LUTTRELL, Thomas (1583-1644), of Dunster Castle, Som.
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Family and Education
bap. 26 Feb. 1583,1 1st s. of George Luttrell of Dunster Castle and his 1st w. Joan, da. of Hugh Stukeley of Marsh, Som.2 educ. Lincoln Coll. Oxf. 1597, BA 1599, MA 1602; L. Inn 1604.3 m. 15 May 16214 (with £3,000),5 Jane (d.1668), da. of Sir Francis Popham* of Littlecote, Wilts., 4s. (2 d.v.p.), 1da.6 suc. fa. 1629.7 bur. 7 Feb. 1644.8
Commr. swans, W. Country 1629,9 j.p. Som. 1629-at least 1640,10 dep. lt. 1629-at least 1640,11 sheriff 1631-2,12 treas. of hospitals 1633-4,13 commr. sewers 1634, 1641,14 improve navigation on River Tone, Som. 1638,15 assessment, Som. 1641-2.16
Seated originally at Gamston, Nottinghamshire, the Luttrell family established its Somerset line in the thirteenth century, when the manor of East Quantoxhead was acquired through marriage. A further fortunate union in the late 1300s brought the Luttrells the honour of Dunster and the nearby manor of Minehead. Resident thereafter at Dunster Castle, they became the dominant landowners in that part of Somerset, consolidating their position in the 1550s, when yet another heiress brought them extensive property in the Withycombe area.17
The Luttrells’ association with Parliament dated from 1363. Initially they sat for Devon, on the basis of estates in that county which were sold in the mid-sixteenth century. However, once Minehead began to return Members in 1563, their local dominance ensured that they were regularly elected there instead. Luttrell’s grandfather, father and uncle represented the borough five times between that first election and 1589, and the family exercised patronage on at least another five occasions during Elizabeth’s reign.18 Nevertheless, this pattern all but ended in the 1590s, as relations between Minehead and Luttrell’s father George became increasingly acrimonious. At the start of the seventeenth century George persuaded the Crown to cancel the town’s charter, on the grounds that the harbour there was not being maintained, in breach of the original terms of incorporation.19 George even attempted to terminate Minehead’s franchise, preventing the election indenture from being sent up to Westminster in 1614, and endeavouring to convince the Commons in 1621 that the rescinding of the charter had also deprived the borough of its two seats.20 At the same time, and presumably in the hope of some long-term financial advantage, he constructed a new harbour at his own expense to replace the defective one.21
Little is known of Luttrell’s early life beyond his lengthy education. He was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn in 1604 at the request of one of the benchers, John Pyne, which suggests that strong ties existed between the Luttrells and one of the West Country’s more prominent puritan families. His wife came from a similarly godly background, and the couple regularly absented themselves from church, presumably objecting to some Anglican ceremonial. In November 1623 Luttrell was finally excommunicated for non-attendance, and apparently conformed thereafter.22 By 1625 the new Minehead harbour had been completed, and relations between the town and its erstwhile patrons finally improved again. The revival of the family’s political influence over the borough was confirmed by Luttrell’s election to the first Caroline Parliament. However, he left no mark on the Commons’ proceedings, and is not known to have stood again.23
In 1629 Luttrell succeeded to his patrimony, which consisted primarily of seven manors in north-west Somerset.24 He had received his first local government appointment only a few months earlier, but quickly emerged as a vigorous Somerset magistrate. In September of that year he was chosen to help supervise the ‘transporting of a great number of Irish people’ from the port of Minehead. He was also closely associated with the settling of illegitimate or displaced children in the surrounding area.25 In 1634 he was among 25 local j.p.s who signed a petition protesting that the recent government declaration restoring ‘wakes and revels’ had resulted in ‘profanation of the Lord’s day’ and ‘disorderly assemblies of church ales’.26 However, his own conduct as a magistrate was not beyond reproach, and around a year later he was sued in Star Chamber for allegedly accepting a bribe to allow a prisoner to escape.27
In the spring and summer of 1640 Luttrell was one of only three Somerset deputy lieutenants who actively mobilized soldiers to serve in the Second Bishops’ War, though he complained of the contradictory instructions that he received from the government.28 At Minehead’s elections for the Long Parliament, he successfully nominated his son Alexander, and his father-in-law, Sir Francis Popham.29 In June 1642 Luttrell committed to the town’s gaol the Laudian bishop of St. David’s, Roger Manwaring, who had been captured while trying to escape to Ireland.30 Like Popham, Luttrell sided with Parliament at the outset of the Civil War, establishing a garrison at Dunster Castle, and causing the rudders to be removed from the ships in Minehead harbour, to prevent retreating royalists from escaping to Wales. In May 1643, he arranged for the transporting of provisions from Minehead to the Protestant forces in Ireland, and urged his nephew George Trevelyan to abandon his opposition to the parliamentarian cause.31 Nevertheless, just a month later, following the fall of Taunton and Bridgwater to royalist forces, Luttrell was persuaded by his cousin Francis Wyndham to surrender Dunster, which was widely regarded as being too strong to take by force.32
Luttrell died early in the following year, with his castle still in royalist hands, and was buried at Dunster.33 In his will, written on 25 Oct. 1643, he expressed ‘full assurance of eternal joys’, and requested that his eldest son George be ‘religiously brought up and virtuously bestowed in marriage’. He bequeathed £50 to the local poor, for them to be set on work, and assigned his only daughter a £2,000 dowry. The bulk of his lands were left to his eldest son, George, but he also assigned some properties to his younger son, Francis, who subsequently succeeded to the entire estate, and sat for Somerset and Minehead between 1656 and 1666.34
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: George Yerby / Paul Hunneyball
- 1. Som. RO, DD/L, 2/35/3.
- 2. J. Collinson, Hist. and Antiqs. of Som. ii. 12.
- 3. Al. Ox.; LI Admiss.
- 4. Som. RO, DD/L, 2/35/3.
- 5. Ibid. DD/L/P, 3/4.
- 6. Ibid. DD/L, 2/35/3; 2/47/21; Collinson, ii. 12-13.
- 7. Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. n.s. xl), 101.
- 8. H.C. Lyte, Hist. Dunster, 183.
- 9. C181/4, f. 3.
- 10. C231/5, p. 16; C66/2859.
- 11. T. Barnes, Som. 1625-40, p. 315.
- 12. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 125.
- 13. Som. Q. Sess. Recs. Chas. I ed. E.H.B. Harbin (Som. Rec. Soc. xxiv), 196.
- 14. C181/4, f. 172v; 181/5, f. 205.
- 15. C181/5, f. 99.
- 16. SR, v. 89, 156.
- 17. Collinson, ii. 12; iii. 498-500; HP Commons, 1558-1603, ii. 501.
- 18. OR; Collinson, ii. 12; HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 236.
- 19. F. Hancock, Hist. Minehead, 242-6; Som. RO, DD/L/P, 30/50.
- 20. CD 1621, v. 481-2; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 68, 175-6.
- 21. Som. RO, DD//L, 1/55/1.
- 22. LI Admiss.; Act Bk. of Archdeacon of Taunton ed. C. Jenkins (Som. Rec. Soc. xliii), 98, 130.
- 23. Som. RO, DD/L, 1/55/1.
- 24. Som. RO, DD/L/P, 3/9.
- 25. Som. Q. Sess. Recs. 104, 163, 206, 244, 253, 265, 280, 299.
- 26. CSP Dom. 1633-4, p. 350.
- 27. Som. RO, DD/L/P, 38/99.
- 28. CSP Dom. 1640, pp. 220-1.
- 29. M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 263.
- 30. HMC 5th Rep. 35.
- 31. Lyte, 180; Som. RO, DD/L, 2/49/37; Trevelyan Letters ed. M. Siraut (Som. Rec. Soc. lxxx), 126.
- 32. Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion ed. W.D. Macray, iii. 78.
- 33. Lyte, 183.
- 34. PROB 11/198, ff. 166-7; HP Commons, 1660-90, ii. 781.