Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thynne, John
THYNNE, Sir JOHN (d. 1580), builder of Longleat, was the eldest son of Thomas Thynne or De la Inne of Church Stretton, Shropshire, by his wife, Margaret, daughter and heiress of Thomas Eynes or Heynes of that place. He was early introduced at the court of Henry VIII by his uncle, William Thynne [q. v.]; and, 'being an ingenious man and a travalier,' was taken into the household of Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford and afterwards duke of Somerset [q. v.], whose steward he subsequently became. He accompanied Hertford's Scottish expedition in 1544. Three years later he served in Somerset's army of invasion, and was knighted after the battle of Pinkie (10 Sept. 1547), where he was wounded. In recognition of his services in North Britain he was allowed to quarter on his arms the Scots lion. Thynne had now by marriage and the favour of Somerset acquired a substantial fortune, and had estates in Wiltshire, Somerset, and Gloucestershire, besides those he had inherited in Shropshire. Longleat he bought in 1541 from Sir John Horsey, who had received a grant of it from the crown in the previous year. While Somerset was absorbed in public matters, Thynne looked after the duke's private affairs, and his conduct in this capacity brought some odium on his principal. 'There is nothing,' wrote Paget, 'his grace requires so much to take heed of as that man's proceedings' (Cal. State Papers, For. i. 45). Thynne remained faithful to Somerset, was arrested with him at Windsor on 13 Oct. 1549 and committed to the Tower (Acts of the Pricy Council, ed. Dasent, ii. 343). In February 1550 he was released on paying a sum of money and 'uppon condicion to be from day to day forthcumyng and to abide all orders' (ib. p. 398). With others of Somerset's adherents he was again arrested on 16 Oct. 1551, and committed to the Tower on 10 Nov. In June 1552 he was released on paying a heavy fine and surrendering the patent of the packership of London and his lease of the Savoy Hospital (ib. iv. 84, 86). On 25 July 1553 instructions were sent him by Queen Mary to stay in his own country till her further pleasure. Throughout her reign he continued a zealous protestant.
Subsequently Thynne acted as comptroller of the household of the Princess Elizabeth (cf. Nichols, Progresses of Elizabeth, i. 114, 124, ii. 74, 87). In the first parliament of Elizabeth he sat for Wiltshire, and afterwards for the boroughs of Great Bedwin and Heytesbury, but lived for the most part in the country. In 1569 he was appointed one of the commissioners of musters for Wiltshire and a justice of the peace (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547-80, pp. 341-9). Meanwhile, Longleat House, on the site of the dissolved priory of St. Radegund, had been begun in January 1567, and the building was carried on till 1579. Though often attributed to John Thorpe (fl. 1570-1610) [q. v.], it is more probable that the plan was Thynne's own. The whole of the outside and the interior, from the hall to the chapel court, were finished in Sir John's time. The great stairs and stone terrace were added in the time of his great-grandson, Sir James Thynne (1605-1670), under the advice of Sir Christopher Wren. It is said to have been the first well-built house in the kingdom. All the accounts relating to this period of the building are preserved, and show an expenditure of about 8,000l. Queen Elizabeth stayed at Longleat on her way to Bristol in 1575.
Thynne died in April 1580, and was buried in the church of Monkton Deverell, Wiltshire. In the chancel is a monument with a Latin inscription, erected by Thomas Thynne, first viscount Weymouth. Sir John appointed as one of the 'overseers' of his will the lord-treasurer of England (Burghley) 'in respect of their former friendship,' Sir Amyas Paulet being another. A portrait of him at Longleat was engraved from a drawing by Roth for Sir R. C. Hoare's 'Modern Wiltshire,' where are also engravings by G. Hollis of views of Longleat House. Some valuable letters and papers acquired by Thynne through his connection with the Duke of Somerset are preserved there. A few were printed in full by Canon Jackson in 'Wiltshire Archæological Magazine,' vol. xv. The collection is inadequately catalogued in the third report of the historical manuscripts commission (pp. 180-202).
Thynne was twice married: first, to Christian, daughter and heir of Sir Richard Gresham [q. v.], and sister of Sir Thomas; and, secondly, to Dorothy, daughter of Sir William Wroughton. Thomas Thynne (d. 1682) [q. v.] and Thomas Thynne, first viscount Weymouth [q. v.], were both great-grandsons of Thynne's eldest son, Sir John, who succeeded to Longleat, and died in 1623 (Hoare, Modern Wiltshire, vol. i. 'Heytesbury,' pp. 60-61).[Botfield collected in his Stemmata Botvilliana (1858) much information concerning the Thynne family, and embodied in it the researches of Sir R. C. Hoare, Joseph Morris (Hist. of Family of Thynne alias Botfield, 1855), and Blakeway. See also Lit. Rem. of Edw. VI (Roxburghe Club); Cal. Hatfield MSS. vols. i. ii.; Fuller's Worthies, 1811, ii. 462; Strype's Works; Collins's Peerage; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500-1714; Jackson's Hist. of Longleat; Ret. Memb. Parl.; Blomfield's Renaissance Architecture in England, 1897. For the family pedigree and the inscription in Monkton Deverell church, see Hoare's Modern Wiltshire, vol. i., Hundred of Heytesbury. See also art. Thorpe, John, fl. 1570-1610.]