Thomas Buttes of Riburgh

Thomas Buttes of Riburgh



HughendenCMS_PCF_429039 Collections – Public ©National Trust Images




On 22 January 1592 Thomas was laid to rest in the Chancel at St Andrew’s under

the terms of his will: 


"My body to be buried in the Chancel of Gt Ryburgh within one foot of the

tomb which I have made for my late wife" 


If, as the portrait above says, he was 76 in 1589, he was already exceptional to

have reached that age and to go on to be 78/79 when he died. However, an

unverified source says he was born in 1516 and therefore would only have

been 76 when he died but for the time being we may be satisfied that he

was an old man


A single date in a register doesn’t mean anything without the context of other

dates in that same life and the only way to bring this portrait to life is to look at

those other dates and in the process, perhaps find his true date of birth. On this

page the task will  be carried out at random as the research opportunities arise

and a good place to start  is with that old man being interviewed by one

Richard Hakluyt as the sole survivor of an infamous voyage to the

Newfoundland Coast. It is tempting to infer from the following that this took

place  in Ryburgh Hall, but there is no evidence for this:


as hee told me Richard Hakluyt of Oxford himselfe, to whom I rode 200. miles

onely  to learne the whole trueth of this voyage from his own mouth, as being t

he onely man  now alive that was in this discoverie.”


So we start in 1537 with Thomas, a young gentleman and a transcription of the

writings of his inquisitor as part of the collection of narratives much studied and

reissued entitled 


The Principall Navigations, Voiages, and Discoveries of the English Nation (1589).


This transcription is from an edition of 1889 edited by Edmund Goldsmit:


Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques, and Discoveries. Vol X11 page 294


The voyage M. Hore and diuers other gentlemen, to Newfoundland, and Cape Briton, in the yeere 1536 and in the 28 yere of king Henry the 8. One master Hore of London, a man of goodly stature and of great courage, and giuen to the studie of Cosmographie, in the 28 yere of king Henry the 8 and in the yere of our Lord 1536 encouraged diuers Gentlemen and others, being assisted by the kings favor and good countenance, to accompany him in a voyage of discouerie upon the Northwest parts of America: wherein his perswasions tooke such effect, that within short space many gentlemen of the Innes of court, and of the Chancerie, and diuers others of good worship, desirous to see the strange things


Traffiques, and Discoveries p 295


of the world, very willingly entered into the action with him, some of whose names were as followeth : M. Weekes a gentleman of the West countrey of five hundred markes by the yeere liuing. M. Tucke a gentleman of Kent. M. Tuckfieid. M. Thomas Buts the Sonne of Sir William Buts knight, of Norfolke, which was lately liuing, and from whose mouth I wrote most of this relation. M. Hardie, M. Biron, M. Carter, M. Wright, M.Rastall Serjeant Rastals brother, M. Ridley, and divers other, which all were in the Admyrall called the Trinitie, a ship of seuen score tunnes, wherein M.Hore himselfe was imbarked. In the other ship whose name was the Minion, went a very learned and verturus gentleman one M. Armiigil Wade, Afterwards Clerke of the Counsailes of king Henry the 8 and king Edward the sixth, father to the worshipfull M. William Wade now Clerke of the privie Counsell, M. Oliuer Dawbeney marchant of London, M. loy afterward gentleman of the Kings Chappell, with diuers other of good account. The whole number that went in the two tall ships aforesaid to wit, the Trinitie and the Minion, were about six score persons, whereof thirty were gentlemen, which all were mustered in warlike maner at Gravesend, and after the receiving of the Sacrament, thcy embarked themselves in the ende of Aprill. 1526.


From the time of their setting out from Gravesend, they were very long at sea, to witte, aboue two moneths, and neuer touched any land vntill they came to part of the West Indies about Cape Briton, shaping their course thence Northeastwardes, vntill they came to the Island of Penguin , which is very full of rockes and stones, whereon they went and found it full of great foules white and gray, as big as geese, and they saw infinite numbers of their egges. They drave a great number of the foules into their boates upon their sayles, and tooke up many of their egges, the foules they flead and their skinnes were very like hony combes full of holes being flead off : they dressed and eate them and found them to be very good and nourishing rmeat They saw also store of beares both blacke and white, of whome they killed some, and tooke them for no bad foode.


M. Oliuer Dawbeny, which (as it is before mentioned) was in this voyage, and in the Minion, told M. Richard Hakluyt of the middle Temple these things following : to wit, That after their arrivall in Newfoundland, and having bene there


Navigations, Voyages, p 296


certaine dayes at ancre, and not having yet seene any of the naturall people of the countrey, the same Dawbeney walking one day on the hatches, spied a boate with Savages of those parts, rowing down the Bay toward them, to gaze vpon the ship, and our people, and taking viewe of willed them to come up if they would see the natural people of the countrey, that they had so long and so much desired to see : whereupon they came up, and tooke viewe of the Savages rowing toward them and their ship, and upon the viewe they manned out a ship-boat to meet them and to take them. But they spying our ship-boat making towards them, returned with maine force and fled into an Island that lay up in the Bay or river there, and our men pursued them into the Island, and the Savages fledde and escaped : but our men found a fire, and the side of a beare on a wooden spit left at the same by the Savages that were fled. 

There in the same place they found a boote of leather garnished on the outward side of the calfe with certaine brave trailes, as it were of rawe silke, and also found a certaine great warme mitten And these caryed with them, they returned to their shippe, not finding the Savages, nor seeing any thing else besides the soyle, and the things growing in the same, which chiefely were store of firre and pine trees.

And further, the said M. Dawbeny told him, that lying there they grew into great want of victuals, and that there they found small reliefe, more then that they had from the nest of an Osprey, that brought hourely to her yong great plentie of diuers sorts of fishes. But such was the famine that increased amongst them from day to day, that they were forced to seeke to relieve themselues of raw herbes and rootes that they sought on the maine : but the famine increasing, and the reliefe of herbes being to little purpose to satisfie their insatiable hunger, in the fieldes and desertes here and there, the fellowe killed his mate while he stooped to lake up a roote for his reliefe, and cutting out pieces of his bodie whom he had murthered, broyled the same on the coles and greedily devoured them. By this meane the company decreased, and the officers knew not what was become of them; And it fortuned that one of the company driuen with hunger to seeke abroade for reliefe found



Traffiques, and Discoveries. p 297


out in the fieldes the sauour of broyled flesh, and fell out with one for that he would suffer him and his fellowes to sterve, enioying plentie as he thought : and this matter growing to cruell speaches, he that had the broyled meate, burst out into these wordes : If thou wouldest needes know, the broyled meate that I had was a piece of such a mans buttocke. The report of this brought to the ship,the Captaine found what became of those that were missing, and was perswaded that some of them were neither devoured with wilde beastes, nor yet destroyed by Savages: And hereupon hee stood up and made a notable Oration, containing, Howe much these dealings offended the Almightie, and vouched the Scriptures from first to last,what God had in cases of distresse done for them that called vpon them, and told them that the power of the Almighty was then no lesse, then in all former time it had bene. And added, that if it had not pleased God to have helpen them in that distresse, that it had bene better to haue perished in body, and to haue liued euerlastingly, then to haue relieved for a poore time their mortal bodyes, and to bee condemned everlastingly, both body and soule to the un-quenchable fire of hell. And thus hauing ended to that eflect, he began to exhort to repentance, and besought all the company to pray, that it might please God to looke upon their miserable present state and for his owne mercie tor elieve the same. The famine increasing, and the inconvenience of the men that were missing being found, they agreed amongst themselues rather then all should perish, to cast lots who should be killed : And such was the mercie of God, that the same night there arrived a French ship in that port, well furnished with vittale and such was the policie of the English, that they became masters of the same,and changing ships and vittailing them, they set sayle to come into England.


In their journey they were so farre Northwards, that they sawe mighty Islands of yce in the sommer season, on which were hawkes and other foules to rest themselves being weary of flying over farre from the maine. They sawe also certaine great white foules with red bils and red legs, some what bigger then Herons, which they supposed to be Storkes. They arrived at S. lves in Cornewall about the ende of October. From thence they



Navigations, Voyages, p 298


departed vnto a certaine castle belonging to sir John Luttrel, where M. Thomas Buts, and M. Rastall and other Gentlemen of the voyaye were very friendly entertained: after that they came to the Earle of Bathe at Bathe, and thence to Bristoll, so to London. M. Buts was so changed in the voyage with hunger and miserie, that sir William his father and my Lady his mother knew him not to be their sonne, vntill they found a secret marke which was a wart vpon one of his knees, as hee told me Richard Hakluyt of Oxford himselfe, to whom I rode 200. miles onely to learne the whole tnueth of this voyage from his own mouth, as being the onely man now alive that was in this discouerie.

Certaine moneths after, those Frenchmen came into England, and made complaint to king Henry the 8: the king causing the matter to be examined, and finding the great distresse of his subiects, and the causes of the dealing so with the French, was so mooved with pitie, that he punished not his subiects, but of his owne purse made full and royall recompence unto the French.

In this distresse of famine, the English did somewhat relieve their vitall spirits, by drinking at the springs the fresh water out of certaine wooden cups, out of which they had drunke their Aqua composita before.


This all took place before Thomas became Lord of the Manor and it may well be that

this was one chapter of his life that was not common knowledge until after his death

when Hakluyt published these rather gruesome details


What came next in the researches was finding a blog about this book:




Certaine sermons preached before the Queenes Maiestie, and at Paules

crosse, by the reuerend father Iohn Ievvel late Bishop of Salisburie.

Whereunto is added a short treatise of the sacraments, gathered out of

other his sermons, made vpon that matter, in his cathedrall church at






The following images and transcriptions all are reproduced by kind permission of

James Gray an American Antiquarian bookseller who owned and sold on Buttes’ copy

to Princeton University Library where it lives with a number of other copies of the

Sermons! The interest here lies not just in the fact that a book from his library had

survived the centuries, but that the book was annotated and he had filled the blank

leaves with his own calligraphy. James had copies of the following which have been

duly transcribed below including an acrostic paraphrase of the Lords Prayer :





A doozen poyntes to chuse a wyfe by:

  1. Of trew religion

  2. Of reasonable wisdom

  3. Of unspotted honesty

  4. Of much humilitie

  5. Of greate obedience

  6. Of rare temperennce

  7. Of chaste manners

  8. Of comely personage

  9. Of endifferent beauty

  10. Of stayed yeres

  11. Of honest parenttes

  12. Of convenyent wealthe







A Prayer


O Lorde Jesu Christe of mannes soule the consolation,

Have mercy upon mee, and save mee from utter desolation,

From sodayne death, from deadlie synne, and eternall damnation,

Grannte mee grace here to live, according too my vocation,

In thy fayth, feare, and love, without dissimulation,

Also perfect memorie, at my lives transmutation,

With speeche, to call upon thee, by ane reconciliation,

for pardon of myne offences, and grace to resist temptation,

And by the merittes, of thy glorious death, and passion,

Receive my soule, into everlasting salvation,

Grannte this Lorde Jesu, my onely redeemer, and satisfaction.




Thou lovinge lorde our father deare, which art in heaven above

H alowed be thy blessed name thou God of peace and love,

O kinge of kinges thy kingdome come rule thou and reigne for aye

M ake us thy people willinglie, thy precepts to obeye,

A nd as thy will in heaven is wrought, the same be done in earth,

S upply our wantes of dayely breade, and us preserve from dearth


B e mercifull to us, and all our synnes remitt as we,

U nfaynedly forgeve onely as,  to us offensyde be,

T hy children doo not leade into temptation wee thee praye,

T o us geve strength of fayth in Christe, for our defence alwaye,

E xtende thy mightie arme o lorde , and us from evill defende

S ith kingdome, power, and glory thyne now is and shall not ende.



James’ blog spoke of there being verses upon the Buttes family motto as above but

didn’t include images of those pages. This is the motto that appears on the Buttes

Monument tombs in both Ryburgh:



and Thornage:



Further research luckily accounts for these verses being present in several other

places, some still to be properly checked by me. The easiest source to find  

was in a copy of The History of the College of Corpus Christi……… by Robert

Masters Fellow of the College and of the Society of Antiquaries of London. 1753:


In a volume of Latymer’s Sermons, formerly belonging to him, and wherein his

Name and Motto are oft repeated, are preserved more accurate Copies of the Verses

in the Chapel Windows than those printed in Mr Blomefield’s Collect. Cantab. Which

shall have a place in the App (endix of Masters’ book) 


So as well as Latymer's Sermons, Jewell’s Semons, the windows of the Chapel,of

Corpus Christi Cambridge and Blomefield’s book we have have, as stated above the

verses and more printed in the appendix :


Some of this material turns up again in the Wodehouse Muniments held in the British 

Library in Add Mss. 39233 catalogued as being:


Thomas Buttes's rental of Great Ryburgh and Woodhall in Little Ryburgh ; 1572, 1578,

1580. On f. 21v are "Twelue poyntes to chuse a wyfe by," followed by a rhyming

epitaph on the possessor of them and a metrical version of the Lord's Prayer, being an

acrostic of the name Thomas Buttes; calligraphically written, with ornamental initials

inscribed TB. On f. 41v are moral verses: "Soyes sage, et simple. Be wyse, and

playne," followed by lines on a good life, being another acrostic on the name of

Thomas Buttes. 


This Mss. has now been investigated and as suggested above there is a little more to

the "Twelve poyntes" as follows:


The gentlewoman that hath these properties in her lyfe,

may well deserve to have this Epitaph at her death. 


A bodie chaste, a vertuous mynde.

A temperate tongue, an humble harte,

Secrete and wyse, faythfull and kynde,

True without guyse, mylde without arte,

A freinde to peace, a foe to stryfe,

 A spotles mayde a matchles wyfe. 


© British Library Board Add Mss 39233 fo 21v


Otherwise, this Mss. yields nothing new. He finishes folio 41v, in case we hadn't

noticed, by signing his name followed by :



© British Library Board Add Mss 39233 fo 41v


Thomas Buttes: havyng the fyrst letter of every

lyne begynnyng wyth a letter of his name.


There may yet be more to be seen of Thomas’ literary work in other sources. Indeed

housed in the Morgan Library in New York is Buttes’ copy of :


The newe testament of our Lord Jesus Christ. Conferred with the Greke, and best

approved translations. With the arguments, as well before the chapters, as for every

boke and epistle, also diversities of readings, and most profiyable annotations of all

harde places: whereunto is added a copious table.Imprinted at London T[homas]

V[autrollier} (Publisher)for Christopher Barker (Printer)1575


The Geneva version, translated by William Whittingham, Anthony Gilby, Thomas

Sampson, and perhaps others, with 3 of Buttes' autograph signatures and lines of

writing and his name printed by hand in several places throughout the book



It is very clear from these surviving books and texts that Thomas Butts was

committed protestant and not entirely because of the social benefits that

the dissolution conferred upon the Buttes family! In his will (soon to be

transcribed in full elsewhere on this site) he bequeaths a number of his

books to various beneficiaries and shows that his library, perhaps kept in

a book press (cupboard) at the Hall, included the following titles, chiefly

religious, but not exclusively:



  • my new testam[en]t Lymmed with golde written in old English in prihnt

  • my written service booke

  • my booke called the order of Jesus confession 

  • my booke of Sermons made by Mr John Calvin of upon the epistells of St Paul to the Galations.

  • my little booke all written ………….intituled certayne godly players gathered and taken out of diverse and sondry bookes

  • my booke intituled An exposition upon the two epistles of St Paul to the Thessalonians made by the reverend father in god John Jewell late Bishop of Salisbury

  • my booke called cowp[ers]? Dictionary

  • my booke called Parcustes ( John Parkhurst) Ludicra sive epigramata juvenilia 

  • my little booke in latten intituled historiarum [et]cronicorum mundi epitome uelut index usque [ad] annum 1533

  • my booke called pugna porcorum made by placencius 

  • my booke intituled the secretes of the Reverend father Mr Alexis of pyemonnt translated out of ffrench into Inglish by will[ia]m warde 

  • my booke of parafraces of erasmus

  • my greatest olde bible w[hic]h they have already in the church


This list, most of which are traceable publications, may not be complete, as the

will that I have so far transcribed is a copy [and forme as before in this my

testam[en]t and last will is contayned so long as the same Full ind[ent]ure ]

and missing as many as 6 pages from the beginning. I hope that examination

of the probate copy in the Norfolk Record Office will describe further volumes

and so give a clue to the start of the journey of John Jewell’s Sermons that

prompted this whole line of research




To be continued.




Page last updated: 11th March 2019 1:55 PM