© 2017 John Lucas

The original Saxham Hall was built by  Thomas (Houchon) Lucas, solicitor General to Henry VII.

Thomas was Born in 1450 at Westley, just down the road where he also owned Lucas (Luces) Hall and Pembroke Hall (gifted to him by his close friend Jasper Tudor Earl of Pembroke, uncle of Henry VII).  

Thomas had been a strong supporter of the Tudor cause and fought alongside Jasper during the War of the Roses.

The family had strong connection with nearby Bury St Edmunds. The family had already lived locally for several generations, with many family members holding civic positions in the town including Alderman and Bailiffs. I believe they also collected tithes for St Edmunds Abbey.

His wife Elizabeth Godwin originates from West Stow just to the north.

In addition to the hall he also built a private family chapel on the north side of the nave of Little Saxham church.

Other properties owned by Thomas, include West Stow Hall, Horsecroft House, the Holkham estate in Norfolk and Flaxton Hall near Eye Suffolk.

He was reputed to also own other houses around England.

Thomas Died in  1531  at Westminster, London

Although the family maintained several properties and indeed purchased several more in Essex, as Thomas’s wealth began to run out Saxham Hall was sold to the Croft family, (the family being the  inspiration for the Lara Croft stories) The hall was pulled down in 1773

The Croft family also took over the private chapel which is now dominated by memorials to the Croft family.

The Lucas coat of arms along with other family crests (Godwin, Morieux and Kemeys ) can still be made out.

The Lucas Family originates from Lucca (Luca) in Italy, after several generation in South East France  a branch of the family relocated in West Suffolk about 1100 AD and like most in the area grow wealthy from the wool trade.

Much of the family fortune was lost backing Charles I in the English civil wars.

A successful lawyer who, from modest beginnings as secretary to the duke of Bedford, had risen to become king's solicitor to Henry VII, before investing his self-made fortune in a grand house and country estate near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, some twenty-five miles north of Colchester. ---The Vestry of Little Saxham church was built as a chantry chapel in 1520 and dedicated to Our Lady and St John the Evangelist, by Sir Thomas Lucas. He married Elizabeth Kemys from Monmouthshire and was appointed Solicitor-General to King Henry VII, having been promoted to that office from the household of the King's uncle, Jasper Tudor. To his credit, Lucas was no friend of Thomas Wolsey, being sent to the Tower for a short period in 1516 for speaking scandalous words of the Lord Cardinal.In his will Sir Thomas Lucas decreed that "the chancel bee renewed aboute embattiled as the Church is by myne executors at my charge." His executors, however, failed him. Whilst the tower and nave are indeed crenellated, the chancel remains unadorned. Under the archway between his chapel and the chancel, Sir Thomas had built a table-tomb for himself. However, after he died in 1531 he was buried in London and his chantry chapel was taken over by the Crofts family who made it into their own memorial chapel. His tomb was replaced in the roughest possible manner with fragments of it being used to block up the archway. Sir John Crofts bought Sir Thomas' mansion, Little Saxham Hall, which was similar in design and magnificence to Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk.-In 1505, Thomas Lucas arrived at Little Saxham. We can trace nine generations of Lucas's right back to the late 12th century and they had been West Suffolkers through and through. They had filled the posts of aldermen and bailiff of St Edmundsbury at various times in the 13th and 14th centuries. The first we know about was just plain 'Lucas' - they didn't have family names then. He held lands in Westley in 1180.' Our' Thomas was born about 1470. At the end of the 15th century it is known that he held the position of Secretary, one of the household of Jasper, Duke of Bedford. Jasper was the uncle of Henry VII. Thomas rose to become a privy councillor and in 1504 he had been appointed Solicitor-General to the King. This was the number two legal post in the country, his superior being the Attorney-General. The Duke of Bedford bestowed upon him a number of manors and he certainly acquired several others himself. Dunham Hall in Westley was one of the manors bestowed to him. Thomas Lucas himself was in charge of the construction of Little Saxham Hall. He kept meticulous accounts, which can be viewed in full in the British Library, if you can read his handwriting. Excerpts from these accounts are contained in Gage's history and from that we can get a good impression of how the Hall was constructed.

Thomas Houchon Lucas Born 1460  Saxham  Parva (Died 1531) became Solicitor General to Henry VII. He took full advantage of his position and amassed great wealth and acquired several properties. He built himself by all accounts a fine manor house at Little Saxham. In Little Saxham Church ( although now dominated by the Croft family tombs) he established the Lucas Chapel.

with this Tho[ma]s. Lucas, the connections with West Stow comes to an end altogether, for he appears to have sold his lands there to Sir John Crofts. In early life this Tho[ma]s Lucas was secretary to Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke and Duke of Bedford. In grateful memory of his patron, this Tho[ma]s Lucas called his eldest son, Jasper. Jasper Tudor was the younger brother of Edmund Tudor, so uncle to Henry VII. Lucas probably owed some of his success in after life to his connections with Jasper Tudor. In his will Lucas left money for a Priest to pray especially for the soul of Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford.

From his position in the household of Jasper Tudor, uncle of Henry VII, Lucas gradually rose to be privy Councillor and Solicitor General to Henry VII. This was in 1504 and various manors were bestowed upon Lucas and also acquired by him. The Duke of Bedford granted Lucas, for life, the manor of Pembroke and Dunham Hall in Westley, Suffolk.

Having acquired wealth about 1505 Lucas purchased the lands of Little Saxham where he immed. set to work to build a mansion and hall. Nothing of this house remained in 1900, only the foundations. It is said the mansion was there in 1713 and the moat which surrounded the mansion was there in 1900. The total cost of this mansion was seven hunded and nineteen pounds, three shillings and one half pence (see p 512 "Little Saxham Reg"). While building the mansion for himself, Lucas did not forget to also build for the Almighty, according to the light of his day. He added a chantry chapel to the Northside of Saxham Church, dedicationg it to "Our Lady and St. John the Evangelist." Under the archway between this chapel and the chancel he build a tomb for himself, though he was never buried there. The chapel was still standing there in 1900. (see Hist. of Thingoe Hundred.)

During the reign of Richard, Abbott of St. Martin's de Bello, he (Richard) bestowed upon Lucas for his advice given to the church the advowson (meaning the patronage of a church living) of the church of Thurlow in Suffolk, an annual pension of two and a half marks issuing our of the vicarage. Immed. thereafter Lucas acquired "Large's Manor" from Roger Darcy, who was a descendant of Thos Hethe (see Hist. of Suffolk). Up until this time there had been three small manors in Little Saxham; that is, Geddying's (also called "Topesfield"), "Large's", and "Grace", Lucas purchased all three before he built his mansion, which he occupied until about the time of his death in 1531.

In letters and papers of the reign of Henry VIII, Dr. Brewer has calendared two letters from Lucas to Cardinal Wolsey; one is dated May 1528 and the other is dated Aug. 1528. These letters were perhaps written from Little Saxham and addressed "My Lord Cardinal's Grace." Lucas says he would not have troubled Wolsey with writing, "but after waiting to speak to him since the end of the term till last Wednesday, he was always told that Wolsey had no leisure and in the meantime Lucas' wife had died, and he had to go home."

It is evident from that letter that Lucas and Wolsey were not on the best of terms and it appears many years before on 25 June 1516 that Lucas had been sent to the Tower "for speaking scandalous" word of the Lord Cardinal." (See Hist. of the Court Star Chamber Arch XXV p 379).

It will be noted that the Lucas family have been followed thru' twelve generations, from the time of the man at Westley who held the lands there of the Abbey in 1180, and whose name was plain Lucas, to the time of Thomas Lucas, grandson of the Solicitior General, who was still residing in Little Saxham; then four more generations remained at Horsecroft in Horringer, Suffolk. From the "Visitations" edited by Dr. Howard in 1900, it would appear that the family of Lucas was by no means extinct in England.

Thos Lucas, the Solicitor General, married Elizabeth, a dau of John Keymess (or Kemeys, Kemys, Kaymess) of the House of Mabley in Raglan, South Wales. It is easy to see how he met with a Welsh wife, being the Secretary to Jasper Tudor, a Welshman, who had various posts in South Wales. Lucas' wife had died before Aug 1528, according to his letter to Wolsey.

The Kemeys family owned large estates in Raglan, Mommouthshire, Wales. The first of the family was Payne de Kemeys, one of the companions of Hamelyn, the Conqueror off Gwent.

This Thomas Lucas died 7 July 1531 and is buried in London. (See Little Saxham Reg p 154).

By Elizabeth, his wife, he had three sons and two daughters; Jasper, eldest son and heir, Henry, John, Anne, wife of Sir Thomas Barnardston of Kelton, Suffolk, and Lettice, wife of John Greenfield of Exeter, Devon. In Dr. Howrd's "Visitations of Suffolk" he states that Lucas had another dau Elizabeth, wife of Ayloff of Essex. However no mention is made of this dau in his last will or in the Herlad's Visitations. (See Little Sax Par Reg p 155). He does mention in his last will Elizabeth Wirburton, his wife's dau by her previous marriage.

Thomas Lucas made his last will 1 July 1531. this will is lenghty and most interesting, part of which is given:

"I, Thomas Lucas of Little Saxham, in the countie of Suffolk, equier, being sike in boyde and of good mind and parfitt remembrance, do renounce and deny all previous testaments and make this my last will and testament." He bequeaths to the churhces of West Stow, Hamgrave, and Thirlow (Thurlow), Little Saxham, Sudeley, Thornbury, Ludlow and St. Mary Axe of London, "for tythes and oblacions forgotten and not duly payde, ten shillings each; also this same amount to be paid to the Friars of London to pray for the soul of his friend, Duke of Bedford; he also leaves money to the Friars of Clare, Thetford and Nonnes to pray for his (Lucas') soul. After his death he asks his executors to provide two honest Priests to sing in the little chapel of "Our Lady and St. John the Evangelist" church in Little Saxham, one Priest to pray especially for the Duke of Bedford and the other to pray for Lucas' soul for two years; also for the soul of his wife and his father and his mother and esp. for the soul of his daughter-in-law, Margery Lucas. Every Priest to rec. six pounds yearly for his services. He remembers his servants, Morgan ap Richard, John Lewis, Agnes Fairfax and Roger Dunwiche and Margaret Gaven.

He leaves 200 sheep to his son-in-law, John Greenfield; also money to the "poor scollers in the University of Cambridge." He bequeaths a legacy to Elizabeth, wife of King's Head Tavern, which tavern was located near the temple gate in London. to his dau Anne Barnardston he leaves a silver cup "from which his wife use to drink ale,", to his dau Lettice and to his granddaughter, little Anne Barnardston, a legacy. He mentions his wife's dau Elizabeth Wirburton, to rec. such as his wife's clothing as his Executors think necessary; to his servants John Holmes, John Golche and Wm. Clerk (Clark) "wages."

To Thos Lucas, son of his deceased son, Jasper, Lucas, he leaves his house in Little Saxham with all of the lands compassing the said place; if he should die without issue, "then this land to go to my son, John Lucas." He leaves to his third son, John Lucas, the manors of "Geddying's Hall' otherwise called "Topisfield," "Little Saxham,", Large's and Grace and the manor of Westley which was originally called Leo's Hall, later Lucas Hall in Little Saxham, together with all of the lands lying in Chedbare, Barrow, Little Horingsheath, Westley, Bury St. Edmunds, Great Saxham, Hemgrave, Forenham, All Saints and Culfords within said County of Suffolk. He mentions manors of Roegerston and Sutton in the towns of Newport and Wenthlocke in Wales, which manors and estates he granted to his son, John Lucas, and his heirs. He further states that the various manors in Wales had been granted to him and his heirs by his brother-in-law, Roger Kemys. He appointed his son and his sons-in-law, John Greenfield and Sir Thos Barnardston as Exectuors, Wit.: besides the three above, he names as John Elneston, gentleman, Sir Thos Clerk (Clark) par Priest of St. Margaret's in Westminster; Margaret Gedding, a widow; Margaret Grovenor, widow of John Holmes and many others. (See Wills P.C.C. #14, Thrower.)

On Apr 1532 Thos Barnardston renouonced his appointment as Executor and the Adm. was granted to John Lucas and John Greenfield.

Thos Hethe purchased the manor of "Leo's Hall" later called "Lucas Hall" or Lucehall" between 1446-1485, on Hethe's death this estate was sold to the Duke of Buckinham who conveyed it to Thos Lucas, the Solicitor General. It passed under Lucas's will in 1531 to his son, John, who later sold this land to Wm. Brooke, gentleman.

Gage, in his "Hist. of Thingoe Hundred," p 677, states that Thos Lucas, the Solicitor General, purchased during the reign of Henry VII, the manor of "Charman's" which consisted of 300 acres in West Stow from Wm. Child. Lucas's estate of "Great Horingsberth" was later called "Horsecroft" and was located in the par of "Thingoe Hundred." This hamlet was est. as early as 1154-1189 during the reign of Henry II and it was continued divided among various proprietors until the reign of Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603) when it beloged to Thos Lucas, Esq., grandson of the Solicitor General, who bouught up most of the land in 1567 from Jasper Waren, gentleman, together with a mansion which had been lately erected by John Holte of Bury St. Edmunds.

The Manor-House was visited, in the time of the Crofts, by Charles II.; and was taken down in 1771.

Heraldry of the church includes, on a late gothic panelled area,

Lucas or Fitz Lucas (Thomas Lucas of Little Saxham Hall, died 1531, Solicitor General to King Henry VII ): Argent, a fesse between six annulets Gules (RED)

Lucas (as above) quartering Morieux: Gules (RED) on a bend Argent six (or seven or nine) billets (or billetty) Sable

Kemeys Quarterly, 1st and 4th Argent, a lion rampant Sable, crowned Gules (RED), 2nd and 3rd Vert, on a chevron Argent three broad arrows Sable