of Thomas Bishop† of Henfield and Elizabeth, illegit. da. of Sir Edward Belknap of Blackfriars, London, wid. of Walter Scott of Stapleford Tawney, Essex.2 educ. St. John’s, Oxf. 1562; Clifford’s Inn; I. Temple 1572.3 m. (1) 19 Sept. 1577, Anne, da. of William Cromer† of Tunstall, Kent, s.p.; (2) c.1589, Jane (bur. 24 Jan. 1637), da. of Sir Henry Weston† of Sutton Place, Surr., 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da. suc. fa. 1560;4 kntd. 7 May 1603;5 cr. bt. 24 July 1620.6 d. 26 Nov. 1626.7 sig. Tho[mas] Bisshoppe.

Offices Held

J.p. Suss. 1578-d.;8 sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1584-5, 1601-2;9 capt. militia ft. Suss. c.1585;10 commr. subsidy 1589, c.1603, 1608, 1621-2, 1624,11 recusancy 1592,12 grain 1595,13 sewers, Kent and Suss. 1602-d., Kent 1603-18, Suss. 1604-d.,14 dep. lt. Suss. 1604-d.;15 commr. aid 1609, 1612,16 pressing of seamen 1620, 1623, 1625, 1626,17 oyer and terminer, Home circ. 1624-d.,18 Forced Loan, Suss. 1626.19

Marshal, Christmas feast I. Temple, 1579-81, 1583-9, steward 1590, 1594-1602, 1604-5, 1610, 1612, 1615-16, 1618, 1623, 1626.20


Bishopp’s father, a lawyer of unknown parentage, settled in Sussex as a servant of the jurist Sir William Shelley† of Michelgrove, who secured his return for Gatton in 1542.21 He acquired several manors in the county, and leased a house with a park of 150 acres at Henfield, four miles from Steyning, from the bishop of Chichester.22 Both Bishopp’s parents were Catholics, and though he himself conformed he was criticized in 1582 for leniency in enforcing the recusancy laws. Moreover, his second marriage, about seven years later, was into a Catholic family, and in 1594 an informer accused him of sheltering a recusant.23 Nevertheless, he was closely connected with Buckhurst (Thomas Sackville†), joint lord lieutenant of Sussex, who had been his guardian following the death of his father in 1560. This relationship ensured him a secure position in the county’s administration and probably accounts for his election at Gatton in 1584 and Steyning two years later.24

In 1601 Bishopp purchased the manor of Parham, situated five miles north-east of Arundel, plus other property for £4,500. He subsequently settled at Parham although he had renewed the Henfield lease at about the same time.25 In the autumn of 1603 he joined his former brother-in-law, Henry Shelley I*, in assisting the bishop of Chichester’s investigation into a puritan petition from the Sussex gentry against the enforcement of liturgical ceremonies.26

In 1604 Bishopp was re-elected at Steyning, seven miles from Parham, probably with the support of Buckhurst. He may also have received the help of his parliamentary colleague, Sir Thomas Shirley I, an important local landowner whose wife was subsequently to describe Bishopp as her ‘true and loving friend’.27 He was appointed to 39 committees in the first Jacobean Parliament, but made no recorded speeches. In the 1604 session he was among those appointed on 27 Mar. to consider the problems caused by Shirley’s claim of privilege. His other committees included those for bills for the release and settlement of prisoners (31 Mar.), the preservation of game (25 Apr.), poor relief (4 May), and the reform of abuses in the Exchequer (5 May). He was also among the Members named on 7 May as able to testify to the abuses committed by purveyors. His final appointment of the session, for the bill for the preservation of fry of fish (14 May), may have been the result of his connection with Buckhurst, by now 1st earl of Dorset, whose son, Robert Sackville*, headed the committee list.28

Bishopp was named to consider the purveyance bill in the second session (30 Jan. 1606). He was also among those instructed to consider a further bill about poor relief (23 Jan.) and was also named to the committee established on 19 Mar. to consider measures to prevent illegitimate children becoming a burden on parishes and against drunkenness. His other appointments included committees for bills about the repair of highways (6 Feb.), ecclesiastical government (25 Feb.), and the regulation of parliamentary elections (3 April).29 In the third session Bishopp was named to attend the Union conference of 25 Nov. 1606. Among his legislative committees were those for a further bill for the suppression of drunkenness (8 Dec.), and measures to enable Dorset’s grandson to surrender a reversion to the office of chief butler (28 Mar.), the reform of ‘the abuses of wide and wasteful writing’ of legal copies (12 May), and the confirmation of letters patent (15 May).30

Bishopp’s 13 committees in the fourth session included bills concerning game (22 Mar.) and hawks (29 Mar.), measures to regulate alehouses (31 Mar.), punish the parents of illegitimate children (16 May), and a further bill concerning highways (30 March). He was one of those added by name to the committee to consider the bill against the export of ordnance on 10 May, a measure that was presumably of concern to the Sackvilles, who had interests in the Wealden iron industry.31 He left no trace on the poorly recorded fifth session.

There is no evidence that Bishopp sought re-election to Parliament. In 1620 he negotiated with one Mr. Read, possibly acting as an intermediary for Buckingham, to purchase a baronetcy, presumably for less than the official price of £1,095. The sum must have been at least £600, as this was the amount assigned to satisfy a Crown debtor. However, on 21 June the secretary of state, Sir Robert Naunton*, wrote to inform Buckingham that Read was trying to divert half of the £600 to other directions, and that he had consequently halted the warrant for the baronetcy ‘till I know His Majesty’s pleasure’. Nevertheless, the patent was issued the following month, although Bishopp was not formally discharged of payment until April 1621.32

In early 1622 Bishopp was summoned before the Privy Council to account for his failure to contribute to the Palatine Benevolence, to which he paid £40 in July of that year.33 He was still ‘in good health’ when he made his will in May 1626, in which he instructed his son and executor Sir Edward, who was then sitting for Steyning in the second Caroline Parliament, to settle all his debts, and to make certain payments for which he was responsible as executor to Shirley’s widow. He died on 26 Nov., and was buried, in accordance with his wishes, at Parham.34

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Alan Davidson / Ben Coates


  • 1. Notes of Post Mortem Inquisitions taken in Suss. ed. E.W.T. Attree (Suss. Rec. Soc. xiv), 29.
  • 2. J.W. Fitzwilliam, Parham in Suss. 50-1; HP Commons, 1509-58, i. 436-7; CB, i. 156.
  • 3. Al. Ox.; I. Temple database of admiss.
  • 4. Fitzwilliam, 50-2; E.R. Mores, Hist. and Antiqs. of Tunstall in Kent, 92; H. de Candole, Story of Henfield, 77.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 104.
  • 6. CB, i. 156.
  • 7. Fitzwilliam, 53.
  • 8. Cal. Assize Recs. Suss. Indictments, Eliz. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 134; E163/18/12, f. 80v.
  • 9. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 137.
  • 10. Harl. 703, f. 18.
  • 11. Ibid. f. 1; E179/282/60, rot. 45; SP14/31/1; C212/22/20-1, 23.
  • 12. Harl. 703, f. 67v.
  • 13. Ibid. f. 83.
  • 14. C181/1, ff. 28v, 57, 81; 181/2, f. 320; 181/3, ff. 166, 173.
  • 15. Add. 11402, f. 94; E. Suss. RO, L/C/D/1, f. 28.
  • 16. SP14/43/107; E163/16/21, unfol.
  • 17. APC, 1619-21, p. 248; 1621-3, p. 436; 1625-6, p. 29; 1626, p. 13.
  • 18. C181/3, ff. 111, 208.
  • 19. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 144.
  • 20. CITR, i. 301, 314, 326, 359, 370, 397, 450; ii. 6, 12, 53, 69, 92, 97, 109, 140, 157.
  • 21. HP Commons, 1509-58, i. 436-7.
  • 22. VCH Suss. iv. 157, 167, 216; CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 122; Acts of Dean and Chapter of Cath. Church of Chichester, 1472-1544 ed. W.D. Peckham (Suss. Rec. Soc. lii), 39, 42.
  • 23. VCH Suss. ii. 25; CSP Dom. 1591-4, p. 510; PROB 11/43, f. 387, 11/53, f. 44; R.B. Manning, Religion and Soc. in Eliz. Suss. 245; M.C. Questier, Catholicism and Community in Early Modern Eng. 49-50.
  • 24. HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 439.
  • 25. Fitzwilliam, 49; Acts of the Dean and Chapter of the Cath. Church of Chichester, 1545-1642 ed. W.D. Peckham (Suss. Rec. Soc. lviii), 162.
  • 26. HMC Hatfield, xv. 262.
  • 27. E.P. Shirley, Stemmata Shirleiana, 263.
  • 28. CJ, i. 155b, 160b, 184a, 188a, 199b, 202a, 209a.
  • 29. Ibid. 258b, 262a, 264a, 274a, 286b, 293a.
  • 30. Ibid. 324b, 327b, 356a, 373a, 374a.
  • 31. Ibid. 414a, 416b, 417a, 427a, 429a.
  • 32. Fortescue Pprs. ed. S.R. Gardiner (Cam. Soc. n.s. i), 131-2; SCL, EM 1284(b).
  • 33. SP14/127/71; 14/156/15.
  • 34. PROB 11/151, f. 110; Fitzwilliam, 53.