WHORWOOD, Brome (1615-84), of Holton, Oxon. and Sandwell Hall, West Bromwich, Staffs.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. 10 Oct. 1615, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Whorwood of Sandwell Hall by Ursula, da. and h. of George Brome of Holton. educ. Trinity, Oxf. 1634. m. 22 Sept. 1634, Jane, da. and coh. of William Ryder of Kingston-upon-Thames, Surr., gent. harbinger to James I, 1s. d.v.p. 2da.; 1s. illegit. suc. fa. 1634.1
Sheriff, Staffs. 1653-4; j.p. Oxon. July 1660-80; commr. for assessment, Oxon. Aug. 1660-80, Oxford and Staffs. 1661-80, Worcs. 1665-80; freeman, Oxford Dec. 1660, Chipping Wycombe 1673, commr. for loyal and indigent officers. Oxon. 1662, dep. lt. 1668-80; asst. R. Adventurers into Africa 1669-71; commr. for recusants, Oxon. 1675.2
Whorwood came from a cadet branch of a family settled in Staffordshire by early Tudor times, which had first represented the county in 1572. His father, from whom he inherited a savage and penurious disposition, acquired Holton, six miles from Oxford, by marriage. According to Whorwood’s own account, he went to Holland at the beginning of the Civil War, ‘not minding to have to do in the unhappy differences between the King and the Parliament’, but his sympathies were clearly with the former, and the despatch of arms to assist the Earl of Northampton’s siege of Warwick Castle brought him within the category of delinquent. On his return from France in December 1645, he sought to establish his innocence, but eventually compounded at a tenth in 1648 for £872, excluding his mother’s property, which did not fall in till six years later. Meanwhile his wife, an ardent Royalist, was planning the escape of Charles I from the Isle of Wight; but the marriage was inharmonious, especially after the only son was drowned in 1657, and in June 1659 his wife obtained a decree of alimony. His attempts to reverse this decree publicized their embittered relationship and later involved both in tedious litigation. He acquired a bad moral reputation and had an illegitimate son by a servant. Heneage Finch warned his son against him, hinting at drunkenness. Whorwood was among the Oxfordshire gentry who, early in 1660, signed the address for a free Parliament.3
Despite Whorwood’s royalist background, he was probably supported by the Presbyterians at the Oxford election in 1661, and was listed by Lord Wharton as a friend. A moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was appointed to 182 committees, acted as teller in 20 divisions and made 31 recorded speeches. During the opening session he served on the committees for the corporations and uniformity bills, and for the execution of those under attainder. In July 1663 he was given leave to bring in a bill to nullify the decree of alimony. Jane Whorwood, claiming privilege as wife of a Member, refused to answer, but the House disallowed her claim. He helped to manage a conference on the Duke of York’s revenue and was teller against a Lords’ amendment to the bill. A country Cavalier, he was not long in seeking the friendship of Sir Henry Bennet. On 12 May 1664 he reported the bill for the better regulation of the Painter-Stainers’ Company. At the end of the Oxford session he and Sir Richard Temple were instructed to ask the King to order accounts of expenditure on the navy, ordnance and stores to be ready when Parliament met again. Perhaps Whorwood’s marital troubles and dissatisfaction with the results of appeals to the King were the main factors leading to disillusionment with the Court. Whatever the cause, he was a strong supporter of the country party by 1666, twice acting as teller against the Court on supply on 11 Oct., and giving considerable offence on 12 Nov. by declaring: ‘When we have raised the King’s supply we may go home like fools, as we came’. There was talk of a reprimand, but the matter was eventually allowed to drop. On 14 Dec. he was teller against referring the proposed duty on sealed paper to the supply committee. Andrew Marvell satirically assumed that the charge of indecent assault against Lord Mordaunt would have brought Whorwood forth ‘in aid of damsel frail’, but all that is certainly known of his activities is his attempt to prevent the addition of Finch, the solicitor-general, to the impeachment committee.4
On the fall of Clarendon, Whorwood was appointed to the committees to draw up the address of thanks for his dismissal, and to inquire into miscarriages of the war. On 14 Apr. 1668 he brought in a second bill against the decree of alimony, which was reported by Sir Thomas Gower ten days later as requiring no amendment. But Lord Cranborne (James Cecil) presented a petition from his wife complaining of hard usage, and the bill made no further progress. Bennet (now Lord Arlington) still regarded Whorwood as a friend, and Sir Thomas Osborne listed him in 1669 among those to be engaged for the Court by the Duke of Buckingham. He was teller against agreeing to a Lords’ proviso on the conventicles bill on 28 Mar. 1670, and three times against supply in 1671, favouring the suspension of all other business until the bill to punish the assailants of Sir John Coventry had passed. He helped to manage a conference on the growth of Popery, and was named to committees to bring in an additional hearth tax bill and to preserve naval stores. At the break-up of the Cabal, he became a more belligerent member of the Opposition, and spoke strongly against the Declaration of Indulgence, declaring:
our aim is to bring all dissenting men into the Protestant Church, and he that is not willing to come into the Church should not have ease. Many of these persons differ not but in discipline, not in doctrine.
On the dispensing power he said:
We are upon a nice point. Knows not the difference when Thomas and William shall have a law suspended to him. If a person [be] condemned to death, the King has power to forgive and the law is satisfied. All our business is to make it plain, and if not plain enough would make it plainer. Thinks no person will advise the King to the contrary. It must be great necessity to bring the King to dispensation. It was judged the King might raise ship money in great necessity; but who must judge of that necessity but the Parliament?
On 27 Feb. 1673 he was appointed to the committee to consider the answer to the King on the suspending power. His most important achievement was to devise the test requiring all office-holders to ‘abjure the doctrine of transubstantiation, or praying to the saints on Virgin Mary, and the infallibility of the Pope, or any council, or any visible church’. After redrafting it was substantially accepted by the House on 12 Mar. In the autumn session he sat on committees to prepare a general test bill and to draw up the address against the Duke of York’s second marriage, on which he declared:
We see not here whether the thing can be undone or no, but the best counsel we can give we ought to give. Hopes it may prove so that it may be undone. At your last addresses the people were wonderfully rejoiced, and will you leave here, when religion lies at the root and so much combustion is to be feared? This still sends us to the King. Should you not pursue, it would be thought we have no reasons for the thing. If all is done, yet we do our duty.
In the debate of 3 Nov. on grievances, particularly that of a standing army, he was equally outspoken against the ministers, stating:
The King has many things laid upon him that he has not done. The King raised not these men, but his counsellors, who have got by these things. How many addresses against Popery, and yet the Papists put in command! He that commands our men in chief is a stranger, and the next in command a Papist. Cannot wonder at those persons that have spoken against these things as grievances.5
Though less active in committee in the later sessions, Whorwood spoke more frequently in debate, and was still strongly opposed to court policy. Among his committees in 1674 were those to inquire into charges of corruption against Members and to report on the state of Ireland. In 1675 he served on the committee to appropriate the customs for the use of the navy, expressing concern on 4 May both at the state of the fleet and at government expenditure.
If we are in necessity ... how came we into this necessity? The service here is for the King and the people, and he will never separate them here. ... But as to this matter, he knows not possibly how to satisfy those that sent us hither, or the King, unless we see where the fault lies after most of the money was given by the House. Till then you will never know where to mend it. Moves as well to look into the money already spent, as to provide for the future.
He spoke again on naval expenditure on 17 May, asserting that if the money allocated had been correctly spent, there would have been no need to fear the French navy. In February 1677 he was named to the committee to recall British subjects from French service. On 30 Apr. he expressed wonder that the Earl of Feversham, a naturalized Frenchman, should have been sent to treat with Louis XIV, and ‘would see what he brought back with him in writing’. He was appointed to the committee to draw up an address for the removal of counsellors in May, and was marked ‘thrice worthy’ in Shaftesbury’s list. In the debate of 4 Nov. 1678 on the demand for the removal of the Duke of York from the King’s counsels, he said:
The weight of the thing has so transported me that I hope gentlemen not of my opinion will pardon me. I respect the Duke as Duke; but as he is a Papist, let every man lay his hand upon his heart, whether his being a Papist has not given encouragement to the Plot, etc. The Duke has houses in the country and loves fox-hunting. I would have him retire to some of them to be out of the influence of these damned Jesuits. I am his friend, and out of good intention I would have him out of occasion of doing ill.
Three days later he was added to the committee to inquire into the Popish Plot.6
Whorwood was elected to all the Exclusion Parliaments by substantial majorities. As high steward of Oxford, the Duke of Buckingham wrote to the corporation that ‘he has deserved so well that I cannot believe you will think of putting anybody into his place’. He was again marked ‘worthy’ by Shaftesbury, and became a moderately active Member of the first Exclusion Parliament. He was named to ten committees and made three speeches. He helped to prepare the attainder of Danby, to examine the disbandment accounts, and to bring in an address promising to avenge on the Papists any violence offered to the King. On 14 May he opposed supply for the fleet, criticized government expenditure, and called for the dismissal of Lauderdale. When Henry Powle told the House that it was their duty not to leave the crown in this misfortune, Whorwood observed that he would have been of the opposite opinion had he not just been appointed a Privy Councillor. He voted for exclusion. In January 1680 he supported a petition for the meeting of the second Exclusion Parliament, for which he was removed from local office. When Parliament met he was also moderately active, with three committees, of which the most important was for relief from arbitrary fines, and his only speech was to express confidence in Lord Stafford’s guilt. At the election of 1681, he had the personal support of Buckingham and John Lovelace, Lord Lovelace. Returned after a fierce contest, he was appointed to four committees in the Oxford Parliament, notably those to inspect the journals relating to Danby’s impeachment and to impeach Fitzharris. He was given a vote of thanks by the Oxford council in May, 20 years after his first return for the city; but appreciation of his services was not universal, and after the election of an exclusionist town clerk later in the year Lord Norreys, the local leader of the court party, beat him with a cane.7
For the rest of his life Whorwood remained under suspicion. His house was searched for arms after the Rye House Plot, and, finding his servants idle on the anniversary of Charles I’s execution, he was provoked into saying that the King had died justly, and his son deserved the same fate, ‘for he was a coward and fool, and governed by whores and knaves’. He appealed for a nolle prosequi, asserting that ‘he was ever known as a Royalist and sufferer for the common cause’, and grieving that in old age he should be ‘blemished with the crime of disloyalty’. He died of apoplexy in Old Palace Yard, Westminster, on 12 Apr. 1684, while awaiting trial, and was buried at Holton, the last of the family to sit. On his daughter’s death in 1701, the property passed to his illegitimate son.8
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: Leonard Naylor / Geoffrey Jaggar
- 1. C142/505/135; Vis. Oxon. (Harl. Soc. v), 242; CSP Dom. 1638-9, p. 256; Shaw, Staffs. ii. 129.
- 2. Oxford Council Acts (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xcv), 274; First Wycombe Ledger Bk. (Bucks. Rec. Soc. xi), 198.
- 3. SP19/103/166-7; Cal. Comm. Comp. 1813; Barwick, Life , 395; HMC Portland , i. 603; CSP Dom. 1663-4, p. 488; 1664-5, p. 453; 1668-9, pp. 464-5; 1672, pp. 122-3; HMC Finch , i. 208-9; Wood’s Life and Times (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxi), 519; Bodl. Wood. 276A/221.
- 4. CJ , viii. 521, 525, 527, 623, 686; Milward , 41, 297; Marvell ed. Margoliouth, i. 147.
- 5. CSP Dom. 1668-9, p. 355; CJ. ix. 190, 203, 210, 212; Dering , 45, 136; S. Parker, Reasons for Abrogating the Test (1688), 11; Grey, ii. 31, 64, 195, 219.
- 6. Grey, iii. 101, 162-3; v. 288; vi. 144.
- 7. Winifred Gardner, Lady Burghclere, Buckingham , 365-6; Grey, vii. 267, 268-9; viii. 112; Wood’s Life and Times (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxi), 476, 516; Oxford Council Acts (Oxf. Hist. Soc. n.s. ii), 139; Prideaux Letters (Cam. Soc. n.s. xv), 127-8; CSP Dom. 1680-1, pp. 680-1.
- 8. CSP Dom. Jan.-June 1683, p. 353; July-Sept. 1683, pp. 363-4, 370; 1683-4, p. 251; Evelyn Legh, Lady Newton, Lyme Letters , 119; HMC Dartmouth , iii. 124; HMC 7th Rep. 499; VCH Oxon. v. 172; PCC 156 Hare.