WENMAN, Sir Richard (1573-1640), of Thame Park, Oxon. and Twyford, Bucks.
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Family and Education
b. 1575, 1st s. of Thomas Wenman by Jane, da. of William West, 1st Baron Delaware. educ. ?Eton 1585; Oxf. Dec. 1587. m. (1) c.1595, Agnes (d.1617), da. of Sir George Fermor of Easton Neston, Northants., 4s. 5da.; (2) 1618, Anne or Alice, wid. of Thomas Roland and Robert Chamberlain; (3) Elizabeth (d.1629); (4) Mary (d.1638), da. and coh. of Thomas Keble of Essex. suc. fa. July 1577. Kntd. June 1596. cr. Baron Wenman [I] and Visct. Wenman [I] 30 July 1628.1
J.p.q. Oxon. by 1621, dep. lt. 1624, sheriff 1627-8.2
By marriage to the coheiress of John, Lord Williams of Thame (d.1559), Richard Wenman’s grandfather had added half Williams’s great estate to the already considerable fortune of a Witney clothier. Had they not been hampered by their Catholic sympathies, the Wenmans might have disputed the leadership of the Oxfordshire gentry with the family of Norris (its influence based largely on the other half of Williams’s lands) and the parvenu Knollys family. At Oxford, to which he proceeded after a period in the wardship of the Earl of Leicester, Wenman possibly had a tutor of Catholic leanings, and he married a wife who remained faithful to the traditions of a well-known Catholic family.3
Wenman was given much trouble by the religion of his first wife, an accomplished woman, who translated John Zonaras’s History of the World. John Gerard, the Jesuit, was told about Agnes Wenman while sheltering with the Cursons, her mother’s family, and went to minister to her without Wenman’s knowledge. It seems to have been at Wenman’s house that Gerard had his celebrated encounter with George Abbot. In his autobiography, written in 1609, Gerard describes Wenman himself as a protestant and insinuates that ambition made him so: ‘he hoped to be a baron and is still hoping’. When he and his wife were examined separately during the investigations following the Gunpowder Plot, and Agnes was found to have received incriminating letters from Elizabeth Vaux,Wenman protested that he had always strongly disapproved of his wife’s friendships.4
His knighting by Essex at Cadiz in 1596 and return to Parliament for Oxfordshire in the following year along with Sir William Knollys, Essex’s uncle, must have owed something to the support of the Knollys family: it was Sir William Knollys (by this time Viscount Wallingford) who later chose Wenman as deputy lieutenant. Wenman’s return was partly, however, a natural result of his position in the county, in a year when the Knollyses could not provide both knights. Wenman’s name is not to be found in the journals of the 1597 Parliament, but as a knight of the shire he might have served on the committees for enclosures (5 Nov.), the poor law (5, 22 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), penal laws (8 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.) and the subsidy (15 Nov.). In 1601 Wenman was named chief overseer of the will of Sir Edward Norris. After sitting as knight for Oxfordshire in two more Parliaments, he achieved his hoped-for peerage. He died in 1640, and his will, which indicates no strong religious convictions, was proved on 30 Apr. of that year.5
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
Author: Alan Harding
- 1. DNB; CP; Vis. Oxon. (Harl. Soc. v), 179; F. G. Lee, Thame Church, 433-6, 439.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 407.
- 3. CP; Cath. Rec. Soc. xxii. 114 and n; DNB (Fermor, Richard).
- 4. DNB (Wenman, Thomas); John Gerard, Autobiog. of an Elizabethan, trans. Caraman, 169-70, 265; CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 240, 259, 266-7.
- 5. D’Ewes, 552, 553, 555, 557, 561; CSP Dom. 1601-3, pp. 65-6; C142/594/49; PCC 47 Coventry.