Thomas Cantock

Thomas Cantock, Quantock or Cantok (died 1309) was an English-born cleric and judge in medieval Ireland, who held the offices of Bishop of Emly and Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

Background and early lifeEdit

O'Flanagan, writing in 1870, complained that the biographer of Cantock was faced with an almost complete lack of information about his life.[1] A good deal more is known about him today: in particular a petition he addressed to the King in 1305 asking to be forgiven his debts throws some light on his official duties, and on the disturbed conditions in Ireland over the previous decade.[2]

He was English by birth, and was probably a son of Roger de Quantock, a prominent merchant of Bristol.[3] Roger de Cantock, who visited Ireland during Thomas's tenure as Lord Chancellor, possibly to solicit a favour from him, was evidently his brother; he had four brothers in all. He was often known by the title "Master Thomas": according to the usage of the time this meant that he had a university degree, most likely from the University of Oxford. He began his career as a clerk in the royal service; he was sent by King Edward I on a mission to Scotland in 1288.[4]

Lord Chancellor of IrelandEdit

He was known to be a man "learned in the law", who had some unspecified appointment at the Royal Courts in Westminster,[5] and acted as deputy to John Langton, the Master of the Rolls, in 1290. No doubt his legal expertise was the reason why he was appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland. He served as Chancellor from 1292–1294, and he held the office again from 1306–1308. He visited England regularly on official business connected with Ireland, and on a number of occasions addressed the English Parliament on the state of Irish law. He was Canon of Emly and prebendary of Mollagymon, Cashel, County Tipperary. He was elected Bishop of Emly in 1306, and installed as bishop in a ceremony at Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin,[6] which was followed by a banquet at which he feasted first the nobility, and then the citizenry of Dublin with a magnificence "unheard of in those times".[7] In 1307 he was granted a third part of the manor of Ballyfermot by William Fitzwilliam and his wife Avice, who were members of the family which in time would come to own most of Dublin south of the River Liffey.[8] He is also known to have acquired lands at Chapelizod, then a village near Dublin city.[9]

At the Parliament of Ireland held in 1305 a number of minor complaints of misconduct were made against him, but none of them seem to have stuck.[10] He died on 4 February 1309.[11]

O'Flanagan states that from the little that is known of him he seems to have been popular and hospitable.[12] According to Smyth,[13] during his tenure as Lord Chancellor a serious fire destroyed all the Irish Chancery records; this is almost certainly a reference to the Great Fire of Dublin of 1304, which destroyed much of the medieval city, as well as numerous official records.[14]

His petition of 1305Edit

Our most intimate glimpse of him is a petition which he addressed to the King in 1305 asking to be forgiven his debts to the Crown. He asks the King to have regard to the great costs he incurred "in the time of trouble" when John FitzGerald, 1st Earl of Kildare captured Richard de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster. As the office of Justiciar of Ireland was vacant, Cantock set as many of this own men as he could to guard the country, and when his funds turned out to be insufficient he borrowed £5 from one Richard de Cardiff. He had also borrowed £45 (a very substantial sum at the time) for arranging the marriages of two royal wards, Jordan Dardiz (or Dardyz) and Albert de Kenley.[15] The earlier part of the petition refers to the period of four months in 1294-5 when Lord Kildare captured and imprisoned Lord Ulster in Lea Castle "to the disturbance of the whole country", until the Irish Parliament secured his release.[16] The petition seems to have been successful at least in part, as the endorsement on the roll states that Cantock should be repaid the amounts claimed by him in installments.[17]


  1. ^ O'Flanagan, J. Roderick Lives of the Lord Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal of Ireland 2 Volumes London 1870
  2. ^ Otway-Ruthven, A.J. A History of Medieval Ireland Barnes and Noble Reprint New York 1993 p.211
  3. ^ Brand, Paul "Quantock (Cantok), Thomas" Dictionary of Irish Biography
  4. ^ Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921 John Murray London 1926
  5. ^ Brand Dictionary of Irish Biography
  6. ^ Warburton, John History of Dublin from the earliest accounts to the present time Vol 1. London 1818
  7. ^ Ball Judges in Ireland
  8. ^ Dublin City Council "Environmental Impact Study for the proposed civic amenity at Labre Park, Ballyfermot, Dublin 12"
  9. ^ Ball, F. Elrington History of Dublin Vol. IV Alexander Thom and Co. 1906
  10. ^ Brand Dictionary of Irish Biography
  11. ^ Brand Dictionary of Irish Biography
  12. ^ O'Flanagan Lives of the Lord Chancellors
  13. ^ Smyth, Constantine Joseph Chronicle of the Irish Law Officers Dublin (1839)
  14. ^ Warburton History of Dublin
  15. ^ National Archives SC 8/100/4960
  16. ^ Otway-Ruthven p.211
  17. ^ National Archives SC 8/100/4960