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Thomas Richardson

Sir Thomas Richardson, judge and Speaker of the House of Commons, was buried in the south choir aisle of Westminster Abbey. He was the son of William Richardson and his wife Agnes and was baptised at Hardwick in Norfolk. He was educated at Christ's College Cambridge and admitted to Lincoln's Inn (as a lawyer). In 1595 he married Ursula, daughter of John Southwell. Ten years later he was appointed under-steward of Norwich cathedral and rose high enough in his profession to be made Speaker of the House of Commons. King James I knighted him and he was appointed Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. His decision not to allow John Felton, who had assassinated the Duke of Buckingham, to be put on the rack to induce him to confess marked an epoch in criminal jurisprudence. His second wife was Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Beaumont and widow of Sir John Ashburnham. He died in London on 4th February 1635 (the date is given in Old Style dating on the monument). His son and heir was Thomas and his four daughters were Ursula, Mary, Elizabeth and Susan.

Near his grave a black marble and bronze monument was erected by his son. The bronze bust by Herbert Le Sueur (dated 1635) shows him in hat and robes (the SS collar has been broken off). The Latin inscription on the bronze plaque can be translated:

To God, the best and greatest. Sir Thomas Richardson, Knight, Speaker of the House of Commons in the 21st and 22nd years of King James, Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas; and lastly, by King Charles I, made Lord Chief Justice of England. He died in 1634, in the 66th year of his age. Sir Thomas Richardson, his only son, designated a Baron of Scotland, placed this to his incomparable father.

Further Reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

History of Parliament online


4th February 1635




South Choir Aisle

Memorial Type


Material Type

Marble; bronze

Thomas Richardson
Thomas Richardson memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2020 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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At different times of the day, or in different seasons, the light falling in the Abbey will light up something that you have walked past a million times and never seen before.

Vanessa, Head of Conservation

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