WIDDRINGTON, Sir Thomas (c.1600-64), of Cheeseburn Grange, Stamfordham, Northumb. and York.
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Family and Education
b. c.1600, 1st s. of Lewis Mauntlaine alias Widdrington of Cheeseburn Grange and Gray’s Inn; bro. of Henry Widdrington. educ. Christ’s, Camb. 1617, BA 1621; G. Inn 1619, called 1625. m. 1634, Frances (d. 5 May 1649), da. of Ferdinando Fairfax†, 2nd Lord Fairfax of Cameron [S], 1s. d.v.p. 5da. suc. fa. 1630; kntd. 1 Apr. 1639.1
Recorder, Berwick 1631-58, York 1638-58, May 1660-2; freeman, York 1637, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1657; bencher, G. Inn 1639, reader 1640, treas. 1642-50; commr. for assessment, Yorks. (W. Riding) 1643-4, Aug. 1660- d., Berwick-upon-Tweed 1644, Aug. 1660- d., Durham 1657, Aug. 1660- d., Northumb. and York Aug. 1660- d.; mayor, Berwick 1644-5; dep. lt. Northumb. 1644; j.p. Northumb. and W. Riding by 1660- d., co. Dur. 1664- d.; commr. for militia, Yorks. 1651, 1655, York 1659, scandalous ministers, Yorks. 1654; chancellor, co. Dur. 1655-May 1660; commr. for statutes, Durham college 1656, oyer and terminer, Northern circuit July 1660; temporal chancellor, Durham dioc. Dec. 1660- d.2
Commr. for indemnity 1647-9, great seal 1648-9, 1654-9, Jan.-May 1660; King’s serjeant 1648-9, serjeant-at-law 1650-4, June 1660- d.; Councillor of State Feb.-Dec. 1651, 31 Dec. 1659-27 May 1660; commr. for obstructions 1651-2, Treasury 1655-9, trade 1655-7, relief of Piedmontese Protestants 1656; ld. chief baron of the Exchequer 1658-Jan. 1660; chairman, committees of supply and ways and means 18-21 May 1660.
Speaker of House of Commons 1656-8.
Widdrington’s father, a bastard of the ancient Northumbrian family, acquired Cheeseburn, formerly a grange of Hexham Priory, by marriage. Most of the legitimate Widdringtons were Royalists, but Widdrington himself, ‘a good lawyer, but naturally a cautious and timorous man’, was a Parliamentarian in the Long Parliament, acting as parliamentary commissioner to the army in 1647. Like his brother-in-law, Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax, the parliamentary general, he would have nothing to do with the trial of the King, departing to the country while it was in progress, and resigning as commissioner of the great seal after the King’s execution. But he continued to sit in the Rump. As Speaker of the second Protectorate Parliament he administered to Cromwell the oath as lord protector, and was rewarded with the office of chief baron. He was not implicated in the military regime of 1659, and was appointed to the Council of State on its downfall.3
Although Widdrington had resigned his recorderships in the normal way on his elevation to the judicial bench, he was returned both for Berwick and York at the general election of 1660. He chose the latter constituency, where he had a house, and was entered on Lord Wharton’s list of friends, with responsibility for managing William Wilde and William Stockdale. An active Member of the Convention, he was appointed to 41 committees and made ten recorded speeches. On 27 Apr. he proposed the enforcement of the last ordinance of the Long Parliament by expelling all Cavaliers and their sons from the House, but failed to find a seconder. Nevertheless he took part in recommending legal forms for the Restoration, in a conference with the Lords on the reception of the King, and in preparing instructions for the messengers to The Hague. He was on the committee for the indemnity bill, and acted as chairman of the supply committee in May, and helped to prepare for a conference on the regicides. On 28 May he was ordered to bring in the great seal of the Commonwealth to be defaced before the House rose for the day. On 2 July, on a proposal to except iconoclasts from the bill of indemnity, he urged the immediate necessity of repairing the churches ‘and instanced the decay of York minster’. Two days later, he strongly opposed a proviso that Protectorate officials should have to refund their salaries, saying ‘if he were included in the proviso, he were better excluded the act’, and he helped to consider three other provisos. On 11 July he moved for the committal of the bill of sales, a measure in which he had a personal interest as a purchaser of forfeited lands during the Interregnum. Two days later he was given leave to bring in a bill for the enfranchisement of Durham, which, with one amendment, was sent to the Lords on 15 August. He was among those ordered to prepare for the Journal an assertion that the Commons had the sole right to name commissioners for taxes, and to manage a conference on the poll tax. After the recess he was chiefly concerned with the abolition of the court of wards, moving on 19 Nov. that the loss to the revenue should be made good by the grant of an excise. He was among those ordered to bring in a clause repealing Henry VIII’s Statutes of Liveries, and to examine the coherence of the amended bill. Wharton sent him a copy of the case for modified episcopacy, but he took no part in the debate. He helped to prepare reasons for the conference on college leases, and to manage the conference on disbandment.4
On his re-election as recorder of York, Widdrington proposed to dedicate to the corporation the history of York which he had just completed, in lieu of the customary gifts. The corporation refused the offer, saying ‘a good purse is more useful to us than a long story’. Widdrington was so annoyed that he expressly forbade the publication of his history, which was eventually printed in 1897 under the title of Analecta Eboracensia. He was defeated in the election for the city in 1661, but returned for Berwick and again listed by Wharton as a friend. He was not an active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, being appointed to only 25 committees in the first three sessions. He took no part in the Clarendon Code, though he was apparently himself willing to conform. He helped to consider the bill to enable Lord Widdrington, the head of the family, to sell part of his estate, and to manage the conferences at the end of the first session on the militia bill and the bill to prevent theft and rapine on the Scottish border. He died on 31 May 1664, and was buried in St. Giles in the Fields. His Northumberland estate, valued at £800 p.a., was inherited by his brother; but the rest of his property was divided among his daughters, all of whom married well.5
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: M. W. Helms / Eveline Cruickshanks
- 1. DNB; C142/475/104; Arch. Ael. (ser. 3), iv. 38; Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 4), iii. 159.