RUDSTON, Thomas (by 1507-56), of Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambs.

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



Family and Education

b. by 1507, prob. s. of William Rudston of I. of Ely. educ. G. Inn, adm. 1521. m. (1) by 1528, Dorothy, prob. da. of Nicholas Hughson (?Hewson or Huston); (2) Anne, da. of William Mordaunt, wid. of Humphrey Torrell and of one Fowler; 2s. 4da.1

Offices Held

J.p. Cambs. 1530-d., q.1547, Cambridge 1537, Norfolk circuit 1540; commr. for tenths of spiritualities Cambridge and Cambs 1535, musters Cambs. 1546, relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553; other commissions 1540-d.; escheator, Cambs. and Hunts. 1536-7, 1542-3.2


Rudstons were prominent in London and Yorkshire, but Thomas Rudston is not known to have been connected with either place. His father was perhaps the William Rudston, who became secretary to Bishop West of Ely: this was a locality in which he and his descendants were to hold land and offices, and it was probably he who acted for John Goderyk of Ely (presumably Bishop Goodrich’s elder brother) and tricked the citizens of Ely in 1539.3

In 1527-8 the Cambridge corporation paid Rudston a fee of 13s.4d., evidently as a retainer for legal service; similar annual payments, mostly of 20s., followed until 1539, then again from 1550-2 and perhaps later. He is named in Cromwell’s remembrances and like other lawyers was instructed to keep order in his county at the time of the Pilgrimage of Grace in the expected absence of the leading gentry. At some time before its dissolution Rudston was bailiff of Swaffham Bulbeck priory; it was claimed by his executor in 1560 that he had pasturage for 400 sheep on the land of Swaffham Prior manor, under a lease granted in 1545 and probably itself the renewal or extension of an earlier monastic grant.4

Rudston was of insufficient status to be elected knight of the shire without some powerful support; his fellow-Member Sir Edward North may have helped him (although no connexion between the two men has been found), as may Sir Giles Alington, a landowner in Rudston’s own district who had sat for Cambridgeshire in the previous Parliament. By a fine of 1540 Rudston had purchased land at Swaffham Bulbeck from his then or future brother-in-law Edmund Mordaunt (perhaps the contemporary at the Middle Temple of the Member of that name) and in 1549 he paid £100 to (Sir) John Brocket, probably also a kinsman, for a further 1,600 acres, the moiety of three manors and houses in Swaffham Bulbeck, Swaffham Prior and other villages in Cambridgeshire. He was among the Cambridgeshire gentry called upon to raise troops for the French war of 1544 and he supplied six footmen for the vanguard of the army, probably accompanying them to France. It is not known whether he was one of the many gentlemen taking part in that war who sat in the Parliament of 1545, as the names of the knights for Cambridgeshire are missing.5

In a court of requests case of Henry VIII’s or Edward VI’s reign, the plaintiff complained that Rudston, his stepfather, had broken his agreement to pay his second wife’s children £20 a year between them, notwithstanding ‘the preferment of living which hath grown to him by his said wife’. Rudston’s social and political advancement would explain why his name was first included (although later deleted) in the list ascribed to Cecil of men of standing in Cambridgeshire who might be looked to for support for Queen Jane in the summer of 1553. Nothing is known of Rudston’s part during the succession crisis. The pardon which he obtained in December 1553 does not imply any political misadventure, and he was to be thanked by the Privy Council in June 1555 for his help in looking after the county’s government.6

Rudston made his will on 13 Sept. 1556 and died before the following 6 Nov., when it was proved. He ordered ‘that no pomp or great cost be made or done for me at my burial’ but left generous legacies in corn and money to the poor of a number of Cambridgeshire villages. Among numerous legacies to friends and relatives he left 100 marks and much movable property to his wife, £10 each to four named sons-in-law and £100 to each of his two sons to buy land, appointing supervisors specially to deal with the last legacy. No inquisition post mortem has been found, but the will, dealing only with the land the testator was free to devise, disposed of unspecified manors and land in Ely and 14 towns or villages in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. The elder son was appointed sole executor and the younger was to be brought up ‘in virtuous learning and discipline with convenient exhibition at the law’. All disputes arising from the will were to be settled by (Sir) James Dyer.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: D. F. Coros


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from education. Vis. Cambs. (Harl. Soc. xli), 100; Feet of Fines, Cambs. ed. Palmer, 35; Req.2/8/261; PCC 21 Ketchyn; E. Hailstone, ‘Swaffham Bulbeck’ (printer’s proofs in Camb. Univ. Lib., Cam. bb. 892, 1), 41, 44-45.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, iv, viii, xii, xv-xvii, xxi; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 8, pp. 75-76, 81; 1553, pp. 352, 414; 1553-4, p. 17; E371/350, r. 31.
  • 3. Al. Cant. i(3), 497; VCH Cambs. iv. 41.
  • 4. C. H. Cooper, Cambridge Annals, i. 360-1; Downing Coll. Camb., Bowtell mss Liber Rationalis 1510-60, 1527-8 acct., f. 23 and later accts. s.d.; LP Hen. VIII, vi, xi; Cambs. Antiq. Soc. Procs. xxxi. 51; C3/151/22.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, xviii, xix; Hailstone, loc. cit.
  • 6. Req.2/8/261; Lansd. 103, ff. 1-2; CPR, 1553-4, p. 422; APC, v. 150.
  • 7. PCC 21 Ketchyn.