WATERS, Thomas (by 1495-1563/64), of Lynn, Norf.

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



Oct. 1553
Apr. 1554
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1495. m. prob. da. of William Coningsby of Lynn, 2s. 1da.2

Offices Held

Alderman, Lynn 1525-63, mayor 1535-6, 1551-2, June-Sept. 1558; commr. relief, Norf. 1550; other commissions, Norf. and Lynn 1541-59.3


Thomas Waters had more than one contemporary namesake at Lynn, but his record as an alderman and the repeated mention of him in the congregation books leave little doubt that it was he who sat in Parliament for the town eight times in 20 years. Born in Cambridgeshire, he was styled ‘merchant’ when he bought his freedom at Lynn in 1519, six years after his brother John had done so. Within six years he became an alderman and within a further ten he was elected to his first mayoralty. He had by then already been involved in the contest with the bishop of Norwich over jurisdiction in the town and as mayor he negotiated with the crown for the charter of 1537. In that year he also gave evidence in London on the conflicting claims to the stewardship between William Hastings and the Duke of Suffolk. With the coming of war in 1542 he combined the roles of merchant and town official in the service of the crown, purveying victuals for the armies in France and Scotland and equipping warships and advancing money for their crews, while being increasingly used in civil administration; among his services to the town were the handling in 1544-5, in partnership with Thomas Milley, of the purchase of the four dissolved friaries there (he himself putting up part of the sum in exchange for the site of the Blackfriars), a share in the collection of the fee-farm for the year 1548-9 and official missions to London in 1551-2.4

Waters’s election to the Parliaments of 1539 and 1542 followed his first mayoralty and were perhaps also promoted by his marriage to a daughter of the recorder William Coningsby: at his second election he and Thomas Miller were each given £10 to spend on municipal business. His omission from the next two Parliaments was in keeping with Lynn’s custom of choosing a man on two successive occasions and then replacing him, but if the town had had its way Waters would have next sat in the Parliament of March 1553. On 20 Jan. the congregation chose Sir Richard Corbet and Waters, now styled ‘gentleman’, but when the sheriff made his return Waters’s name was replaced by John Walpole’s. It is tempting to see in this unexplained intervention the hand of the Duke of Northumberland, who interfered extensively with elections to this Parliament, but if it was Northumberland’s doing his motive is not wholly clear. Walpole, a rising lawyer, would have been acceptable to the duke both as a relation by marriage and as a Protestant, and to the town as its standing counsel. It was Waters who with William Overend was to be fined for his alleged complicity with Sir Robert Dudley in engaging Lynn’s support of Jane Grey. The penalty was offset by the town’s support of the two men: not only did the corporation raise a large part of their fine until countermanded by the Council but it re-elected both of them to Parliament, Overend once and Waters without a break throughout the reign. Whether on principle or out of prudence Waters does not appear to have aligned himself with the opposition in the Commons. Unlike Walpole he was not among those who ‘stood for the true religion’ in the first Marian Parliament and in the fourth his name is not to be found, as is his fellow-Member Sir Nicholas Lestrange’s, on the list of opponents of one of the government’s bills. Even his inclusion among the Members who were prosecuted in the King’s bench for their withdrawal from the third Parliament before its dissolution probably means no more than that he had gone home for Christmas and not returned, for whereas Sir Thomas Moyle, his fellow-Member on that occasion, was distrained for non-appearance in answer to his summons for the same offence there is no record of proceedings against Waters as there would surely have been if he had been held contumacious. Unfortunately, evidence of payment of Waters’s wages, which might have thrown light on the episode, is missing for this Parliament; when in January 1558 he received £10 13s. 11d. in this respect it was probably in discharge of his bill for the 50 days of the Parliament of 1555, belatedly and on the eve of his departure for its successor. On this occasion the town gave the 4th Duke of Norfolk the nomination of one Member and exercised its choice of the other in favour of Waters.5

Waters’s parliamentary career was to end in 1559 but he remained active in local affairs until within a short time of his death late in 1563 or early in 1564.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Lynn congregation bk. 4, f. 320.
  • 2. Aged 60 and more in 1555, HCA 13/10, f. 76v. PCC 13 Alenger, 17 Stevenson.
  • 3. Lynn congregation bks. 4 and 5 passim; LP Hen. VIII, xvi, xx; CPR, 1553, p. 357; 1554-5, pp. 108, 111; 1558-60, p. 32.
  • 4. Lynn Freemen (Norf. Arch), 78, 81; PCC 10 Alen; Lynn congregation bk. 4, ff. 252v, 261, 268, 274v, 302, 304v, 307, 310v, 312; 5, ff. 11, 147v; chamberlains’ accts. 1551-2; LP Hen. VIII, xvii-xx; APC, i. 79, 93, 123, 148, 199, 325; E351/130, 198; CPR, 1549-51, p. 344.
  • 5. Lynn congregation bk. 4, f. 337v; 5, ff. 181v, 192v, 222, 227v, 308, 324v; APC, iv. 416; KB27/1176.
  • 6. PCC 17 Stevenson.