Sir Thomas KYTSON, Knight

Born: ABT 1485/1495, Hengrave, Suffolk, England

Died: 11 Sep 1540, Hengrave, Suffolk, England

Father: Robert KYTSON

Mother: ?

Married 1: ?


1. Elizabeth KYTSON

Married 2: Margaret DONNINGTON (C. Bath) (b. ABT 1509, Stoke Newington, London, England - d. 12 Jan 1561 - bur. Hengrave Church) (dau. of John Donnington of and Elizabeth Pye) (m.2 of Sir Richard Long - m. 3 John Bourchier, 2 E. Bath) ABT 1535


2. Catherine KYTSON

3. Frances KYTSON

4. Anne KYTSON

5. Dorothy KYTSON

6. Thomas KYTSON (Sir)

Son of Robert Kytson of Warton in Lancashire, was born in 1485. He came to London in his youth, and was apprenticed to Richard Glayser, mercer, and on the expiration of his indenture was admitted a freeman of the Mercers' Company in 1507. He twice served the office of warden of the company, in 1526 and 1534, and held the office of master in 1535. In 1521 Kytson purchased of the Duke of Buckingham the manor of Hengrave, Suffolk, and the manor of Colston Basset in Nottinghamshire for 2,340 , the estates being valued at 115 yearly. On the attainder and execution of the Duke of Buckingham in the following year, Kytson was for a time deprived of the estates, but they were ultimately restored to him, and were confirmed to him by an act of Parliament of 1524, which describes him as a 'citizen and mercer of London, otherwise called Kytson the merchant'.

At Hengrave he obtained a license from Henry VIII to build an embattled manor-house on a magnificent scale. The building was begun in 1525, and finished in 1538. An elaborate inventory of the furniture and goods at Hengrave, taken in 1603 (Gage, History of Hengrave, pp. 21-37), illustrates its great extent and elegance, and the vast wealth of its owner. In the valuation of the lands and goods of the inhabitants of London, taken in 1522, Kytson was assessed in goods at a thousand marks (altered to four thousand marks), and in lands at six hundred marks (State Papers, Hen. VIII, iii. pt. ii. p. 1052). In the following year he appears indebted to the Crown for 600, and at the time his financial dealings with the crown were on a large scale. (ib. p. 1530, vol. iv. pt. iii. p. 2771, vol. ix. p. 567, iii.) His mercantile transactions were very extensive. He was a member of the Merchant Adventurers' Company, and traded at the cloth fairs or staples held by that company at Antwerp, Middelburg, and other places in Flanders. Like many other wealthy London merchants, he appears to have had a house and staff of servants' at Antwerp (ib. vii. 166).

Kytson served the office of sheriff of London in 1533, and on 30 May in that year was knighted, an honour which was not conferred upon his co-sheriff, William Foreman (ib. vi. 279). In May 1534 he was associated with Rowland Lee, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, in receiving oaths of fealty from priests and monks (ib. vii. 283). Kytson was assessed for the subsidy of 1535 at four thousand marks (ib. viii. 184).

Subsequently he purchased several other manors in Suffolk of the crown of the yearly value of 202, 4s, 7d., for which he paid 3,710 1s. 8d. From an inventory of his effects taken after his death, it appears that his warehouses in London were stored with cloth of gold, satins, tapestry, velvets, furs, fustians, bags of pepper, cloves, madder, &c., to the value of 1,181 15s. 1d., and the ready money and debts (goods, doubtful, and desperate) amounted to a very considerable sum. He had a dwelling-house on Milk Street (with a chapel attached), the 'implements' in which were valued at 154. 8s. 3 1/2d.; a garden in Coleman Street, and a house and chapel at Stoke Newington. Besides Hengrave, he had houses at Westley and Risby in Suffolk, and at Torbrian in Devonshire.

Sir Thomas Kytson died 11 Sep 1540, aged 55 years. Upon the 21st of the same month allegations were taken to prove his noncupative will. John Crofts, of Westowes, Esq.; Edmund Crofts, on Lincoln's Inn, Gent., and others, deposed, that on Saturday, the 11 Sep, Sir Thomas Kytson being sick, and lying within his manor of Hengrave, about 8 o'clock of the night, Henry Payne, in the presence of the deponents, asked him, then lying in his bed, if he had any will made; to whom he answered, "No"; and that then the said Payne, speaking again, said "for ye have told me in times past that my lady your wife should have this manor of Hengrave"; and that the said Sir Thomas Kytson answered and said, "Yea, marry shall she"; and that then the said Payne, speaking again, said "And Felton's too?"- "Yea, answered Sir Thomas Kytson, "and Felton's too"; that the substance of this conversation was immediately set down in writing, in the form of a will, by Henry Payne, at the request of Sir Thomas Kytson, in his presence and in that of the deponents; and that Sir Thomas Kytson lived four hours after this conversation.

Kytson was buried with much state in Hengrave Church (ef. Gage, pp. 112-115). In the north-east angle of the chapel is a well-executed tomb to the memory of Margaret, countess of Bath (his widow), and her three husbands. A recumbent figure of Kytson in armour is placed on the step in front of the tomb, the frieze of which contains an inscription to his memory. On 22 Sep 1540 allegations were taken to prove his nuncupative will, by which he left his manors of Hengrave and Feltons and all his other property to his wife, Dame Margaret. The will is dated 11 Sep. (P.C.C. Spert, 30).

Kytson was twice married. By his first wife, whose name is not known, he had Elizabeth, wife of Edmund Crofts of Westowe in Suffolk. By his second wife, Margaret, only child of John Donnington of Stoke Newington in Middlesex and Elizabeth Pye, he had a posthumous son, afterwards Sir Thomas Kytson, and four daughters: Catherine, married to Sir John Spencer of Wormleighton , Warwickshire; Dorothy, married to Sir Thomas Pakington of Westwood, Worcestershire; Frances, wife of John, Lord Fitzwarren, eldest son of John Bourchier, Earl of Bath; and Anne, wife of Sir William Spring of Pakenham, Suffolk.

Dame Margaret (d. 1561) was married secondly to Sir Richard Long and afterwards to John Bourchier, Earl of Bath- a strenuous supporter of the cause of Queen Mary.

A portrait of Kytson by Holbein is at Hengrave, and was engraved by Sievier for Gage's 'History of Hengrave' (p. 106). [Records of the Corporation of London and of the Mercers' Company]

In 1589, the parish was suppressed. Why? Why was this church closed? What happened here for it to be given up? It is very simple. The Kytsons and the Gages were militantly recusant families. They maintained their Catholic faith and identity throughout the penal period. And they were powerful enough to face off the legal penalties that came with such a position. This is less rare in the north-west, for instance, but quite an unusual position in East Anglia.

The son of the Sir Thomas who built the hall was powerful enough to have entertained Queen Elizabeth in 1578, despite his Catholic faith. It is said that she tried to argue him into protestantism; in return, he presented her with a beautiful jewel. No wonder, then, that it was easier to hive off Hengrave church from the diocese of Norwich, than to tolerate the recusant priests that Sir Thomas, as patron of the living, would no doubt impose on them!

The will of Margaret Donnington, named members of the Spring family and Henry Payne. And she appointed her trusty and well-beloved son-in-law, Sir John Spencer and Sir Thomas Pakington, her son Thomas Kytson, and her son-in-law William Barnaby, executors of her will, and to be associated with them her loving friend Henry Payne; to each of whom she gave twenty pounds.

The wardship of her son, Sir Thomas Kytson, belonged to the King and was granted by the Crown first to Lord Chancellor Rich and afterward to the Countess of Bath.

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