WROTH, Sir Robert II (c.1576-1614), of Durants, alias Gartons, Enfield, Mdx. and Loughton Hall, Essex
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Family and Education
b. c.1576, 1 1st. s. of Sir Robert Wroth I* of Durants and Susan, da. and h. of John Stonard of Loughton. educ. G. Inn 1594. m. 27 Sept. 1602, Mary, da. of Sir Robert Sidney† of Penshurst, Kent, 1s.2 kntd. 8 (or 23) June 1603.3 suc. fa. 1606. d. 14 Mar. 1614.
Gent. pens. by 1601-at least 1603.4
Capt. militia ft. Essex 1601;5 kpr., Walthamstow and Leyton Walks, Essex 1603-d.;6 commr. sewers, Mdx. and Essex 1604-at least 1613,7 London and Mdx. 1606,8 Havering and Dagenham, Essex 1607-at least 1612,9 R. Lea, Essex, Herts. and Mdx. 1607-at least 1609,10 Colne valley, Herts. and Mdx. 1607-at least 1609,11 London 1608,12 Ratcliffe and Blackwall, Kent 1610,13 Rainham, Essex 1611,14 gaol delivery, London 1606-at least 1611,15 London and Mdx.1608,16 subsidy, Essex 1606, 1608, Mdx. 1608,17 oyer and terminer, London 1607-at least 1612,18 the Verge 1613;19 j.p. Essex 1607-d.,20 Mdx. 1608;21 commr. musters, Mdx. 1608,22 aid, Mdx. 1609,23 highways repair, Mdx. and Essex 1609,24 swans, Gravesend, Kent to Windsor, Berks. 1609,25 abuses, Enfield Chase, Mdx. 1609-10,26 impounding and branding cattle 1610,27 water supply, London 1610-at least 1611,28 enclosure of Theobalds Park, Herts. 1611-at least 1612;29 sheriff, Essex 1613-d.30
On his father’s death in January 1606, Wroth inherited the bulk of an extensive landed estate situated mainly in Middlesex, Essex and Hertfordshire.31 His principal properties were the Middlesex manor of Enfield and its seat known as Durants house, for which he paid an annual rent to the duchy of Lancaster of about £7 6s.4d.,32 and the 1,100-acre manor of Loughton, Essex, which he also leased from the duchy and which was estimated by the duchy’s commissioners in 1612 to be worth £768 2s.10d. p.a..33 Wroth also inherited an annual pension from the king of £200, although this was intended to pay for the maintenance of his three younger brothers, for one of whom (Thomas) he acted as guardian.34
Like his father, Wroth was an important forest official in western Essex and therefore subordinate to the master forester, Robert Cecil†, 1st earl of Salisbury who, until 1607, owned nearby Theobalds Palace. Just six months after entering into his inheritance, Wroth claimed, in a letter to Salisbury’s servant, (Sir) Michael Hicks*, that ‘were either my fortune or means answerable to my desires, none should with more readiness manifest his love to my lord than myself’.35 Wroth’s profession of poverty was not entirely rhetorical. In June 1609 he was in trouble for having failed to pay livery on his father’s death, while in February 1610 the Court of Wards instructed the sheriffs of London and Middlesex to pursue him for rent arrears amounting to £45 arising from Enfield manor.36 At around the same time his estates were extended for non-payment of an annuity.37 In January 1609 he was prosecuted in Chancery for a debt of £50 by George Colt, and in October 1613 he was cited as being one of several members of the Virginia Company who had failed to pay their full subscription.38 The king’s decision to enlarge Theobald’s Park offered Wroth the prospect of some welcome financial relief, for in February 1612 the Exchequer was ordered to pay Wroth £5,600 in order to purchase from him a farm in Cheshunt. However, James’ purse was almost as empty as Wroth’s, and it was not until July that the latter received the first instalment of £1,000.39 On his death in 1614 it was rumoured that Wroth owed his creditors £23,000.40 Certainly his debts included the sum of £3,150 payable to the estate of the wealthy founder of the Charterhouse, Thomas Sutton.41
It is not clear how Wroth accumulated such massive debts, for his friend, Ben Jonson, remarked that, although he enjoyed close proximity to the City and the Court, he was ‘ta’en with neither’s vice nor sport’. Possibly his debts arose from the extravagance of his wife, Lady Mary, to whom he bequeathed £1,000 towards the payment of her own debts in his will.42 However, it seems most likely that Wroth was largely the author of his own misfortune, lavishing money on completing the rebuilding and enlargement of Loughton Hall, which had been started by his father,43 in the hope of making the house ‘fit for their Majesties’. This ambition had, in part, already been fulfilled, for James had stayed at Loughton Hall in July 1605, and had sent Prince Henry there 12 months later.44 The newly remodelled house was evidently impressive, for by 1612 it included eight newly built and ‘re-edified’ great rooms, together with a buttery, kitchen, larder, bakery, pastry, dairy, laundry, brewhouse, garnerhouse and ‘an orchard and a garden now in planting’.45 Perhaps inevitably Wroth was not content to remain a mere lessee after having invested so heavily, and in June 1613 he placed a further strain on his finances when he purchased Loughton Hall for £1,224.46
It says much for his financial recklessness that, instead of seeking to reduce his debts, Wroth initially tried to place his property beyond the reach of his creditors by a fictitious sale of his estates in June 1610 to his cousin, John Wroth of London.47 This tactic merely provided a temporary solution, however, and on 5 Feb. 1614, less than two weeks before the birth of his only son and heir and just six weeks before his death, he endeavoured to put his finances on a firmer footing. He sold Durants and other land in Enfield to two of his principal creditors, his uncle, John Wroth of Petherton, Somerset and Sir Anthony Aucher* of Bishopsbourne, Kent.48
It may have been partly due to his financial difficulties that Wroth sought election to Parliament for Middlesex following the death of the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, Sir John Fortescue, in December 1607. On the other hand, though the protection from creditors afforded by parliamentary privilege was certainly a strong incentive to stand, Wroth may also have been swayed by other considerations, for his father had held one of the Middlesex seats without interruption from 1572 until his death in 1606. Wroth probably owed his seat to his connection with Salisbury, but it may also have helped that he enjoyed close ties with the duchy, for as well as leasing duchy property, one of his tenants was William Gerard†, the duchy’s clerk of the Council.49 Unlike his late father, Wroth played an inconspicuous role in the Commons. He made no recorded speeches and was named to a single committee - that for a bill to repeal the New River Act (20 June 1610).50 His interest in this legislation was understandable, as the planned waterway would cut across his Enfield property. On 15 Feb. 1610 Wroth was also named to attend a conference with the Lords concerning supply.51 He received no further mention in the parliamentary records, except in connection with one of his servants who, having been arrested for debt eight days before the start of the fourth session, was granted parliamentary privilege.52
Wroth and his wife shared literary interests and friends. Ben Jonson probably spent time at Loughton, which he described in his poem ‘The Forest’, dedicated to Wroth. A further poem, ‘The Alchemist’, was dedicated to Lady Mary.53 Wroth was presumably also well acquainted with the poet Richard Niccols, who included an epigram on Wroth in his ‘Vertue’s Encomium’, written shortly after Wroth’s death, in which he refers to Wroth as having been a bountiful host.54 Wroth’s friends included the 3rd earl of Pembroke, who attended the christening of his son, and his father-in-law, Lord L’Isle (Sir Robert Sidney).
Wroth died on 14 Mar. 1614, reportedly of genital gangrene,55 having made out his will 12 days earlier. Despite the sale of his Enfield properties, he asked to be buried in Enfield parish church alongside his parents rather than at Loughton. Appointing as his executors his uncle, brother and cousin, he finally acknowledged the need to sell a large part of his remaining estate to settle his enormous debts. Nevertheless, he hoped to preserve Loughton, the jewel in the crown, for his infant son, James.56 In the event, James died in July 1616, and Loughton passed to John Wroth of Petherton.57 A bill to enable part of Wroth’s estate to be sold in settlement of his debts was presented to Parliament in May 1614 but, as with all the legislation that year, it failed to become law.58
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Andrew Thrush
- 1. Calculated from fa.’s i.p.m.: W.C. Waller, ‘An Extinct County Fam.: Wroth of Loughton Hall’, Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. viii. n.s. 156.
- 2. Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 330; Mdx. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lxv), 17; Sidney Letters ed. A. Collins, i. 120. Family visitations give the name of Wroth’s maternal granddfa. as Francis Stonard, but this is evidently incorrect: Waller, 148.
- 3. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 110.
- 4. E407/1/35, 36; LC2/4/4, f. 60.
- 5. AO3/1276, pt. 2, unfol.
- 6. C66/1624; SP14/78/14.
- 7. C181/1, f. 89v; C181/2, f. 193.
- 8. C181/2, f. 20.
- 9. Ibid. ff. 30v, 167v.
- 10. C181/2, ff. 50, 94.
- 11. Ibid. f. 90.
- 12. Lansd. 168, f. 151v.
- 13. Ibid. f. 128v.
- 14. Ibid. f. 137.
- 15. Ibid. ff. 19, 157v.
- 16. Ibid. f. 73.
- 17. Eg. 2644, f. 171; SP14/31/1.
- 18. Ibid. ff. 54v, 178v.
- 19. Ibid. f.180.
- 20. Cal. Assize Recs. Essex Indictments, Jas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 14, 121.
- 21. SP14/33.
- 22. Add. 11402, f. 142.
- 23. SP14/43/107.
- 24. C193/6, no. 188.
- 25. C181/2, f. 89v.
- 26. DL5/24, pp. 879-80; DL41/3/17.
- 27. D. Pam, Story of Enfield Chase, 53.
- 28. C181/2, ff. 126v, 149v.
- 29. CSP Dom. 1611-18, pp. 83, 121, 158.
- 30. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 46.
- 31. PROB 11/107, f. 70v.
- 32. Calculated from DL43/7/7, rots. 1, 4r-v, 7.
- 33. DL44/905. Waller, 163, says it was worth just over £517 p.a.
- 34. PROB 11/107, f. 71; E407/123, unnumb. item, 20 Apr. 1606, Wroth to Sir Vincent Skynner. The pension was made out in Thomas’ name.
- 35. Waller, 157-8.
- 36. WARD 9/632, unfol.
- 37. WARD 9/91, ff. 235-6; WARD 9/611, unfol.
- 38. C2/Jas.I/W16/59; 2/Jas.I/V2/69.
- 39. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 121; Pam, 47; E403/2731, f. 181.
- 40. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 519.
- 41. LMA, ACC/1876/F/09/1, unfol.
- 42. Waller, 158, 164; PROB 11/123, f. 482v.
- 43. VCH Essex, iv. 120.
- 44. Waller, 157, 162-3.
- 45. DL44/905.
- 46. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 187; Waller, 163.
- 47. C54/2237/24.
- 48. C2/Jas.I/W17/6. For the birth of his son, see Chamberlain Letters, i. 512.
- 49. C142/308/156.
- 50. CJ, i. 442a.
- 51. Ibid. 393b.
- 52. Ibid. 392b, 393a, 394a; Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 6.
- 53. Waller, 158; VCH Essex, iv. 119.
- 54. Harl. Misc. x. 10.
- 55. Chamberlain Letters, i. 519.
- 56. PROB 11/123, ff. 481-4.
- 57. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 16.
- 58. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 289, 347.