WENDY, Thomas (1498/99-1560), of Haslingfield and Cambridge, Cambs. and London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Apr. 1554

Family and Education

b. 1498/99, 2nd s. of John Wendy of Clare, Suff. educ. Gonville, Camb., BA 1518/19, MA 1522, MD 1526/27; Ferrara bef. 1527. m. (1) by 1541, Margaret, ?da. of one Butler, s.p.; (2) 13 June 1552, Margaret, da. of John Porter of London, wid. of Thomas Atkins of London.1

Offices Held

Physician to Queen Catherine Parr by Oct. 1546-8, to Henry VIII by 1547, to Edward VI 1547-53, to Mary 1553-8, to Elizabeth 1558-d.; fellow, college of physicians 22 Dec. 1551, elect 1552; pres. Gonville bef. 1559; j.p. Cambs. 1547, q. by 1554-d.; commr. to visit Eton and Cambridge Univ. 1548, goods of churches and fraternities, Cambridge 1550, 1553, relief, Cambridge and Cambs. 1550.2


Thomas Wendy came of a Suffolk yeoman family, whose earlier provenance, as its name suggests, was probably Wendy in Cambridgeshire. The modesty of his origin is attested by the bequests in Wendy’s will ‘to my poor kinsfolk in Suffolk’. After taking his arts degree in 1522 Wendy probably studied medicine at Ferrara until 1527, when he was again at Cambridge; he had leave of absence for the year 1527-8, perhaps for the purpose of further foreign travel. Another bequest in Wendy’s will seems to reflect early experience of Venice: he gave ‘to one Aurelius of Venice whose father was called Battista a bookbinder sometime dwelling in Venice aforesaid at the sign of the Anchor in the Mercerie a sovereign of two angels if he be living’. Wendy was a fellow of Gonville Hall for his whole adult life and its president at some date before the rule of Dr. Caius began in 1559. No doubt his connexion with the university determined his choice of Haslingfield, Cambridgeshire, as his principal residence; he does not seem to have been active in university life, however, and obtained in 1538-9 licence dispensing him from lecturing in medicine or the arts except at his option.3

Wendy’s medical practice was lucrative, his patients being drawn largely from the peerage or the royal family. His services were retained by Henry Percy, 5th Earl of Northumberland as early as July 1534, when he obtained an annuity of £3 6s.8d. from Fountains abbey, Yorkshire, the grant being made at the instance of the earl, a benefactor of the abbey. Wendy was employed by Northumberland in a number of other capacities. In March 1535 he executed with the earl a deed transferring the Percy lands in Sussex to the crown. He carried a number of letters from the earl to Cromwell in 1536 and 1537 and attended him at Hackney in his last illness in June 1537. Wendy also received from the earl an annuity of £40 and a lease of two Yorkshire manors granted in March 1535 and still subsisting in 1559; this lease was virtually a gift for term of years, since the manors were valued in 1535 at £41 4s. a year and the annual rent payable by Wendy was a mere 6s.8d. The earl also tried unsuccessfully to secure Wendy grants of ex-monastic lands at Ickleton and Royston, Cambridgeshire. Wendy remembered the earl with gratitude and left his nephew Thomas Percy, 1st Earl of the new creation, in his will a silver ewer and basin ‘in remembrance of such benefits which I have received at the hands of my very good lord and late master the late earl of Northumberland his uncle’.4

Wendy bought the manor and advowson of Haslingfield in June 1541 and settled it on himself and his wife, the feoffees including William Paget. The two men seem to have had a long friendship. Paget sent both his sons to Gonville Hall, where they must have come under Wendy’s influence; it is even possible that Wendy introduced Paget to his wife, for he bequeathed Lady Paget his lands at Coton and Whitwell, Cambridgeshire, ‘as a poor token of the good will which I have ever borne to her ladyship and in remembrance that in that place she had her first acquaintance with my lord her husband’. Wendy may have shared Paget’s early Protestant sympathies; he is said by Foxe to have helped frustrate a scheme by Chancellor Wriothesley and Stephen Gardiner to have Queen Catherine Parr condemned for heresy, and Gonville Hall was at that time known as a stronghold of the reformers. Wendy was summoned to court in March 1546, perhaps to attend on the Queen; he was appointed her physician before October 1546, when he received a further grant of Haslingfield land, in return for the surrender of his £40 annuity from Northumberland. Most of the Percy lands were by then vested in the crown, which thus obtained exoneration from the payment of Wendy’s annuity. Paget may have helped Wendy to this royal appointment, which in turn led to his being made physician to the King, whom he attended in his last illness; in that capacity he witnessed the King’s will, under which he received a legacy of £100. William Butts, physician to Henry VIII until his death in November 1545, was a fellow of Gonville Hall and may have recommended Wendy to the King.5

Wendy was re-appointed royal physician for life in March 1547. In the same year he began his public service, which comprised numerous commissions in Cambridgeshire and elsewhere. The tempo of his land purchases increased; in September 1547 he took a 30-year lease of the bishop of Hereford’s mansion adjoining Old Fish Street in London. He purchased, in January 1549, the fee simple in numerous ex-chantry lands in Cambridgeshire and Essex. In May 1550 there followed a similar purchase of two manors and an advowson in Cambridgeshire, worth £55 a year; the Privy Council ordered the chancellor of the court of augmentations to complete the sale for £400 cash and—an unusual concession— on to accept the rest of the £1,118 purchase price by instalments over four years. Wendy’s last important purchase in Edward VI’s reign brought him the manors of Ditton Valence, Cambridgeshire, and Kingsbury, Hertfordshire—his only known connexion with the latter county. The terms were even more favourable this time, for Wendy paid only £72 10s. to the crown for lands valued at £33 12s.6d. a year, or in capital value, at 20 years’ purchase, at more than £600, the difference being treated as a gift to Wendy by the crown in consideration of his services. Wendy’s remaining large purchases (in the following reign) may be noted here: in September 1553 he had licence to buy from the 9th Lord Clinton the conventual buildings of Barnwell priory, Cambridgeshire, and in October 1558 he paid the crown £300 for the fee simple in the manor of Chatteris, in the same county. On one occasion he was accused by Edward Slegge of making an improper use of his influence to obtain an augmentations grant of Cambridgeshire lands.6

The generally poor health of the monarchs whom he served from 1546 onwards must have redounded to Wendy’s advantage. His election to the second and fourth Marian Parliaments was doubtless the result of royal nomination, for, whatever his religious views, he was hardly likely to act or vote in Parliament in a way repugnant to a sovereign on whom he depended so entirely and with whom he was in such frequent and intimate contact. To his first seat, St. Albans, Wendy may have been helped by Paget and by the young Henry Parker, a former student at Gonville Hall, son of Sir Henry Parker. The Parkers were a family of standing and influence in Hertfordshire and their backing, combined with the royal support, must have sufficed to obtain Wendy his election although it is possible that his first wife was related to another leading Hertfordshire family, the Butlers of Watton at Stone. Moreover, John Maynard, first steward of St. Albans and one of its Members in the previous and succeeding Parliaments, had a 61-year lease of the timber and wood of Wendy’s manor of Kingsbury in February 1556, perhaps in reward for his support of Wendy’s candidature. By 1555 Wendy was a considerable landowner in his adoptive county of Cambridge; this fact and his standing in the university city must have offset his modest birth. Although he had been active earlier in connexion with the Act touching the incorporation of physicians (1 Mary st.2, c.9), he is not known to have played any such part when himself a Member although he doubtless lent his support to the Act ‘that purveyors shall not take victuals within five miles of Cambridge and Oxford’ (2 and 3 Phil. and Mary, c.15), which principally affected the universities and their students.7

Wendy attended Queen Mary on her deathbed, as he had her father and brother. He sued out a pardon on the accession of Elizabeth, was reappointed royal physician, but died in London on 11 May 1560 and was buried at Haslingfield 16 days later. By a will made earlier in the year he provided 40s. for annual distribution to the poor of Haslingfield ‘to pray for my soul and for the soul of my first wife’. Most of his lands, including six manors in Cambridgeshire, Essex and Hertfordshire, went, after a life interest to his wife, to his nephew and eventual heir Thomas Wendy; there were remainders in favour of a stepson of Wendy’s and two of Paget’s sons. Gonville and Caius College was left Haslingfield rectory, and directed to let it to Wendy’s nephew for £10 a year. In addition to Lord and Lady Paget and the Earl of Northumberland he also remembered Anthony Browne II, (Sir) Henry Percy, Sir Humphrey Radcliffe and Richard Weston. Wendy left the residue of his personal estate to his ‘right entirely beloved wife’, appointing her sole executrix, and naming four assistants or overseers. One of these was ‘my friend Mr. Nicholas Purslow of the Inner Temple of London’, to whom Wendy left £10 and a piece of plate ‘in some part of recompense for his great pains taking for me in many of my causes and matters’. His immediate heir was his brother, John, then aged 50.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: D. F. Coros


  • 1. Aged 61 at death, W. Munk, Roll of R. Coll. of Physicians, i. 50. N. and Q. cc. 278, 329; J. Venn. Gonville and Caius Biog. Hist. i. 24; PCC 35 Mellershe; Vis. Cambs. (Harl. Soc. xli), 40; DNB.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, viii, xxi; Munk, i. 50; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 81, 102, 369; 1550-3, p. 395; 1553, pp. 352, 362, 417; 1553-4, pp. 17, 28; 1558-60, p. 177.
  • 3. Luard Mems. (ser. 3), Grace Bk. B. ii. 134, 140, Grace Bk., 230, 340.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, viii, xi, xii; PCC 35 Mellershe; E403/2448, ff. 59v, 60; J. M. W. Bean, Estates of the Percy Fam. 1416-1537, pp. 145-6.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, viii, xi, xii; PCC 35 Mellershe; E403/2448, ff. 59v, 60; J. M. W. Bean, Estates of the Percy Fam. 1416-1537, pp. 145-6.
  • 6. CPR, 1547-8, pp. 102, 321-4; 1549-51, p. 339; 1550-3, p. 405; 1553, p. 197; 1553-4, p. 353; 1557-8, pp. 450-1; APC, ii. 432; E405/212; St.Ch.4/2/54; C1/1382/25.
  • 7. Venn 28; G. Clark, R. Coll. of Physicians, i. 72.
  • 8. Munk, 50; CPR, 1558-60, p. 177; Machyn’s Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii), 235-6; PCC 35 Mellershe; E150/104/6; VCH Cambs. iv. 105.