WILFORD, Thomas (c.1530-1610), of Heding, Kent.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1530, 3rd s. of Thomas Wilford of Hartridge by his 2nd w. Rose, da. of William Whetenhall of Peckham; half-bro. of Sir James Wilford. m. Mary, da. of Edward Poynings, 3s. inc. Sir Thomas 1da. Kntd. 1588.1

Offices Held

Capt. Camber castle 1566; freeman, Winchelsea 1569, jurat by 1571, mayor 1571-2; capt. of horse with Leicester in the Netherlands 1585; gov. Ostend 1586-9, member of council of war Dec. 1587, sergeant major of the field Feb. 1588, marshal of the expedition to France and col. of the Kent regiment 1589; dep. lt. Kent Oct. 1589; superintendent of harbour works at Dover 1591; j.p. Kent from c.1592; marshal of Berwick 1593.


Wilford joined his brother James in exile during the reign of Mary, signing the ‘new discipline’ at Frankfurt in 1557. In 1565 he was granted the reversion of various offices at Camber, near Winchelsea, his tenure of which accounts for his election to Parliament for the borough. He was named to a committee concerned with navigation 8 May 1571.

England’s intervention in the Netherlands proved to be a turning point in Wilford’s life and although he settled himself ‘in another course’, he resolved to spend his life and fortune ‘rather than the action should quail’. He saw it as a crusade: the Netherlands were a testing ground provided by God as ‘a school to breed up soldiers to defend the freedom of England’. The consequence of failure would be ‘the utter subversion of religion throughout all Christendom’, and in correspondence with Walsingham he advocated wholehearted intervention. The candour of his reports alarmed Walsingham and Leicester, who feared their effect on the opponents of intervention in the Netherlands. Towards the close of 1587, with rumours of the Armada growing stronger, and suspicions increasing that the States wished to make a separate peace with the Spaniards, he proposed that a force should march through Brabant, Artois, Flanders, and Guelders. But on becoming a member of Lord Willoughby’s council of war, he advised withdrawal to Walcheren, garrisons at Campher and Middleburg and the exaction of a levy on all ships at Flushing, Campher and Brill. By April 1588, Wilford was, in Willoughby’s opinion, the only person left in the Netherlands capable of giving good advice, and the Queen contemplated sending him to arrange a settlement of all outstanding differences with Barneveldt. He was wounded at the siege of Bergenop-Zoom in September 1588. Meanwhile, with support for the campaign diminishing, the suggestion was made that Wilford replace Willoughby. This came to nothing, and Wilford was sent to London to argue the case for continuing the campaign. On his return, early in the next year, he had to levy troops to relieve the siege of Ostend. Six years later he was consulted by the Earl of Essex about the number of soldiers needed to garrison Cadiz, and on 5 Apr. 1596 the Earl appointed him colonel of the English force to invade France. He died intestate at Heding 10 Nov. 1610.2

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: W.J.J.


  • 1. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. xlii), 104; Arch. Cant. xx. 6.
  • 2. APC, vii. 406; xviii. 415; PCC 3 Sheffelde; CPR, 1563-6, pp. 237, 261; E. Suss. RO, Winchelsea mss; CSP Dom. 1591-4, pp. 1, 358, 390; 1595-7, pp. 198, 200; Add. 1580-1625, pp. 202-3; HMC 5th Rep. 139; Border Pprs. 1560-94, pp. 467-9; C. H. Garrett, Marian Exiles, 333; CJ, i. 88; Motley, United Netherlands, i. 375; CSP For. 1585-6, pp. 215, 223, 288, 322, 331; 1587, pp. 451, 463; Jan.-June 1588, pp. 94, 102; July-Dec. 1588, pp. 303, 312, 373, 393, 398; 1589, pp. 8, 187; C. Read, Walsingham, iii. 357; Arch. Cant. xx. 6; C142/319/190.