My 12 x great grandfather Thomas Strickland was born on 6 June 1564 in Kendal, Westmorland, the eldest son of Walter Strickland Esq and Alice Tempest, both the products of gentry families. Thomas lacked Walter’s parental guidance for much of his childhood because his father died in 1569.
On 24 July 1603 Thomas was made a Knight of the Bath, a special knighthood conferred on important royal occasions such as coronations. This practice died out after the reign of Charles II. Later, George I introduced the Order of the Bath.
At a date unknown, probably during 1596, Thomas married Elizabeth Symon aka Seymour of Bristol, the daughter of John Seymour of Frampton Cotterell, Gloucestershire. The marriage produced a daughter, Alice, who married Sir William Webb, Equerry to Henry, Prince of Wales.
After Elizabeth’s death, Thomas married, c1599, Margaret Curwen, daughter of Sir Nicholas Curwen of Workington Hall, Cumbria, and Anne Musgrave. This marriage produced five children:
- Robert, who succeeded his father
- Thomas, who left no mark on history
- Walter, who married Anne Crofts of East Appleton, Yorkshire
- Dorothy, who married John Fleming of Rydal as his third wife
- Margaret, my direct ancestor, who married George Preston Esq of Holker Hall
Through his birth and marriages, Thomas enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge and in 1584 was made a Justice of the Peace. In 1603 he became a Sheriff and a member of the Council in the North. His roles included overseeing gaols, sewers and charities.
Thomas’ ancestors acquired the estate at Sizergh by marriage in 1239. The family regularly represented Westmorland in parliament from 1307 and Thomas was appointed custos rotulorum as soon as he came of age.
Margaret Curwen, Thomas’ second wife, was a strong Catholic. However, Thomas remained a supporter of Elizabeth I and her Protestant beliefs. Like his father before him, Thomas served as junior knight of the shire in Elizabeth’s last Parliament, and moved up to the first seat when re-elected in 1604.
In parliament, Thomas was among those named to consider bills to preserve coppices, to reform informers’ abuses and to annex certain property indissolubly to the Crown. He also proffered a bill to extend alnage to narrow draperies, but it made no progress beyond a first reading.
In the second parliamentary session, Thomas sat on five legislative committees including three concerned with the cloth trade, granting customs allowances to the merchants of York, Hull and Newcastle. Another of Thomas’ committees regulated the wages of spinners and weavers while the fifth dealt with Welsh cottons in the statute of 1604.
As Thomas’ parliamentary career progressed, he considered bills to confirm the endowment of St. Bees grammar school in Cumberland and to strengthen the enforcement of the penal laws. On 19 March 1604, he was granted privilege as a defendant in a trial at York assizes.
Outwardly successful, the above trial offers a clue as to a flaw in Thomas’ character: he was a compulsive gambler. Even at the time of his first marriage, Thomas was raising substantial loans. Gambling in the Elizabethan era centred on cards, dice, backgammon and draughts, and often took place in gambling houses and gambling dens.
At Easter 1607, Thomas invited his wife’s cousin Anthony Curwen to supper where arguments and attempted arrests flared up over debt. However, before Curwen ‘could get any to serve the said Sir Thomas with a subpoena, he being a Parliament man’, Thomas abstracted the lease of Sherburn rectory from his study in New Inn and obtained judgment against him.
Thomas died intestate on 19 June 1612, leaving acknowledged debts of £9,500, which equates to approximately £1,274,000 in today’s money. His widow, Margaret, bought the wardship of her eldest son Robert and managed to preserve the Sizergh estate from creditors’ demands until the latter’s majority.
Margaret, born c1560, survived Thomas by eighteen years and died in 1630. She did not remarry, but her fortitude held her family and its estates together. In 1629, Margaret’s son, Sir Robert Strickland, sent her a letter advising her how she should proceed with the Commissioners before the President at York, ‘so as to save her estate from sequestration.’
During 1623-4, while a young man, Robert Strickland was summond to parliament as a Knight of the Shire for Westmorland. A colonel in the army of Charles I, Robert commanded a troop of horse at the battle of Edgehill, while his son, Sir Thomas Strickland, led the regiment of foot.
Because of Sir Thomas Strickland’s gambling, his family had to fight many battles. However, for them a bigger battle lay ahead in the shape of the English Civil War.