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Davies, Thomas (1511?-1573) (DNB00)


DAVIES, THOMAS (1511?–1573), bishop of St. Asaph, was born about 1511, either at his father's house at Caerhun, in the parish of Llanbedr y Cennin, between Conway and Llanrwst in Carnarvonshire, or, as some say, in Conway town. His father, a reputed descendant of Sir Gruffudd Llwyd, was a country gentleman of some estate, and the house of Caerhun is said still to belong to his descendants. His brothers filled such important posts as sheriff, coroner, and escheator of Carnarvonshire. In 1535 the rectory of Llanbedr, together with the vicarage of Caerhun, was conferred on Davies, who, in accordance with a very common custom at that time, must have been resident for the next years at Cambridge. After a possible previous sojourn at Oxford, he entered first St. John's and afterwards Queens' Colleges in Cambridge, where he proceeded LL.B. in 1543, and LL.D. in 1548. In 1546 he appears as holding the office of chancellor of Bangor, a post only worth 40s. a year, and in 1552 Bishop Bulkeley of that see left him some books in his will. He held various other livings, including one portion of the sinecure of Llandinam, and retained his preferments during all the changes and troubles of the reigns of Edward and Mary. He was a sufficiently good catholic to receive from Cardinal Pole the custody of the spiritualities of Bangor on the death of Bishop Glynne in 1558 (Reg. Pole in Add. MS. 6086, f. 78), but he at once conformed on the accession of Elizabeth, was made archdeacon of St. Asaph, and was appointed bishop of that see on the translation of Bishop Richard Davies [q. v.] to St. David's. He was consecrated at Croydon by Parker on 26 May 1561. Even before his consecration his ‘hasty proceedings’ had excited the alarm of his predecessor (Parker Correspondence, p. 137, Parker Soc.). Perhaps it was in consequence of this that the temporalities of the see were not restored until 2 April 1562 (Fœdera, xv. 623). They were only worth 187l. a year, and, following the precedent of Richard Davies, the new bishop retained his other preferments. This being done without legal warrant, complaints were made to the queen and council, but Parker took up Davies's cause, and the council accepted his view that, as such commendams were customary in the see, even when ‘livings had been better and provisions cheaper,’ it was necessary that Davies should hold the benefices ‘for the maintenance of hospitality’ and to secure for him the ‘port agreeable in a bishop’ (Parker Correspondence, pp. 207–8). On such grounds he was allowed to hold the rectories of Estyn and Crome in commendam (Nasmith, Cat. MSS. C.C.C. Cant. p. 155). He possibly resigned to his kinsfolk some of his other livings, after having, it was said, made scandalous leases of the property that left little to his successors. He was present in the convocation of 1562, and subscribed with the other bishops the Thirty-nine Articles. In December 1566 he joined the other bishops in signing a letter to the queen urging her to allow the bill enforcing subscription to the Articles which she had stayed in the House of Lords, to pass through parliament. In 1571 he subscribed by proxy the canons agreed upon in that year. He seems to have lived mostly in his diocese, and to have shown great zeal for the maintenance of order and conformity. He had scarcely been consecrated when, in an assembly of the clergy of the deanery of Rhos, he drew up a series of directions to the clergy enjoining on them to keep residence and hospitality, to abolish relics and superstitions, to provide for the Welsh as well as the English, to enjoin the performance of the lawful ceremonies, to wear the proper vestments, to keep true registers, to provide themselves with books, and to use the stipends hitherto set apart for the ‘lady priest’ for parish schoolmasters (Wilkins, Concilia, iv. 228–9). He succeeded so far that he was able in 1570 to boast to Cecil that he had reduced his see to much better order than that in which he found it; but as there was still some disorderly persons, he prayed for the institution of an ecclesiastical commission for his diocese (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547–80, p. 396, cf. p. 406). He died on 16 Oct. 1573 (Clive, History of Ludlow, p. 209), and was buried at Abergele, but no monument marks his remains.

His will, dated 19 April 1570, included a legacy for the foundation of a scholarship at Queens' College, Cambridge, and bequests of 10l. for Bangor school, for furniture for the Bishop of Bangor's house, and for the church he was buried in. His wife, Margaret, survived him, and acted as his executrix. His only daughter, Catherine, married William Holland, a gentleman of Abergele.

[Browne Willis's Survey of Bangor, pp. 255, 257, 263, 267; Browne Willis's Survey of St. Asaph, ed. Edwards, i. 105; Thomas's History of Diocese of St. Asaph, pp. 86, 226, 237; Cooper's Athenæ Cantab. i. 319; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 823–4; Wilkins's Concilia, iv. 228–229; Sir John Wynn's History of the Gwydir Family, p. 94, ed. 1878; Baker's Hist. St. John's Coll. i. 249, ed. Mayor; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547–80; Parker Correspondence, Parker Soc., pp. 137, 207, 294, 446; Strype's Annals (8vo), vol. i. pt. i. pp. 371, 487; Strype's Parker (8vo), i. 293, ii. 60.]

T. F. T.