Thomas Seckford was a Member of Parliament, a wealthy lawyer and successful merchant.

Whilst he was an official at the court of Elizabeth I, Thomas Seckford loaned the Queen and her Exchequer large sums of money which were repaid in favours and property in Suffolk and Essex (Ipswich, Woodbridge Walton, Felixstowe, Trimley and Dedham) as well as in Clerkenwell in London.

At the time in which Thomas Seckford lived vagrancy and civil disturbance were rife.  Attitudes towards poor people were punitive and records show that anyone over the age of 14 found begging would be whipped and burned through the gristle of the right ear with a hot iron.

Until Henry VIII (Queen Elizabeth’s father) precipitated the Reformation by insisting on divorcing his wife in order to marry Anne Boleyn, responsibility for poor people had belonged to the monks in the Roman Catholic Church. By breaking with the Pope, making himself Head of the Church in England and destroying the Roman Catholic monasteries responsibility for the poor passed to the Crown.

On becoming Queen, Elizabeth I transferred the responsibility for the poor onto wealthy landowners, business men and lawyers. Truly a man of his time, Thomas Seckford shouldered this responsibility considering it his duty to make provision for those who were less privileged than he.

DateLife Events
1515Born in Woodbridge, educated at Trinity College, Cambridge
1540Enters Gray’s Inn, contemporary of William Cecil, later Lord Burghley
1542Becomes a barrister at Gray’s Inn dealing with poor people’s cases
Queen Elizabeth’s succession
Appointed Master of the Court of Requests, an important and influential position bringing him into the mainstream of legal and political power – dealing with civil disputes, non payment of debts, restitution of property, contracts, disputed accounts, enclosures controversies – and adviser to the Queen, working closely with the government
1558-1578Various powerful appointments including Surveyor of the Court of Wards and Liveries, Steward of the Marshalsea and as a member of the Ecclesiastical Commission confirming the Queen as head of the Church of England
1550, 1563 and 1572Elected to Parliament – first elected MP for Ipswich at the age of 44
1564Queen Elizabeth I sells him the manor of Woodbridge for £764-8s-4d including Woodbridge Priory
1567Marries Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Wingfield and widow of Sir Martin Bowes
1571Becomes Knight of the Shire of Suffolk
1574Commissions a survey of all the English counties that led to the publication in the first English atlas and the first national atlas of any country in 1579. Queen Elizabeth’s and Thomas Seckford’s coat of arms engraved on every page
1587Queen Elizabeth I grants permission to Thomas Seckford to found seven almshouses in Woodbridge for 13 poor men, endowing them with an income from properties in Clerkenwell which initially gave the Woodbridge Almshouses an income of £112. 13s 4d per year.
Dies later that year, aged 72, never having had children. Buried in a chapel within St Mary’s Parish Church Woodbridge