WINGFIELD, Humphrey (by 1481-1545), of Brantham and Ipswich, Suff.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1481, 12th s. of Sir John Wingfield of Letheringham, by Elizabeth, da. of Sir Lewis John of West Horndon, Essex; bro. of Sir Robert and Thomas. educ. G. Inn, called. m. by 1512, Anne (d. by Jan. 1537), da. and h. of Sir John Wiseman of Great Canfield, Essex, wid. of Gregory Edgar, 2s. at least 1da. Kntd. 1533.3

Offices Held

Lent reader, G. Inn 1517.

J.p. Suff, 1504-?d., Essex 1509-?d, Norf. 1540; of counsel to Ipswich 1507, Great Yarmouth 1520; commr. subsidy, Essex 1512, Suff. 1512, 1514, 1523, 1524, Ipswich 1523, 1524, legal profession in London 1523, for survey of monasteries, Norf. and Suff. 1536, benevolence 1544/45; other commissions 1503-d.; dep. chief steward, duchy of Lancaster, south parts 1512-d.; chamberlain, household of Duchess of Suffolk 1515; sheriff, Norf. and Suff. 1520-1; bailiff, manor of Framsden, Suff. 1529-d.; member, council of 15th Earl of Oxford by 1532.4

Speaker of House of Commons Feb. 1533-6.


Humphrey Wingfield was an infant when his father died in 1481, but the name of his guardian has not been found. A member of Gray’s Inn, his readership of 1517 there was his second—the date of the first is unrecorded—and by the time he gave it his name appears regularly as attorney to his relative Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. His first known court appointment was in the household of Suffolk’s duchess, the King’s sister. In 1518 he was listed as one of the barristers regularly pleading at Westminster. He had a reputation for humanism, and Roger Ascham paid tribute to ‘this worshipful man [who] hath ever loved and used to have many children brought up in learning in his house, amongst whom I myself was one’. He had come to Wolsey’s notice about 1515, perhaps because of his frequent missions to the minister on Suffolk’s behalf: in July of the following year the duke reminded Wolsey of his promise to make Wingfield custos rotulorum for Suffolk, a post for which he was qualified by residence, his main seat being at Brantham near Ipswich, where in 1524 he was assessed for the subsidy on £130 in goods.5

Wingfield is first known to have sat in Parliament in 1523, when he and Sir Thomas Rush were returned for Ipswich; the town records note that both Members came in person and were sworn freemen. Although Wingfield’s appointment as legal counsel to the borough may have sufficed to procure him the seat, he could have relied on the support of both Suffolk and Wolsey, with whom he was in high favour during these years. In 1528 Dean Capon, writing to Wolsey about the building of the cardinal’s college at Ipswich, described himself as ‘much bound’ to Wingfield for his assistance with the project. In the following June Wolsey chose Wingfield as one of a commission of 21 lawyers to hear cases in Chancery. Before the year was out he sought to make use of Wingfield’s legal ability himself. Accused of praemunire, he attempted to secure the exemption of his college from its penalties, and Wingfield was one of the seven lawyers whom he retained as being ‘the best counsel’ for this purpose. In July 1530, however, when Dean Capon was writing to the cardinal that he was not hopeful in the matter, Wingfield was appointed one of the commissioners to inquire into Wolsey’s possessions in Suffolk, and in September the commission, which sat at Woodbridge, declared that his conviction meant the forfeiture of all the college lands to the King.6

In 1529 Wingfield was elected for Great Yarmouth, another borough which he served as legal counsellor. Nothing is known of his role in the House during the first four sessions, but in February 1533 he was chosen Speaker in succession to Sir Thomas Audley. Although Wingfield is often said to have been the first Speaker who was not a knight of the shire when elected to the chair, not only is the evidence in other cases too scanty to warrant such a statement but it is not impossible that Wingfield had replaced Sir Thomas Wentworth I, who had vacated a seat for Suffolk on being made a peer in December 1529; no by-election is known either for the shire or for Yarmouth. According to Chapuys, the King knighted Wingfield, after receiving the Commons’ presentation of their new Speaker, in a colourful ceremony witnessed by the papal nuncio and the French ambassador; Wingfield is styled ‘knight’ in the account of the prorogation in March 1534. Although his Speakership coincided with the breach with Rome and the legislation concerned with the supersession of Catherine of Aragon by Anne Boleyn, only scattered references have survived to his personal part in the proceedings of the House. On 5 Mar. 1534 he addressed the King on behalf of the Commons, protesting against measures passed by Convocation—a prelude to the Act for the submission of the clergy (25 Hen. VIII, c.19), passed soon afterwards. His eloquent oration on 30 Mar. the same year, when presenting bills for the royal signature, is noted in the Lords Journal. He apparently received the usual fee of £100 a session, but the only other payment to him noted was £50 ‘for his reward’ in March 1533. However, in June 1537 he received a valuable grant of former monastic property in Dedham, Essex and Creppinghall in Stutton, Suffolk, perhaps in recognition of his work in Parliament. He had almost certainly been re-elected in 1536 in accordance with the King’s general request for the return of the previous Members and may have been so in 1539, but his only known Membership subsequent to his Speakership was in 1542, again for Great Yarmouth, which at the close of the Parliament made him a token payment of 20s.; in January 1545 he seems to have been elected once more for the borough but to have immediately yielded place to Sir William Woodhouse, presumably on the ground of ill-health.7

In January 1533 and May 1535 Wingfield acted for Audley in legal disputes. In 1536 he was appointed a commissioner for the survey of monasteries and was also one of the local gentlemen named to keep order in Suffolk during the northern rebellion. He was himself steward or under steward of several religious houses in Suffolk and in 1538 he shared with Sir Thomas Rush in a lease of lands formerly of Holy Trinity priory, Ipswich. In 1537 he had asked Cromwell to intercede on his behalf in a dispute over the settlement for a marriage between his daughter and a nephew of the bishop of Norwich; he said that he had lost half his living by the death of his wife and claimed that had it not been for the land granted him by the King in January he would have had ‘to begin the world again’. Wingfield took part in the examination or trial of various East Anglian dissidents. He was one of the knights appointed to receive Anne of Cleves in 1540 and three years later he was called upon to provide ten men for the army in France.8

By his will of 13 Mar. 1543 Wingfield left most of his property in Essex and Suffolk to his son and executor Robert who was, however, to share a house in Ipswich with his sister Anne and her husband Alexander Newton. Wingfield died on 23 Oct. 1545 and the will was proved on 26 Nov. 1546.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: John Pound


  • 1. Ipswich ct. bk. 8, p. 116.
  • 2. OR gives ‘Humfridus Wy(nne)’. The deed of return (C219/18B/55) has only the christian name.
  • 3. Date of birth estimated from father’s death. N. Bacon, Annals Ipswich, 179n.; Vis. Suff. ed. Metcalfe, 80, 176; LP Hen. VIII, vi; C142/72/74; Wards 7/2/71; J. A. Manning, Lives of Speakers, 181; DNB. E. W. Ives, ‘Somes aspects of the legal profession in the late 15th and early 16th centuries’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1955), 11-13; C193/12/1; Statutes, iii. 83, 84, 116, 173; Ipswich ct. bk. 8, p. 54; Bacon, 179n.; Gt. Yarmouth chamberlains’ rolls, 1519-41 passim; CPR, 1494-1509, pp. 305, 447, 560, 660; LP Hen. VIII, i. viii, xi-xvi, xviii, xx; LJ, i. 82; information from Susan Flower and G. Haslam.
  • 4. E. W. Ives, ‘Somes aspects of the legal profession in the late 15th and early 16th centuries’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1955), 11-13; C193/12/1; Statutes, iii. 83, 84, 116, 173; Ipswich ct. bk. 8, p. 54; Bacon, 179n.; Gt. Yarmouth chamberlains’ rolls, 1519-41 passim; CPR, 1494-1509, pp. 305, 447, 560, 660; LP Hen. VIII, i. viii, xi-xvi, xviii, xx; LJ, i. 82; information from Susan Flower and G. Haslam.
  • 5. J. K. McConica, Eng. Humanists and Reformation Politics, 207; LP Hen. VIII, ii, iii; Suff. Green Bks. x. 307.
  • 6. Bacon, 198; Ipswich ct. bk. 8, p. 116; LP Hen. VIII, iv.
  • 7. Manning, 179-80; P. Laundy, Office of Speaker, 160-1; J. S. Roskell, The Commons and their Speakers, 1376-1523, p. vii; S. E. Lehmberg, Ref. Parl., 171, 199, 213, 247; LP Hen. VIII, iv, vi, vii, x, xii; LJ, i. 82; Gt. Yarmouth Assembly Minutes (Norf. Rec. Soc. xxxix), 50, 60-61.
  • 8. LP Hen. VIII, vi, viii, x, xi-xv.
  • 9. PCC 23 Alen; C142/72/74.