WENMAN, Sir Thomas (by 1504-57), of Witney, Oxon.
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Family and Education
b. by 1504, 1st s. of Richard Wenman of Witney by Anne, da. of John Bushe of Northleach. Glos. educ. I. Temple, adm. 1523. m. by 1523, Ursula, da. and h. of Thomas Gifford of Twyford, Bucks., 6s. inc. Richard 3. da. suc. fa. 4 Oct. 1534. Kntd. 2 Oct. 1553.1
Commr. tenths of spiritualities, Oxon. 1535. musters 1542, relief 1550; j.p. 1536-d.; escheator, Oxon. and Berks. Jan.-Nov. 1539.2
Sir Thomas Wenman’s father was a prosperous Witney clothier and merchant of the staple, the family name being traditionally derived from the wains in which the cloth was driven to London. Wenman inherited a manor at Caswell, besides Witney park and many burgages in Witney town, and his father also left him 2,000 marks in a will remarkable for its lengthy and detailed arrangement for alms and masses. A provision for masses to be said at Eton suggests that Wenman may have been educated there, as were at least two of his descendants later in the century. He was admitted to the Inner Temple during the Lent vacation of 1523 but exempted from all offices and licensed to absent himself at pleasure.3
At about this time he increased the property and dignity of his family (his mother was a yeoman’s daughter and his father had been granted arms only in 1509) by his marriage to the daughter of Thomas Gifford, into whose estates he entered in 1551. Between 1542 and 1546 Wenman purchased manors at Dymock and Little Rissington, Gloucestershire, and Eaton Hastings, Berkshire, acquisitions in lands which must have offset his family’s losses in goods when Calais fell in 1558. Although never chosen sheriff, he played a leading part in county affairs. He was one of the Oxfordshire gentlemen on whose aid the government intended to call at the time of the Pilgrimage of Grace, and he provided ten footmen for the vanguard of the army in France in 1544. In 1539 he was appointed to attend the reception of Anne of Cleves and in 1546 that of the Admiral of France.4
A sign of Wenman’s standing in the county was the marriage of his son Richard to one of the two daughters and eventual coheirs of Sir John Williams. Williams played a leading role in securing the succession of Mary and the force which he raised to that end probably included Wenman, who was knighted on the day after Mary’s coronation. Like Williams, Wenman had a personal grudge against the Dudleys for in 1551 Sir Andrew Dudley had been granted lands in Oxfordshire including the borough of Witney, thus becoming Wenman’s landlord and the most powerful personage in the region where Wenman had been pre-eminent. It may well have been against Dudley or his brother the Duke of Northumberland that Wenman directed the ‘slanderous reports’ for which he was summoned before the Privy Council in the winter of 1551 and outlawed early in 1553. Wenman was returned as senior knight of the shire in 1555 in succession to Williams who had been raised to the peerage in 1554, and another kinsman by marriage, Sir Leonard Chamberlain, who was occupied as governor of Guernsey; the sheriff, Sir Richard Brydges, was also a distant kinsman by marriage. Wenman died on 8 Aug. 1557.5
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: Alan Harding
- 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., E150/805/2. Vis. Oxon. (Harl. Soc. v), 178-9; F. G. Lee, Thame Church, 433-6; E150/821/14-15.
- 2. Oxf. Recs. 130; LP Hen. VIII, xv, xvii; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 75, 77; 77, 1553, p. 357.
- 3. Lee, 439; CPR, 1494-1509, p. 510; PCC 21 Hogen.
- 4. LP Hen. VIII, i, xi, xiv, xvii, xix, xxi; Lee, 433; CPR, 1550-3, p. 39.
- 5. CPR, 1550-3, pp. 153-4; APC, iii. 428; iv. 97, 130, 141, 175, 187, 208, 243; W. K. Jordan, Edw. VI, ii. 433; E150/821/14-15.