WINGFIELD, William (-d.1639), of Chartley, Staffs. and Essex House, The Strand, Westminster

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

3rd s. of Charles Wingfield (d.1575) of Temple Bruer, Lincs. and Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Rich of Weld, Essex. educ. ?Trin. Camb. 1577.1 Probably unm. bur. 8 July 1639. sig. W[illiam] Wingfelde.

Offices Held

Steward to Robert Devereux, 3rd earl of Essex by 1614-d.,2 dep. and trustee 1620-1.3


As his will of 1639 helps to establish, Wingfield was the third son of Charles Wingfield of Temple Bruer Lincolnshire,4 a prosperous tenant farmer, whose principal income derived from his flock of 2,000 sheep. A Kesteven magistrate, Charles maintained a household of 16 servants and was noted by his local bishop in 1564 as being among those ‘earnest in religion’. Shortly before his death in 1575, Charles placed responsibility for managing his farm in the hands of his eldest son, Henry, but he assigned his wife and three sons equal shares in all his livestock.5 In 1577, two years after Charles died, a William Wingfield matriculated as a pensioner at Trinity College, Cambridge. It seems likely that this was Charles’s youngest son, as a namesake, William Wingfield of Marks Hall, Essex, had already been admitted to Caius in 1575. Wingfield’s admission to Trinity College may help explain how he subsequently came to enter the service of the Devereux family, as the young Robert Devereux matriculated there two years later, in July 1579.

Wingfield was a servant of the 2nd earl of Essex by the beginning of 1601, when he was briefly imprisoned in the Gatehouse on suspicion of involvement in the earl’s abortive rising.6 Consequently he cannot have been the William Wingfield or Winfield who served as estate steward to the 6th earl of Shrewsbury at around the same period.7 By 1614 he was estate steward to the 3rd earl of Essex, at which time he was described by Arthur Wilson as ‘a grave gentleman’ of ‘much integrity and honesty’.8 These qualities were needed, as he occupied a place of pivotal importance in Essex’s household, ensuring that the earl’s business affairs proceeded smoothly, even when Essex was ill or abroad.9 Indeed, when Essex left England in 1620 to help defend the Palatinate he appointed Wingfield as his deputy and as a principal trustee of his estates.

Wingfield was returned to Parliament for the borough of Lichfield on five consecutive occasions between 1614 and 1626. He undoubtedly owed his seat to Essex, who was lord of the manor of Lichfield. In 1628 Wingfield transferred to Stafford, which lay close to Essex’s seat at Chartley and where the earl served as high steward. In all six parliaments of which he was a Member Wingfield made only a modest contribution to proceedings. He left no trace at all on the records of those of 1614, 1625 and 1628, and received one mention in 1626, when a ‘Mr. Wingfield’ - presumably not John Wingfield, Member for Grantham - was named to consider the bill to annex Freeford prebend to St. Mary’s, Lichfield (18 February). He failed to attend the committee meeting.10 In 1621 Wingfield may have been more active, but unfortunately he cannot be distinguished from John Wingfield, who this time was serving for Stamford. One of them spoke on lawyers’ fees (29 May) and an imposition placed on malt (30 November). A Mr. Wingfield was also named to three legislative committees, concerning sheriffs’ accounts (15 Mar.), Hollyman (8 May) and the shortening of Michaelmas term (20 November).11 In 1624 Wingfield was named to four committees. The first, on 10 Mar., was for the bill to permit Essex’s brother-in-law, William Seymour*, earl of Hertford, to sell land to pay off his debts. The second concerned lands belonging to Thomas Cope and his son. These were presumably located in Staffordshire, as the committee list included Essex’s half-brother (Sir) Walter Devereux as well as the other knights and burgesses of Staffordshire. The two remaining committees concerned Prees manor, in Lancashire (14 Apr.) and the earl of Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield*; 19 May).12 Wingfield attended both committee meetings on the Prees manor bill, which suggests that the measure held some interest for him.13

Wingfield remained in Essex’s service during the 1630s.14 Drawing up his will on 26 June 1639, he beseeched the Holy Spirit to help him achieve a ‘godly, righteous and sober life’ by helping him ‘lay aside all love to sin’. He made only two bequests: £10 was left to Essex to buy a watch or a ring and another £10 was to be given to the earl’s housekeeper. His executors were to be Anthony and Robert Wingfield, the sons of his late brother Henry. His precise date of death is uncertain, but he was buried at St. Clement Danes on 8 July 1639. He evidently never married. Following Robert’s death, permission to administer Wingfield’s meagre estate was granted to Robert’s eldest son, Sir Robert Wingfield, 1st bt.15

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 317-18; PROB 11/57, ff. 193-5; Al. Cant.
  • 2. F. Peck, Desiderata Curiosa (1735), ii. bk. xii. 8; WCA, St. Clement Danes par. reg.
  • 3. Longleat, Devereux Pprs. (IHR microfilm) Box 7, nos. 103-5.
  • 4. PROB 11/180, ff. 187v-8.
  • 5. PROB 11/57, ff. 193v, 195; G.A.J. Hodgett, Tudor Lincs. 173.
  • 6. APC, 1600-1, pp. 160, 186 (mistakenly referred to as ‘Richard’), 485; HMC Hatfield, xiv. 170.
  • 7. Cal. of Shrewsbury Pprs. in LPL ed. E.G.W. Bill (Derbys. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. i), 149; Cal. Talbot Pprs. ed. G.R. Batho (Derbys. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. iv), 299-300, 220.
  • 8. Peck, ii. bk. xii. 8.
  • 9. Longleat, Devereux Pprs. (IHR microfilm), ms 1, ff. 324r-v, 327r-v, 331-3v, 339-40; FSL, (Staffs. RO, microfilm 10) L.a. 964 , 965.
  • 10. Procs. 1626, ii. 69; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 230.
  • 11. CJ, i. 555a, 615a, 641a; CD 1621, iii. 342; vi. 215.
  • 12. CJ, i. 681a, 705b, 737b, 766a.
  • 13. Kyle, 206.
  • 14. CSP Dom. 1639-40, p. 197; WARD 9/163, f. 45; Longleat, Devereux Pprs. (IHR microfilm), ms 3, f. 197.
  • 15. PROB 11/180, ff. 187v-8.