PORTWAY, Thomas (by 1524-57), of Dover, Kent.

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



Mar. 1553

Family and Education

b. by 1524. m. Alice, 1s. 2da.2

Offices Held

Common councilman, Dover 1546-7, jurat 1548-?d., mayor 1550-1, bailiff 4 June 1552-d.3


A victualler and hackneyman, Thomas Portway engaged in such sizeable operations as shipping the £100 worth of foodstuffs from London to Calais which a Netherlander captured in 1544-45 and bringing soldiers home from Boulogne in 1551 at a cost of £400, while at the other end of the scale he paid 13s.4d. for the lady chapel roof of Dover priory and 12s. for its gravestones. The part of St. Martin’s ‘church and yard’ which he rented for 20s. a year was probably a depot. After a brief municipal career leading to the mayoralty in succession to Thomas Warren, he became deputy bailiff to Edmund Mody, whom he quickly succeeded, continuing to represent Dover at Brotherhoods of the Cinque Ports until 1556. In October 1552 he was one of four chosen by the town to inform the Privy Council about the state of the harbour, in February 1554 he was again before the Council as one of a group which faced the charge that Dover had been passive during Wyatt’s rebellion, and in June 1556 he headed a list of those ordered to make Dover defensible against the French.4

Portway was first elected for Dover on 29 Jan. 1553. His fellow-Member Henry Crispe was clearly the nominee of the lord warden, Sir Thomas Cheyne, whereas Portway was presumably chosen by the town. Given 40s. on his departure, he presented a bill on his return for 31 days’ attendance and four days’ travel at 2s. a day, with an additional ‘2s. placing and 4s. to the clerk’, and was paid the balance of 36s. on 15 Apr. He might well have been re-elected to the Parliament summoned on the following 19 June, but by the time the writ reached Dover on 10 July Edward VI was dead and the summons lapsed. Two months later Dover elected him and Thomas Colly to the first Parliament called by Mary. If by doing so the town hoped to forestall intervention by the warden it was quickly undeceived, for two days after the election the mayor and jurats indemnified the commonalty for breach of the relevant statutes and had their choice set aside in favour of two men nominated by the warden, Joseph Beverley and John Webbe. At the next election the town succeeded in choosing one of the Members, but its choice fell on Colly, who unlike Portway had not sat before, and Portway was not to be re-elected to either of the two further Parliaments called before his death.5

Portway died between 11 Sept. 1557, when he made his will, and the following 24 Oct., when he was succeeded as bailiff of Dover by Sir Thomas Cheyne. By his will he left lands in Kent and elsewhere to his wife for life, with remainder to his son Thomas and two daughters, Mary and Catherine. As his executrix his widow proved the will on 15 Mar. 1558; she also returned to the town a silver mace which he had used in office. Her own will was to become the subject of arbitration in April 1562 by John Malin, William Hannington and Thomas Warren.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Patricia Hyde


  • 1. Add. 34150, f. 139.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Canterbury prob. reg. C27, ff. 64v-65.
  • 3. Dover accts. 1547-58, f. 4; Egerton 2094, ff. 25, 27, 31, 37, 45, 51; CPR, 1550-3, p. 321.
  • 4. Add. 29618, ff. 308, 322; Egerton 2092, f. 494v; 2093, f. 190; 2094, ff. 36, 58, 166; Bronnen tot de Geschiedenis van den Handel met Engeland, Schotland en Ierland, ed. Smit, i. 607, 658n APC, iii. 7, 291; iv. 393; Arch. Cant. xlvii. 142; Dover accts. 1547-58, f. 160; Cinque Ports White and Black Bks. (Kent Arch. Soc. recs. br. xix), 226-54 passim.
  • 5. Dover accts. 1547-58, ff. 198v, 199; Egerton 2094, ff. 89, 90v.
  • 6. Canterbury prob. reg. C27, ff. 64v-65; CPR, 1557-8, p. 122; Egerton 2094, ff. 174v, 224.