WROTHE, Sir Thomas (1584-1672), of Petherton Park, Som.
Available from Cambridge University Press
Family and Education
bap. 5 May 1584,1 1st s. of Thomas Wrothe of Blendon Hall, Bexley, Kent and Joan, da. and coh. of Thomas Bulman, of London.2 educ. Gloucester Hall, Oxf. 1600; I. Temple, 1607.3 m. c.1614, (with £3,000) Margaret (d. 14 Oct. 1635), da. of Richard Rich of Leez Priory, Essex, 1 ch. d.v.p.4 suc. fa. 1610.5 kntd. 11 Nov. 1613;6 d. 11 July 1672.7
J.p. Kent 1616-22,8 Som. 1624-c.1626, 1636-at least 1640, by 1650-60,9 commr. sewers, Kent 1618, 1626-7,10 Som. 1625-41, 1645-6, 1654-60;11 recorder, Bridgwater, Som. 1628-62;12 vestryman, St. Stephen’s, Coleman Street, London 1633-4;13 sheriff, Som. 1639-40,14 dep. lt. c. 1639-40,15 commr. assessment 1642-4, 1647-52, 1657, 1660,16 levying of money 1643,17 execution of ordinances 1644,18 militia 1648, 1659,19 oyer and terminer, W. Country 1654-9,20 scandalous ministers 1654, Som.21
Commr. govt. of Virg. 1624,25 exclusion from sacraments 1646, appeals, Oxf. Univ. visitation 1647, scandalous offences 1648,26 trial of Charles I 1649, removing obstructions in the sale of church lands 1649,27 govt. of Somers Is. 1653.28
Wrothe’s family took their name from Wrotham, Kent. They first acquired the Somerset manor of Newton in Richard I’s reign, when they also held the forestership of Petherton Park, about five miles from Bridgwater. However, from the later Middle Ages they were primarily Middlesex landowners, frequently representing that county in the Parliaments of Edward III, Richard II and Henry IV.29 Wrothe’s grandfather and namesake, who also sat five times for Middlesex, was a staunch Protestant who found favour at Edward VI’s court, and then became a Marian exile. He recovered part of the family’s Somerset estate, known as Newton-Regis, which had reverted to the Crown, and which included Petherton Park. Wrothe’s father, a younger son, failed to inherit any of these lands, but enjoyed a successful legal career and acquired a seat in Kent.30
Wrothe was born in Coleman Street, London. On his father’s death in 1610, he inherited several properties there, and more than £1,000. Knighted in 1613, Wrothe shortly afterwards married into the Rich family, to whom he was already closely related through his paternal grandmother, a daughter of the 1st Lord Rich. He remained resident at Coleman Street until around 1615, when he settled in north Kent, rapidly joining the county bench.31 Wrothe now attracted the patronage of Robert Sidney†, 1st Viscount L’Isle, to whom in 1620 he dedicated his first publication, The Destruction of Troy, a translation of the second book of Virgil’s Aeneid.32 In the same year he brought out a small volume of epigrams, entitled The Abortive of an Idle Hour. Clearly inspired by the satirical works of the Roman poet Martial, to whom the opening apologia alludes, these whimsical pieces of doggerel mostly mock contemporary manners and vices, with occasional references to London landmarks such as the inns of court, the Royal Exchange and Moorfields. Generally taking a tolerant view of the people described, including their sexual indiscretions, the epigrams nevertheless contain some serious notes, one lamenting the world’s sinfulness, while another meditates on Christ’s victory over death. In a similar vein, Wrothe incongruously appended to his poems a rhyming gloss on the Apostles’ Creed, as if to distance himself from the dubious morality of his own wit. Clearly unsure how The Abortive would be received, he published it under his initials only, and omitted any dedication.33
Meanwhile, no doubt influenced by his Rich kinsmen, Wrothe had become heavily involved in colonial enterprises. By 1619 he was regularly attending the Virginia Company’s court meetings, and earning nominations to sub-committees. In the following year he joined the Council for New England, and also began investing in the Somers Islands Company, which, though closely linked to the Virginia Company, was dominated by his wife’s cousin, Sir Robert Rich*, 2nd earl of Warwick, and her brother, (Sir) Nathaniel Rich*. Wrothe naturally backed his two relatives in their protracted power struggle with the Virginia Company’s treasurer, Sir Edwin Sandys*. At a court meeting in May 1620, Wrothe went out on a limb to defend Capt. Samuel Argoll, a Rich client accused of misconduct in America. Having lost this argument, he apparently withdrew from the Company’s affairs for two years.34
The battle between Sandys and the Rich faction came to a head in 1623, by which time the Virginia Company was in disarray, and near bankrupt. In February Sandys called his rivals’ bluff by offering to stand down as treasurer, correctly anticipating that both Sir Nathaniel and Wrothe would refuse to succeed him.35 Nevertheless, the Crown was now increasingly concerned by the Company’s mounting chaos. At a court meeting in May, Wrothe and Sir Nathaniel were justifiably accused of encouraging the Privy Council to take direct control of the whole enterprise, while in October Wroth was one of the tiny minority of investors which voted in favour of surrendering the Company’s charter. Sandys’s victory on this occasion merely postponed the inevitable. In 1624 the king dissolved the Virginia Company, and Wrothe was appointed to the government commission set up to run the colony.36
During the final phase of this struggle, Wrothe left Kent and settled in Somerset where, by 1623, he had become joint owner of Newton-Regis with his uncle John Wrothe†. In the following year he was living at Petherton Park, which now became his main residence. Clearly very wealthy, his subsidy rating by 1626 stood at £20.37 From this new base, he began to take an interest in the affairs of Bridgwater, presumably helping the borough to obtain its new charter, granted on 25 Mar. 1628, which saw him installed as the town’s recorder.38 His services were also recognized when Bridgwater’s grateful voters returned him to Parliament that year. As a novice Member he made little impact on the Commons, since he delivered no recorded speeches. Granted ten days’ leave of absence on 10 Apr. 1628, he subsequently received just three appointments. Two of these related to the Somers Islands Company. On 13 June 1628 he was added to the committee to consider a petition that ostensibly emanated from the colony’s planters but was actually drafted by Sir Nathaniel Rich, and concerned the high level of impositions charged on their tobacco crop. Similarly, he was named on 10 Feb. 1629 to the committee for the bill to confirm the Company’s charter. He was also nominated to help scrutinize the bill against recusants (28 January).39
Wrothe’s uncle died in 1633, leaving him as sole owner of Newton-Regis. In the following year he and his brother, Sir Peter, purchased another of his family’s ancestral properties, known as Newton-Wroth, from a cousin who had fallen into debt.40 Despite this consolidation of his Somerset lands, for much of the 1630s Wrothe again maintained a household in Coleman Street. Beyond any sentimental attachment that he felt to his birthplace, the strongly puritan character of the local parish undoubtedly appealed to him. While not a regular at vestry meetings, in December 1633 he helped appoint the radical divine John Goodwin as vicar and lecturer.41 Wrothe’s opposition to Laudian innovations was spelt out even more clearly in September 1635, when he wrote from Petherton to John Stoughton, another of London’s puritan preachers. Commenting on the reverses being suffered by godly Protestants both at home and abroad, Wrothe argued that it was time for them to stand up for their beliefs: ‘it will be a great evidence of true Christian resolution if we suffer usque ad sanguinis effusionem [even bloodshed], for preservation of faith and a good conscience’. This letter, one of the earliest known statements to hint at open resistance to the Caroline regime, fell into the hands of the government, which was then investigating Stoughton, but Wrothe seems to have escaped punishment. His views probably reflected the influence of Sir Nathaniel Rich, who in November 1633 had also expressed the need to oppose Laudianism.42
Following the death of his wife at Petherton Park in October 1635, Wrothe returned to literature to express his grief, penning both a private memoir of her final hours for Sir Nathaniel’s benefit, and the more public Sad Encomion upon his Dearest Consort, a lengthy poem which praised her godly virtues, and described her final journey for burial at St. Stephen’s, Coleman Street.43 Appointed sheriff of Somerset in 1639, Wrothe encountered fierce local resistance to Ship Money, ultimately collecting just four percent of the county’s target for that year. Despite these difficulties, which earned him the government’s displeasure, Wrothe was one of only three Somerset deputy lieutenants who seriously attempted to recruit soldiers to serve in the Second Bishops’ War.44
As the serving sheriff, Wrothe was ineligible to stand for election to the Short Parliament, but he doubtless arranged the return of his brother Sir Peter for Bridgwater. After the latter’s death he took his place in the Long Parliament in 1646, and emerged as one of the Commons’ more radical Members. In January 1648 he made ‘an outrageously republican speech’, seconding the motion that Parliament should make no further addresses to Charles I. Although appointed one of the king’s judges a year later, he took little part in the actual trial, and declined to sign the death warrant. He subsequently supported the Commonwealth and Protectorate regimes, continuing to sit for Bridgwater up to the Convention Parliament.45 At the Restoration he petitioned for a pardon, which was evidently granted, but he lost his offices and retired from public life.46 Wrothe died in July 1672 at Petherton Park, and was buried in his estate chapel there. Since he had no surviving issue of his own, his property came to his great-nephew and executor Sir John Wrothe, whose son Sir Thomas sat for Bridgwater in several of the Parliaments of William III and Anne.47
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: George Yerby / Paul Hunneyball
- 1. GL, ms 4448, f. 75v.
- 2. Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xvii), 374; Add. 19156, f. 256v.
- 3. Al. Ox.; I. Temple Admiss.
- 4. Vis. London, 374; W.D. Montagu (7th duke of Manchester), Ct. and Soc. from Eliz. to Anne, i. 343-8.
- 5. PROB 11/117, f. 118.
- 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 153.
- 7. Oxford DNB.
- 8. C231/4, f. 18; C193/13/1, f. 52v.
- 9. C231/4, f. 167; T.G. Barnes, Som. 1625-40, p. 316; C66/2858; C193/13/3, f. 54v; Perfect List of JPs (1660), p. 47.
- 10. C181/2, f. 322v; 181/3, ff. 204, 225.
- 11. C181/3, f. 186; 181/5, ff. 205, 263, 268; 181/6, pp. 74, 394; 181/7, p. 24.
- 12. Som. RO, Bridgwater bor. archive, D/B/bw 2409, f. 38; VCH Som. vi. 229.
- 13. GL, ms 4457/1, pt. 1, ff. 86-9.
- 14. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 125.
- 15. Barnes, 317.
- 16. SR, v. 156; A. and O. i. 69, 94, 545, 974; ii. 42, 307, 476, 674, 1079, 1378.
- 17. A. and O. i. 151, 235.
- 18. Ibid. i. 460.
- 19. Ibid. i. 1243; ii. 1332.
- 20. C181/6, pp. 8, 377.
- 21. A. and O. ii. 974.
- 22. Recs. Virg. Co. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, i. 215.
- 23. T.K. Rabb, Enterprise and Empire, 409.
- 24. A. Brown, Genesis of US, 1064.
- 25. Recs. Virg. Co. iv. 491.
- 26. A. and O. i. 853, 975, 1209.
- 27. Ibid. i. 1254; ii. 152.
- 28. CSP Col. 1574-1660, p. 404.
- 29. Collinson, Som. iii. 55-6, 61, 63, 65, 67; VCH Som. vi. 285-7; Add. 19156, f. 256v; OR.
- 30. HP Commons, 1509-58, iii. 667; Collinson, iii. 54, 61, 68-9; VCH Som. vi. 286; PROB 11/123, f. 481.
- 31. PROB 11/117, f. 118; C54/2611/13; GL, ms 4457/2, ff. 123v, 135v, 140, 148, 175, 197, 235v.
- 32. T. Wrothe, The Destruction of Troy (1620), dedication.
- 33. T. W[rothe], The Abortive of an Idle Hour (1620).
- 34. Recs. Virg. Co. i. 215, 216, 300, 321, 336, 365-6; ii. 21; H.C. Wilkinson, Adventurers of Bermuda, 88-9.
- 35. Recs. Virg. Co. ii. 272-3.
- 36. Ibid. ii. 390, 472; iv. 290-1.
- 37. VCH Som. vi. 286; E115/410/116, 421/1, 426/23.
- 38. Som. RO, D/B/bw 2409, f. 38; CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 41.
- 39. CD 1628, ii. 398; iv. 289; CJ, i. 923b, 928a; Wilkinson, 208-11.
- 40. VCH Som. vi. 287; Collinson, iii. 68.
- 41. GL, ms 4457/2, ff. 309v, 335v; 4458/1, f. 86; T. Liu, Puritan London, 82.
- 42. P. Seaver, Puritan Lectureships, 138; CSP Dom. 1635, pp. 377-8; Barnes, 15-16; Harl. 3783, f. 31.
- 43. Montagu, i. 343-348; T. Wrothe, His Sad Encomion upon his Dearest Consort (1635).
- 44. Barnes, 207, 231-3, 237, 278, 303.
- 45. D. Underdown, Pride’s Purge, 88, 137, 187.
- 46. CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 9.
- 47. PROB 11/339, f. 395v; Collinson, 69.