Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pettyt, Thomas

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PETTYT, THOMAS (1510?–1558?), military engineer, born about 1510, known as the ‘Surveyor of Calais,’ was employed at Calais during the reign of Henry VIII. In 1547 he went to Scotland to report on the condition of some of the castles and fortified places. He was then sent to strengthen the defences of Berwick.

In April 1548 Pettyt accompanied Lord Grey, as his chief engineer, when he marched with a strong force to Edinburgh, and thence to Haddington. Pettyt had barely time to place the fortifications of Haddington in a proper state of defence when a combined force of French and Scots fourteen thousand strong attacked the place. The siege was obstinate and protracted. Pettyt had no pioneers nor any skilled labour, and was compelled to trust entirely to the troops composing the garrison for the repair of the old and the execution of the necessary new works of defence. His arrangements, however, were successful. Although the ramparts were much injured, the assailants never ventured to storm; and at length a relieving army, under Lord Shrewsbury, forced the allies to retire, and raised the siege. But Pettyt, who in his zeal had too much exposed himself, was taken prisoner, and his services were so highly valued that Lord Grey exchanged for him the brother of the Lady Buccleuch.

In 1549 Pettyt was employed with Sir R. Cotton in the north of England, under the orders of the Earl of Rutland. In 1553 he was back at Calais, and remained there for the next four years, superintending the important defences of Calais and Guisnes. He was apparently killed at Guisnes when captured by the French in 1558.

The following plans and drawings by Pettyt are in the British Museum: ‘Platt of the Lowe Country at Calais, made in 37 Henry VIII’ (1545–6); ‘Map roughly drawn of the Country of Guynes and Bolenois;’ ‘Map of Fields near Guisnes;’ ‘Map of Town and Castle of Guisnes.’

[Cal. State Papers; Life of Lord Grey of Wilton (Camd. Soc.), 1847; Porter's Hist. of the Corps of Royal Engineers; Literary Memoirs of Edward VI (Roxburghe Club), ii. 308; Chronicle of Calais (Camd. Soc.), p. xxix.]

R. H. V.