Gunpowder Tom

Thomas Percy (c. 1560 – 8 November 1605) was a member of the group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. He was was the younger of two sons born to Edward Percy of Beverley and his wife Elizabeth (née Waterton).

He was the great-grandson of Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland, and the second cousin once removed of the 4th Earl’s descendent, Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland. Despite not being a close relative, in 1595 the 9th earl made him responsible for collecting rents from his northern estates, and year later, appointed him constable of Alnwick Castle.

In 1591 he married Martha Wright, daughter of Ursula Wright (a convicted recusant) and sister to Christopher and John Wright (both later involved in the Gunpowder Plot).

Thomas became the fifth member of the Gunpowder plot on Sunday 20 May 1604. Almost a year earlier, he had called at Robert Catesby’s home at Ashby St Ledgers, and complained bitterly about James, who since succeeding Elizabeth had done little to fulfil his expectations.

As the plot developed, Thomas found himself at the Duck and Drake inn near the Strand in London, along with Catesby and his cousin Thomas Wintour, John Wright and Guy Fawkes. Apparently, his first words at the meeting were “Shall we always, gentlemen, talk and never do anything?”

Estranged from Thomas, in 1605 Martha and her daughter were living on an annuity funded by the Catholic William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle.Thomas and Martha’s son, Robert, married Emma Mead(e) at Wiveliscombe in Somerset on 22 October 1615. (With thanks to Wikipedia –

And there lies the Pursey interest – the county of Somerset from where many a Pursey family have their roots.

Records suggest that Robert and Emma had four children, all born in Taunton: Francis, Anne, Thomas and James. According to the archivist William Cole (whose 100 volumes of manuscripts are in the British Museum), Thomas (b 1622) and James (b 1626) both fought on the side of King Charles in the English Civil War. Both met with a sticky end. Both have no known issue. According to Cole, daughter Anne married a Roger England. Thus the only known lineage descends from eldest son Francis who died in Bickleigh, Devon in about 1660.

Francis had three children that I know of – Elizabeth b 1641, Dorothy b 1643 and Francis b 1649 – all born in Bickleigh. I don’t know what became of Elizabeth and Dorothy but son Francis had nine children. The last known descendent of which was one Tryce Percy. She died in the mid 1750s, and in doing so, brought to an end the line of Thomas Percy, gunpowder plotter.

A tree – much of it taken from volume two of Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica (published quarterly beginning in 1834) – can be found <a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>here</a>.