WOODHOUSE, Roger (c.1541-88), of Kimberley, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
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Family and Education

b. c.1541, 1st s. of Thomas Woodhouse (killed at Musselburgh 1547) by Margaret, da. of Sir John Shelton of Shelton. m. Mary, da. of John Corbet of Sprowston, 2s. inc. Philip 1da. suc. gd.-fa. Sir Roger 1560. Kntd. 1578.

Offices Held

J.p. Norf. from c.1573.


Through the Sheltons Woodhouse was related to the Boleyns, and he was therefore a distant kinsman of Queen Elizabeth. He was also a relative of the Duke of Norfolk, and it is not surprising to find him returned as one of the first Members for Aldeburgh (where the Duke was lord of the borough) when it was enfranchised in 1571. After Norfolk’s fall the Woodhouse influence can be seen in several later Elizabethan elections at Aldeburgh. At Thetford his patron, if any, is not so obvious. Woodhouse was on friendly terms with Sir Edward Clere there, but it is quite likely that he did not need to rely on anyone’s nomination. Kimberley was 20 miles from Thetford, and at the time of the election the Woodhouse estates were some of the largest in the district. It is surprising that Woodhouse was not a regular county Member, for he represented Norfolk only once, and then only because of a by-election to fill the place of Francis Wyndham, who had been made a judge.

In 1580, ‘by his own earnest suit’, Woodhouse avoided being pricked as sheriff. In addition to his mansion at Kimberley he kept up a large house in Norwich, Surrey House, which his grandfather had acquired from an earlier Duke of Norfolk. On a number of occasions the Privy Council used him to arbitrate in local disputes, and in 1586 Woodhouse and Sir Edward Clere were instructed to take recognizances from Nicholas Clover, mayor of Thetford, and two other inhabitants of the borough, who had been summoned to the Council. Woodhouse was knighted by the Queen at Clere’s house at Blickling, and during the same progress Elizabeth visited Kimberley, where Woodhouse erected a throne covered with crimson velvet showing the arms of his family and those of his wife. But by this time he had become involved in a number of lawsuits. In 1582 he was retaining Edward Flowerdew as his lawyer at an annual fee of 40s. Some of his difficulties arose through his position as executor of Sir Thomas Knyvet of Buckenham castle, Norfolk, a relative of Thomas Knyvet. Since Woodhouse’s name appears as plaintiff in over 20 Star Chamber cases, and defendant in a number of others, Flowerdew’s position cannot have been a sinecure, but as he too was engaged in the local faction fights, he was probably glad to rely on Woodhouse’s support in his quarrel with Sir Arthur Heveningham.

Woodhouse was apparently no more than a conforming member of the Elizabethan church, and certainly no friend to puritans. He may even have been temporarily dropped from the commission of the peace in the 1570s at Bishop Parkhurst’s suggestion, and in 1587 Bishop Scambler described him only as an ‘observer of law’. He died early in 1588, and was buried on 4 Apr. at Kimberley. His only surviving child was his son Philip. A seventeenth-century poem on his family describes him as ‘nobly just and wise in his affairs’; a brave patriot; ‘weak men’s defence against oppression’; and the ‘prop of innocence’.

Vis. Norf. (Norf. and Norwich Arch. Soc. 1878), i. 104-5; Blomefield, Norf. passim; A. H. Smith thesis, passim; Lansd. 50, f. 148; CJ, i. 82-3, 135; D’Ewes, 156, 159, 307; Add. 36989, f. 5; APC, x. 352; xiii. 284, 422; xiv. 42, 71, 202; xv. 13, 100; Norf. and Norwich Arch. Soc. Trans. xxiv. 74; St. Ch. 5/R36/26, W4/26, W7/39.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.