Fisher, Thomas (d.1577) (DNB00)

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FISHER, otherwise Hawkins, THOMAS (d. 1577), M.P. for Warwick, was of obscure origin and usually known by the name of Fisher, because his father was 'by profession one that sold fish by retail at the mercate crosse in Warwick.' The quickness of his parts recommended him to the notice of John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, then Viscount Lisle, who received him into his service, and on 4 May, 34 Hen. VIII, constituted him high steward and bailiff of his manor of Kibworth Beauchamp, Leicestershire. For his exercise of that office during life Fisher had an annuity of 6l. 13s. 6d. granted to him, which was 'confirmed in the reign of Mary. He contrived to accumulate avast estate in monastery and church lands, of which a lengthy list is given by Dugdale (Warwickshire, edit. 1656, p. 365). In 38 Hen. VIII he obtained the site of St. Sepulchre's Priory, Warwick, with the lands adjacent, and proceeded to pull the monastery to the ground, raising in the place of it a very fair house as is yet to be seen, which being finished about the 8 year of Queen Eliz. reign, he made his principal seat.' He gave it a new name 'somewhat alluding to his own, viz. Hawkyns-nest, or Hawks-nest, by reason of its situation, having a pleasant grove of loftie elmes almost environing it' (ib.) However, its old designation of the 'Priory' was soon revived and finally prevailed. In 1 Edward VI, Bishop's Itchington, Warwickshire, being alienated to him from the see of Coventry and Lichfield, he made an 'absolute depopulation' of that part called Nether Itchington, and even demolished the church for the purpose of building a large manor-house on its site. He also changed the name of the village to Fisher's Itchington, in an attempt to perpetuate his own memory. Fisher, who was now the chief citizen of Warwick, next appears as secretary to the Duke of Somerset, protector of England. There is a tradition that he was colonel of a regiment in the English army under the command of Somerset, when the Scots were defeated at the battle of Pinkie, near Musselburgh, 10 Sept. 1547, 'where he, taking the colours of some eminent person in which a griffon was depicted, had a grant by the said duke that he should thenceforth, in memory of that notable exploit, bear the same in his armes within a border verrey, which the duke added thereto in relation to one of the quarterings of his own coat [viz. Beauchamp of Hatch] as an honourable lodge for that service.' Towards the end of June 1548 he was commissioned by Somerset to repair with all diligence into the north to the Earl of Shrewsbury and Lord Grey, with instructions for the defence of Haddington, and for the other necessary movements of the king's army and his officers in Scotland. He was also to repair to Sir John Luttrell at Broughty, and to commune with him and Lord Gray of Scotland, to devise with them some means of communicating with the Earl of Argyll, and to treat with the earl according to certain articles proposed (Cal. State Papers, Scottish Ser. 1509-89, i. 89, 92). In March 1549 he was appointed along with Sir John Luttrell to confer with Argyll and other Scotch nobles for the return of the queen from France and 'accomplishment of the godly purpose of marriage' (ib. p. 97). Under the strain of such duties his health gave way, and in a melancholy letter to Secretary Cecil, dated from the 'Camp at Enderwick,' 17 Sept. 1549, he declares that he 'would give three parts of his living to be away ; and wishes to be spared like service in future' (ib. p. 98). In 6 Edward VI he had a grant of the bailiwick of Banbury, Oxfordshire, being made collector of the king's revenue within that borough and hundred, as also governor of the castle, with a fee of 66s. 7d. a year for exercising the office of steward and keeping the king's court within that manor. It was generally believed that the Duke of Northumberland, anticipating want of money to pay the forces which would be required in the event of his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey being proclaimed queen, 'privately conveyed a vast summe' to Fisher's keeping, which was hidden by him in Bishop's Itchington pool. After the attainder and execution of the duke in 1553, Fisher was questioned about the money by orders from the queen, but he sturdily refused to deliver it up, and even suffered his fingers to be pulled out of joint by the rack rather than discover it. Fisher represented Warwick in the second parliament of Mary, 1554, and in the first (1554), second (1555), and third (1557-8) of Philip and Mary (Lists of Members of Parliament, Official Return, pt. i. pp. 387, 391, 395, 398). In 1571, when Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, celebrated the order of St. Michael in the collegiate church of Warwick, the bailiff and burgesses of the borough were invited to attend the earl from the Priory, where he was Fisher's guest for six or seven days, and thence went in grand procession to the church. Immediately on the conclusion of the ceremony, at which he had been present, William Parr, marquis of Northampton, brother of Queen Catherine Parr, died suddenly at the Priory. The following year Elizabeth paid a sudden visit to the Priory, when returning to Warwick from Kenilworth, on Saturday night, 17 Aug., having dined with Fisher's son, Edward, at his house at Itchington on the Monday previously. After supping with Mrs. Fisher and her company, her majesty withdrew for the kind purpose of visiting 'the good man of the house . . . who at that time was grevously vexid with the gowt,' but with most gracious words she so 'comfortid him that forgetting, or rather counterfeyting, his payne,' he resolved 'in more haste than good spede to be on horseback the next tyme of her going abrode.' Though his resolution was put to the proof as soon as the following Monday, he actually accomplished it, attending the queen on her return to Kenilworth and riding in company with the Lord-treasurer Burghley, to whom, it would seem, he talked with more freedom than discretion (Nichols, Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, i. 310, 318-19). Fisher died 12 Jan. 1576-7, and was buried at the upper end of the north aisle in St. Mary's Church, Warwick. His tomb, which bore the recumbent effigies of himself and his first wife Winifred, daughter of William Holt, probably perished in the great fire of 1694; it has been engraved by Hollar (Dugdale, p. 350). His son and heir, Edward Fisher, was thirty years old at the time of his father's death. His inheritance, Dugdale informs us, was then worth. 3,000l. a year, but he soon squandered it, and hastened his ruin by making a fraudulent conveyance to deceive Serjeant Puckering, to whom in 23 Elizabeth he sold the Priory and lands adjoining. The serjeant commenced a prosecution against him in the Star-chamber, and had not Leicester interposed, his fine would have been very severe. He ultimately consented that an act of parliament should be made to confirm the estate to Puckering, but being encumbered with debts he was committed prisoner to the Fleet, where he spent the rest of his life. He married Katherine, daughter of Sir Richard Longe, by whom he had issue, Thomas, John, Dorothy, and Katherine.

Fisher is sometimes mistaken for the John Fisher who compiled the 'Black Book of Warwick.' The latter was in all probability John Fisher, bailiff of Warwick, in 1565.

[Dugdale's Warwickshire (1656), pp. 364-5, and passim; Colvile's Worthies of Warwickshire, pp. 287-91 ; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547-80, Addenda, 1547-65 ; Visitation of Warwickshire, 1619, Harl. Soc. 20.]

G. G.