WILFORD, Nicholas (c.1495-1551), of London and Wandsworth, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. c.1495, 5th s. of James Wilford of London by Elizabeth, da. of John Bettenham of Pluckley, Kent. m. 1529, Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Gale, 4s. 5da.1
Auditor, London 1545-7.2
Nicholas Wilford’s father, a merchant taylor and alderman of London, gave each of his five younger sons 500 marks before making his will in 1526. Nicholas Wilford also became a merchant taylor and first engaged in the Spanish trade. In 1527 he was a substantial merchant in Bilbao, but in that year the ominous political situation caused him and other English merchants in Spain to arrange to send home all their possessions; they themselves probably returned to England soon after. Wilford had presumably been importing Spanish wool; later he was to export cloth from London.3
Wilford settled in his father’s parish of St. Bartholomew the Less; in 1536 he was one of the ‘substantial inhabitants’ there appointed as collectors of the subsidy and five years later his own goods were assessed at 1,000 marks. In or after 1540 he moved to the parish of St. George, Botolph Lane, when his wife inherited her parents’ property there, a capital tenement with four smaller houses and adjacent shops held of a chantry in the cathedral. It was probably from the Gales that he also acquired his lands in Wandsworth, where Thomas Gale had left £20 for the repair of highways and his wife was buried; Wilford himself was a parishioner there from at least 1546, when the churchwardens’ accounts begin.4
Wilford’s election by the commonalty of London to the Parliament of 1542, seemingly unremarkable in itself, acquires interest from an episode which took place a week before the Parliament opened. On 9 Jan. 1542 one of his elder brothers, alderman Robert Wilford, was accused before his fellow-aldermen of being a ‘maintainer’ of the pope. As a son-in-law of Richard Fermor (q.v.), who had been convicted of a similar offense 18 months before but had since been pardoned, Robert Wilford was an obvious target; yet the timing of the accusation suggests that it was intended to compromise his brother, while the fact that the commonalty’s other choice on this occasion, John Sturgeon, seems to have had Protestant leanings raises the possibility that religion had played some part in the election. Of Nicholas Wilford’s beliefs there is no indication, but the episode seems to have damaged neither him nor his brother. The only glimpse of Wilford’s role in the Parliament is the unexciting one of his being asked by the City in February 1544 to strive to prevent the passage of a bill ‘against merchants for packing of woollen cloths, the surmise whereof is that they do usually pack money, both silver and gold, in their said cloths’: the bill did not pass the Commons. With Sturgeon he had been named a commissioner in the Act for the partition of Wapping marsh (35 Hen. VIII, c.9).5
Wilford made his will on 3 Aug. 1551, asking to be buried ‘without pomp or vain glory’ in the church of St. George in Botolph Lane, beside his father-in-law. According to the custom of London he left one third of his goods to his widow, his executrix, one third to be divided among his children and the remaining third to be spent on his legacies. He left £10 for the poor of the hospital of St. Bartholomew in Smithfield, of which he was a governor, and £6 13s.4d. to the Merchant Taylors’ Company, with many small bequests to friends and relatives. All his freehold lands in Surrey and elsewhere in England, unspecified, he left to his widow and her heirs for ever, and his lands in customary or copyhold tenure to her for life with remainder to their eldest son. Wilford was buried in St. George’s, where a monument later commemorated him and his wife. The will was proved on 24 Aug. 1551.6
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: Helen Miller
- 1. Date of birth estimated from family history. Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. xliii), 141-2; Surr. Arch. Colls. vii. 309; The Gen. iv. 1-5; PCC 20 Alenger.
- 2. City of London RO, Guildhall, jnl. 15, ff. 176, 267.
- 3. PCC 13 Porch; LP Hen. VIII, iv; G. Connell-Smith, Forerunners of Drake, 8; E122/82/7, 167/1 ex inf. Prof. P. Ramsey.
- 4. City of London RO, rep. 9, ff. 157v-8; E179/114/120; CPR, 1548-9, p. 4182 PCC 20 Alenger, 4 Alen; Surr. Arch. Colls. xv. 82, 84, 89, 92;
- 5. City of London RO, rep. 10, f. 236v; 11, f. 38.
- 6. PCC 22 bucke; City of London RO, rep. 12(1), f. 141; Stow’s Survey of London, i. 210.