Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/West, Thomas (1472?-1554)
WEST, Sir THOMAS, eighth Baron West and ninth Baron De La Warr (1472?–1554), soldier and courtier, born about 1472, was son and heir of Thomas West, eighth baron De La Warr, by Elizabeth, sister and heir of Sir John Mortimer and daughter of Hugh Mortimer of Mortimer's Hall, Hampshire, where West was probably born in 1472 (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, xiv. ii. 544, 547). In 1492 West was admitted to Gray's Inn. On 25 Jan. 1503 he was one of the esquires in attendance at the wedding feast of the Princess Margaret [see Tudor, Margaret] (Hist. MSS. Comm. 1888, Duke of Rutland's MSS. i. 18). On 30 June 1513 West was a captain in Henry VIII's army at the sieges of Thérouanne and Tournai, and was dubbed a knight-banneret at Lille on 14 Oct. 1513 (Metcalfe, Book of Knights, p. 45). On his return he resided at Halnaker or Halfnaker, Sussex, which he had acquired by marriage with Elizabeth, younger daughter and coheir of John Bonville. Here, on 23 May 1517, he received license to impark three hundred acres (Letters and Papers, ii. 3311). He occasionally attended court, and in 1520 was at the Field of the Cloth of Gold (ib. iii. 237, 241, 243; Chron. of Calais, p. 22), and at the interview of Henry VIII with Charles V at Gravelines on 10 July. At Christmas 1521 he was appointed carver to the king (Letters and Papers, iii. 1899). On 27 May 1522 he was at the meeting of Henry VIII with Charles V at Canterbury (ib. 2288). In 1523–4 he was a commissioner of subsidy for Sussex (ib. 3282, iv. 214, p. 83). On 10 Nov. 1524 he was pricked high sheriff for Surrey and Sussex (ib. 819). He succeeded to the title and estates of De La Warr on the death of his father, whose will was proved on 25 Feb. 1525–6. Having rebuilt Halnaker, he entertained Henry VIII there with ‘great cheer’ (ib. 2407) in August 1526. These expenses were probably the cause of his constant letters to Cromwell pleading ‘poverty’ and soliciting leave of absence from parliament (ib. v. 709, vi. 536, vii. 12, 1412, viii. 21). He was one of the peers who on 13 July 1530 subscribed the declaration to Clement VII urging the divorce (ib. iv. 6513). In January 1534, soliciting from Cromwell leave of absence from parliament on the ground of poverty, he adds that his proxy is as good as himself, ‘for I can reason no matter, but say yea or nay for the impediment God has given me in my tongue’ (ib. vii. 12). Nevertheless, he was summoned to sit upon the trial of Lord Dacre, and joined in his acquittal on 10 July 1534 (ib. 962, x.).
On 20 April 1534 De La Warr was nominated a commissioner for Sussex to receive the oaths to the act of succession (ib. 518). The nomination was an act of policy, for he was intimate with the Lisles [see Plantagnet, Arthur, Viscount Lisle] (ib. vi. 1179, 1180, vii. 644, 1577), and with Robert Sherborne [q. v.], bishop of Chichester, who were known to be opposed to the ecclesiastical policy of the government. The clerical party spoke of him as ‘the whole stay of our corner of Sussex’ (ib. vii. 1243). Upon the dissolution of Boxgrove on 26 March 1537 he purchased the goods of the house (Dugdale, Monasticon, iv. 649; Letters and Papers, ix. 509, 530, XII. i. 747), and, having vainly endeavoured to obtain an exchange of its lands for his hereditary estate of Shepton Mallet, Somerset, succeeded (29 Hen. VIII) in procuring a grant of a lease of the priory and rectory (ib. XIII. i. 585).
On 15 May 1536 De La Warr sat on a full panel of available peers (Friedmann, Anne Boleyn, ii. 274) at the trial of Anne Boleyn and her brother, and his friend George Boleyn, lord Rochford [q. v.] He henceforth acted with the opposition, who disliked the religious changes. After the northern rebellion De La Warr was evidently anxious to strengthen his position at court, and in 1537 was twice an unsuccessful candidate for the Garter (Letters and Papers, xii. i. 1008, ii. 445). He was among the peers who on 14 May 1537 convicted Lord John Hussey [q. v.] and Thomas, lord Darcy [q. v.] (ib. i. 1199, 1207), of complicity in the northern insurrection. On 15 Oct. he ‘uncovered the basins’ at the christening of Prince Edward (Edward VI; ib. XIII. ii. 911), and was one of the supporters of the canopy over the corpse at the funeral of Queen Jane Seymour [q. v.] at Windsor on 14 Nov. (ib. 1060). He was anxious to display vigilance on behalf of the government, and on 14 April 1538 sent Cromwell information of the disaffected language of the vicar of Walberton, a parish near Halnaker (ib. 759). Yet he was so vehement in his religious conservatism that he dismissed one of his servants who ‘were of the new opinions’ (ib. ii. 829, 1). It is evident that he was already under suspicion of disloyalty. A letter written by him to Cromwell from Halnaker on 9 Oct. 1538 (ib. 570) excuses his absence from London, and says he is ‘evil at ease.’ He had reason for the anxiety he felt (ib. 963). His intimate friends Sir Geoffrey Pole [q. v.] and Lord Montague, whom he had been entertaining at Halnaker the previous midsummer, had been arrested on suspicion of treason. Pole's confession implicated De La Warr (ib. p. 266) and George Crofts [q. v.], a prebendary of Chichester (ib. 695, 2, p. 264). Crofts confessed that De La Warr had made the particularly odious charge against the government that it only secured the conviction of Lord Darcy by a promise to the peers that he should be pardoned (ib. 803). On the other hand, De La Warr had expressed disapproval of the northern rebellion, and ‘rejoiced when the same was ended’ (ib. 822). More serious was the evidence of De La Warr's brother-in-law, Sir Henry Owen, on 13 Nov. Not only had De La Warr frequently denounced ‘the plucking down of abbeys and the reading of these new English books;’ Sir Henry had ‘known much familiarity to have been between the Marquis of Exeter’ [see Courtenay, Henry], the arch-suspect, and De La Warr (ib. 821). It is significant that on 4 Nov. 1538 the marquis and Lord Montague were sent to the Tower and on the same day Cromwell received a gratuity of 20l. from De La Warr (ib. XIV. ii. 327). The depositions against De La Warr were collected (ib. XIII. ii. 831–2). At the end of November he was examined before the privy council and confined to his house in London (ib. 968). On 1 Dec. the council wrote to the king apologising for not proceeding ‘more summarily’ (ib.) On 2 Dec. De La Warr was sent to the Tower. On 15 Dec. information reached the government of mysterious nocturnal visits to Halnaker, presumably to put evidence out of the way (ib. 1062). But the house was not searched, and De La Warr evidently had powerful friends. The clerical party in Sussex boldly predicted his speedy return (ib.) About 20 Dec. he was released (ib. 1112) upon recognisances of 3,000l., the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk and the Earl of Sussex being among his sureties (ib. 1117).
But De La Warr's opposition had been crushed. Early in November 1539 Cromwell wrote to Lady De La Warr that the king had forgiven her husband (ib. XIV. ii. 481). As a sign of grace his recognisances were discharged on 18 Nov. 1539, before the twelvemonth had expired (ib. 619–45). The pardon was not gratuitous. Henry intimated that he would like to have Halnaker in exchange for a grant of crown land (ib. 481). There was no alternative but prompt submission. Within a fortnight Halnaker was surveyed for the crown (ib. 544). The nunnery of Wherwell, Hampshire, was accepted in exchange, the grant being dated 24 March 1540 (ib. xv. 436–72; cf. ib. p. 219, c. 74). On 11 Dec. 1539 Cromwell received from De La Warr a fee of 50l. for his services (ib. XIV. ii. 328), and the language of Lady De La Warr seems to point to him as the author of the release of her husband from confinement (ib. 481).
De La Warr now reappeared at court. He was present at Henry's reception of Anne of Cleves on 3 Jan. 1540 (ib. xv. 5). On the following 23 July he purchased from the court of augmentations a house and chapel in the White Friars, Fleet Street (ib. p. 567; Pat. Rolls, 36 Hen. VIII, pt. i.). He had vacated Halnaker, which the king suffered to go to ruin (State Papers, Dom. Edw. VI, i. 30), and had moved to his father's house at Offington, Sussex, where on 22 June he obtained license to enclose land for his park (Letters and Papers, xv. 831–59). In 1541 he again twice became an unsuccessful candidate for the Garter (ib. xvi. 449, 751). His proxies at the opening of parliament on 29 Jan. 1546 were Lord St. John, great master, and Lord Russell, privy seal (Lords' Journals), a proof that he had now surrendered to the court party. But on the opening of parliament on 4 Nov. 1547, and on 24 Nov. 1548, he nominated Lord Seymour of Sudeley and Lord Morley (ib. i. 316, 355), showing that on the death of Henry VIII he had passed into opposition. In this he was perhaps influenced by the marriage of his niece Jane Guildford with John Dudley, earl of Warwick and afterwards duke of Northumberland [q. v.] It was probably through the influence of the earl, then at the height of his power, that on 1 Dec. 1549 De La Warr was elected a knight of the Garter.
De La Warr, having no children, had adopted as his heir, at some date after 1540, William West, son and heir of Sir George West of Warbleton, Sussex. Sir George was De La Warr's younger half-brother by his father's second wife, Eleanor Copley (Collins, Peerage, v. 16). According to Dugdale, William West was bred up by De La Warr in his own house; but ‘being not content to stay till his uncle's natural death, prepared poison to dispatch him quickly’ (Baronage, ii. 141). De La Warr thereupon brought in a bill of attainder to disinherit West. The record of De La Warr's attendances in the House of Lords during November 1549, when the bill passed the lords, confirms this (Lords' Journals). The bill was apparently thrown out by the commons, a new bill being introduced on 9 Jan. 1550. On 23 Jan. West, who had been imprisoned in the Tower, was brought to the bar of the house. ‘He clearly denied the fact, but confessed his hand to be at the confession, which he did for fear.’ Witnesses were called, the house considered his guilt proved, and the bill was passed two days later. It is possible that religious animosities played some part in this case. At any rate, it is certain that De La Warr not only forgave West but left him 350l. a year for life, a house in London, and his manors of Offington and Ewhurst (see West's statement in State Papers, Dom. Eliz. iii. 39).
It is evident that during Edward VI's reign De La Warr retained his religious convictions so far as they were consistent with his personal security. On 29 Sept. 1550 he denounced a Sussex clergyman to the privy council for irreverent language about the sacrament (Acts of Privy Council). On 14 April 1551 he was nominated, jointly with Lord Arundel, lord lieutenant of Sussex (ib.), probably through Warwick's influence. But when, as Duke of Northumberland, that peer proclaimed Lady Jane Grey, De La Warr declared for Mary. His loyalty was rewarded by a grant of two hundred marks per annum and nomination to the privy council (Rymer, Fœdera, xv. 352). He died in October 1554. Henry Machyn [q. v.] the diarist, a political sympathiser, speaks of him as ‘the good Lord De La Warr,’ and describes him as ‘the best howssekeeper in Sussex’ (Diary, p. 71). His funeral was sumptuous (ib.) He was buried at Broadwater, near Offington, close to the magnificent tomb he had erected there to his father. His monument in that church also survives. The ‘powr chapell to be buryed in’ which he had originally destined for himself at Boxgrove is another splendid specimen of Tudor art. In it was buried his wife, who predeceased him, it being near her ancestral domain of Halnaker. A poetical epitaph, composed in his honour by his friend Henry Parker, lord Morley, is printed in Wood's ‘Fasti,’ i. 117.
West's nephew, William West, first (or tenth) Baron De La Warr (1519?–1595), who had been adopted by his uncle, and by act of parliament in 1549–50 was disabled from all honours on the ground that ‘he, being not content to stay till his uncle's natural death, prepared poison to despatch him quickly,’ was none the less on 10 April 1563 restored in blood, and on 5 Feb. 1569–70 is believed to have been created by patent Baron De La Warr; he was summoned to parliament by writs from 8 May 1572 to 19 Feb. 1591–2, and sat on the trials of the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Arundel; he died on 30 Dec. 1595; and a portrait of him, attributed to Holbein, was exhibited at Kensington in 1868 (Cat. Third Loan Exhib. No. 629). His son Thomas, second or eleventh baron, claimed the precedency of his great-uncle's ancient barony, which the House of Lords, by a decision of very doubtful legality, granted (see G. E. C[okayne], Complete Peerage, iii. 48–9n.) The second or eleventh baron died on 24 March 1601–2, leaving, besides other issue, Thomas West, third or twelfth baron De La Warr [q. v.], Francis West [q. v.], John (d. 1659?), and Nathaniel, all of whom went to Virginia and took part in its government (see Brown, Genesis U.S.A., ii. 1047–8).[State Papers, Dom., Hen. VIII, Edw. VI, Eliz.; Pat. Rolls, Hen. VIII (Record office); Journals of the House of Lords; Journals of the House of Commons; Acts of the Privy Council, ed. Dasent, 1890, fol.; Nichols's Lit. Remains of Edward VI (Roxburghe Club), 1857; Machyn's Diary (Camden Soc.), 1847; Strype's Ecclesiastical Memorials, 1822, and Annals of the Reformation, 1824; Douthwaite's Gray's Inn, 1886; Foster's Register of Admissions to Gray's Inn, 1889; Dugdale's Monast. Angl. 1830, and Baronage of England, 1676; Nicolas's Testamenta Vetusta, 1826, 2 vols.; Jones's Hist. of Brecknockshire, 1809, 2 vols.; Collins's Peerage, ed. Brydges, 1812, vol. v.; Dallaway's Hist. of Sussex, 1815, vol. ii.; Elwes and Robinson's Castles, Manors, and Mansions of West Sussex, 1879; Cartwright's Rape of Bramber, 1830, 2 vols.; Tierney's History and Account of Arundel, 1834; Collinson's History of Somerset, 1791, 3 vols.; An Account of the Hospitals, &c., in Bristol, 1775; Cranidge's Mirror for the Burgesses and Commonalty of Bristol, 1818; Corry's History of Bristol, 1816, 2 vols.; Birch's Original Documents relating to Bristol, 1875; Carlisle's Endowed Grammar Schools, 1818, vol. ii.; Beltz's Order of the Garter, 1841.]