Thomas Wroth (politician, 17th century)

Sir Thomas Wroth (1584 – 11 July 1672) was an English gentleman-poet and politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1628 and 1660.[1] Active in colonial enterprises in North America, he became a strong republican in the Rump Parliament but stopped short of regicide.

Sir Thomas Wroth
Died11 July 1672
Petherton Park
Spouse(s)Margaret Rich
Parent(s)Thomas Wroth
Joanna Bulman

Origins and education

Thomas Wroth was born in London, the eldest son of Thomas Wroth (died 1610) of the Inner Temple and of Blendon Hall, Bexley, Kent[2] and his wife Joanna Bulman, daughter of Thomas Bulman of London.[3] The parents were married at St. Stephen Coleman Street on 23 December 1577 and Thomas was christened there on 5 May 1584.[4] A grandson of Sir Thomas Wroth (1516–1573) and Mary Rich,[5] daughter of Richard, Lord Rich, he was cousin-German to Sir Robert Wroth of Loughton, Essex (1575–1614), who in 1604 married Mary Sidney (Lady Wroth), daughter of Robert Sidney, Baron Sidney of Penshurst, afterwards Lord Viscount Lisle and 1st Earl of Leicester. His father was cousin to Robert Rich, 3rd Baron Rich (1559–1619), who was created 1st Earl of Warwick in 1618.

Thomas matriculated as a commoner at Gloucester Hall, University of Oxford, on 1 July 1600, but was later associated with Broadgates Hall. He left the university without a degree. He was "in good esteem among some persons for his poetry, for his encouragement of poets, and for his love to learning and learned men."[6] His contemporary, the poet Richard Niccols (who entered Magdalen College, Oxford in 1602, and took his B.A. at Magdalen Hall, Oxford in 1606), dedicated his juvenile work 'The Cuckow'[7] to 'his worshipful good friend Master Thomas Wroth, an affecter and favourer of the Muses' in 1607, addressing him as 'dear friend' and 'Patron',[8] and promising better thereafter:

When as my wit with riper fruit shall grow
My muse may speak to thee in sweeter ryme
And for thy worth some graver poem show.[9]

In November 1606 Thomas was entered with his brother Peter Wroth as a student at the Inner Temple.[10]

Inheritance, marriage and poetry

Thomas Wroth was knighted at Theobalds on 14 October 1613,[11] and, having inherited a considerable portion of his father's wealth, he purchased the Somerset estates of his cousin Sir Robert Wroth when they were sold for the payment of debts. The chief of these were the manors of Newton and Petherton Park, of which his great-grandfather Robert had been appointed Forester by Henry VII,[12] and which his grandfather Sir Thomas had purchased from Edward VI in 1550.[13] Petherton Park became the seat of his branch of the family, and for the rest of his life Wroth was associated with Somerset politics, while conducting his London affairs from Coleman Street.

In c. 1614[14] Wroth married his widowed cousin Margaret Rich (c. 1580–1635), to whom he became very devoted. She was a daughter of Richard Rich (d. 1598) (acknowledged son of Chancellor Rich) and his wife Jane Machell.[15] In 1598 Margaret and her brother Nathaniel were with their mother at their father's deathbed at Leigh, Essex, attended by William Noyes, then 'minister of this place'.[16] Margaret was first married to Paul Bowdler, citizen and Draper of London (d. 1610),[17] two of whose sisters, Judith and Anne, were the wives of Sir William Calley of Burderop, Chiseldon, Wiltshire, and Sir John Gore of London, respectively.[18] Her daughter Anne Bowdler, who died in her maidenhood in 1629, came of this marriage.[19]

Wroth composed and published The Husband: a poem expressed in a Compleat Man at the time of his marriage:[20] Richard Niccols included an epigram (no. 29) to Dame Margaret, in fourteen lines of rhymed couplets, in his small 1614 collection Vertue's Encomium:[21] 'Margarite', the gem, the pearl and the daisy, is extolled with play on the words 'rich' and 'worth'. Over the next five years Wroth prepared his rhymed English translation of Book 2 of Virgil's Aeneid (with parallel Latin text), as The Destruction of Troy. This was published, with 100 epigrams of his own Abortive of an Idle Hour, in 1620.[22] It was dedicated to Robert Sidney, Lord Viscount Lisle,[23] father of Lady Mary Wroth. Sidney had some part in the poem's genesis, and the epigrams include one (no. 26) dedicated to Captain Nathaniel Butler, Governor of Bermuda. Wroth's Destruction of Troy, in which he resolved into prophecy the words of Creusa's apparition, may be read as a Virginian text for the colonial culture carrying its religion to a new western land, its prophetic mission under the direction of providence.[24]

Company interests and entry to parliament

A marriage of Rich and Wroth families reinforced their interconnected histories of Protestant sympathy and Puritan patronage. Wroth had been a subscriber to the Virginia Company in 1609. His brother-in-law, Margaret's brother, was the colonial pioneer Sir Nathaniel Rich, and like Robert Sidney a most active figure in the Virginia Company. Wroth fully associated himself with them in colonial enterprise. In 1620 he became a member of the Company of the Somers Isles (Bermuda Company), and on 3 November 1620 joined the Plymouth Council for New England, being named in the New England Charter.[25] He became a member of the Virginia Company in 1621,[26] and from 1621 to 1624 was particularly associated with Nathaniel Rich and Robert Sidney in the Warwick party of the Company, when they came into opposition to Sir Edwin Sandys.[27] He voted in favour of the surrender of the original charter in October 1623,[28] and was one of those included in James I's new grant of 15 July 1624.[29] He was also a member of the Eastland Company. Wroth was a J.P. for Somerset from 1624 to 1625. In domestic politics he joined the opposition to King Charles I: in 1628 he was elected Member of Parliament for Bridgwater and sat until 1629, when Charles began to rule without parliament for eleven years.

Suspicion, loss and aspiration

In September 1635 the government seized a letter which he had written to Dr. John Stoughton in which he lamented the condition of the church and hinted at resistance unto blood.[30][31] A month later Dame Margaret died of a sudden fever at Petherton. She made a will providing for the education of her niece Frances Grimsditch, her sister Jane's daughter, who was in waiting in the Wroth household.[32] Frances's brother Thomas was then in Providence Island colony.[33] She also established a charity of sermons and gifts to the poor of St. Stephen Coleman Street,[34] where she desired to be buried near to her daughter[35] and the parents of Sir Thomas.[36] John Goodwin was minister there.

Wroth wrote a prose Declaracion of the life sicknes and death of his dearest and most beloved wife dedicated to Sir Nathaniel Rich,[37] and in the four-days' progress to London for her funeral at Coleman Street[38] he composed a poetic Encomium for her in thirty-one stanzas,[39] which he afterwards published.[40] "To summe up all, this Woman, this my Wife, She was the Honour, Comfort of my Life," he lamented: he never remarried.[41]

Margaret's sister Elizabeth, widow of Sir John Morgan of Chilworth near Wonersh, Surrey (died 1621),[42] and of the judge John Sotherton (died 1631),[43] had died in 1632.[44] Nathaniel Rich died in 1636 making bequests for the families of his sisters Jane Grimsditch (of Haslemere, Surrey)[45] and Anne Browne to emigrate to the Bermudas.[46] (Frances Grimsditch married Richard Hunt, emigrated and inherited.[47]) Even then, Nathaniel's cousin James Cudworth of Scituate (Dr. Stoughton's stepson), who had emigrated to Plymouth colony two years previously, was, as a prominent citizen, being deputed by the Plymouth General Court to make a general revision of all its laws:[48] Dame Margaret had attended his father's deathbed.[49]


Wroth felt the loss as a judgement upon his own insufficiency, and the official repercussions of his letter to Stoughton hardened his resolve. He became Recorder of Bridgwater by 1636 and was a J.P again from 1636 to 1640. He served as Sheriff of Somerset from 1639 to 1640, and was therefore excluded from the Short Parliament. Margaret's nephew Nathaniel Rich, junr. (son of Robert Rich of Felsted, but his education supervised by his uncle Nathaniel) became an active figure in the New Model Army. In February 1642 Wroth delivered to Parliament a Petition on behalf of the people of Somerset for the removal of the Lords and Bishops responsible for the breach of privileges of Parliament, which was published together with his speech on the occasion. The petition declared,

"We being struken with the sence and horror of so desperate a mischiefe, do hold it high time to declare the sincere and ardent Affection of our hearts, which we are ready to seale with our purest blood, in defence of our Religion, his Sacred Majesty, our deare Country; and that which is the life of our Liberty, the Rights and Priviledges of Parliament."[50]

His brother Sir Peter Wroth, whose son was a royalist and fought at the battle of Newbury in 1643, died in 1645 making Sir Thomas his sole executor. In February 1646 Wroth was elected MP for Bridgwater as a recruiter to the Long Parliament. Two years later he presented to the library of Syon House a copy of the Koran, and other Arabic and Turkish manuscripts.[51] On 3 January 1648, seconding Henry Marten's resolution,[52] he moved that Charles I should be confined under guard in a secure castle, that Articles of Impeachment should be drawn up against him, and that they should lay him aside and settle the kingdom without him:

"I care not what form of government you set up, so it be not by Kings and devils."[53]

Clement Walker called him 'Jack-Pudding to Prideaux the Post-master'.[54] He took the 'engagement' in 1649, and was one of the judges appointed to try the king, but he attended only one session. In June following he was thanked by parliament for suppressing the Levellers in Somerset.[55] On 25 June 1653 he was made a commissioner for the government of the Bermudas and did not sit in the Barebones Parliament in 1653 or the First Protectorate Parliament of 1654. On 20 October 1656 he was again returned as MP for Bridgwater in the Second Protectorate Parliament.[56] He was re-elected in January 1658/9 for the Third Protectorate Parliament.[57] In February 1658/9 he and Sir Henry Vane spoke warningly to suggestions that the Protector should occupy the role of a King:

'If we find kings destructive to the nation, we may lay them aside. It is a formidable thing, to speak of a King'

and with regard to the reinstatement of Lords:

'Men are born to be subjects and not to be slaves. Either let us be slaves or freemen. The English are easy to be governed, and they love it; but it must be as freemen and not as slaves.'

He opposed the hereditary principle:

'I am against hereditary lordship, for the reason why his Highness refused king; because he knew not what he that came after him should be, a wise man or a fool. I see plainly here is a great inclination to come round again. It is to bring in old Lords by degrees, and then, consequently, one whom I hope my eyes shall never live to see here.'[58]

In 1660 he was elected for Bridgwater again in the Convention parliament.[59]

At the Restoration Wroth's petition for pardon was granted, but he was removed from the commission of the peace and was deprived of the Recordership in 1662. He lived in retirement until his death, aged 88, at Petherton Park on 11 July 1672. His will was proved on 24 August following.[60]


Sir Thomas Wroth and Dame Margaret had no issue together.

His estates passed to the descendants of his brother Sir Peter Wroth and Dame Margaret (nėe Dering). Sir Peter's son Sir John Wroth, the royalist, was created baronet in 1660. Sir John died in 1664 (i.e. before Sir Thomas), and therefore it was John's son Sir John Wroth, 2nd baronet (died 1674), who received the inheritance. Petherton Park was in the possession of a later Sir Thomas Wroth when the Alfred Jewel was discovered there in 1693.


  1. G. Yerby and P. Hunneyball, 'Wrothe, Sir Thomas (1584-1672), of Petherton Park, Som.', in A. Thrush and J.P Ferris, The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629 (Cambridge University Press, 2010). Read here
  2. E. Hasted, 'Bexley', The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent, Vol. 2 (Canterbury, 1797), pp. 162–183, at p. 170. (British History Online accessed 8 June 2016). Sometimes misquoted as 'Blundon Hall, Boxley'.
  3. W. Berry, County Genealogies: Pedigrees of the Families in the County of Sussex (Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London 1830), p. 361.
  4. Yerby and Hunneyball, 'Wrothe, Sir Thomas', History of Parliament online. St Stephen Coleman Street, Composite register, 1598 - 1636, P69/STE1/A/002/MS04449, Item 001 (London Metropolitan Archives).
  5. The marriage is shown in W.C. Metcalfe, The Visitations of Essex in 1552, 1558, 1570, 1612 and 1634; to which are added miscellaneous Essex pedigrees, (etc)., Part 1, Harleian Society, Vol. XIII (London 1878), p. 276–77. Also in R. Hovenden (ed.), The Visitation of Kent taken in the years 1619-1621 by John Philipot (&c.), Harleian Society, Vol. XLII (1898), Additional Pedigrees: De Haut, pp. 212–14, at p. 214.
  6. A. à Wood, ed. P. Bliss, Athenae Oxonienses, New Edition (Rivington etc., London 1817), III pp. 514–16.
  7. The Cuckow. At, etiam cubat cuculus: surge amator, i domum. Richardus Niccols, in Artibus Bac. Oxon. Aulae Mag. (Felix Kingston & William Cotton, London 1607) 4to.
  8. Richardus Niccols, The Cuckow, at University of Oxford Text Creation Partnership.
  9. T. Park (comp. & ed.), Contents of the Harleian Miscellany, New Edition, Vol X, 2nd Supplementary Volume, (White and Cochrane/John Murray, London 1813), pp. 1–11, at p. 2.
  10. Date 'Alumni Oxonienses, 1500-1714: Woodall-Wyvill', Alumni Oxonienses 1500-1714 (1891), pp. 1674–1697. accessed: 09 May 2012
  11. Thus in DNB. Wood, Athenae Oxonienses, gives 11 October 1613.
  12. J. Collinson, The History and Antiquities of the County of Somerset, 3 Vols (Dilly, Robinson, Longman & Payne, London/Fletcher, Oxford 1791), III, pp. 62-69.
  13. A.P. Baggs and M.C. Siraut, 'North Petherton: Manors and other estates', in R.W. Dunning and C.R. Elrington, A History of the County of Somerset Vol. 6, Andersfield, Cannington, and North Petherton Hundreds (Bridgwater and Neighbouring Parishes), (London, 1992), pp. 283-300 and pp. 300-306. (British History Online accessed 8 June 2016).
  14. In 1635 the marriage had lasted 21 years, see Wroth's Encomium listed below.
  15. Jane Machell (a daughter of John Machell, Sheriff of London 1555-56) married 'Richard Riches' at St Mary Aldermary, City of London on 13 December 1574. J.L. Chester, The Parish Registers of St Mary Aldermary, Harleian Society, Registers Vol. V (London 1880), p. 5.
  16. Will of Richard Rich of Leigh, gentleman, Essex Record Office D/ABW 32/91.
  17. Will of Paul Bowdler, Merchant of London (P.C.C. 1611).
  18. 'The Society's MSS. Chiseldon, etc. (continued)', Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine No. XCIV, Vol. XXXI (Devizes, December 1900), pp. 173-79.
  19. Will of Anne Bowdler of London (P.C.C. 1629).
  20. Sir Thomas Wroth, The Husband: a poem expressed in a Compleat Man (London: Printed for Lawrence Lisle, 1614).
  21. (Richard Niccols), Vertue's Encomium: or, The Image of Honour. Honor Virtutis Praemium (London, printed by William Stansby, 1614), in T. Park (comp. & ed.), Contents of the Harleian Miscellany, New Edition, Vol X, 2nd Supplementary Volume, (White and Cochrane/John Murray, London 1813), pp. 1-11, at p. 10. It has been mistakenly referred to as her epitaph.
  22. Sir T. Wrothe, The Destruction of Troy: or the Acts of Æneas, translated out of the Second Booke of the Æneads of Virgill ... With the Latine verse on the one side, and the English verse on the other ... as also a Centurie of Epigrams and a Motto upon the Creede (Printed by T.D(awson) and are to be sold by Nicholas Bourne, London 1620). 10 sheets in quarto.
  23. P. Bliss (ed.), Athenae Oxonienses and The Fasti by Anthony a Wood, New Edition Vol. III (Rivington, &c., London 1817), pp. 514-15.
  24. S. Brammall, 'The Spectre of Creusa: Prophetic Closure in Sir Thomas Wroth's Destruction of Troy,' in The English Aeneid: Translations of Virgil, 1555-1646 (Edinburgh University Press 2015), pp. 118-125.
  25. 'The Charter of New England 1620' (text) at The Avalon Project.
  26. E.D. Neill, History of the Virginia Company of London (Joel Munsell, Albany, New York 1869), p. 151.
  27. W. Stith, The History of the First Discovery and Settlement of Virginia (William Parks, Williamsburg 1747), Book IV, pp. 186 ff.
  28. Neill, History of the Virginia Company, p. 414. S.M. Kingsbury (ed.), The Records of the Virginia Company of London Vol. IV: Records II (Library of Congress, Washington 1935), pp. 80, 290-91.
  29. 'Commission for settling a government in Virginia', in Kingsbury, Records of the Virginia Company, IV, pp. 490-97, at p. 494.
  30. J. Bruce (ed.), Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the reign of Charles I, 1635 (Vol. CCXCVII), (Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts and Green, London 1865), pp. 377-78. P.S. Seaver, 'Stoughton, John (bap. 1593, d. 1639), Church of England clergyman', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  31. Hebrews 12, verse 4: "Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin" (KJV).
  32. Court and Society, p. 345. Will of Lady Margaret Wroth, London Metropolitan Archives MS 9172/43 (1635).
  33. K.O. Kupperman, Providence Island, 1630-1641: The Other Puritan Colony (Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 156.
  34. 'Dame Margaret Wroth's Charity', Report from Commissioners: Charities in England and Wales (4) Session 21 April-23 November 1820, Vol. V (Commissioners, 1820) p. 148.
  35. Anne Bowdler was buried at St Stephens Coleman Street on 30 February 1628/29: the register mis-calls her the daughter of 'Sir Robert Roth'. St Stephen Coleman Street, Composite register, 1598-1636, P69/STE1/A/002/MS04449, Item 001 (London Metropolitan Archives), sub anno.
  36. Wroth's Encomium. See Will of Sir Peter Wroth (P.C.C. proved 1645).
  37. Duke of Manchester, Court and Society from Elizabeth to Anne, edited from the papers at Kimbolton, 2 vols (Hurst & Blackett, London 1864), I, pp. 343-48.
  38. Composite register (London Metropolitan Archives), sub anno.
  39. Autograph MS of Encomium with annotated Declaracion, dedication to Nathaniel Rich, in University of Leeds Special Collections, GB 206 Brotherton Collection MS Lt q 34.
  40. Sir Thomas Wrothe his Sad Encomion, upon his dearest Consort, Dame Margaret Wrothe : Who died of a fever at Petherton Parke, in the countie of Somerset, about midnight of the 14. day of October, 1635. And was buried in the parish church of St. Stephen, in Coleman Street, London, the 11. of November, next ensuing (London : Printed [by Elizabeth Purslowe] for Henry Seile, 1635). Full text at Early English Texts Online.
  41. The Sad Encomium includes an early use of the expression "lost thou art not, onely gone before" (stanza 26).
  42. Will of Sir John Morgan of Chilworth (P.C.C. 1621). Genealogical Gleanings in England, II, p. 871.
  43. E. Foss, The Judges of England, with Sketches of their Lives, Vol. VI 1603-1660 (Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans and Roberts, London 1857) pp. 364-65. Sotherton married Elizabeth Morgan, St Martin Vintry, 26 March 1622.
  44. Will of Dame Elizabethe Morgan (P.C.C. 1633), written for her by a cousin and neighbour (John Machell of Great Tangley, Wonersh) in his own authorial person. Abstract in Genealogical Gleanings in England II, p. 871. Her identification as Elizabeth née Cook (A. McConnell (revised), 'Sotherton, John (1562–1631), judge', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography) is a mistake for an earlier wife of John Sotherton's. (Chancery Final Decrees C78/144 no. 5, date 15 June, 3 James I, i.e. 1605.)
  45. Thomas Grimsditch and his wife Jane Rich christened their children at Haslemere and were buried there on 29 March and 8 April 1641 respectively. J.W. Penfold, The Registers of Haslemere, Co. Surrey (Parish Register Society, London 1906), pp. 10-12, 15, & p. 79.
  46. Will of Sir Nathaniel Riche of Dalham, Suffolk (P.C.C. 1636). H.F. Waters, Genealogical Gleanings in England, Vol II (New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston 1901), pp 871-74.
  47. J.H. Lefroy, Memorials of the Discovery and Early Settlement of the Bermudas or Somers Island 1515-1685, 2 vols (Longmans, Green & Co., London 1879), II: 1650-1687, p. 594 and p. 702.
  48. E.A. Stratton, Plymouth Colony: Its History and People, 1620-1691 (Salt Lake City, 1986), p. 143.
  49. Will of Raphe Cudworth, Doctor of Divinity, Parson of Aller, Somerset (P.C.C. 1624).
  50. A speech spoken by Sr. Thomas Wroth knight, in the honourable House of Commons: vpon his delivery of a petition from the knights, gentlemen, and freeholders of the county of Somerset. 25 February. 1642. Together with the petition of the said county then delivered (London: Printed for H.S., 1642), see Text Creation Partnership/University of Oxford Text Archive
  51. W. Reading, The History of the Ancient and Present State of Sion-College near Cripplegate, London; and of the London-Clergy's Library there (J. Roberts, London 1724), p. 48.
  52. J. Forster, Lives of Eminent British Statesmen, Vol. 4 (Longman, Orme, Brown, Green and Longmans, London 1838), 'Henry Marten', p. 241 ff., p. 284.
  53. Cobbett's Parliamentary History of England Vol. III 1642-1660 (R. Bagshaw, London 1808), p. 833. Sometimes quoted as 'From Devils and Kings good Lord deliver me!'
  54. C. Walker, Relations and Observations: Historical and Politick, Upon the Parliament Begun Anno Dom: 1640 (1648), pp. 69-71.
  55. M. Noble, The Lives of the English Regicides, and other Commissioners of the Pretended High Court of Justice, 2 Vols (John Stockdale, London 1798), II, p. 339-40.
  56. J.T. Rutt (ed.), Diary of Thomas Burton, Esq., Member in the Parliaments of Oliver and Richard Cromwell, 4 vols (Henry Colburn, London 1828), II, passim.
  57. Rutt, Diary of Thomas Burton, IV . See also Journal of the House of Commons, Vol. VII: 1651-1659 (By Order, 1813), passim.
  58. Rutt, Diary of Thomas Burton, III, pp. 414, 452-53, 534.
  59. History of Parliament Online (1660-1690) - Wroth, Thomas.
  60. Will of Sir Thomas Wroth of Petherton Park, North Petherton, Somerset (P.C.C. 1672).


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Wroth, Thomas (1584-1672)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
Parliament of England
Preceded by
Sir Arthur Lake
Edward Popham
Member of Parliament for Bridgwater
With: Thomas Smith
Succeeded by
Parliament suspended until 1640
Preceded by
Seats vacant since 1644
Member of Parliament for Bridgwater
With: Robert Blake
Succeeded by
Unrepresented in the Barebones Parliament
Preceded by
Robert Blake
Member of Parliament for Bridgwater
With: John Wroth 1659
Francis Rolle 1660
Succeeded by
Edmund Wyndham
John Tynte

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