WIGHTWICK, John (1581-1645), of Coventry, Warws. and the Inner Temple, London
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Family and Education
bap. 3 May 1581, s. of William Wightwick, capital burgess of Tamworth, Staffs./Warws. and Mary. 1 educ. Clement’s Inn; I. Temple 1605, called 1614.2 m. by 1632, Bridget,3 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da.4 suc. fa. 1625.5 d. bef. 1 Oct. 1645.6 sig. John or Jo[hn] Wightwick.
There were Wightwicks in Staffordshire by the 1460s.12 Wightwick’s father lived in the part of Tamworth which lay in Warwickshire, where he was a churchwarden or clerk until 1599,13 and a chief burgess by 1601. A man of modest means, he owned little land, and at his death in 1625 the contents of his house were valued at just £108 11s. 4d. A member of the godly, he expected to be numbered among Christ’s ‘elected and chosen’.14
Wightwick himself was one of two brothers,15 but whether he was the oldest remains unclear. He received a legal training at Clement’s Inn and the Inner Temple, which he entered in November 1605. By the time he was called to the bar in June 1614 he had begun to establish an impressive legal practice, based largely upon his close association with his near neighbours, the Ferrers of Tamworth Castle. By February 1607 he was counsel to Sir Humphrey Ferrers, the steward of Tamworth,16 for whom he had witnessed the sale of some property in September 1604.17 On Sir Humphrey’s death in 1608, Wightwick was employed by Ferrers’ son, Sir John*, who retained his services for the next 25 years.18 By 1613 Wightwick also worked for Sir John Ferrers’ brother-in-law, the young and exceptionally wealthy Sir Thomas Puckering*, whose seat lay just outside Warwick.19 Like Ferrers, Puckering provided Wightwick with years of employment.20 Wightwick’s other regular clients included Ferrers’ son-in-law, Sir Simon Archer of Umberslade, Warwickshire,21 and another of Ferrers’ brothers-in-law, Sir George Gresley, 1st bt.* of Drakelow, Derbyshire.22
Wightwick undoubtedly owed his return for Tamworth in 1624 to Ferrers, who had himself represented the borough three times. Under normal circumstances Ferrers would have bestowed this seat on Sir Thomas Puckering, but the latter was then serving as sheriff of Warwickshire and so was prevented from standing. Wightwick made only a modest impression on the House’s proceedings. On 10 Mar. he defended the bill to enable the 2nd earl of Hertford (William Seymour*) and his brother, Sir Francis Seymour*, to sell some entailed lands to pay off their family’s debts, and was named to the committee. During the debate on the Chippenham election of 12 Mar. he declared that the key question regarding the election of John Maynard* was ‘whether due notice [was] given’ rather than whether an alleged mistake in the indenture disabled Maynard from sitting.23 On 14 Mar. he was appointed to consider a bill to enable a minor Leicestershire gentleman named James Ward to pay off his debts and raise portions for his younger children by selling some of his property. Six weeks later, on 26 Apr., Wightwick was included on the committee for the bill to settle the estate of his fellow Warwickshireman, Sir William Somerville.24 Wightwick was named to no more committees in person, but as a lawyer he was entitled to attend many others. He certainly sat in on one of the four meetings to discuss the bill concerning Edwards v. Edwards.25 He also served on the committee to consider the bill for staying the procuring of writs of the peace, for on 23 Mar. he announced that the committee had discussed his suggestion of extending the measure to include the Palatinate of Durham and the Marches of Wales. Some on the committee, he noted, had objected to this proposal thinking that it would hinder the bill’s progress through the Upper House, but Wightwick had answered that such an extension was needed as the inhabitants of both these excluded areas ‘feel the smart of this mischief as much or more than most parts of the kingdom’.26 Another committee which Wightwick perhaps attended concerned the bill to enable Thomas Cope, father and son, to sell some Staffordshire lands to pay their debts, because on 17 Apr., three days after the lawyers in the House had been told that they could attend this committee, Wightwick obtained permission for the committee to examine witnesses.27
Following Parliament’s dissolution, Wightwick resumed his successful legal career. In October 1626 he was appointed steward of Coventry, where he had been living since at least 1622 and where one of his cousins (also called John Wightwick) was a member of the city council.28 By August 1627 he was acting as legal adviser to Sir Peter Temple† of Stowe, Buckinghamshire.29 He was also frequently retained as counsel by William, 2nd Lord Brabazon and 1st earl of Meath, who owned a seat in Warwickshire.30 In November 1629 Wightwick became a bencher of the Inner Temple. Two years later he was appointed reader, whereupon he chose to discourse upon a fifteenth century statute concerning forcible entries.31
In the autumn of 1635 Wightwick tried to obtain a reduction in Coventry’s Ship Money assessment after a quarrel arose between the city and the county town. As Coventry’s steward Wightwick did his best to help, but he was not prepared to lobby the Privy Council in person, ‘because my businesses will not admit unto me so much time’.32 Among those ‘businesses’ which competed for his time during the 1630s were his duties as a trustee, both for Sir John Ferrers, who died in 1633, and for Sir Thomas Puckering, who outlived Ferrers by just four years.33 In Puckering’s case this involved a considerable amount of work, as Sir Thomas was succeeded in his extensive estates by a six-year-old daughter, whose interests Wightwick was obliged to defend at law.34 Along with his fellow trustees he was also responsible for collecting the revenues of her estate. Any surplus was paid into a chest kept in Wightwick’s house in Coventry.35 In May 1639 Wightwick and his eldest son, Thomas, initiated a lawsuit in Chancery on their own behalf concerning a property known as the Seven Stars. Situated in Pinley, less than two miles outside Coventry, this house and its grounds had recently been purchased by Wightwick at a cost of £1,140 to serve as his country retreat. Legal action commenced after Wightwick discovered that the premises were encumbered, and the case rumbled on until at least 1641.36
Wightwick was created a serjeant-at-law in June 1640, and appointed to the Warwickshire bench in July. In the summer of 1642 he seconded the earl of Northampton’s (Spencer Compton*) attempts to gain control of Coventry for the king. On 23 July he wrote from Leicester to the city’s aldermen, requiring them to appear before the king on the following day to explain their failure to execute the commission of array. They ignored his summons, but borrowed £200 from him to help entertain the king in the event that Charles decided to pay them a personal visit. On 20 Aug. Wightwick again wrote to the corporation, imploring its members ‘for God’s sake, your own sakes and your wives’, children’s and mine ... not to be drawn or persuaded by any ill counsel to your own overthrow’. However, his efforts to win them over to the king’s cause proved not only vain but costly to himself, for in October the city replaced him as steward and handed over the £200 he had lent them to the parliamentary committee for sequestrations.37 On the outbreak of the Civil War Wightwick and his family took refuge in the royalist garrison at Worcester. From there he wrote to Coventry’s aldermen in June 1643 beseeching them to repay him the loan of £200. He remained in Worcester until his death, which occurred sometime before 1 Oct. 1645, when his widow, Bridget, petitioned the House of Lords to be permitted to return to Coventry to take possession of her jointure.38 Wightwick’s will, which was drawn up on 11 Sept. 1644, was not proved until 14 Feb. 1655. A short document, its main purpose was to settle the house at Pinley on Wightwick’s younger son, James, and lands in Tamworth on Wightwick’s three daughters.39 Wightwick’s eldest son, Thomas, went unmentioned, having already received property in Coventry and Kingsbury, Warwickshire, worth £300 p.a. on his marriage in 1642.40
Thomas, James and their mother were all separately required to compound for their royalism.41 In 1646 Bridget was imprisoned for refusing to reveal to parliamentary troops the whereabouts of the chest containing the surplus revenues collected by her late husband as a trustee of Sir Thomas Puckering. She was released only after the chest was discovered following a search of the vaults of the house in Pinley.42 None of Wightwick’s descendants sat in Parliament. One of them built ‘a very neat house of brick’ at Farewell in Staffordshire, although this has sometimes been attributed to Wightwick himself.43
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Andrew Thrush
- 1. Tamworth Par. Reg. i. (Staffs. Par. Reg. Soc. 1917), pp. 79, 150; Lichfield RO, B/A/27.
- 2. Stowe 150, f. 216; CITR, ii. 80.
- 3. Cal. of Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry, 1625-40 ed. J. Broadway, R. Cust and S.K. Roberts (L. and I. Soc. sper. ser. xxxiv), 167; Soc. Gen., transcript of Tamworth par. reg. 1614-35, p. 78.
- 4. W. Dugdale, Antiqs. of Warws. (1730), i. 169; PROB 11/247, f. 331; CCC, 1219, 1269.
- 5. Soc. Gen., transcript of Tamworth par. reg, 1614-35, p. 78.
- 6. HMC 6th Rep. 79.
- 7. C2/Jas.I/E3/73, f. 2.
- 8. A. Hughes, Pols. Soc. and Civil War in Warws. 131 n. 66, 142 n. 104.
- 9. Coventry Archives, BA/E/F/37/2, pp. 120, 173, 176.
- 10. CITR, ii. 128, 190.
- 11. Order of Sjts.-at-Law ed. J.H. Baker (Selden Soc. suppl. ser. v), 187.
- 12. Vis. Staffs. ed. H.S. Grazebrook, 312. No ped. for this Member’s branch of the family has been discovered.
- 13. Staffs. Parl. Hist. ii. ed. J.C. Wedgwood (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc.), 36.
- 14. Lichfield RO, 1625 Wightwick.
- 15. Ibid.
- 16. Stowe 150, f. 216.
- 17. R. Palmer, ‘Hist. of Tamworth Castle’ (Soc. Gen. unpublished ms), 266-7.
- 18. Ibid. 311-12, 316; E214/506; Stowe 150, f. 242; Q. Sess. Order Bks. 1625-37 ed. S.C. Ratcliffe and H.C. Johnson (Warw. County Recs. i), 159; Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, DR 37 Box 8769-71.
- 19. Harl. 7004, f. 68; Ct. of Jas. I ed. G. Goodman, ii. 136.
- 20. Harl. 7004, f. 77; C3/374/25; C21/P24/4, rots.10-11; C2/Chas.I/H119/62; Harl. 7000, ff. 419, 421.
- 21. Hughes, 43; P. Styles, Sir Simon Archer (Dugdale Soc. Occasional Pprs. vi), 13; Shakespeare Birthplace Trust RO, DR 37 Box 87/80, 94; Box 88/62.
- 22. Harl. 7000, f. 459.
- 23. CJ, i. 681a, 684b.
- 24. Ibid. 687a, 775a; ‘Spring 1624’, p. 97.
- 25. C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 205.
- 26. ‘Spring 1624’, p. 156.
- 27. CJ, i. 766a, 769b.
- 28. Stowe 150, f. 242; Coventry Archives, A14b, f. 9; A14a, f. 340; BA/H/Q/A79/209.
- 29. HEHL, STT 2553.
- 30. C2/Chas.I/W125/82.
- 31. Harg. 372, ff. 19-67.
- 32. Coventry Archives, A35, ff. 13v, 35, 37v-8v, 42-3.
- 33. PROB 11/164, f. 389; 11/175, ff. 295, 297v-8. Wightwick was also one of Puckering’s executors.
- 34. C2/Chas.I/M77/42.
- 35. HMC 7th Rep. 123.
- 36. C2/Chas.I/W11/4, plus information provided by Coventry Archives.
- 37. Coventry Archives, BA/H/Q/A79/206-8; A14b, ff. 30v-1.
- 38. Coventry Archives, BA/H/Q/A79/209; HMC 6th Rep. 79.
- 39. PROB 11/247, f. 331.
- 40. VCH Warws. iv. 108; CCC, 1269.
- 41. CCC, 1219, 1269; CCAM, 642, 965, 966.
- 42. HMC 7th Rep. 123.
- 43. S. Shaw, Survey of Staffs. i. 230; W.R. Prest, Rise of the Barristers, 403.