He was born in Stafford gaol, one of the younger sons of William Macclesfield of Chesterton and Maer and Aston, Staffordshire; William Macclesfield was a Catholic recusant, condemned to death in 1587 for harbouring priests, one of whom was his brother Humphrey. His mother was Ursula, daughter of Francis Roos, of Laxton, Nottinghamshire. William Macclesfield is said to have died in prison and is one of the prætermissi as William Maxfield; but, as his death occurred in 1608, this is doubtful.
Thomas arrived at the English College at Douai on 16 March 1602-3, but had to return to England 17 May 1610, owing to ill health. In 1614 he went back to Douai, was ordained priest, and in the next year came to London.
Within three months of landing he was arrested, and sent to the Gatehouse, Westminster. After about eight months' imprisonment, he tried to escape by a rope let down from the window in his cell, but was captured on reaching the ground. This was at midnight 14–15 June 1616. For seventy hours he was placed in the stocks in a dungeon at the Gatehouse, and was then on Monday night (17 June) removed to Newgate Jail, where he was amongst criminals.
On Wednesday, 26 June, he was brought to the bar at the Old Bailey, and the next day was condemned solely for being a priest, under 27 Eliz., c, 2. The Spanish ambassador did his best to obtain a pardon, or at least a reprieve; but, finding his efforts unavailing, had solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in his chapel during Maxfield's last night on earth.
Maxfield was condemned to be executed at Tyburn, London. The procession to Tyburn early on the following morning was joined by many devout Spaniards, who, in spite of mockery, formed a guard of honour. Tyburn-tree itself was found decorated with garlands,
Half of Maxfield's relics are now at Downside Abbey, near Bath.
- Life and Martyrdom of Mr. Maxfield, Priest 1616, ed. John Hungerford Pollen, in Catholic Record Society, III, 30-58
- Richard Challoner, Memoirs of Missionary Priests, II (Manchester, 1803), 51
- A. F. Pollard in Dictionary of National Biography, s.v.
- Richard Stanton, A Menology of England and Wales (London, 1887), 298
- The William Salt Archæological Society's Collections for a History of Staffordshire (London, 1882–1909), III, iii; V, ii, 207; new series, V, 128; XII, 248