Thomas Causton Thundersley Protestant Martyr on Rayleigh Memorial

The execution of William Tyndale from Foxe's Book of Martyrs (1563)

Wendy Rose has posed a question. She says that Thomas Causton, Gent and Martyr on the Rayleigh Memorial actually lived in Thundersley, but does anyone know just where he lived?  Would it have been the Manor as he had property elsewhere.

Wikipedia, which is not always reliable, says that Thomas was a Protestant “gentleman” who was burnt at the stake in Rayleigh under Mary I on 26th March 1555 and lived at Horndon-on-the-Hill or “Thundersby”.

The website says that Thomas lived in Thundersley with his friend Thomas Higbed who was arrested with him, so that may give a clue. (Higbed is commemorated with a plaque at the Bell at Horndon, where he was burnt at the stake).

The Echo reported that The Martyrs’ Memorial, in Rayleigh High Street, (the building of which was organised and paid for by 3 devout Protestants from the town, who raised the £85 needed for its construction) was unveiled in front of 2,000 townsfolk on September 23, 1908.

Two of the four men commemorated were said to have been burned to death in the High Street on the very spot of the memorial, while the other pair were killed in Smithfield Market, London.

The Essex Family History website previously at previously said that he had land at Thundersley which was his main family residence, but offered no further detail of any location. (That website appears to be no longer active).

It went on to say that he was denounced as a practicing protestant, arrested with his servant and taken to be held in chains in Colchester Castle dungeons. Bishop Bonner went to Colchester, but was unable to get Thomas to turn back to Catholicism and so took him to London.

He was brought to an open examination at St Paul’s on 17th February 1555 and again refused to recant and was remanded into Newgate Prison. They tried again on 9th March, but he again refused to recant with the reported words, “‘no I will not abiure. Ye sayd that the bishops that were lately burned, be Heretickes: But I pray God make me suche an Hereticke as they were’.”

He was sentenced to death at the stake and on 23 March delivered to the Sheriff of Essex and then burnt at the stake at Rayleigh.

As a consequence, Robert Drake, the Thundersley Rector who had been sponsored by Causton was deprived of his living and Causton’s lands were confiscated. It is said that the Causton family tried unsuccessfully to recover the estates.

So Wendy’s question remains. Can you say where Causton lived while in Thundersley?

{Ed: Causton,  Caulston both appear in one or more sources quoted.}

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  • Who were the three people who paid for the memorial in Rayleigh?

    By Susan Lewsey (14/03/2021)
  • Hey thank you! I hadn’t seen this, as had not been researching due to illness and archives closed .. but thank you very much and will pursue! I thought Bonner and Rich would be involved in some way!

    By Wendy Rose (06/03/2021)
  • Hi Wendy, some sources of information that may help with your research:

    1) John Causton has written a detailed article on the life of Thomas Causton: ‘Thomas Causton of Thundersley, Gentleman: One of the First Marian Martyrs in Essex’, which can be found in the Spring 2019 edition of the Essex Journal. In that article he cites a document that records Thomas as the owner of several copyhold properties in the manor of Tillingham Hall in 1547 but describes him as living in Thundersley. No purchases of property in Thundersley are mentioned in the piece, but there are documents regarding holdings in Rayleigh.

    2) A second inquisition post mortem on 9th April 1555 at Barking states that: ‘Thomas Causton gentleman of Rayleigh shortly before was convicted of heresy and openly burned and executed was seized of ……… two parcels of land of 12 acres, 2 1/2 acres of woodland, a further 2 acres of woodland in Rayleigh called Agate, two parcels of land and one woodland in Rayleigh and Thundersley called Trayfords. Agate was worth 10 shillings and Trayfords 5 shilling a year.’

    3) Richard Lord Rich acquired Agateland in November 1555, presumably from the Crown, and promptly sold it to John Cooke of Rayleigh for £20. (ERO D/DS 494/1)

    Perhaps someone has knowledge of Trayfords?

    As to Thundersley manor:

    1) A Crown document dated 24th March 1554/5, at Essex Record Office (D/DU 99/12), confirms that the widow Susan Tonge (also known as Clarencius), was granted the manor of Thundersley on the 22nd of June 1553 by Edward VI and furthermore, was awarded the advowson of the parish church by Mary I. Susan had served Mary Tudor for many years, and when Mary became queen, she was given the title of ‘First Lady of the Bedchamber’. From a local Catholic family – the Whites – and related to the influential Petres and Tyrells, her sympathies were with the Roman Catholic faith. When Robert Drakes was deprived of his living as rector of St Peter’s Thundersley, on account of his Protestant faith in 1554 and burnt at Smithfield in 1556, it was Susan Clarencius who sponsored his successor John Hollywell.

    2) From 1541 to 1553, Thundersley manor had been in the hands of William Parr, Marquis of Northampton and Earl of Essex, brother of Catherine Parr the sixth wife of Henry VIII. It was seized after he was implicated in the plot to crown Protestant Lady Jane Grey, rather than Catholic Mary, after the death of Edward VI. This would suggest that when Thomas Causton settled in Thundersley he believed it was his faith that was in the ascendant.

    By Lynda Manning (19/02/2021)

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