WIGHTMAN, William (by 1517-80), of Harrow-on-the-Hill, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. by 1517, 1st s. of Richard Wightman of Coventry, Warws. by Elizabeth, da. of Humphrey Purcell of Wolverhampton, Staffs. m. Audrey, da. of (?Thomas) Dering, 5da.2
Clerk to Sir Anthony Browne by 1547-8; sec. to Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley by Sept. 1548-9; teller of the change of coin Tower mint 31 Jan. 1551-d.; jt. (with John Perte); receiver ct. augmentations, S. Wales by 1551, sole 1552-4; receiver, Exchequer, Wales 1554-d.; j.p.q. Mdx. 1569-d.3
William Wightman’s youth and early career lay in Coventry, where his father, a capper by trade, was a civic official who rose to be sheriff in 1552-3. The first glimpse of Wightman comes in 1538 when he was appointed with three others to enforce a decree against fouling the city’s ditch. In the following decade he entered the service of Sir Anthony Browne, and it was doubtless to Browne as lord of Midhurst that he owed his seat in the first Edwardian Parliament—and perhaps in 1545, for which Parliament the borough’s return is lost; his marriage into the Dering family, if it had been celebrated or arranged by the autumn of 1547, may have helped as Nicholas Dering had earlier sat for the borough. Browne died in the spring of 1548 (having mentioned Wightman in his will) but within a few months Wightman secured a post in the household of the young King’s uncle, Admiral Seymour. It was Wightman who suggested that the dispute between the admiral and his brother the Protector over the ownership of Catherine Parr’s jewels should be referred to Parliament. On 17 Jan. 1549 Seymour was committed to the Tower for intriguing against his brother, and Wightman too was arrested. Under examination he protested that he had tried to dissuade Seymour, ‘but it prevailed nothing ... for if he had once conceived opinion by his own persuasions, neither lawyer nor other could turn him’. Wightman escaped his master’s fate but had difficulty in countering the statements ‘cursedly invented and maliciously uttered’ by Seymour until in May he threw himself upon the Protector’s mercy and was cleared. He probably missed most of the second session (1548-9) of the Parliament of 1547, although his testimony in the House during the passage of Seymour’s attainder would have been acceptable. He soon found a new patron in Seymour’s brother-in-law (Sir) William Herbert I, with whose house the rest of his career was to be linked.4
In 1550 Herbert served as chief commissioner for the mints and the standard of gold, and almost certainly secured the tellership at the Tower for Wightman. There followed a receivership in South Wales when Herbert became Earl of Pembroke, and on the earl’s appointment as commander of the expedition against France in 1557 he made Wightman treasurer of the army ‘having special trust and confidence in the wisdom and fidelity of you, with your experience of matters of account’. It was chiefly as a nominee of Pembroke and his son the 2nd earl that Wightman sat in Parliament from 1553; Wilton, where in the spring of 1553 his name was inserted on the indenture in a different hand, was Pembroke’s home, Poole yielded to his authority as vice-admiral in Dorset, Carmarthen knew him as constable of its castle, and Ludgershall lay some 15 miles from Wilton. To supplement this pervasive patronage Wightman had connexions of his own, as at Carmarthen where he enjoyed both official standing and the friendship of Thomas Phaer.5
In 1552 Wightman had acquired property in Harrow where he made his home; he leased land in several counties, mostly in Wales, but he continued to live at Harrow until his death and it was there that he was buried on 1 Feb. 1580.6