TOMKINS, James (c.1569-1636), of Monnington-on-Wye, Herefs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. c.1569, 1st s. of Richard Tomkins of Monnington-on-Wye and Katherine, da. and coh. of James Baskerville of Kyre Park, Worcs.1 educ. Gloucester Hall, Oxf. 1583, aged 14; New Inn; M. Temple 1589.2 m. Anne, da. and coh. of James Boyle of Hereford, 5s. (3 d.v.p.) 1da. suc. fa. 1603.3 d. 7 Oct. 1636.4 sig. James Tomkyns.

Offices Held

Escheator, Herefs. 1591-2,5 sheriff 1606-7,6 j.p. by c.1605-d.,7 commr. aid 1609,8 dep. lt. by 1619-at least 1633,9 commr. subsidy 1622, 1624, 1625, 1626,10 Forced Loan 1626-7,11 swans, Eng. except West Country ?1629,12 repair of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Herefs. 1632.13


Tomkins’ ancestors were reckoned among the Herefordshire gentry by 1433, but they were not major freeholders before 1535, when Tomkins’ grandfather bought the manor of Monnington, about 16 miles from Leominster. By 1553 the latter also acquired Garnstone, in the parish of Weobley, where Tomkins was probably born. Tomkins’ father was reckoned ‘a man very well affected in religion’ by the bishop of Hereford.14 Tomkins himself was warmly recommended by Herefordshire’s deputy lieutenants for command of a militia company in 1608, but was rejected by the lord president, probably because he signed a letter acknowledging the services of Sir Herbert Croft* in opposing the authority of the council in the Marches.15 Nevertheless he was a deputy lieutenant by 1619, and was probably one of a group of influential Herefordshire figures to whom Sir Robert Harley* wrote in 1620 asking for a meeting ahead of the forthcoming county election. He was one of the signatories to the agreement drawn up at Hereford on 7 Dec. to avoid electoral contests.16 Tomkins himself was returned for Leominster in 1624, the first of his family to be elected to Parliament, probably with the aid of his kinsman and namesake, the vicar of the parish of Weobley.17 It is unclear what part Tomkins played in the Commons’ proceedings, as it is difficult to distinguish him from Nathaniel Tomkins*. The speech by ‘Mr. Tomkins’ in the supply debate of 20 Mar. is usually attributed to Nathaniel, but it might equally well have been delivered by this Member. In this the speaker linked the grant of three subsidies and three fifteenths with the passage of the ‘bills of grace’, which had been introduced by the crown to remedy particular grievances. He also wanted the king to grant ‘a free pardon without such restrictions as formerly hath been’, and for grievances not covered by the grace bills to be redressed, among them the practice of questioning the title of land purchased from the Crown.18 ‘Mr. Tomkins’ was appointed to two committees, one for the bills for the preservation of salmon (25 Mar.) and the other for the removal of obstructions on the Wye (3 Apr.), of which the second would have been of local interest to this Member.19

Tomkins was re-elected for Leominster alongside Edward Littleton II in 1625, 1626 and 1628. However there is continued difficulty in distinguishing him from Nathaniel. The speech by ‘Mr. Tomkins’ on supply, delivered at Oxford on 11 Aug. 1625, was probably made by Nathaniel rather than this Member. In this the speaker argued that the subsidies voted in 1624 and earmarked to repay coat and conduct money should be diverted to meet the king’s immediate needs. Given that Tomkins was a Herefordshire deputy lieutenant who had presumably helped levy coat conduct money on the understanding that it was to be repaid, it is unlikely that he would have supported this proposal.20 ‘Mr. Tomkins’ left no further trace on the records of the 1625 Parliament.

Re-elected in 1626, Tomkins may have been the Member of that surname who spoke in the debate on the second reading of the bill for the preservation of salmon on 27 Feb., as the speech concerned provisions in the bill against weirs, an issue of considerable concern in Herefordshire. He stated that he did not want all weirs removed as some were long established and confirmed by statute, and he proposed that all those interested should be called to give evidence. 21 Later the same day, either James or Nathaniel Tomkins spoke in grand committee concerning coastal defence. The speaker argued that the kingdom had been weakened by the ‘dishonour of our nation and ill success of our actions’ and proposed that ‘forts and garrisons’ should be established and the coasts defended ‘at the king’s charge’.22

Following the dissolution of June 1626, James Tomkins was appointed a commissioner for the Forced Loan, but he absented himself from the meeting of the Herefordshire commissioners on 13 Feb. 1627.23 It was doubtless Littleton’s research that established the case for the restoration of Weobley in the next Parliament, thereby providing Tomkins with a safe family borough, though he himself continued to represent Leominster. Either James or Nathaniel contributed to the supply debate of 4 Apr. 1628, in which whoever spoke accepted the government’s demand for five subsidies, but argued that there should be ‘no innovation in the raising, though it was said gentlemen were not rated high enough’.24 However, it was almost certainly this Member who was the ‘Mr. Tomkins’ appointed to the committees on bills to remove Herefordshire and three other English counties from the jurisdiction of the Council in the Marches (19 May) and restore in blood Carew Ralegh† (4 June).25 In the latter Tomkins represented the interests of his wife’s cousin, the 1st earl of Cork, who had purchased some of Ralegh’s Irish lands, but his proviso was rejected by nine votes to seven. At the report stage on 18 June he presented a petition from Cork, but again without success.26 It was probably Nathaniel Tomkins who was appointed to consider petitions against the earl of Holland’s (Henry Rich*) patent as royal exchanger on 13 June, and who spoke in support of the patent ten days latter, since Holland was Nathaniel’s patron.27 In the second session, however, it was probably James Tomkins who was appointed to consider a land bill on 23 Feb. 1629, with all the knights and burgesses of Wales.28

As a commissioner to raise money for the repair of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tomkins was happy to solicit voluntary contributions, but was opposed to compulsion and consequently refused to sign a warrant summoning non-subscribers despite pressure from Viscount Scudamore (Sir John Scudamore 1st Bt.*).29 He made his will on 6 Apr. 1634, leaving all his disposable property to his wife, apart from £4, which he bequeathed to the church and to the poor. He died on 7 Oct. 1636, and was succeeded by his son William*.30

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. C.J. Robinson, Hist. of Mansions and Manors of Herefs. 293.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss.
  • 3. Robinson, 293.
  • 4. C142/556/101.
  • 5. List of Escheators comp. A.C. Wood (L. and I. Soc. lxxii), 67.
  • 6. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 61.
  • 7. C66/1662; C193/13/2, f. 30v.
  • 8. SP14/43/107.
  • 9. Add. 11050, f. 94; SP16/247/15.
  • 10. C212/22/21, 23; Add. 11051, ff. 24, 141.
  • 11. C115/71/6508; Add. 11051, f. 33v.
  • 12. C181/3, f. 270v.
  • 13. I. Atherton, Ambition and Failure in Stuart Eng. 110, 116.
  • 14. Robinson, 291, 293; W.H. Cooke, Collections Towards the Hist. and Antiqs. of the County of Hereford, iii. 161; iv. 132; PROB 11/173, f. 77v.
  • 15. Add. 11050, f. 63; SP14/31/16.
  • 16. Add. 61989, f. 220; FSL, V.b.2(21).
  • 17. Cooke, iv. 134; G.F. Townsend, Town and Bor. of Leominster, 259.
  • 18. R.E. Ruigh, Parl. of 1624, p. 223; T. Cogswell, Blessed Revolution, 214; ‘Holland 1624’, i. f. 68; ‘Spring 1624’, p. 147; ‘Lowther 1624’, f. 40v.
  • 19. CJ, i. 749b, 753a.
  • 20. Procs. 1625, pp. 465-6.
  • 21. Procs. 1626, ii. 139.
  • 22. Ibid. 140.
  • 23. SP16/54/2.
  • 24. CD 1628, ii. 316.
  • 25. Ibid. iii. 464; iv. 83.
  • 26. Ibid. iv. 365; Lismore Pprs. (ser. 2) ed. A.B. Grosart, ii. 126.
  • 27. CD 1628, iv. 289, 432.
  • 28. CJ, i. 932b.
  • 29. Atherton, 116; Add. 11816, f. 44; Add. 11044, f. 15.
  • 30. PROB 11/173, f. 77; C142/556/101.