Thomas Kitson

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Sir Thomas Kitson
Arms of Kitson: Sable, three fishes hauriant argent a chief or
Born 1485 (1485)
Warton, Carnforth, Lancashire
Died 11 September 1540 (1540-09-12) (aged 55)
Burial place Hengrave, Suffolk
Spouse(s) wife whose name is unknown
Margaret Donnington
Children Sir Thomas Kitson
Katherine Kitson
Dorothy Kitson
Frances Kitson
Anne Kitson
Parent(s) Robert Kitson, mother's name unknown

Sir Thomas Kitson (1485 – 11 September 1540) was a wealthy English merchant, Sheriff of London, and builder of Hengrave Hall in Suffolk.


Thomas Kitson was the son of Robert Kitson of Warton, Lancashire. His mother's name is unknown. His sister, Margaret Kitson, married John Washington, ancestor of George Washington.[1]


Kitson came to London as a youth, and was apprenticed to the London mercer and Merchant Adventurer, Richard Glasyer. He was admitted a freeman of the Mercers' Company in 1507, and served as Warden in 1525-6 and 1533-4 and as Master in 1534-5.[2] He served as Sheriff of London in 1533-4,[2] and was knighted on 30 May of that year, an honour not conferred on his co-sheriff, William Forman. In May 1534 he was associated with Rowland Lee, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, in taking oaths of fealty from priests and monks.

Kitson had financial dealings with the Crown on a large scale. By 1509 his mercantile transactions were already extensive, and by 1534-5 only ten other merchants exported cloth in larger quantities.[2] He was a member of the Company of Merchant Adventurers until his death,[2] and traded at the cloth fairs or staples held by the company at Antwerp, Middelburg, and elsewhere in Flanders.

Hengrave Hall, built by Sir Thomas Kitson

Kitson had a house in London on Milk Street with a chapel, a garden on Coleman Street, and a house and chapel in Stoke Newington. Like other wealthy London merchants he had a house in Antwerp. He also purchased properties in the counties of Devon, Dorset and Somerset, and in 1521 acquired from Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, for £2340, the manors of Hengrave in Suffolk and Colston Bassett in Nottinghamshire.[2] On the Duke's attainder and execution in the following year, Kitson was for a time deprived of the estates, but they were restored to him, confirmed by an Act of Parliament of 1524. He obtained a licence from Henry VIII to build an embattled manor house at Hengrave on a magnificent scale. The building was begun in 1525, and finished in 1538. A later inventory of the furniture and goods at Hengrave shows its extent and elegance. Kitson subsequently purchased several other manors in Suffolk from the crown. Besides Hengrave, he had houses at Westley and Risby in Suffolk.

Kitson died 11 September 1540, and was buried in Hengrave Church.[2] In the north-east angle of the chapel is an ornate monument to the memory of his widow, Margaret, Countess of Bath, and her three husbands.[3]

Marriages and issue[edit]

Kitson married twice:

First marriage[edit]

Firstly to a lady of unknown name. By her he had a daughter:

    • Elizabeth Kitson, the first wife of Edmund Croftes (d. 14 February 1558) of Westow Hall, Little Saxham, Suffolk, son and heir of Sir John Croftes (d. 28 January 1558), who was in the service of Mary Tudor. Elizabeth Kitson bore Edmund Croftes two sons:
      • Thomas Croftes
      • Henry Croftes
After Elizabeth's death Edmund Croftes remarried to Eleanor Burgh, the daughter of Thomas Burgh, 1st Baron Burgh, by whom he had a son, John Croftes, and two daughters, Margaret and Alice[4]

Second marriage[edit]

Arms of Donnington: Argent, three pallets azure on a chief gules three bezants.[5]

Secondly, Thomas Kitson married Margaret Donnington (d. 12 January 1561), the only child and sole heiress of John Donnington (d.1544) of Stoke Newington, a member of the Worshipful Company of Salters,[6][7] by his wife Elizabeth Pye, by whom he had a son born posthumously and four daughters:[2]

Sir Thomas Kitson, the Younger (1573) by George Gower.
Elizabeth Kitson née Cornwallis, wife of Thomas Kitson, the Younger (1573) by George Gower
Frances Kitson, wife of John Bourchier, Lord FitzWarin. Detail from her monument in Tawstock Church, Devon

Following his death, Kitson's widow secured two further advantageous marriages which further enhanced the wealth and prestige of the family.


  1. ^ Above the external door to the south chancel aisle are displayed the arms of the builder and his wife, 2nd Earl of Bath and Eleanor Manners.


Further reading[edit]

  • Howard, Joseph Jackson, ed. (1866). The Visitation of Suffolk. I. London: Whittaker and Co. p. 191. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 

External links[edit]