BATES, Thomas (by 1526-87), of Morpeth and Holywell, Northumb.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Apr. 1554
? 1555

Family and Education

b. by 1526, s. of Thomas Bates of Ovington by Joan, da. of Robert Creswell of Newbiggin. m. Isabel, ?s.p. suc. fa. by 1544.1

Offices Held

Receiver for William, 3rd Lord Dacre, Wem in 1547-8, Morpeth in 1549-50; j.p. Northumb. 1558/59; surveyor, Exchequer, Northumb. by 1561-?d.; escheator Northumb. 19 Mar. 1563, 12 Feb. 1586; commr. concealed lands, Hexham 1568, for Bamburgh castle 1575; chief steward for Thomas Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland, Alnwick by 1570-d., constable by 1578; feodary of Henry Percy, 2nd Earl of Northumberland by 1586; clerk of the courts of the water of the Tyne by 1587.2


Thomas Bates came of a minor family of gentry which in the 15th century had lived in Bedlingtonshire, a palatine liberty in central Northumberland,where his forbears had served as officers of the bishop of Durham, but Bates’s father seems to have been domiciled in southern Northumberland. Both in respect of its wealth and of its influence in the shire Bates considerably advanced the family’s fortunes. First encountered in the service of Lord Dacre as receiver of some of his property in Shropshire, by 1549 he had become receiver of Morpeth, the centre of the Dacre estates in Northumberland. In 1552 he bought lands at Milburn near Morpeth and in the following year was a plaintiff in the common pleas about lands in neighbouring Eshott, perhaps those which he and John Bednell acquired in 1554. It was therefore both as a local landowner and as a client of Dacre that he was returned for Morpeth to two Marian Parliaments and probably to a third one: the return of 1555 is defaced, the christian name ‘Thomas’ alone surviving, but no likely alternative to Bates can be offered. His service in the Commons was interspersed with border warfare and in 1557 the Queen wrote to him commending ‘not only your good will and readiness to do our service in these borders, but also the good and valiant service and endeavour you have done from time to time there’.3

Although Bates was not to sit in Parliament again, it was under Elizabeth that he came to the fore in his shire. A servant of the crown and an officer of the Earl of Northumberland, for whom he helped to engage masons to repair Alnwick, he retained his link with the Dacres and in 1563 bore a standard at the funeral of the 3rd Lord Dacre. These aristocratic connexions were responsible for his involvement in the northern rebellion of 1569, although another factor was the antagonism between him and Sir John Forster, warden of the middle march, whose supporters held many offices in the county and remained loyal at the time of the rising. Bates’s role seems to have been that of an intermediary: he acted as such between the 1st Earl of Northumberland and Leonard Dacre, and when the earl met the Spanish ambassador at Westminster Bates was said to have acted as interpreter, although whether in the literal sense is not clear. After the failure of the rebellion the earl did his best for Bates: in December 1569 the 4th Duke of Norfolk told the Privy Council that the only letter he had received from Northumberland ‘was in behalf of Bates, his man, and touching no other matter’, and the earl later said that Bates was in a position which ‘behoveth him to conceal nothing’. Indicted at Carlisle towards the end of December, Bates was brought to the Tower and in April 1570 was arraigned and remanded. There seems to have been insufficient evidence against him and by June 1573 he was released on a bond and in January 1574 pardoned for concealment of treason. A subsequent accusation of dealings with an unpardoned traitor was presumably not substantiated.4

Bates returned to the service of the crown as surveyor of its lands, an office which he probably retained until his death. He also remained close to the Percys: by 1578 he was constable of Alnwick and in the following year he supervised repairs to Prudhoe castle and to the 2nd Earl’s residences in Yorkshire, Leconfield and Wressell. He seems to have spent the closing years of his life at Prudhoe, where he was lessee of the demesne. In the course of his career he had dealt much in land. After the attainder of the Marquess of Northampton in 1553 he had obtained half of the Fitzhugh lands in Northumberland, and in 1568 the other half from Lord Dacre of the South. In 1554 he took a 21-year lease of two salt-pans and coal pits in the township of Cowpen and in the same year joined John Bednell in acquiring the manor of Eshott, where in later years he leased and sold property. In the survey of Hall and Humberstone taken after the rebellion he was shown as holding lands in East Cherington, Holywell, Little Benton, Longhirst, Milburn, Morpeth, Morwick and Old Moor, and after regaining his freedom he added others in East Hartford, Morpeth and Ovingham, and took leases on the Prudhoe and Warkworth estates. As is to be expected, these numerous interests and transactions gave rise to litigation.5

Bates died intestate on 31 Aug. 1587 and Mark Errington was appointed the administrator of his property. By a deed made in 1584 he had entailed his lands on his brother Robert, with successive remainders to his nephews Cuthbert, Thomas and George. An inventory of Bates’s goods was taken at Prudhoe in 1587; among the items listed were all his household goods worth £9 14s.8d. and plate valued at £20.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. J. Taylor


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Arch. Ael. (ser. 4), xiv. 65-66; Northumb. Co. Hist. ix. 86; xii. 150, 250, 552.
  • 2. Arch. Ael. (ser. 4), xiv. 65-66; Hodgson, Northumb. ii(2), 531; B. N. Wilson, ‘Ref. in Durham and Northumb.’ (Durham Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1935), 472; Northumb. Co. Hist. i. 52; iv, iv. 32, 207; ix. 86, 96; E164/37/114; Northumberland Estate Accts. (Surtees Soc. clxiii), 55.
  • 3. Northumb. Co. Hist. vi. 91, 147; vii. 341, 343-4; ix. 86; xii. 236, 250, 552; xiii. 155; Arch. Ael. (ser. 3), vi. 88; Hodgson, ii(2), 425, 513, 531; C. Sharpe, Memorials of the Rebellion of 1569, p. 360; CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, p. 25.
  • 4. Reg. Bp. Tunstall (Surtees Soc. clxi), 134-6; Hodgson, ii(1), 378; Northumb. Co. Hist. vi. 86; ix. 84-85; Northumberland Estate Accts. pp. xix-xx, 40, 48, 50; Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. n.s. lxvi. 172; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 66, Req. 2/178/25; HMC Hatfield, i. 460, 468; Sharpe, 18, 268-9, 272, 360-2; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 366, 368; CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79. pp. 252, 402, 458; APC, viii. 120; Wilson, 472, 486, 500, 527;
  • 5. Northumb. Co. Hist. iv. 32; v. 116-17; vii. 343-4, 350; ix. 81, 85, 224, 288, 322; xii. 109, 117, 147, 149-50, 226, 546-9; Northumberland Estate Accts. 55-56, 60, 62, 66-67, 72-73, 84, 93, 97-99; CPR, 1553-4, p. 291; E164/38/257-9; Morpeth corp. deeds ser. 1, D1, 95; St. Ch. 5/3/90/2, B110/8.
  • 6. Northumb. Co. Hist. vii. 341; xii. 117, 150; Newcastle Rec. Ser. viii. 19; C. J. Bates, Border Holds, 208.