WISE (WYES), Sir Thomas (c.1576-1630), of Sydenham, Marystow, Devon

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

b. c.1576,1 2nd s. of Thomas Wise (d.1593) of Sydenham and Mary, da. of Richard Buller of Shillingham, Cornw.2 educ. L. Inn 1594.3 m. pre-nuptial settlement 1 Mar. 1600, Margery, da. and h. of Robert Stafford of Stowford, Devon, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da.4 suc. bro. by 1600?; KB 25 July 1603.5 admon. 14 Apr. 1630.6 sig. Tho[mas] Wyes.

Offices Held

Commr. piracy, Devon 1603, 1614,7 j.p. by 1604-d.,8 commr. oyer and terminer, Western circ. 1606-d.,9 subsidy, Devon 1608, 1621-2, 1624,10 sheriff 1611-12,11 dep. lt. 1618-at least 1628,12 commr. inquiry into Lizard lighthouse, Cornw. 1623,13 billeting, Devon and Cornw. from 1625,14 martial law 1625, 1627,15 Forced Loan, Devon 1627,16 duchy of Cornw. assessions 1628,17 swans, W. Country 1629.18


The Wise family can be traced in the West Country from the eleventh century. They acquired their main seat at Sydenham, on the western edge of Dartmoor, in the early 1400s. Substantial Devon landowners by this time, they provided a knight of the shire in three of Henry VI’s parliaments. The family was less prominent in the next century, but in 1593 Wise’s father died in possession of nine manors, with the bulk of his property situated either near Sydenham or in the vicinity of Plymouth. As a younger son, Wise initially inherited only two small estates, but within a few years he succeeded to the entire patrimony.19 His marriage to a local heiress significantly increased his wealth, enabling him to indulge his passion for architecture. Sydenham was ‘beautified with buildings of such height, as the very foundation is ready to reel under the burthen’. He also constructed a second seat at Stoke Damerel, just outside Plymouth, which he named Mount Wise. Created a knight of the Bath at James I’s coronation, he was soon a mainstay of Devon’s local government. Upon his nomination as a deputy lieutenant in December 1617 he was described as ‘every way fit for the discharge of that duty’.20

Wise revived his family’s parliamentary service in 1621 by securing election at Bere Alston, where he had acquired property. He was added on 8 Feb. to the committee for privileges, a rare honour for a novice Member, and received nominations to seven legislative committees. Their wide-ranging topics included the limitation of actions at law, the discouragement of malicious suits against magistrates, usury, the catechizing of children, and the estates of another resident of south-west Devon, Sir Warwick Hele* (6 and 28 Feb., 20 Mar., 7 and 16 May).21 He left no mark on the proceedings of the winter sitting. The ‘Mr. Wise’ credited with several speeches in Sir Thomas Barrington’s parliamentary diary was actually John Wylde.22

In October 1622 Wise and his son-in-law, Sir Samuel Rolle* were summoned before the Privy Council after getting involved in a dispute over a French prize ship in Plymouth harbour. However, upon examination of the case, they were both exonerated.23 Wise assisted with preparations for the Cadiz expedition in 1625, impressing 400 Devon men, and during the next three years played an active role in supervising the troops billeted in and around Plymouth.24 Although he never sat in Parliament again, he provided a seat at Bere Alston for his son Thomas in 1626 and 1628, on the former occasion showing his support by actually attending the election. When Wise drew up his will on 26 Jan. 1630, his health was rapidly failing, but his religious convictions remained strong.

I rest assured to receive remission of my sins ... craving the assistance of [God’s] Holy Spirit to perfect that good work which he hath begun in me, that I may pass the rest of my pilgrimage on this earth so as may be most for his glory, and may lead me the directest way to that Mount Sion, that heavenly Jerusalem, which through his mere mercy I undoubtedly hope to enjoy.

His bequests included a generous £3,500 dowry for his unmarried daughter, gifts in excess of £700 to his servants, and £100 for the poor. To his wife he assigned the rents from her father’s former lands, augmented by £1,300 and a large quantity of livestock. The will was proved on 14 Apr. 1630, and a splendid memorial was erected to Wise’s memory in Marystow church.25

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Tim Venning / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Age estimated from date of admiss. to L. Inn.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 791.
  • 3. LI Admiss.
  • 4. Vivian, 791; LI Admiss. (Edward Wise).
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. i. 156.
  • 6. PROB 11/157, f. 308v.
  • 7. C181/1, f. 69v; 181/2, f. 200v.
  • 8. C66/1662, 2527.
  • 9. C181/2, f. 7v; 181/4, f. 43.
  • 10. SP14/31/1; C212/22/20-1, 23.
  • 11. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 37.
  • 12. C181/2, f. 306v; APC, 1627-8, p. 435.
  • 13. APC, 1623-5, pp. 41-2.
  • 14. Ibid. 1625-6, pp. 55, 261-2.
  • 15. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 1, p. 180; APC, 1627-8, p. 79.
  • 16. C193/12/2, f. 10.
  • 17. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 7.
  • 18. C181/4, f. 2v.
  • 19. HP Commons, 1386-1421, iv. 933-4; W.G. Hoskins, Devon, 433; OR; C142/234/55.
  • 20. G.H. Radford, ‘Wyses and Tremaynes of Sydenham’, Reps. and Trans. Devon Assoc. xli. 132-3; T. Risdon, Survey of Devon, 208, 219; APC, 1625-6, p. 55.
  • 21. C219/40/150; CJ, i. 511a, 514a, 531a, 563b, 611a, 622a.
  • 22. CD 1621, iii. 113, 151, 172, 459.
  • 23. APC, 1621-3, pp. 350, 353, 357; CSP Dom. 1619-23, pp. 453, 457, 479; Vivian, 654.
  • 24. P.Q. Karkeek, ‘1st Visit of Charles I to Devon’, Reps. and Trans. Devon Assoc. x. 224;
  • 25. C219/40/150; PROB 11/157, f. 308r-v; Hoskins, 433.