Thomas Thirlby
Field: Priest
Location in the Abbey: Chapter house

Thomas Thirlby (c.1500-1570) was consecrated the first and only Bishop of the new short-lived diocese of Westminster in December 1540 (created once the Benedictine monastery of Westminster Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII) . No memorial exists for him in the Abbey but his supposed coat of arms appears in modern glass in the Chapter House (it seems that these were actually the arms of Thorley and had mistakenly been assigned to Thomas by an earlier writer). He died at Lambeth Palace on 26 August 1570 and was buried in the parish church nearby. He was born in Cambridge, a son of John, town clerk, and his wife Joan (Campion). His early patrons were said to have been Anne Boleyn's family. Some of the other posts he held were rector of Ribchester in Lancashire, chaplain to Henry VIII, archdeacon of Ely, prebendary of Salisbury cathedral, canon of St Stephen's Westminster and Dean of the Chapel Royal. He was also a counsellor of State and resident ambassador to the Imperial Court of Emperor Charles V. In 1550 the diocese of Westminster was dissolved and Thirlby became Bishop of Norwich and then of Ely.

A photo of the shield can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

"Thomas Thirlby, Tudor bishop" by T.F.Shirley, 1964

"Thirlby - the invisible bishop" by C.S.Knighton in Westminster Abbey Chorister, Summer 2015

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