Thomas White (merchant)

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Portrait of Sir Thomas White by "Sampson the paynter"[1] (1597). In the collection of the City of Oxford.
Statue of Sir Thomas White in Coventry, West Midlands

Sir Thomas White (1492 – 12 February 1567) was an English cloth merchant, Lord Mayor of London in 1553, and a civic benefactor and founder of St John's College, Oxford.


Thomas White was born in Reading, Berkshire[citation needed], the son of William White, a clothier of Reading, and his wife, Mary, daughter of John Kibblewhite of South Fawley, also in Berkshire. He was brought up in London. Sir Thomas was twice married, to Avicia (died 1558) and to Joan.[1] A principal member of the guild of Merchant Taylors, he served as Sheriff of London in 1547, and was elected Lord Mayor of London in 1553. He was knighted in the same year by Queen Mary I. He was a member of the commission for the trial of Lady Jane Grey.

In 1555, inspired by the example of Thomas Pope, founder of Trinity College, Oxford, White obtained a royal licence for the foundation of St John's College, Oxford, dedicated to the patron saint of the Merchant Taylors and established in the buildings of the dissolved Cistercian College of St Bernard. He was involved in the foundation of Merchant Taylors' School, and made provision that scholars of the college should be nominated from pupils of the school. He also established scholarships at St John's College, tenable by pupils of Tonbridge School, Bristol Grammar School, Reading School and King Henry VIII School, Coventry,[2] where one of the school's four houses bears his name. He purchased Gloucester Hall and set it up in 1560 as a hall of residence for scholars; this became the basis of the later foundation of Worcester College. As a result of his philanthropy, he was listed in Richard Johnson's Nine Worthies of London in 1592.

Sir Thomas White Loan Charity[edit]

The charity was founded in 1542 and is still extant. It gives interest-free loans to aspiring businesspeople in Leicestershire and Rutland. There are several memorials to White in England and he is honoured on Leicester's Clock Tower.


  1. ^ Mark Noble p. 23, states that Joan married first Sir Ralph Warren, and was called upon her monument "daughter and co-heiress of John Lake, of London, gent,"; but most of the Cromwell family pedigrees, and the visitation of Huntingdonshire in 1613, say she was daughter and co-heiress of John Trelake, alias Davy, of Cornwall, gent. She survived Sir Ralph, and remarried Sir Thomas White, knt. and died at her son-in-law Sir Henry Cromwell's seat, at Hinchinbrook, 8 October, and was buried 4 November 1573, in the church of St. Swyth, leaving by her first husband one son, named Richard and a daughter, lady Joan, the wife of Sir Henry Cromwell, (Richard the son settled at Claybury, in Essex) and the daughter Joan was the grandmother of Oliver Cromwell. Noble (p. 24.) states that all of this is mentioned in the inscription upon her monument, which read thus:

    The lady Joan White, one of the daughters and heirs of John Lake, of London, gent, died October 8th, buried in this parish church, November 4th, 1573. She deceased at the house of Sir Henry Williams, alias Cromwell, knt. her son-in-law. called Hinchinbroke, in the county of Huntingdon. The lady Joan was first married to Sir Ralph Warren, knight, alderman, and twice lord mayor of London. By whom he had issue Richard Warren, esq. son and heir, and Joan, lady Cromwell, her daughter. She was afterwards married to sir Thomas White, knight, alderman, and sometime lord may or of London, founder of the college of St. John Baptist, Oxon; by whom she had no issue.

    He continues the said Sir Henry Williams, alias Cromwell, had issue by the lady Joan, his wife, Oliver Cromwell, esq. his son and heir, with other sons. Visit. of Hunt, in 1613; and of Kent in 1609. Stow's and Strypc's survey of London; Grafton's chronicle; pedigree in the possession of the miss Cromwells; lives of Oliver lord prot. &c.

  2. ^ Hill, C.P. (1951) The History of Bristol Grammar School, p.46


  • Mark Noble (1784). Memoirs of the Protectorate-house of Cromwell: Deduced from an Early Period, and Continued Down to the Present Time,..., Volume 2, Printed Pearson and Rollason.

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