Thomas Spring of Lavenham

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Thomas Spring
Bornc. 1474
Burial place Lavenham, Suffolk
Occupation Cloth merchant
Spouse(s)Anne King
Alice Appleton
Children Sir John Spring
Robert Spring
Anne Spring
Rose Spring
Bridget Spring
Parent(s)Thomas Spring, Margaret Appleton
Brass of Thomas Spring (died 1486) and his wife Margaret, the father of Thomas "The rich clothier" Spring. ThomasSpring1486.jpg
Brass of Thomas Spring (died 1486) and his wife Margaret, the father of Thomas "The rich clothier" Spring.

Thomas Spring (c. 1474 – 1523), also referred to as Thomas Spring III or The Rich Clothier, was an English cloth merchant during the early 1500s. [1] From Lavenham in Suffolk he consolidated his father's business to become one of the most successful in the booming wool trade, and was one of the richest men in England in his lifetime. [2]

English people Nation and ethnic group native to England

The English people are a nation and an ethnic group native to England who speak the English language. The English identity is of early medieval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Angelcynn. Their ethnonym is derived from the Angles, one of the Germanic peoples who migrated to Great Britain around the 5th century AD. England is one of the countries of the United Kingdom, and the majority of people living there are British citizens.

Cloth merchant one who sells cloth

In the Middle Ages or 16th and 17th centuries, a cloth merchant was one who owned or ran a cloth manufacturing or wholesale import or export business. A cloth merchant might additionally have owned a number of draper's shops. Cloth was extremely expensive and cloth merchants were often very wealthy. A number of Europe's leading banking dynasties such as Medici and Berenberg built their original fortunes as cloth merchants.

Lavenham village and civil parish in Babergh, Suffolk, England

Lavenham is a village, civil parish and electoral ward in Suffolk, England. It is noted for its Guildhall, Little Hall, 15th-century church, half-timbered medieval cottages and circular walks. In the medieval period it was among the twenty wealthiest settlements in England. Today, it is a popular day-trip destination for people from across the country along with another historic wool town in the area, Long Melford.



Thomas Spring was the eldest son and heir of Thomas Spring (d. 7 September 1486) [3] of Lavenham, Suffolk, and Margaret Appleton. His father's will mentions Thomas and two other sons, William and James (slain 1493), [3] as well as a daughter, Marian. [4] He had another brother, John Spring, whose daughter, Margaret, married Aubrey de Vere, second son of John de Vere, 15th Earl of Oxford; Aubrey de Vere and Margaret Spring were the grandparents of Robert de Vere, 19th Earl of Oxford. [5]

John de Vere, 15th Earl of Oxford English noble, born in Wales

John de Vere, 15th Earl of Oxford, Lord Great Chamberlain KGPC was an English peer and courtier.

Robert de Vere, 19th Earl of Oxford British soldier, and penultimate Earl of Oxford

Robert de Vere, 19th Earl of Oxford was a British soldier, and the penultimate Earl of Oxford.

The will of Thomas Spring's grandfather, also named Thomas (d.1440), mentions his wife, Agnes, his eldest son and heir, Thomas (d. 7 September 1486), another son, William, and two daughters, Katherine and Dionyse. [6]


Thomas inherited the Spring family wool and cloth business from his father, and during his lifetime the cloth trade was at its most profitable. By the time of his death, Spring was believed to be the richest man in England outside the peerage, having invested much of his money in land. [7] [8]

A peerage is a legal system historically comprising various hereditary titles in a number of countries, and composed of assorted noble ranks.

In 1512, 1513 and 1517 his name appears as one of the commissioners for collecting taxation in Suffolk. Spring played a large part in defeating supporters of William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, who claimed the throne from Henry VII. However, in 1517, in the reign of Henry VIII, Spring was given exemption from his public duties. [9] At this point, he was probably at the height of his wealth.

William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk 15th-century English noble

William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk,, nicknamed Jackanapes, was an English magnate, statesman, and military commander during the Hundred Years' War. He became a favourite of the weak king Henry VI of England, and consequently a leading figure in the English government. Due to his influence in state policy, Suffolk came to be associated with many of the royal government's failures of the time, particularly on the war in France, earning him significant unpopularity and eventually leading to his downfall. He also appears prominently in Shakespeare's Henry VI, parts 1 and 2.

Henry VII of England King of England, 1485–1509

Henry VII was the King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizure of the crown on 22 August 1485 to his death. He was the first monarch of the House of Tudor.

Henry VIII of England 16th-century King of England

Henry VIII was King of England from 1509 until his death in 1547. He was the second Tudor monarch, succeeding his father Henry VII. Henry is best known for his six marriages, in particular his efforts to have his first marriage annulled. His disagreement with the Pope on the question of such an annulment led Henry to initiate the English Reformation, separating the Church of England from papal authority. He appointed himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England and dissolved convents and monasteries, for which he was excommunicated. Henry is also known as "the father of the Royal Navy"; he invested heavily in the Navy, increasing its size greatly from a few to more than 50 ships.

St Peter and St Paul's Church, Lavenham, Suffolk, partly financed by Thomas Spring and where he is buried St. Peter and Paul Church, Lavenham, Suffolk.jpg
St Peter and St Paul's Church, Lavenham, Suffolk, partly financed by Thomas Spring and where he is buried

Spring is mentioned in John Skelton's satirical poem Why come ye not to Court, which makes reference to the rich clothier with whom Skelton is said to have been friends. [8] He writes:

John Skelton, also known as John Shelton, possibly born in Diss, Norfolk, was an English poet and tutor to King Henry VIII of England. Skelton died in Westminster and was buried in St. Margaret's Church, although no trace of the tomb remains.

"Now nothing, but pay pay with laughe and lay downe Borough, Citie and towne good Springe of Lanam must count what became of his clothe makyng. My Lordes grace will bryng down thys hye Springe and brynge it so lowe it shal not ever flow."

Like his father, Thomas Spring was closely involved in the rebuilding of St Peter and St Paul's Church in Lavenham. This was partly done in order to propitiate the 13th Earl of Oxford, who had ordered the reconstruction work and was the church's other principal donor. The rebuilding also gave Spring an opportunity to display his wealth and generosity, thus solidifying his position in Suffolk; a common motivation behind the construction of many wool churches.

Spring made his last will on 13 June 1523 as 'Thomas Spring of Lavenham, clothmaker', leaving his wife, Alice, all her apparel and jewels, 1000 marks in money, and half his plate and implements of household, with the other half to go to his eldest son and heir, John. Spring also left bequests to his son, Robert, his unmarried daughter, Bridget, the children of his married daughter, Rose Guybon, and the children of his son-in-law, Thomas Jermyn. To 'my wife's daughter, Alice May', he bequeathed £26 13s 4d, 'which I recovered for her of May's executors', to be paid to her at the age of sixteen. [10] A further sum of 5000 marks was to left in trust for future generations of Spring family members with last know survivor being Patricia Anne Shalts (nee Spring) Whereabouts unknown.

Thomas Spring was buried in the Spring family parclose in Lavenham church before the altar of St Katherine. [11] His widow commissioned Flemish wood carvers to create a ten-foot high parclose screen around his tomb, which is one of the most intricate of its type still in existence. [12]

Marriage and issue

Thomas Spring is said to have married firstly, in 1493, Anne King, whose family was of Boxford, Suffolk, by whom he had two sons and two daughters:

Spring married secondly a wife named Alice (d.1538), [19] [20] the widow of a husband surnamed May, [21] by whom he had a daughter:

Spring's widow, Alice, survived him by fifteen years. In her will, dated 13 April 1538, she mentions her daughter by Thomas Spring, Bridget, now the wife of William Erneley; her daughter Alice, now the wife of Richard Fulmerston, gentleman; and her daughter Margaret (died c. 1552), the wife of William Risby (died c. 1551). [24] She appoints as executors her daughter Margaret and sons-in-law, William Risby and Richard Fulmerston, and requests "my Lord of Oxenford to aid and defend my said executors." [25] In a codicil added 31 August 1538, she discharges Richard Fulmerston as executor, and appoints him supervisor. Both will and codicil were proved 5 September 1538. [25]

See also


  1. Phil W Kaufman, American Traces in Anglian Places (, 19.
  2. The Cloth Industry of Lavenham Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  3. 1 2 Burke & Burke 1838 , p. 510.
  4. Betterton & Dymond 1989 , p. 12; Howard 1866 , p. 170.
  5. Anderson 1993 , p. 141; Betterton & Dymond 1989 , p. 51.
  6. Betterton & Dymond 1989 , p. 10.
  7. The Cloth Industry of Lavenham Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  8. 1 2 Walker 1988 , p. 112.
  9. McClenaghan 1924 , pp. 14–15
  10. Betterton & Dymond 1989 , pp. 14–15; Howard 1866 , pp. 171–2.
  11. Betterton & Dymond 1989 , pp. 14–15.
  12. Phil W Kaufman, American Traces in Anglian Places (, 19.
  13. Burke & Burke 1838 , p. 501; Coppinger 1922 , p. 177.
  14. Howard 1866 , pp. 168, 181–3.
  15. Howard 1866 , p. 183.
  16. Betterton states that the daughter who married Sir Thomas Jermyn was Margaret; Betterton & Dymond 1989 , p. 51.
  17. 1 2 3
  18. Bethem 1803 , p. 59.
  19. Betterton & Dymond 1989 , p. 13.
  20. Burke states that Alice was Thomas Spring's first wife, and the mother of all his children; Burke & Burke 1838 , p. 510.
  21. Betterton & Dymond 1989 , p. 15.
  22. Erneley, William (1501-46), of Cakeham near West Wittering, Sussex, History of Parliament Retrieved 26 April 2013.
  23. Betterton & Dymond 1989 , p. 51.
  24. Winthrop 1897 , pp. 68–9; Howard 1866 , pp. 173–6.
  25. 1 2 Howard 1866 , pp. 173–6.

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