WILBRAHAM, Thomas (1531-73), of London and Edmonton, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

b. 30 Jan. 1531, 3rd s. of Ralph Wilbraham ?of Nantwich, Cheshire by his w. Elizabeth Sandford of Lancs. educ. Peterhouse, Camb. 1548; L. Inn 1552, called 1558. m. Barbara (d.1563), da. of Robert Chudleigh or Chadleigh of Mdx., 3s. 5da.

Offices Held

Bencher, L. Inn 1566; Autumn reader 1569 or 1570; gov. 1571-2, treasurer from 1572; j.p. Mdx. from c.1567, Cheshire from 1582; recorder, London Mar. 1569-Apr. 1571; attorney of ct. of wards from 23 Apr. 1571.


Wilbraham had a distinguished career at Lincoln’s Inn, and was still under 40 when appointed recorder of London. As such he was elected MP for the city in the Parliament of 1571, just before being made attorney of the court of wards. He was appointed to committees on the bill against papal bulls (23 Apr.), respite of homage (27 Apr., May), the religious bill B (28 Apr.) and the treasons bill (11 May). In the next Parliament, when he sat for Westminster, probably through the influence of Lord Burghley, he took a prominent part in the debates on Mary Queen of Scots. Although not mentioned as one of the members of the committee of 12 May, Wilbraham reported its proceedings to the House on 14 May, first protesting that he was ‘very suddenly taken’ and would have to trust to his memory as he had made no notes in writing. If this was true he showed considerable ability in marshalling detailed facts into a lengthy and comprehensive speech. He reminded Members that Mary persisted in claiming the English crown; that she had plotted to marry the Duke of Norfolk, in her own words ‘by fair means or else by force’; that her connivance in the northern rebellion, and subsequent relations with the defeated rebels, had been proved; and that she had been implicated in the Ridolfi plot. Wilbraham described a letter of Mary’s to Norfolk containing ‘great discourses in matters of state (more than woman’s wit doth commonly reach unto)’, and assured the House that ‘six thousand Spaniards were in readiness to have come under the commandment of the Duke of Medina’. He reported a second committee on the Queen of Scots on 19 May where two bills had been drawn ‘reciting the truth of the facts, the one varying from the other only in the variety of the punishment’. The first bill attainted Mary for treason, the second merely disabled her from the succession. Wilbraham reported Elizabeth’s preference for the second bill, and, like others on the committee, he seems to have supported the Queen’s decision, evidently considering that the death sentence would be postponed only for a short time. On 28 May and 6 June he was appointed to further committees concerning Mary, and he advised on the wording of the bill against her on 7 and 9 June. On 19 May 1572 Wilbraham intervened in a debate concerning Arthur Hall. He argued against the rogues bill on 25 May and was appointed to a committee on the subject on 29 May. He wished that minstrels might be excluded from the vagabonds bill on 30 May. He was also appointed to committees on tellers and receivers (14 May), recoveries (19, 31 May) and Tonbridge school (29 May).

Wilbraham held his office of attorney of the court of wards for only two years, dying on 10 July 1573, in his early forties. Most of the references to him in the State Papers and Privy Council records are concerned with the routine work of his offices. In November 1569 he was appointed a commissioner to put London in readiness to resist the rebels from the north, and he sat on commissions to try those captured during the rising. He was one of a number of commissioners appointed in July 1572 to help the London magistrates keep the peace during the royal progress. A letter from him to Burghley survives, dated 12 July 1571, setting out precedents from the law books for the ‘order of battle’, or judicial combat.

In his will, proved 20 Aug. 1573, he divided his property between his widow and their five surviving children, who were still young. He asked his brother Richard to bring up two of them, committing two others to the care of his ‘dear and loving friend’ Thomas Aldersey. He was evidently in comfortable circumstances, able to leave £500 to the widow, and another £500 to the children, but some of this, he feared, might have to be raised by the sale of lands at Edmonton. There is no indication of any religious views, the only instruction about his burial being that it should be ‘with small expense’.

T. A. Walker, Peterhouse Biog. Reg. i. 160-1; Burke, Commoners, i. 316; G. Ormerod, Cheshire, ii. 137; CPR, 1566-9, p. 122; D’Ewes, 178, 179, 180, 181, 183, 206, 207, 220; Trinity, Dublin, Thos. Cromwell’s jnl. ff. 7-10, 25, 28; CJ, i. 85, 86, 87, 89, 94-5, 96, 99, 101, 102; HMC Lords, n.s. xi. 8; HMC 9th Rep. pt. 1, 443, 533, 543; APC, vii. 400, 407; Lansd. 94, f. 43; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 414; PCC 27 Peter.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.