WIGSTON, William (by 1509-77), of Wolston, Warws.
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Family and Education
Commr. subsidy, Leicester 1540, relief, Warws. 1550, loan 1557, musters 1569, Coventry 1573, 1577; receiver, duchy of Lancaster, Tutbury honor 1542-76; escheator, Warws. and Leics. 1544-5; j.p. Warws. 1547-d., Leics. 1547-53; sheriff, Warws. and Leics. 1551-2, 1557-8; recorder, Warwick 1554-72.3
Dr. John London, in a rare panegyric, praised Roger Wigston for the upbringing of his children: they were loyal and obedient subjects and the sons and sons-in-law were all in public service. Yet William Wigston was never to become as active an official as his father: he held several under stewardships of crown lands but did not rise much higher. His later employment on commissions of oyer and terminer and as recorder of Warwick implies a legal education and it is all but certain, since both his father and his son belonged to the Inner Temple, that he was the Wigston chosen as marshal there for Christmas 1539 but afterwards fined £5 for refusal, and the ‘Wigston, the elder, knight’ who was steward for Christmas on several occasions from 1555.4
Wigston was probably the ‘young Wigston’ who attended the reception of Anne of Cleves, but from his father’s death he was chiefly employed in local duties. In 1544 he was at first ordered to lead his tenants in the army against France but later exempted from this duty as receiver of Tutbury. A grant of crown land which he received about this time may have been, at least in part, a reward for service. Under Edward VI his appointment to commissions was less frequent, but it was then that he served his first term as sheriff. The recognizance which he gave for Thomas Fisher, fined £1,000 for his part in the alleged conspiracy of the Duke of Somerset, was probably of no political significance.5
Wigston’s parliamentary career had begun in 1539, when he was returned for the borough of Leicester. His father, who sat in this Parliament for Coventry, was then at the height of his influence and it was evidently enough to carry the day, aided perhaps by a recommendation from John Beaumont, recorder of Leicester and Wigston’s fellow-Member, who was also a senior colleague of his at the Inner Temple. This early start was to be followed by a long intermission, for unless the evidence of an intervening election has been lost it was not until April 1554 that Wigston reappeared in the House. His election as one of the knights for Warwickshire—and as senior knight ahead of the powerful Sir Fulke Greville—seems to imply that his fortunes had risen with the accession of Queen Mary. Although not a Member of the Parliament of the previous autumn, he had been knighted shortly after it opened and his new status, although by no means de rigueur for the representation of the shire, may have smoothed his ascent to it. Yet he was not to give the government unswerving support. Reelected for Warwickshire to the Parliament of November 1554 (although this time as second string to Greville), he was one of the Members who were prosecuted for absenting themselves from its closing days. The fact that, unlike some of the individuals concerned, Wigston did not see the case dropped but was still being distrained for non-appearance at the close of the reign may mean that he was one of the ‘real’ culprits and not an inadvertent offender. This would give added interest to both his re-election to the Parliament of 1555 and such indication as survives of his alignment there. During the lifetime of that Parliament, and for a year or more after its dissolution, the series of distraints already commenced against Wigston was suspended. If this was an olive branch he may have responded to it by holding aloof from the opposition led by Sir Anthony Kingston, for his name does not appear on the list (which admittedly seems to be incomplete) of Members voting against a government bill in December 1555. The final twist to this obscure story comes with Wigston’s second term as sheriff in 1557-8. This not only debarred him from sitting in Mary’s last Parliament (unless he was prepared to repeat his father’s illegality of 1541) but made him responsible for levying distraints upon himself.6
Wigston was to survive Elizabeth’s accession by 20 years, but without sitting in any of her Parliaments. As the first holder, until he surrendered it in 1572, of the recordership of Warwick established in 1554 he might have been expected to be returned by that borough even if the knighthood of the shire was no longer within his reach. It may be, therefore, that he had had enough of Parliament, and even of London and Westminster, finding satisfaction in his local round as magistrate and squire. In matters religious he was adjudged ‘indifferent’ by his bishop in 1564; as the bishop was reporting the verdict of Edward Aglionby II, Wigston’s brother-in-law, the view may be taken as well informed although not necessarily impartial. As recorder he seems to have been moderate and humane: in a dispute between William Powell, a rebellious townsman, and the town oligarchy he first examined the charter and then decided in favour of the corporation, but also ‘earnestly entreated the bailiff to pardon the offense, which was committed through ignorance’, a course which was reluctantly followed.7
Wigston lived to see all his surviving daughters suitably married and all his younger sons provided for. Himself the heir to both his father and his uncle William Wigston, he had taken the opportunity provided by the Dissolution to acquire, by judicious purchase and sale, a group of compact properties, Belgrave in Leicestershire and Pinley and Wolston in Warwickshire. The inventory of his goods and chattels came to £209. He made his will on 21 Sept. 1577 and died six days later, being buried as he had desired in Wolston church.8
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: S. M. Thorpe
- 1. C60/352, mm. 17-18.
- 2. Date of birth estimated from age at fa’.s i.p.m., C142/69/82. Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. xii), 37-38; C142/183/95.
- 3. C60/352, m. 18; CPR, 1553, p. 360; 1554-5, pp. 18-21; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 95, 339; Coventry Recs. ed. Jeaffreson, 36, 37; Stowe 571, f. 143; Black Bk. of Warwick, ed. Kemp, 14, 86; Somerville, Duchy, i. 544; VCH Warws. iii. 493.
- 4. LP Hen. VIII, xiv; CPR, 1553-4, p. Cal. I.T. Recs. i. 123, 134, 186.
- 5. Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Archer ms 35, f. 20; LP Hen. VIII, xiv, xix, xx, add.; CPR, 1553, pp. 360, 408.
- 6. APC, v. 101; KB27/1176, 1178-9, 1186-8.
- 7. Black Bk. of Warwick, 14, 86; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 45-46; Lansd. 8, f. 81; CPR, 1558-60, p. 423; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 339, 343.
- 8. VCH Warws. ii. 83; iii. 119, 151; v. 211; vi. 73, 271, 280; LP Hen. VIII, xix-xxi; CPR, 1550-3, p. 104; 1553-4, p. 366; 1555-7, pp. 310-11; Index to CP 40 Easter 38 Hen. VIII, m. 6v; Lichfield Wills (Brit. Rec. Soc. vii), 374; C142/183/95.