WYNDHAM, Edmund (1601-1682), of Kentsford and Cathanger, Som.; later of St. Margaret's, Westminster
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Family and Education
b. 1601, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Wyndham of Kentsford, Som. and Elizabeth, da. of Richard Coningsby of Hampton Court, Herefs.; bro. of Francis Wyndham†.1 educ. Wadham, Oxf. 1619; L. Inn 1620.2 m. (1) 19 Aug. 1623 (with £1,500),3 Christabel (d.1658), da. of Hugh Pyne* of Cathanger, Som. and coh. to her bro. Arthur Pyne*, 6s. (4 d.v.p.) 4da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) Nov. 1669, Elizabeth, wid. of Francis Savage. suc. fa. 1635;4 kntd. bet. July and 14 Oct. 1667.5 d. 2 Mar. 1682.6
Gent. of privy chamber by 1632-46, 1660-67;7 searcher of soap 1632-7;8 clerk of errors, k.b. 1633-41, 1660-d;9 amortized lands 1639;10 kt. marshal 1667-d.;11 commr. accts. loyal and indigent officers 1671.12
Commr. depopulation, Lincs. 1632, 1635, Leics., Yorks. 1632,13 Beds., Bucks., Cambs., Hunts., Notts., Oxon., Warws. 1636,14 Kent, 1637,15 Mines Royal, Flint. 1636,16 hard soap, W. Country 1638,17 array, Som. 1642,18 sheriff 1642-3,19 j.p. 1660-d,20 dep. lt. from 1660,21 commr. sewers 1660, 1670,22 assessment 1661-80.23
Wyndham’s forebears reputedly took their name from Wymondham, the Norfolk town near which they owned property perhaps as early as Henry II’s reign. The family supplied one of the county’s knights of the shire in the fifteenth century, and again rose to prominence under Henry VIII, when Thomas Wyndham became a privy councillor and naval commander.27 Two of Thomas’ children settled in Somerset, his daughter Margaret marrying one of the Luttrells of Dunster Castle, lords of the manor of Minehead, while his younger son John acquired the nearby estate of Orchard through his union with Elizabeth Sydenham. A further cadet branch of the family was established in the mid-sixteenth century, when John bestowed the 200-acre manor of Kentsford, some six miles from Minehead, on his younger son Edmund, Wyndham’s grandfather.28
Wyndham doubtless grew up at Kentsford, for his only personal property in early life was a tenement at Chalcott in Stogursey, Somerset, inherited from his grandfather in 1616. A conventional education at Oxford and Lincoln’s Inn was supplemented by a period of military service in the Low Countries, presumably during the early 1620s. Following his marriage in 1623, he took up residence at Cathanger with his father-in-law, Hugh Pyne, one of Somerset’s leading gentlemen.29
Wyndham sat for Minehead in 1625 and 1628-9, on the interest of his kinsman George Luttrell of Dunster Castle, who was both a trustee of his marriage settlement and the borough’s dominant patron.30 He left no trace on the records of the first Caroline Parliament, and failed to attract any appointments during his second stint in the Commons. However, he did make six speeches during the 1628 session. Surprisingly, given his father-in-law’s recent detention on trumped-up treason charges, Wyndham adopted a moderate stance on arbitrary imprisonment. Contrary to the Commons’ majority view that the king should never incarcerate people without explanation, he argued on 29 Apr. for an intermediate position whereby the cause must be revealed to a judge, who might then confirm to the gaoler ‘that such commitment was good’.31 He also seemed willing to concede that the unpopular practice of billeting was acceptable in certain situations, as he merely complained on 2 Apr. that ‘the deputy lieutenants put these soldiers on us when there is no necessity’.32
Even so, by the end of this highly charged session, Wyndham had become more suspicious of the government’s intentions. In early June rumours spread that German mercenaries hired by the Crown were intended not for service overseas, but rather for the forcible imposition of the king’s will at home. Unconvinced by Sir Humphrey May’s assurances to the Commons that the soldiers would not be deployed in England, on 7 June Wyndham warned Members: ‘there are 12 of the riders [mercenaries] come over and they say themselves [that they are here] to that end only’. Like Edward Kirton, he linked the arrival of the German cavalrymen to government plans for an excise tax, alleging that ‘there be books of precedents come over, where the manner of the Holland excise is repeated and recited’.33 A week later, he also revealed his fear that Arminian doctrines were gaining ground within the Anglican hierarchy and, by implication, within government circles. Bishop Neile of Durham had recently denied holding such beliefs, but Wyndham remained unconvinced: ‘Neile might say he had no part of Arminius; so said [Richard] Montagu’, who was currently under investigation by the Commons for the same reason.34 Indeed, Wyndham’s general outlook may have been more radical than his early speeches suggests, for in mid-April he assaulted John Baber, a Member who was in trouble with the House for co-operating with the implementation of billeting in Somerset. However, he escaped punishment, the king pardoning him in the following January, and he avoided being drawn into the controversies that marred the 1629 session.35
In the following decade Wyndham overcame his reservations about government policy, and enthusiastically embraced the opportunities provided by the Personal Rule. He first gained entry to the Court through his wife, Christabel, who in 1630 became nurse to the infant prince of Wales.36 A renowned beauty also noted for her domineering personality, Christabel reputedly exercised enormous influence over Wyndham, who was dismissively referred to in a 1631 newsletter as ‘the nurse her husband’.37 Significantly, the prince developed ‘an extraordinary kindness for her’, and this bond soon generated rewards for Wyndham.38 By 1632 he was a gentleman of the privy chamber, and about the same time he and Christabel persuaded Charles I to force through his appointment as clerk of errors in King’s Bench, which the judges had previously blocked. This post, which he took up in the following year, brought him a steady income of £500 per annum.39
Meanwhile, Wyndham became heavily involved in projects intended to raise money for the Crown. From 1632 he was one of the principal figures behind the notorious soap monopoly, whereby the new Company of Soapmakers of Westminster was empowered both to make a new type of soap and to prohibit production by rival manufacturers, with the king taking a substantial cut of the anticipated profits. This scheme failed in the face of public hostility, but when the Company closed down in 1637 Wyndham and his erstwhile associates received £43,000 in compensation.40 Also in 1632, Wyndham and one of his Privy Chamber colleagues, Edward Savage II*, were appointed to inquire into depopulation caused by enclosure, and to compound with offending landlords. While the government was addressing a genuine social grievance, this exercise was again expected to swell the royal coffers. Wyndham’s commission initially covered only Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, but by 1637 it extended to another eight counties.41 Following the relative success of this project, Wyndham and Savage were also instructed in 1639 to investigate cases where land had been alienated to corporations without a royal licence being secured. Again, the primary objective was to extract composition payments, but they also received power to seize property for the Crown.42 In 1636 the same partnership ventured into more speculative territory, taking up a commission from the Company for the Mines Royal to prospect for valuable metal ores in Flintshire and Caernarvonshire. The semi-official nature of this project was underlined by the instructions issued by the Privy Council to quash any local objections.43
Not all of Wyndham’s projects came to fruition. In 1637 he and Savage sought to revive an old practice whereby brewers were licensed to use imported wine casks. This scheme contravened an existing composition deal between the Crown and the brewers, and even though the Exchequer stood to benefit by £2,000 a year, the Privy Council intervened to block the plan.44 Nevertheless, Wyndham later claimed that during this decade he had done the king ‘a special service ... in procuring him £60,000’. A grateful Charles rewarded him and Savage by granting them on easy terms the 12,000 acres reserved to the Crown in the 4th earl of Bedford’s Great Level drainage project, completed in 1637. Wyndham expected to make an annual profit of £1,000 by subletting the land, but he seriously underestimated the costs involved, and by December 1640 he and Savage had actually sustained a net loss of £1,092. With the onset of the Civil War, they then lost all control over this property, and their lease expired prior to the Restoration.45
Wyndham was apparently resident at Westminster for most of the 1630s, which helps to explain his surprising failure to participate in Somerset’s local government. Indeed, he was not even included in the county’s commission for depopulation in 1632, presumably to avoid tensions with his erstwhile neighbours.46 However, in 1639 he inherited Cathanger in the right of his wife, and he was living there by 1641.47 Returned for the nearby borough of Bridgwater in both elections of 1640, he was also the town’s royalist governor in 1643-5. Prior to the Civil War, Wyndham’s rental income amounted to about £2,500 a year, but he mortgaged many of his lands to raise funds for the king’s cause, and then suffered sequestration by Parliament. He later calculated his total losses at £73,560. Although he recovered several of his old offices after the Restoration, and also became knight marshal, he regarded the latter post as inadequate compensation for his suffering.48 Wyndham again sat for Bridgwater in the Cavalier Parliament, when his son, Sir Hugh, who represented Minehead, accompanied him. Hugh died before his father, and Wyndham was therefore succeeded by his grandson Edmund, who died without issue in 1697, the last of the family to own Kentsford.49
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: George Yerby
- 1. H.A. Wyndham, A Fam. Hist. 1410-1688: the Wyndhams of Norf. and Som. 278-9; M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 395.
- 2. Al. Ox.; LI Admiss.
- 3. C142/568/120.
- 4. Wyndham, 278-9; Collinson, Som. iii. 492.
- 5. CTB, ii. 34; CJ, ix. 2a.
- 6. Wyndham, 278-9; Som. and Dorset N and Q, xi. 157.
- 7. SP16/229/112; N. Carlisle, Gents. of Privy Chamber, 169.
- 8. Wyndham, 179; CSP Dom. 1635, p. 283.
- 9. SP29/26/130-2.
- 10. CSP Dom. 1638-9, p. 624.
- 11. Ibid. 1675-6, p. 455.
- 12. CSP Dom. 1671, p. 255.
- 13. SP16/229/112; C181/5, f. 1.
- 14. C181/5, ff. 43, 57v.
- 15. Ibid. f. 86v.
- 16. CSP Dom. 1635-6, p. 569.
- 17. C181/5, f. 92.
- 18. Northants. RO, FH133.
- 19. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 125.
- 20. C220/9/4, f. 73v; C193/12/4, f. 102.
- 21. SP29/11, f. 305.
- 22. C181/7, pp. 26, 556.
- 23. SR, v. 337, 918.
- 24. SP29/26/132.
- 25. P.R. Newman, Roy. Officers in Eng. and Wales, 425.
- 26. R. Hopton, Bellum Civile ed. C.E.H.C. Healey (Som. Rec. Soc. xviii), 48.
- 27. Collinson, iii. 489; Wyndham, pp. v-vi, 13-29.
- 28. Collinson, iii. 489, 492; Wyndham, 43, 97.
- 29. PROB 11/128, f. 485v; Collinson, iii. 492; C78/290/2.
- 30. C142/568/120.
- 31. CD 1628, iii. 159; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 292, 305.
- 32. Ibid. ii. 255.
- 33. Ibid. iv. 192; Cobbett, Parl. Hist. ii. col. 409.
- 34. CD 1628, iv. 321.
- 35. Ibid. ii. 383; CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 450 (Baber’s name is misspelt).
- 36. CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 334.
- 37. Collinson, iii. 492; Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion ed. W.D. Macray, ii. 842; iv. 22-3; Wyndham, 175; Add. 33935, f. 355.
- 38. Wyndham, 178.
- 39. Wyndham, 176; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 198; SP29/26/132.
- 40. S.R. Gardiner, Hist. Eng. 1603-42, viii. 71-2, 284; K. Sharpe, Personal Rule of Chas. I, 122, 258, 261; CSP Dom. 1635, pp. 283, 296, 411, 450; 1640, p. 491.
- 41. SP16/223/112; PC2/46, p. 307.
- 42. CSP Dom. 1638-9, p. 624.
- 43. Ibid. 1635-6, p. 569; PC2/46, p. 265.
- 44. CSP Dom. 1637, pp. 564-5; Wyndham, 180-1.
- 45. SP29/26/132; CSP Dom. 1640-1, p. 463; Wyndham, 182.
- 46. Memorials of St. Margaret’s, Westminster ed. A.M. Burke, 142, 146, 157, 350; T.G. Barnes, Som. 1625-40, p. 304; SP16/229/112.
- 47. WARD 7/98/9; E115/404/26.
- 48. SP29/26/132.
- 49. HP Commons, 1660-90, iii. 776; Collinson, iii. 493.