Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wilford, James
WILFORD or WILSFORD, Sir JAMES (1516?–1550), defender of Haddington, born about 1516, was the eldest son of Thomas Wilford of Hartridge, Kent, by his first wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Walter Colepeper of Bedgebery. The family came originally from Devonshire, but Sir James's grandfather James was sheriff of London in 1499, and his great-uncle Edmund was provost of Oriel College, Oxford, from 1507 to 1516. Sir James was brought up as a soldier, and fought in the French war of 1544–5. When Somerset invaded Scotland in September 1547 Wilford was appointed provost-marshal of the English army, fought at Pinkie on the 10th, and was knighted by the Protector at Roxburghe on 28 Sept. He remained on the borders, and in April 1548 was one of the captains guarding Lauder Castle, then in English hands. In that month he served under William, lord Grey de Wilton, at the capture of Haddington, and was recommended by Grey to the Protector as governor of that stronghold. On 3 June he captured Dalkeith, and before the end of the month took up his duties at Haddington. The allied French and Scots, at first under D'Essé and then under De Thermes, were already prepared to attack Haddington, and for nearly eighteen months the town stood siege; it was one of the most brilliant defences of the century, and is celebrated in Ulpian Fulwell's ‘Flower of Fame … whereunto is added … a discourse of the … service done at Haddington’ (London, 1575, 4to). According to Fulwell, Wilford ‘was such a one as was able to make of a cowardly beaste a courageous man;’ early in 1549, however, when leading an attack on Dunbar Castle with some of Grey's men, they deserted him, and he was wounded and taken prisoner (Fulwell, p. 55; Lit. Rem. of Edward VI, p. 224; it is not easy to reconcile Fulwell's and Edward VI's statements, on which the state papers throw no light). Holinshed adds that Wilford's captor was ‘a Gascoigne of the country of Basque called Pellicque that won no small commendation for that his good happe in taking such a prisoner whose name for his often approved prowes was so famous among the enemies.’
Wilford was apparently exchanged in November 1549, arriving at York ‘very weak’ on the 21st of that month (Rutland MS. i. 50). Besides the various money payments made him for his services, he was on 2 Feb. 1549–50 granted the manor of Otford, Kent (Acts P. C. 1547–50, p. 379). He died in the following November at ‘the Crutched Friars, and was carried to be buryed unto Little St. Bartholomew beside St. Anthony's’ on the 24th, the funeral sermon being preached by Miles Coverdale (Machyn, Diary, pp. 3, 314; Stow, Survey, ed. Strype, bk. ii. p. 121). A portrait in oils on a panel belonging to the Rev. A. W. Hall, is reproduced as frontispiece to vol. iv. of the ‘Genealogist;’ a similar picture hangs in the council room of St. George's Hospital (Notes and Queries, 4th ser. ii. 325, 402, 477). An abstract of Wilford's will is given in the ‘Genealogist’ (iv. 5). His widow Joyce, daughter of John Barret, was buried beside her husband on 15 Sept. 1580.
Wilford's younger brother, Sir Thomas Wilford or Wilsford (1530?–1604?), born about 1530, was son of Thomas Wilford by his second wife, Rose, daughter of William Whetenhall of Peckham. His sister Cecily was second wife of Archbishop Edwin Sandys [q. v.] He also was brought up as a soldier, and, after considerable service (see his petition in State Papers, Dom. Eliz. ccxxx. 114), was in 1585 in command of a company at Ostend. He was a strong advocate of English interference in the Netherlands, and several of his letters to his patron Walsingham are quoted by Motley (United Netherlands, i. 375, 376, 382, 384; cf. Leycester Corresp. pp. 40, 79, 302; Hatfield MSS. iv. 35, 264, v. 367). He was knighted by Willoughby in the Low Countries in 1588 (Metcalfe, p. 137). In September 1589 he was appointed marshal of the expedition to be despatched to France (Acts P. C. 1589–90, p. 415; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Addenda, 1580–1625, pp. 202–3). In the following month he was made lieutenant of Kent, and in 1590–1 was superintending the admiralty works in Dover Harbour. In 1593 he was governor of Camber Castle; on 17 March 1594–5 he was, on Puckering's introduction, admitted a member of Lincoln's Inn; and in July 1595 was commissioned (Rymer, xvi. 279) to exercise martial law in Kent, and to arrest and summarily execute vagrants and others—a commission with which ‘no other measure of Elizabeth's reign can be compared in point of violence and illegality’ (Hallam, Const. Hist. i. 241). On 5 April 1596 Essex appointed him colonel of the English force invading France to help Henry of Navarre, but in October 1597 he was again in England, surveying all the castles in the Downs; and in August 1599, on an alarm of a Spanish invasion, he was nominated sergeant-major of the force to be assembled to meet it. He died about 1604, probably at his manor, Hedding in Kent, having married Mary, only daughter of Edward Poynings, and leaving a son, Sir Thomas, who succeeded him and married Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Sir Edwin Sandys [q. v.] He must be distinguished from three contemporary Thomas Wilfords or Wilsfords: one was master of the Merchant Taylors' Company (Clode, Early Hist. and Memorials, passim); another was for many years president of the company of traders to Spain and Portugal; and the third was a recusant whose name frequently occurs in the state papers and acts of the privy council.[Authorities cited; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Scottish, ed. Thorpe and Bain; Hamilton Papers; Acts of the Privy Council; Lit. Rem. of Edward VI (Roxburghe Club); Strype's Works (General Index); Gough's Index to Parker Soc. Publ.; Services of Lord Grey (Camd. Soc.) p. 47; Burnet's Hist. of the Reformation, II. ii. 6, 7; Hasted's Kent, i. 323, iii. 48, 750; Morant's Essex, ii. 34; Berry's Kent Genealogies; Familiæ Min. Gent. (Harl. Soc.) ii. 988; Genealogist, iv. 1–5; Patten's Expedicion into Scotland, 1548; Archæol. Scot. i. 57–60; Diurnall of Occurrents (Bannatyne Club); Lesley's History; Froude's Hist. of England.]