PortCities London

Sir Thomas Spert (died 1541)
First and longest serving Master of Trinity House

Known for

The Great Harry.
View full size imageHenri Grace a Dieu. © NMM

Thomas Spert was instrumental in the founding of Trinity House. In 1514 he became the first and longest serving Master of Trinity House.

Prior to this he had worked as Sailing Master on two prestigious Tudor ships the Mary Rose and the Henri Grace a Dieu (the Great Harry).

Port connection

Trinity House.
View full size imageTrinity House on Tower Hill. © NMM

Thomas Spert was Clerk Controller of the Navy at a time when Henry VIII was becoming increasingly involved in shipbuilding in London.

He founded Trinity House, which to this day retains the same prime objective – the safety of shipping and the welfare of seafarers.

Interesting facts

Sir Thomas Spert was Master of Trinity House for 27 years. After his death the constitution was changed, with all Elders or Masters holding their positions for only three years. After this time they had to stand down or be re-elected by the Trinity Court of Brethren.

He is said to have lived in a 14th-century wooden manor house at Coldharbour in Blackwall. The house was still standing in 1881 when it was 152 East India Dock Road.

Life story

1511-1513Sailing Master of the 'Mary Rose'.
1514-1524Sailing Master of the 'Henri Grace a Dieu' (the 'Great Harry').
1514-1541Master of Trinity House.
1524-1540Clerk Controller of the King’s Ships.
1529Knighted by Henry VIII at York Place.
1541Died and buried in St Dunstan's Church, Stepney.