Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wenman, Thomas (1596-1665)

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WENMAN, THOMAS, second Viscount Wenman (1596–1665), born in 1596, was the eldest son of Sir Richard Wenman, first viscount, by his first wife, Agnes.

The father, Sir Richard Wenman (1573–1640), born in 1573, was the eldest son of Sir Thomas Wenman (d. 1577) of Thame Park, Oxfordshire, by his wife Jane, daughter of William West, first lord De La Warr (of the second creation). He matriculated at Oxford on 8 Dec. 1587 as ‘Mr. Case's scholar.’ He behaved with great gallantry at the taking of Cadiz in 1596, when he served as a volunteer, and was knighted by the Earl of Essex. He was returned to parliament for Oxfordshire on 20 Dec. 1620, and again in 1625. In 1627 he acted as sheriff for Oxfordshire, and in the following year by letters patent, dated 30 July 1628, was created Baron Wenman of Kilmainham, co. Meath, and Viscount Wenman of Tuam. He died on 3 April 1640, and was buried at Twyford on 7 April. His portrait is in the Mansion House at Thame Park. He was four times married. His first wife, Agnes, is noticed below. By her he had two surviving sons—Thomas and Philip (d. 20 April 1696), who succeeded as third viscount—and four daughters. After her death, he was married on 4 Nov. 1618 at St. Bartholomew the Great, London, to Alice, widow of Robert Chamberlayne, a lady of some wealth. His third wife, Elizabeth, was buried at Twyford on 27 April 1629; and his fourth wife, Mary, daughter and coheiress of Thomas Keble of Essex, was buried there on 28 July 1638.

Agnes Wenman (d. 1617), the mother of Thomas Wenman, was the eldest surviving daughter of Sir George Fermor of Easton-Neston in Northamptonshire, by his wife Mary, daughter and heiress of Thomas Curzon. She came of a catholic family, and is identified by the Rev. John Morris with the lady at whose house John Gerard (1564–1637) [q. v.], the jesuit missionary, while disguised as a layman, had a keen discussion with George Abbot (1562–1633) [q. v.], the future archbishop, on the eternal state of a puritan who threw himself from a church steeple because he was assured of salvation (Morris, Life of Gerard, 1881, pp. 345–8). She was a friend of Mrs. Elizabeth Vaux, the sister-in-law of Anne Vaux [q. v.], the ally of Garnet. In consequence of some correspondence between them, suspicion fell on Lady Wenman at the time of the gunpowder plot, and she and her husband were separately examined in December 1605. Sir Richard testified that he ‘disliked their intercourse, because Mrs. Vaux tried to pervert his wife.’ She was set at liberty after a short confinement (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1603–10, pp. 240, 259, 266, 267, 268, 271). She was buried at Twyford on 4 July 1617. She is noteworthy as the translator of the works of Johannes Zonaras from the French of Jan de Maumont. The translation is preserved in manuscript in the Cambridge University Library, in two large folio volumes, and is entitled ‘The Historyes and Chronicles of the World. By John Zonaras. … Digested into three Books. Done out of Greek into French. … With Aduertisements and Index of the most memorable things … for John Parent in Saint James Street [Rue St. Jacques, Paris], M.D.LXXXIII. And done into English by the noble and learned lady Agnes Wenman, sometime wife of … Richard Lord Vis-Count Wenman deceased.’ The volumes appear to have been transcribed from Lady Wenman's autograph, of which a portion (corrected by the person who made the transcript) is in another manuscript in the library (Herald and Genealogist, 1865, ii. 521–3).

The son Thomas matriculated from Balliol College, Oxford, on 23 Nov. 1604, aged 8, and entered the Inner Temple as a student in 1614. He was knighted on 10 Sept. 1617, and on 11 Dec. 1620 was returned to parliament for Brackley in Northamptonshire, retaining his seat till August 1625. He was returned for Oxfordshire in February 1625–1626, for Brackley on 3 March 1627–8, and for Oxfordshire on 28 Oct. 1640. On the outbreak of the civil war he espoused the parliamentary cause, though with much moderation (cf. Lady Verney, Memoirs of the Verney Family, 1892, ii. 162). He evidently desired peace on a basis of compromise, and when Charles advanced on London towards the close of 1642, he was one of the commissioners who met him at Colnbrook on 11 Nov., bearing a petition from parliament requesting him to open negotiations (Cal. State Papers, Dom. p. 405). Wenman and his fellow commissioners proceeded to Oxford on 1 Feb. 1642-3 with proposals for an accommodation. In 1644 he was appointed a commissioner to carry propositions of peace to the king, and was again nominated a commissioner at the end of the year for the negotiations at Uxbridge. His desire for peace may have been quickened by the fact that he was reduced almost to destitution owing to the seizure of his estates by the royalists. On 3 June he obtained from parliament a grant of 4l. a week for his maintenance until he should regain his property (Journals of House of Commons, iv. 141, 161). On 20 Aug. 1646 the allowance was discharged by order of the house (ib. p. 649). In April 1647 he was nominated on the parliamentary committee appointed to superintend the proceedings of the visitors at the university of Oxford. He was a third time appointed a peace commissioner, on 1 Sept. 1648, to treat with the king at Newport, and was one of the forty-one members who voted that the terms accepted by Charles were sufficient grounds for the house to proceed upon, and for this was 'secluded' by the army in December, and committed to close imprisonment. On his release he retired to Thame. There; in 1649, he gave shelter to Seth Ward [q. v.], who had been driven from Cambridge for opposing the 'solemn league and covenant,' employing him as his chaplain. When the Irish rebellion was reduced by the parliamentary forces, he became one of the adventurers, and, subscribing 600l., he received a grant of a thousand acres in the barony of Garrycastle and King's County.

Wenman was returned for Oxfordshire to the convention of 1660, and was introduced by proxy to the Irish house of peers on 13 July 1661 in succession to his father. He died on 25 Jan. 1664-5, and was buried at Twyford on 27 Jan. He was succeeded by his brother Philip. Wenman married Margaret (d. 1 May 1658). daughter and coheiress of Edmund Hampden of Hartwell, Buckinghamshire. By her, besides a son Richard, who died without issue in 1646, he had four daughters : Frances, married to Richard Samwell of Upton; Penelope, married to Sir Thomas Cave of Stanford in Northamptonshire, first baronet; Elizabeth, married to Sir Greville Verney of Compton Verney, Warwickshire; and Mary, married to her cousin Sir Francis Wenman of Caswell in Oxfordshire, first baronet. Two portraits of Wenman and portraits of three of his daughters are in the Mansion House at Thame Park, the residence of Mr. Wenman Aubrey Wykeham-Musgrave. Some commendatory verses by Wenman are prefixed to the second book of William Browne's 'Britannia's Pastorals' (London, 1616, fol.) The poet William Basse or Bas [q. v.] was his servant, and dedicated to him 'Great Brittaines Sonnesset bewailed with a Shower of Teares ' (Oxford, 1613, 16mo).

[Lee's Hist. of Thame Church, 1883, cols. 395-6, 434-40, 501-2; Willis's Hist. of Twyford, 1750-60, pp. 328-30, 336-7, 339-40; Lipscomb's Hist. of Buckinghamshire, iii. 131; Wood's Hist. and Antiq. of the Univ. of Oxford, ed. Gutch, ii. 459, 504, 545; Lodge's Peerage of Ireland, ed. Archdall, 1789, iv. 282-4; Burke's Extinct Peerages, 1883; Clark's Register of the Univ. of Oxford, 11. ii. 161, 277; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500-1714; Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. App. i. 483; Journals of the House of Lords, v. 440, vii. 166, 172, 187, 195, 211, 223, 230, 239, x. 536, 544, 547, 553, 575, 582, 589, 597, 603, 610; Lords Lieutenants of Oxfordshire, 1086-1868, p. 45; Evelyn's Diary, ed. Bray, iv. 185; Masson's Life of Milton, iii. 605, vi. 23.]

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