Oxford History

An account of Thomas Mallinson of Oxford

An account of Thomas Mallinson of Oxford

Niall C.E.J. O’Brien


Thomas Mallinson was a successful Oxford business man who served as M.P. for the city in the reign of Queen Mary. In an account written in 1982 it was said that his origins and profession are unknown. This article sets out to add further information to the story of Thomas Mallinson.[1]

Thomas Mallinson was born about 1514 and was admitted a freeman in 1534-5. His origins and early business career are unknown but by 1543 he had become one of the wealthier townsmen with his goods worth £20 in the subsidy roll in the 1540s. By 1550 his goods increased in value to £25 and in 1551 were worth £28. In June 1541 he claimed payment of a bill as Thomas Mallinson, tailor. By 1541 Thomas Mallinson was a common councilman in the city.[2]

First apprentice

On 5th February 1542 Thomas Mallinson, tailor, took on his first known apprentice. This person was Clemence Hunt, son of William Hunt, tailor of Thame, Oxford. The apprenticeship was to start on 24th February and last seven years. At the end of this term Clemence Hunt was to serve an extra year in which he was to receive 40s and double apparel.[3] This extra year maybe on the recommendation of the Tailor’s Guild to slow down and control the numbers entering the profession. Another possibility is that Clemence Hunt may not reach the age of twenty one at the end of term.[4]

On 14th March 1542 Thomas Mallinson took on another apprentice, Giles Taylour, for seven years beginning on 2nd February 1543. Giles Taylour was the son of John Taylour, husbandman of Hanbury in Worcestershire and the first of only two people from Hanbury to serve as apprentices in Oxford.[5] The evidence of taking on two apprentices at about the same time shows the high level of business conducted by Thomas Mallinson. Most masters only took on one apprentice at a time or took on a second a few years into the first apprenticeship. With the apprentices it is likely that Thomas Mallinson employed experience workers as he wouldn’t have to spare time to engaged in civic life if he was just one his own.

It would seem that Clemence Hunt and Giles Taylour left Oxford after the completion of their apprenticeship. Certainly they don’t appear as masters to any later apprenticeships. Overall only a small proportion of Oxford apprentices took up citizenship in the city. Acquiring the status of freeman carried privileges but also was saddled with burdens. It would seem that many apprentices moved to another town or city on qualification and this is repeated in other cities such as London, Bristol and Gloucester. It is also true that many members of the tailor’s guild subsidiary company, the journeymen’s company, came to Oxford after serving their time elsewhere.[6]

Oxford high street

View over Oxford

Property activities 

While taking on his first apprentices, Thomas Mallinson was also involved in some property dealing. In November 1542 he compounded for the office of chamberlain by agreeing to finish work on a new building; six months later he was commissioned to finish two chimneys on the same building. Elsewhere Thomas Mallinson leased of a tenement which became the Crown Inn, and was held by John Davenant early in the 17th century.[7] In 1548 Thomas Mallinson held a tenement in St. Martin’s parish near Cornmarket and beside a shop belonging to Christ Church.[8]

Further apprentices and family life

By 1547 Thomas Mallinson had changed his trade description from tailor to that of draper. On 21st December 1546 (indenture signed on 10th January 1547) Thomas Mallinson took on Robert Gosse for eight years. Presumingly Clemence Hunt and Giles Taylour were still in Mallinson’s employment. Robert Gosee was the son of the late William Gosse of Oxford. At the end of the apprenticeship Robert Gosse was to serve an extra year at which he would receive double apparel and £3 6s 8d.[9]

It is possible that Robert Gosse was a cousin, or even nephew-in-law, of Thomas Mallinson as by 1544 Thomas had married Agnes Gosse. This Agnes Gosse was the widow of William Gosse, a common councilman at Oxford in 1535. Although Thomas Mallinson was a rising star in the Oxford business world his money was not always sufficient for easy living. At one time Agnes Gosse, then wife of Thomas Mallinson, was arrested for debt and appeared before Chancellor Audley the keeper of the Bocardo prison, as a former prisoner.[10]

At some date Agnes Gosse died and Thomas Mallinson married a woman called Anne who was his widow in 1557.

Town offices and later apprentices

The activities of married life, training apprentices, and operating a draper’s business didn’t totally take up Thomas’s day; he still had time for involvement in civic life. After becoming a common councilman Thomas Mallinson went on to be city bailiff in 1545-6, and again in 1548-9. In 1547 he was made a subsidy collector and by 1550 was a city alderman.[11]

On 20th November 1550 Thomas Mallinson, draper, signed an indenture with William Rogerson to serve as apprentice for eight years from 29th September 1551. At the end of term William was to receive double apparel and 26s 8d. William Rogerson was the son of Henry Rogerson, cooper of Abingdon, Berkshire.[12]

On 3rd December 1550 Thomas Mallinson signed another indenture of apprenticeship. His new student was Simon Higgins of Wendlebury in Oxfordshire and son of William Higgins, husbandman. Simon Higgins had started his apprenticeship on 29th September 1550 and was to serve nine years. At the end of term he was to get double apparel and 40s while Thomas Mallinson agreed to pay Simon’s application for freedom.[13] Simon Higgins would have qualified as a draper in 1558 but does not appear in later records as taking on an apprentice.

M.P. for Oxford

In April 1554 Thomas Mallinson furthered his civic career when he became M.P. for Oxford in the second Parliament of Queen Mary.[14] At first Thomas Mallinson didn’t have far to travel as the first session of the Parliament was held in Oxford before moving to Westminster. The Parliament was dissolved on 5th May 1554.[15] One of the main items of business of the parliament was to pass an Act for the Marriage of Queen Mary to Philip of Spain. The Act made provision for the impending marriage of Queen Mary and Prince Philip whereby Philip was to be King of England and Ireland; the dating of documents was by their joint reigns and the opening of Parliament was by their joint authority. There were also controls on Philip’s power in terms of appointing foreigners and his authority of England if Queen Mary should die first. The Act remained on the statute books until 1863 when it was repealed.[16]

The 1554 Parliament was more noted for the Acts it didn’t pass as for those it did. A bill of heresy and another on abbey lands passed the Commons but were defeated in the Lords. The battle between a Protestant England and a Catholic England which Mary wanted to restore was played out in 1554 and heated up with the 1555 Parliament. It is not known which side Thomas Mallinson was on – we do know that his business associate and fellow Oxford M.P. Thomas Williams was on the Catholic side.

Supposed other property of Thomas Mallinson

Between 1615 and 1622 Christ Church was in legal dispute with the city council on the ownership of Oxford castle. In 1617 a number of witnesses appeared to give their opinion on who owned what. John Woodson of St. Thomas parish claimed that in about 1555 Alderman Thomas Mallinson had a lease from Christ Church of Warham Bank for 80 years and that the lease descended to Woodson’s father. By 1617 the city council had the lease. Rev. Salter gave his opinion that the lease to Mallinson was incorrect.[17]

The new fulling mill

On 16th July 1555 Thomas Mallinson did receive a lease from Christ Church of land and watercourses by Rewley as a site to erect a new fulling mill. A fulling mill, also known as a tuck mill (In Wales known as pandy mill in such places as Tonypandy), was where newly woven woollen loth was pounded in an alkaline solution to produce a stronger and denser material. The cloth was then dried by stretching it on a tenter frame.[18]

The lease for the new fulling mill was for 99 years at 2s per year rent. Thomas Mallinson was to erect the fulling mill by 25th March 1556 and maintain the associated water courses. He could enter the grounds of Rewley mansion to make banks and channels for the ‘better conveyance of the water to the said fulling mill’. But Thomas Mallinson was to take care that by closing the floodgates of the mill that he would not flood the houses of the Rewley residents. In times of drought Thomas Mallinson was not to take excessive water as to deprive Oseney mill of its supply.

Within the area of the lease Thomas Mallinson was not allowed total privacy. He could erect two doors between the High Bridge and the mill stream lock and keep the doors closed between ten at night and five in the morning. But at other times the doors were to be left open so people could still cross the ground as they did previously.[19] Thomas Williams, another M.P. for Oxford (1553), was involved with Thomas Mallinson in the new fulling mill.[20]


A fulling mill about 1661

In a separate lease Christ Church gave Rewley mansion house and the surrounding grounds to Nicholas Woodson, yeoman, in 1553 for 30 years. In July 1555 Nicholas Woodson leased part of the grounds to his wife Christiana for 30 years while reserving to Nicholas the job of keeping open the locks to the fulling mill of Thomas Mallinson. Nicholas Woodson also took it upon himself to ensure that the Castle mill and Oseney mill got sufficient water in times of drought. In 1569 Nicholas Woodson got a new lease from Christ Church of Rewley for 41 years to start after the first two leases had expired.[21] Unfortunately Thomas Mallinson didn’t get to enjoy the fruits of the new fulling mill as he died within two years of its construction.

The death of Thomas Mallinson was also the signal for death of the cloth trade in Oxford. Although there were plans to increase the number of fulling mills in the Oxford area after Thomas’s death, such as that of 1565 to Thomas and James Atwood of the site of Oseney abbey and the surrounding ground, the long term position was decline. Other towns such as Witney had better advantages over Oxford. After 1600 there are fewer references to dyer, fullers and shermen in Oxford compared to their appearances in medieval documents.[22]

Last apprentice of Thomas Mallinson

By 1555 Thomas Mallinson had again changed his trade description from draper to weaver. On 2nd February 1555 Thomas Mallinson took on his last apprentice (indenture signed on 18th August 1555), Edward Bacheler of Bicester, Oxfordshire and son of Robert Bacheler, mercer. Edward Bacheler was to serve twelve years as an apprentice at the end of which time he was to receive double apparel and 40s.[23] In total there were four people from Bicester who became apprentices in Oxford between 1513 and 1602. The first of these was Thomas Scott who became apprentice in June 1547 to William Tylcock, white-baker.[24] Ten years later William Tylcock as mayor of Oxford would enter the story of Thomas Mallinson in an important manner.

The will of Thomas Mallinson and sudden death

Thomas Mallinson wrote his will on 17th April 1557 and named his wife Anne as principal legatee and executrix. Much of the will was devoted to the charity fund established by Thomas Mallinson. Two days previously Thomas Mallinson had concluded a deal with the then mayor of Oxford, William Tylcock to establish a fund of £200 to be used for ‘setting the poor people of the city at work’ in the clothing industry. If the city failed to live up to this condition, New College was to take the money; otherwise Tylcock was to hold it for ten years and thereafter no one was to have it for more than eight. Whoever held it was bound to keep an obit yearly for Mallinson’s soul.

On 27th April 1557 Thomas Mallinson was replaced as alderman. One month later, on 27th May 1557, Thomas Mallinson attended his last city council meeting. At the meeting an argument erupted between Thomas Mallinson and Mayor Tylcock in which Thomas uttered opprobrious words against Tylcock. Within a few hours of the meeting Thomas Mallinson died. His will was proved the following day in a bid to forestall any challenges. But the attempt failed as in 1562 the city council institute proceedings against William Tylcock for £200 given by Thomas Mallinson.[25]

Disputed over the Mallinson charity

But arguments over the Mallinson charity began within a short time of Thomas’s death. Shortly after the death of Thomas Mallinson, William Tylcock brought a chancery suit against Thomas Mayott, a Merchant Taylor of London, over a debt of £77 which was to have formed part of Mallinson’s £200 but which Mayott had paid to the widow on her plea that ‘she being the occasion of great wealth unto the said testator her late husband was not so substantially left by her said husband but that she had much need of such debt’.[26] Thomas’s first wife Agnes was also in financial trouble at times. It seems that Thomas Mallinson was good in business and civic affairs but his wives appear to have got a poor deal.

The subsequent history of the charity is unknown but if the challenge by the city council in 1562 is anything to go by the charity didn’t get off the ground in any meaningful way.



End of post



[1] S.T. Bindoff (ed.), The House of Commons 1509-1581 (Secker &Warburg, London, 1982), 561

[2] http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/mallinson-thomas-1514-57 accessed on 1 August 2016

[3] Alan Crossley (ed.), Oxford City Apprentices 1513-1602 (Oxford Historical Society, New Series, Vol. XLIV2012), no. 124

[4] Alan Crossley (ed.), Oxford City Apprentices 1513-1602, pp. xviii, xix

[5] Alan Crossley (ed.), Oxford City Apprentices 1513-1602, nos. 126, 1976

[6] Alan Crossley (ed.), Oxford City Apprentices 1513-1602, pp. l, li

[7] http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/mallinson-thomas-1514-57 accessed 1 August 2016

[8] Rev. H.E. Salter (ed.), Cartulary of Oseney Abbey (Oxford Historical Society, Vol. XC, 1929), Vol. II, p. 20

[9] Alan Crossley (ed.), Oxford City Apprentices 1513-1602, no. 200

[10] http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/mallinson-thomas-1514-57 accessed 1 August 2016

[11] Oxford Recs. 162, 178, 192; E179/162/261, 282

[12] Alan Crossley (ed.), Oxford City Apprentices 1513-1602, no. 279

[13] Alan Crossley (ed.), Oxford City Apprentices 1513-1602, no. 281

[14] http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/mallinson-thomas-1514-57 accessed 1 August 2016

[15] http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/parliament/1554

[16] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Act_for_the_Marriage_of_Queen_Mary_to_Philip_of_Spain

[17] Rev. H.E. Salter (ed.), Cartulary of Oseney Abbey (Oxford Historical Society, Vol. XCI, 1931), Vol. III, p. 17

[18] Denis Power, Shelia Lane and others (eds.), Archaeological Inventory of County Cork Volume 4: North Cork Part 2 (Stationery Office, Dublin, 2000), p. 699

[19] Rev. H.E. Salter (ed.), Cartulary of Oseney Abbey, Vol. III, p. 99

[20] http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/williams-thomas-i-1518-7990 accessed on 1 August 2016

[21] Rev. H.E. Salter (ed.), Cartulary of Oseney Abbey, Vol. III, pp. 101, 102

[22] Rev. H.E. Salter (ed.), Cartulary of Oseney Abbey, Vol. III, pp. 96, 99

[23] Alan Crossley (ed.), Oxford City Apprentices 1513-1602, no. 387

[24] Alan Crossley (ed.), Oxford City Apprentices 1513-1602, no. 209

[25] Bodl. wills Oxon. 181, ff. 199-200v; C1/1475/39; Oxford Recs. 224-5, 261, 266, 293

[26] C1/1084/20, 1475/39-40; Oxford Recs. 134


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