Tresham, Thomas (d.1559) (DNB00)

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TRESHAM, Sir THOMAS (d. 1559), grand prior of the order of St. John in England, was the eldest son of John Tresham of Rushton, Northamptonshire, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir James Harrington of Hornby, Lancashire. Sir Thomas Tresham [q. v.] was his grandfather. He began to take an active part in local matters, was sheriff of Northamptonshire in 1524–6, and again in 1539–40, and was knighted before July 1530, when he was one of those commissioned to inquire into Wolsey's possessions. On 29 June 1540 he received a license to impark 120 acres of wood, 250 acres of pasture, and 50 acres of meadow in Lyveden, where his son subsequently constructed the ‘new building,’ still standing. On 5 Jan. 1541–2 he was returned to parliament for Northamptonshire, and he regularly served on commissions for the peace in his county. In July 1546 he was employed in conveying treasure from Antwerp to Calais, and in 1548–9 once more served as sheriff of Northamptonshire (Addit. MS. 29549, f. 9; Lists of Sheriffs, 1898). In August 1549 he joined Warwick against the Norfolk rebels, and on 19 Sept. was paid 272l. 19s. 6d. for his services. He was, however, a catholic, and was one of the first to join Queen Mary on Edward VI's death. He proclaimed her queen at Northampton on 18 July 1553, and guarded her on her march to London (Chron. Queen Jane, pp. 12, 13). On 3 Aug. he was appointed to ‘stay the assemblies in Cambridgeshire’ (Acts P. C. iv. 310), and in May 1554 he conveyed Courtenay from the Tower to Fotheringhay (Wriothesley, Chron. ii. 116). In February 1555–6 he was executor to, and chief mourner at the funeral of, Bishop John Chambers [q. v.], and again served as sheriff of Northamptonshire. When Mary resolved to restore the order of St. John, Tresham was by charter dated 2 April 1557 appointed grand prior, Sir Richard Shelley [q. v.] being turcopolier. Later in the year he was employed in taking musters and surveying the defences of the Isle of Wight. He sat in the House of Lords in January 1557–8 as prior of St. John, and sent his proxy to Elizabeth's first parliament. He died on 8 March 1558–9, and was buried with much ceremony in St. Peter's, Rushton, on the 16th (the herald's account of the funeral is extant in the College of Arms MS. i. 9. f. 158). A white marble monument, with an inscription, was erected over his tomb.

Tresham was twice married: first, to Anne, daughter of Sir William (afterwards Lord) Parr of Horton; and, secondly, to Lettice, relict of Sir Robert Lee, who also predeceased him, leaving no issue. By his first wife Tresham had issue two sons, John and William. John married Eleanor, daughter of Anthony Catesby, and predeceased his father, leaving two sons, Thomas and William, and a daughter who married William, lord Vaux of Harrowden.

The elder son, Sir Thomas Tresham (1543?–1605), was a minor fifteen years old when he succeeded his grandfather in the Rushton and Lyveden estates. Advantage seems to have been taken of his minority to bring him up as a protestant, and in 1573–4 he served as sheriff of Northamptonshire, but in 1580 he is said to have been converted back by the jesuit Robert Parsons [q. v.] From that year he became a constant friend to missionary priests and himself a stubborn recusant. On 18 Aug. 1581, for harbouring Edmund Campion [q. v.], Tresham, who had been knighted in 1577, was summoned before the council and committed to the Fleet prison. He was tried in the Star-chamber on 20 Nov. following, a detailed report of the trial being extant in Harleian MS. 859, ff. 44–51. As a result he remained in confinement for seven years, first in the Fleet, then in his own house at Hoxton, and then at Ely. In February 1581–2 Richard Topcliffe [q. v.] reported that Tresham had mass said before him in the Fleet. In 1586 he was thought likely to join the Babington conspirators (Simancas MSS. 1580–86, p. 604). But, though a staunch Roman catholic, Tresham had no sympathy with Spanish aggression, and a jesuit declared that the society regarded him as an ‘atheist’ for his ‘friendship to the state’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1595–7, p. 238). He was released on bail on 29 Nov. 1588 after making a protestation of allegiance, but was again imprisoned for recusancy in 1597 and 1599, and had annually to pay enormous fines. His intervals of freedom he employed in extensive building operations under the direction of John Thorpe (fl. 1570–1610) [q. v.] The chief of these were the market-house at Rothwell, the ‘triangular lodge’ at Rushton, and the ‘new building’ at Lyveden (see elaborate plans, descriptions, and views in Gotch's Buildings of Sir Thomas Tresham). Tresham proclaimed James I at Northampton on 25 March 1603. He died on 11 Sept. 1605, and was buried in St. Peter's, Rushton; a portrait of him hangs in Boughton Hall.

By his wife Muriel, daughter of Sir Robert Throckmorton of Coughton, Tresham had, besides other issue, Francis Tresham [q. v.], the ‘gunpowder-plot’ conspirator; Elizabeth who married William Parker, fourth baron Monteagle and eleventh baron Morley [q. v.]; and Frances, who married Edward, ninth baron Stourton.

[Letters and Papers of Henry VIII; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547–1605; Acts of the Privy Council, ed. Dasent; Taylor's Cal. of Rushton Papers (Northampton 1871); Machyn's Diary (Camden Soc.); Cotton MSS. Tib. B. ii. f. 334; Harl. MS. 6164; Leland's Itinerary, vi. 38; Strype's Works; Fuller's Worthies; Bridges's Northamptonshire, ii. 69 et seq.; Official Ret. Members of Parl.; Burnet's Reformation, ed. Pocock, ii. 576; Whitworth Porter's Knights of Malta, p. 724; Gent. Mag. 1808, ii. 680; Notes and Queries, I. xi. 49, 131, 200; Simpson's Life of Campion; Morris's Troubles of our Catholic Forefathers, 2nd ser.; Bell's Ruins of Lyveden, 1847; Archæol. xxx. 80.]

A. F. P.