MILLER, Thomas (by 1481-1547/48), of Lynn, Norf.
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Family and Education
b. by 1481. m. by 1508, Margaret, da. of Andrew Wolsey of Lynn, 5s. 4da.2
Common councilman, Lynn 1506-12, jurat 1512-d., constable 1516-20, coroner 1517-20, mayor 1520-1, 1524-5, 1529-30, 1546-7, gov. 1521-4; commr. subsidy, Lynn 1523, 1524, gaol delivery 1541, sewers, Cambs. and Norf. 1542.3
Thomas Miller was admitted to the freedom of Lynn as apprentice of Robert Gerves on 15 July 1502. His career in the town was long and eventful. During his first mayoralty, in August 1521, he and others of the jurats were authorized by the Lynn assembly to instruct counsel on the town’s business in preparation for the coming of the King’s commissioners. This probably marks the beginning of an episode which, although the details are somewhat obscure, was the climax of the centuries-old struggle between Lynn and the bishop of Norwich. During the years 1521-4 the town seems to have lost its old liberties and constitution and in the interregnum Miller acted as governor, probably as a nominee of the crown: he may have owed his leading role in the dispute to a relationship with Cardinal Wolsey, who had visited Lynn in 1520 and who gave the borough his support. It was as governor that Miller went to London in January 1524 to further the town’s cause, and on 25 May of that year he was allowed £20 by the Lynn assembly to purchase its liberties. In the royal grant of June 1524 which gave Lynn a new charter, Miller was named as first mayor under the new constitution. The bishop did not abandon his claims and Miller continued to play a leading part in the conflict, riding repeatedly to London and Thetford.4
It was while Miller was governor that he was elected to Parliament on 31 Mar. 1523; this was the first occasion on which Lynn’s traditional indirect method of election was abandoned, Miller and Richard Bewcher being directly chosen by about 20 of the leading townsmen. After the grant of the charter parliamentary elections were made by the mayor, aldermen and common council together, but there is no record of the election of Miller and Bewcher in 1529. The fact that Miller became the King’s debtor for exporting grain contrary to his command, an offence for which Cromwell held his bond for £20, probably meant that he was amenable to the minister’s wishes, but nothing is known of his part in the proceedings of this Parliament. On 25 Apr. 1533, after the close of its fifth session, he wrote to Cromwell asking leave to stay at home for the Easter term, beginning on 30 Apr., as he had to be in London on the Friday of Whitsun week (6 June) for the opening of the next session: in the event, Parliament was further prorogued until January 1534. At the commencement of the final session, in February 1536, Miller and others were empowered by the Lynn assembly to negotiate with the King and Council on the franchises and privileges sought by the town. Miller was not re-elected to the Parliament of 1536 (despite the King’s general request for the return of the previous Members) nor to that of 1539, but was again chosen on 23 Dec. 1541. He and his fellow-Member were then given £10 each to be spent on town business and in 1544 they were engaged in purchasing the sites of the dissolved houses of the four orders of friars in Lynn. On 14 Jan. 1545 Miller was elected to Henry VIII’s, and his own, last Parliament, his name being substituted in the Lynn congregation book for that of William Yelverton, who seems to have been the original choice.5
The prominent part which Miller took in the affairs of Lynn for over 40 years implies that he was both prosperous and influential as a merchant, but there are few references to his trading activities except the illegal ‘adventures in grain’ and a chancery case of the 1520s which shows him selling malt. In 1519 he was fined £10 by the Lynn assembly for conveying herrings belonging to an outsider in breach of the ordinances of the town, a transaction which suggests he was also a shipowner. His will, made on 16 Jan. 1547 left his property to his widow and executrix. Several of their children were under age but others were married, among them Robert, presumably the eldest, the father of eight children each of whom was to receive 40s. Two of the testator’s daughters were married, Joan since at least 1537 to John, son of George Barnardiston. The will was proved on 26 Nov. 1548 and Miller had probably died before Michaelmas of that year, when his name ceases to appear on the list of aldermen in the Lynn congregation book.6
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: Roger Virgoe
- 1. Lynn congregation bk. 4, f. 239.
- 2. Date of birth estimated from admission as freeman. Vis. Norf. (Norf. Arch.), i. 376; PCC 17 Populwell.
- 3. Lynn congregation bk. 4 and 5 passim; LP Hen. VIII, iii, iv, xvi, xvii.
- 4. Lynn congregation bk. 4, ff. 49v, 239, 241, 242, 262, 263v, 274v; Six Town Chrons. ed. Flenley, 88-90, 193-4; LP Hen. VIII, iv; A. F. Pollard, Wolsey, 12n.
- 5. LP Hen. VIII, vi, x; Lynn congregation bk. 4, ff. 302, 337v; 5, ff. 11, 24.
- 6. C1/541/78; Lynn congregation bk. 4, f. 197; PCC 17 Populwell.