WALSINGHAM, Sir Edmund (by 1480-1550), of Scadbury, Chislehurst, Kent.
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Family and Education
b. by 1480, 1st s. of James Walsingham of Scadbury by Eleanor, da. and event. coh. of Walter Writtle of Bobbingworth, Essex. m. (1) by 1510, Catherine, da. and h. of John Gunter of Chilworth, Surr. and Brecon, Brec., wid. of Henry Morgan of Pencoed, Mon., 4s. inc. Thomas† 4da.; (a) by 1543, Anne, da. of Edward Jerningham of Somerleyton, Suff., wid. of Lord Edward Grey (d. by 1517), ?of one Berkeley, of Henry Barley (d.12 Nov. 1529) of Albury, Herts., and of Sir Robert Drury I (d.2 Mar. 1535) of Hawstead, Suff., s.p. Kntd. 13 Sept. 1513; suc. fa. 10 Dec. 1540.1
J.p. Surr. 1514, Kent 1547; sewer in 1521; 1t. Tower 1521-43; commr. subsidy, Surr. 1523, 1524, ordnance in Tower 1533, 1536, musters, Surr. 1544, benevolence, Surr. Southwark 1544/45; other commissions Essex, Kent, Surr. and London 1525-d., vice-chamberlain, household of Queen Catherine Parr by 1544.2
Edmund Walsingham’s surname suggests that his forbears came from Norfolk, but the only known ones were a prosperous cordwainer of London followed by vintners who bought property in Chislehurst and elsewhere in Kent. His father was prominent in that county, which he helped to represent at the Field of Cloth of Gold; another of James Walsingham’s sons William, father of the illustrious Sir Francis, was a lawyer who also served in local administration. On his mother’s side, Edmund Walsingham was first cousin to Sir Robert Rochester.3
A witness to the will of John Gunter of Chilworth in 1510, and thus probably by then a married man, Walsingham was knighted on Flodden Field by the Earl of Surrey in whose retinue he travelled homewards. His next few years at court culminated in his attendance on the King at the Field of Cloth of Gold and at Gravelines in 1520, and early in 1521 he was appointed lieutenant of the Tower in succession to Sir Richard Cholmley. In the same year he was made free of the Mercers’ Company, probably in recognition of his new standing in the City; his naming as one of the feoffees of a mercer in 1529 suggests a continuing connexion with the Company.4
By Henry VIII’s reign the office of constable of the Tower had become a dignity and the lieutenant was the resident head of that institution. After 1539, when a new house was built for the lieutenant, the only exit from the Belfry, where many of the prisoners were kept, was through this house. Walsingham was responsible for their custody and was their channel of communication with the outside world. During his 22 years in office Walsingham had charge of a host of prisoners, many of them famous, the majority obscure, and perhaps inevitably he acquired a reputation for rigour. Bishop Fisher complained of the harsh treatment he received, and the Countess of Salisbury suffered horribly from cold during her winter there; even the Council in London remonstrated that unless the Duchess of Norfolk and others arraigned with her were given some liberty within the Tower they could not long survive. Yet Walsingham could point to such episodes as his leniency towards the condemned prisoner Alice Tankerfelde, to whom at one of his own daughters’ intercession he allowed freedom from irons and frequent visits from a trusted servant, only to have the servant engineer an attempted escape. To one reputed example of his lingering humanity, his braving of the King’s displeasure by his refusal to stretch Anne Askew further on the rack, he could lay no claim, for it was his successor Sir Anthony Knyvet who was the lieutenant concerned. But to an old friend like Sir Thomas More he could offer ‘such poor cheer as he had’, to Cromwell’s ‘gentle chaplain, Curtoyse by name’, he allowed the privilege of saying mass every day, and to John Frith he gave freedom from irons and scope for his ‘pleasant tongue’.5
For his own part Walsingham prospered materially. In addition to his salary of £100 he made a handsome profit out of prisoners. The state made generous allowances for the illustrious among them: Walsingham was allowed £14 10s. a month for the board of Viscount Lisle and £26 13s.4d. every two months for the diets of the Countess of Salisbury, the Marquess of Exeter and Lord Montagu, but these payments the lieutenant and his officers treated as perquisites and the offenders were expected to pay their own costs and upon release or execution to leave their goods behind. The resulting income fed Walsingham’s steady acquisition of landed property both in Kent and Surrey. In 1531 he had acquired the reversion or remainder of a lease of Gomshall Towerhill, Surrey, from the abbey of St. Mary Graces near the Tower at an annual rent of £19; in the following year he was granted by Newark priory a 40-year lease of the parish church of St. Martha together with its rectory at an annual rent of 26s.8d.; and in 1534 he negotiated a 40-year lease with the same priory of the parsonage and church of Ewell, the term to run from 1542 at £13 a year. These three leases were confirmed by the court of augmentations in 1539. Walsingham later took a 99-year lease of the manor of Tyting, Surrey, from the bishop of Exeter and another of the manor of Stanground in Huntingdonshire, previously belonging to the abbey of Thorney. In 1539 the King rewarded his services by granting him Gomshall Towerhill in fee simple as well as nine houses in London; Gomshall Towerhill he was to sell in 1549 for £600. Walsingham also increased his inheritance in Kent, notably by acquiring from (Sir) Robert Southwell the manors of Swanton Court, West Peckham and Yokes, all adjacent to the Scadbury estate.6
If Walsingham’s landed interest in Surrey qualified him for the knighthood of that shire in the Parliament of 1545, while his association at court with his fellow-knight Sir Anthony Browne and the marriage of one of his daughters to Thomas Saunders gave him powerful local support, he probably owed his election principally to the Queen, whose vice-chamberlain he became within a year of his departure from the Tower in 1543. He thus joined the sizeable group of her officers who sat in the last Parliament of the reign. He also rubbed shoulders in the House with men whom he had met in quite other circumstances: with Sir Nicholas Hare, who had once been his prisoner, and with such relatives and friends of other former prisoners as Sir Marmaduke Constable II, who had tried in vain to save his father, or Richard Heywood and William Roper, of the circle of Sir Thomas More. That Walsingham, unlike Browne, was not to be re-elected in 1547 is perhaps a reflection of Queen Catherine’s loss of influence, although his approaching death may have cast its shadow before.
Walsingham made his will on 7 Feb. 1550 and died three days later; the will was proved on 8 Nov. 1550. He asked to be buried in ‘the tomb within the chapel where myself have usually sitten’, that is, the Scadbury chapel which had probably been built by his grandfather Thomas. He left 12s. a year to the 24 poorest householders in Chislehurst, Footscray and St. Paul’s Cray, and 40s. for repairs to bridges and highways in Chislehurst. He had goods and rich estates to bequeath and his son Thomas was the main beneficiary, the remainder of the lands going to his nephew Francis. To a kinsman ‘William’, whose surname is left a blank but who is elsewhere referred to as William Thwaites, he left his leases of the manors of Stanground and Tyting, and he appointed his son-in-law Sir Thomas Saunders the youth’s guardian, providing an annuity of £7 and profits of lands in Wales for his education and upbringing. He left the bulk of his household goods at Yokes to his wife for her lifetime with remainder to his daughters, his ‘brother Ayloff’s’ children and his ‘kinsman’ William if his son should die without heirs; his wife was to keep the lease of her house in the Blackfriars and all her personal property there which she had brought to the marriage. He made bequests of money and goods to several of his servants, appointed his son Thomas his executor and named as overseers his wife and two of his son-in-law, Sir Thomas Saunders and Sir Thomas Barnardiston.7
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: S. R. Johnson
- 1. Date of birth estimated from family history. LP Hen. VIII, xviii; Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. lxxiv), 20; Vis. Surr. (ibid. xliii), 11, 33; Vis. Suss. (ibid. liii), 59; Arch. Cant. xiii. 390, 401; E. A. Webb, G. W. Miller and J. Beckwith, Chislehurst, 119, 125; PCC 27 Alenger; DNB.
- 2. LP Hen. VIII, i-iv, vi, x, xiii-xvi, xix, xx, add.; E371/303; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 79, 85; Manning and Bray, Surr. iii. 664.
- 3. Chislehurst, 111-19; C. Read, Walsingham, i. 3 seq.
- 4. O. M. Heath, Notes on Hist. of St. Martha’s, 30; LP Hen. VIII, i-iii; Chislehurst, 121; Acts Ct. of Mercers’ Co. ed. Lyell and Watney, 537.
- 5. H. Dixon, Her Majesty’s Tower, i. 48, 68; Chislehurst, 33; LP Hen. VIII, iv-viii, xi-xiv, xvi, xviii, xix; Roper, Life of More (EETS cxcvii), 77.
- 6. LP Hen. VIII, v, viii, xiv-xvi, xviii, xx, xxi; Surr. Feet of Fines 1509-58 (Surr. Rec. Soc. xix), 91; C142/91/30; E315/100/279, 279v, 280; VCH Surr. iii. 105n, 116; VCH Hunts. 213; Guildford mus. Loseley 85/13/165-7; Manning and Bray, ii. 119; PCC 25 Coode; Hasted, Kent, v. 60, 85.
- 7. PCC 25 Coode; C142/91/30.