Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Walmesley, Thomas

732567Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 59 — Walmesley, Thomas1899James McMullen Rigg

WALMESLEY, Sir THOMAS (1537–1612), judge, eldest son of Thomas Walmesley of Showley in the township of Clayton-le-dale and of Cunliffe in the township of Rishton, Lancashire, by his wife Margaret (born Livesey), was born in 1537. His father was rated in the general levy of arms of 1574 at a coat of plate, a long-bow, a sheaf of arrows, a caliver, a scull and a bill; and was joined with Sir Richard Sherborne as assessor of the Trawden forest bridge reparation rate in 1576. He died on 16 April 1584 (Ducat. Lanc. i. 54). The future judge was admitted on 9 May 1559 student at Lincoln's Inn, where he was called to the bar on 15 June 1567, and elected bencher in 1574, autumn reader in 1576, Lent reader in 1577, and autumn reader again in 1580, in anticipation of his call to the degree of the coif, which, notwithstanding that he was somewhat suspect of papistry, took place about Michaelmas. In 1583 he made before the court of common pleas a stout but ineffectual attempt to sustain the validity of papal dispensations and other faculties issued during the reign of Queen Mary (Strype, Ann. (fol.) III. i. 194). He represented his native county in the parliament of 1588–9, served on several committees, and contributed 25l. to the loan raised on privy seal in January of that year (Townshend, Hist. Coll. 1680, pp. 18–20; Harl. MS. 2219, f. 16). On 10 May 1589 he was created justice of the common pleas.

His reputation for learning was great, and he early evinced his independence by allowing bail in a murder case, contrary to the express injunctions of the queen conveyed through the lord chancellor. His temerity provoked a reprimand (February 1592), but had apparently no more serious consequence (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1591–4, p. 188). His vigour gained him respect, and Southampton voted him its freedom on 6 Feb. 1594–5. In 1597 he was assistant to the House of Lords in committee on certain bills. He was placed on the ecclesiastical commission for Chester on 31 Jan. 1597–8. He was also a member of the special commission before which Essex was arraigned at York House on 5 June 1600, and assisted the peers on his trial in Westminster Hall, 19–25 Feb. 1600–1. He was continued in office on the accession of James I, and was knighted at Whitehall on 23 July 1603. He was a member of the special commission that tried on 15 Nov. following the ‘Bye’ conspirators. In regard to the important constitutional question raised by Calvin's case (Cobbett, State Trials, ii. 559), whether natives of Scotland born since the accession of James I to the English throne were thereby naturalised in England, Walmesley evinced uncommon independence and also a certain narrowness of mind. The matter was discussed by a committee of the House of Lords, with the help of the common-law bench, Bacon, and other eminent counsel, in the painted chamber on 23 Feb. 1606–7, and on the following day was decided in the affirmative by ten out of the twelve judges. Of the other two, one—Sir David Williams [q. v.] —was absent; Walmesley alone dissented (Lords' Journals, ii. 476). He adhered to his opinion on the subsequent argument in the exchequer chamber (Hilary term, 1608), and induced Sir Thomas Foster to concur in it.

During his long judicial career Walmesley rode every circuit in England, except that of Norfolk and Suffolk. His account-book for the years 1596–1601, printed in ‘Camden Miscellany’ (vol. iv.), records in minute and curious detail his expenses on the western circuit and on the Oxford circuit during the autumn of 1601. By fair, and also, it was whispered, foul means, he amassed a large fortune, which he invested in broad acres in his native county. His principal seat was at Dunkenhalgh, near Blackburn, to which he retired on a pension towards the end of 1611 (Court and Times of James I, i. 154). He died on 26 Nov. 1612. His remains were interred in the chantry of our Lady, appendant to Dunkenhalgh manor, in the south aisle of Blackburn parish church. His monument, which was copied from that of Anne Seymour, duchess of Somerset, in St. Nicholas's Chapel, Westminster Abbey, was ruthlessly demolished by the insurgents on the outbreak of the civil war (see the inscription in prose and verse in Whitaker's Whalley, 4th edit. ii. 281). The present monument was erected in 1862. A full-length portrait of the judge and his lady is preserved in Dunkenhalgh House.

In right of his wife (d. 19 April 1635), Anne, daughter and heiress of Robert Shuttleworth of Hacking, Lancashire, Walmesley held the Hacking estates, which, with his own, passed to his only son, Thomas, who thus became one of the magnates of Lancashire. Bred in, he adhered to, the principles and practices of the Roman catholic church. He subscribed at Oxford, 1 July 1613, but did not graduate. He was entered student at Gray's Inn on 11 Nov. 1614, was knighted on 11 Aug. 1617, represented the Lancashire borough of Clitheroe in the parliament of 1621–2, and Lancashire itself in that of 1623–4. He died at Dunkenhalgh on 12 March 1641–2, having married twice and leaving issue by both wives. His posterity died out in the male line in 1711, but through the marriage of the last male descendant's youngest sister, Catherine Walmesley, with Robert, seventh baron Petre, her first husband, is in the female line represented in the peerage at the present day; by her second husband, Charles, fifteenth baron Stourton, she had no issue. (For other branches see Burke, Landed Gentry.)

[Shuttleworth Accounts (Chetham Soc.), pp. 91, 265, 1077; St. George's Visitation of Lancaster (Chetham Soc.), p. 67; Hist. of the Chantries within the County Palatine of Lancashire (Chetham Soc.) i. 155; Lancashire and Cheshire Wills and Inventories (Chetham Soc.), iii. 193; Lancashire and Cheshire Wills and Inventories (Chetham Soc. n.s.) vol. ii.; Lancashire Lieutenancy under the Tudors (Chetham Soc.); Dr. Farmer Chetham MS. (Chetham Soc.), Lanc. and Chesh. Rec. Soc., i. 234; Dugdale's Visitation of Yorkshire (Surtees Soc), p. 14; Genealogist, new ser. ed. Murray, x. 243; Chetham Misc. i. art. iii. 26, iii. art. iii. 8, vi. p. xxviii; Whitaker's Hist. of Whalley; Abram's Hist. of Blackburn; Lincoln's Inn Records; Inner Temple Records, i. 473; Addit. MS. 12507, f. 78; Metcalfe's Book of Knights; Wynne's Serjeant-at-law; Dugdale's Orig. pp. 48, 253, 261, 313, 378; Chron. Ser. pp. 97–100; Manning's Serviens ad Legem, p. 240; Dr. Dee's Diary (Camden Soc.); Manningham's Diary (Camden Soc.), p. 59; D'Ewes's Journal of the Parliaments (1682); Spedding's Life of Bacon, ii. 173, 283; Hutton Corresp. (Surtees Soc.), p. 157; Cobbett's State Trials, i. 1334, ii. 62; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1581–1615; Hist. MSS. Comm. 8th Rep. App. i. 272–3, 11th Rep. App. iii. 21, 12th Rep. App. iv. 183, 229, 362, 14th Rep. App. iv. 583; Cal. Cecil MSS. v. 469, vi. 76, 210, 224; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Gray's Inn Adm. Reg.; Baines's Lancashire, ed. Harland; G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage, ‘Stourton;’ Foss's Lives of the Judges.]

J. M. R.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.274
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line
159 i 14-15 Walmesley, Sir Thomas: for Showley-in-Clayton and Cunliffe-in-Rishton, read Showley, in the township of Clayton, and Cunliffe, in the township of Rishton,
ii 39 for the manor of Dunkenhalgh read at Dunkenhalgh
160 i 16 omit first
17-18 for and secondly with . . . baron Stourton read her first husband
18 omit doubly
20 for day. read day; by her second husband, Charles, fifteenth baron Stourton, she had no issue.
36 after xxviii; insert Whitaker's History of Whalley; Abram's History of Blackburn;