WHORWOOD (HORWOOD), William (by 1505-45), of the Middle Temple, London and Putney, Surr.

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 1505, 2nd or 3rd s. of John Whorwood of Compton, Staffs. by Elizabeth, da. of Richard Corbyn of Kingswinford, Staffs. educ. M. Temple, adm. 2 Nov. 1519. m. (1) ?1527, Cassandra, da. of Sir Edward Grey of Enville, Staffs., 1da.; (2) by 1537, Margaret, da. of (Sir) Richard Broke of London, 1da.1

Offices Held

Under treasurer, M. Temple 1524, bencher 1537, Autumn reader 1537.

J.p. Staffs. 1531-d., Surr., Worcs. 1538-d., Derbys. 1541-d., Warws. 1542-d., Lincs. (Holland and Kesteven) 1543, (Lindsey) 1544, Northants. 1543, Notts. 1543-d., Rutland 1543, Leics. 1544; other commissions 1530-d.; solicitor-gen. 1536-40; attorney-gen. 1540-d.2


William Whorwood’s descent has been traced only to his grandfather but the family seems to have been settled in south-west Staffordshire by at least the early 15th century; its seat in Compton is described in the inquisition of William Whorwood’s brother as ‘la Horewode alias le Halowes’.3

Admitted to the Middle Temple in 1519, Whorwood soon built up a successful practice: in 1524 he is named, with John Baldwin, in the funeral accounts of Sir Thomas Lovell I as among ‘our counsel’, and in 1527 he gave advice to Anne Rede, niece of Archbishop Warham, in a suit concerning her jointure. He also held office at the inn, one of his duties being that of receiver of moneys for the roll of serjeants-at-law in 1521, a year which saw the creation of ten serjeants, three of them from the Middle Temple. By 1526 he was of sufficient account for the mayor and aldermen of London to nominate him, with Thomas Audley and Richard Rich, for the office of common serjeant: all were passed over in favour of a royal nominee.4

It was probably in 1527 that Whorwood married a daughter of Sir Edward Grey, the head of an old Staffordshire family: Whorwood’s elder brother John also married one of Grey’s daughters. On 24 Jan. 1527 Sir Giles Greville of Wick, Worcestershire, who was probably related by marriage to the Redes, wrote to Henry Gold, Archbishop Warham’s chaplain, that his proposal for Whorwood was presumably foreclosed as ‘he is toward marriage in another place’; as Warham had confidence in Whorwood and favoured him, Greville, who had been comptroller of Princess Mary’s household and chamberlain of South Wales, declared his intention of entrusting him with his legal affairs.5

It is not clear whether Wolsey, who held the see of Winchester in commendam, exercised parliamentary patronage in 1529 in the borough of Downton, one of three which belonged to the bishopric. Although he was already in disgrace when the elections were held, both the Members for Hindon, and Nicholas Hare, Whorwood’s fellow-Member at Downton, were clients of his and may have been his nominees. Yet at the third borough, Taunton, Cromwell’s return was arranged by Sir William Paulet, the steward of the bishopric, and it may be that Whorwood’s return for Downton owed something to William Portman, Cromwell’s fellow-Member at Taunton, who was prominent at Whorwood’s own inn. Whether Archbishop Warham had any hand in his choice is not known, but the fact that of the six Members returned for the Winchester boroughs five were lawyers of some standing seems to imply that the legal connexions involved were decisive.

In the final session of the Parliament Whorwood was one of four Members, all lawyers, who signed the Act for the heirs of Sir Hugh Dutton (27 Hen. VIII, c.43). He succeeded Sir Richard Rich as solicitor-general on 13 Apr. 1536, one day before the close of the Parliament. His status in the next Parliament, which met seven weeks later, is not wholly clear. In the light of the King’s request for the re-election of the previous Members he might have been expected to sit for Downton again, but the omission of his name from a list of the bishop of Winchester’s three boroughs accompanied by names thought to be those of Cromwell’s nominees for election there is all but proof that Whorwood was not re-elected for Downton. Save for the remote contingency of his transfer elsewhere it thus seems that he did not re-appear in the Commons. In that case, the payment to him of £26 13s.4d. ‘for his pains in the time of the Parliament’, if it implies his attendance, must mean that he was present in the Lords. This would have accorded with precedent, for Rich had sat there as solicitor-general from 1533 to 1536 although, like Whorwood, he is not known to have been summoned by writ of assistance. With the calling of the next Parliament in 1539 the position is clarified: Whorwood received a writ of assistance, as he was to do again in 1542. Whether any significance attaches to his position on the list of those so summoned—he was placed fifth among the judges, and before Attorney-General Baker—is a matter for argument. As the first solicitor-general to be included he may have been arbitrarily placed; from 1542 the two law-officers were regularly to be placed next to each other. In July 1539 Whorwood and the attorney-general were paid £30 each, with £6 13s.4d. to be shared among their clerks, ‘for their pains in penning and writing of sundry Acts’. Of the Acts which Whorwood may have helped to draft in the Parliament of 1539 the most noteworthy were those for the Six Articles, for proclamations and for the dissolution of the monasteries.6

Whorwood’s upward progress from 1536 is an interesting commentary on the solitary pointer to his attitude on the great issue of the breach with Rome. This is the inclusion of his name on a list of Members drawn up by Cromwell early in 1533. If, as is thought, this list records the names of those who opposed the bill in restraint of appeals, the appearance of Whorwood’s among them implies that, at this stage at least, he was out of step with royal policy. He was not the only lawyer listed, his name being preceded by that of Thomas Polsted and followed by that of Thomas Bromley I. The fact that, like Whorwood, both of these were to go on to the office— Bromley to the coif and the bench— shows that their aberration, if such it was, did them no lasting damage. In Whorwood’s case, it may not be without significance that his preferment began only after the death of Catherine of Aragon, an event which may have helped to reconcile him to the new order, although his appointment three years later as executor by John Stokesley, the conservative bishop of London, suggests his continued attachment to the old.7

In 1530 Whorwood had been appointed a commissioner of gaol delivery and in the following year he was included on the commission of the peace for his native county. So began the appointments to such commissions which were to multiply as his status rose and he was required to travel further afield to enforce obedience to the crown. After a rising in Somerset in April 1536 he and John Hynde were paid £50 ‘for executing of rebels in the west’. Two months after the close of the Parliament of 1536 Whorwood wrote to Cromwell and Sir Thomas Kitson from Staffordshire about a dispute over the late Lord Berners’s lands in the county. In March 1537 he served as a commissioner of oyer and terminer against the Lincolnshire rebels, and in a letter to the King Sir William Parr praised the way in which Hynde and Whorwood had handled an awkward prisoner. At the trial of those implicated in the Pilgrimage of Grace, Whorwood conducted the prosecution against Nicholas Tempest and the prior of Bridlington.8

Some further indication of Whorwood’s private practice is contained in his receipt for 10s. from Richard Catesby for his half-year’s fee for 1534 and in the household accounts of Sir Thomas Heneage for 1534-40, which include a payment to Whorwood of 7s.9d. for his counsel. With legal office came other patronage: in 1537 the city of London granted the solicitor-general an annuity of four marks ‘as long as he shall be friendly to this City’. In July 1540 Whorwood succeeded Cromwell as chief steward of the lands of Vale Royal abbey in Cheshire: the ex-abbot was a namesake and perhaps a relative of his. In the following February Whorwood, by now attorney-general, joined Audley and Rich in examining witnesses against the knight porter of Calais; later that year he helped to take an inventory of the goods belonging to the Duchess of Norfolk and Lord William Howard in their houses at Lambeth, and he was appointed by the Council to give evidence against Howard and his wife at their trial. After the King had approved the petition of the borough of Reading for incorporation in 1542, it was passed to Sir John Baker and Whorwood for their further consideration. In the following year Whorwood was appointed to a commission for the sale of crown lands.9

The revenue courts frequently needed extra legal advice and Whorwood was paid handsomely for his services: thus in 1539 he and Baker received £64 16s. from the augmentations for advice and in July 1543 Whorwood was paid £33 6s.8d. for drawing indentures. In 1544 he was put on the establishment of the court of surveyors at a salary of £6 13s.4d. It was probably on account of this connexion with the augmentations, rather than his attorney-generalship, that he signed 11 Acts concerned with lands during the Parliament of 1542. He took advantage of his position to acquire lands throughout the west midlands. He may have obtained his house at Putney through his second marriage, for his wife’s father Sir Richard Broke had bequeathed 20s. to the churchwardens of Putney. In 1538 Whorwood was included on the commission of the peace for Surrey, and in 1543 he was expected to supply six foot soldiers from the county for the war against France. In 1544 his contribution to the ‘aid’ for the war was £100.10

On 27 May 1545, the day before his death, Whorwood made a brief will. He bequeathed 100 marks to his servants in his house at Putney and £100 to be divided between his nephews, nieces and his brother Richard, who was a priest. His executors were to be his wife Margaret, his brother-in-law William Grey I and a servant. The will was proved on 9 June 1545, and Whorwood was buried in Putney church, where a brass was erected to his memory. On the following Christmas Eve, Hugh Meire wrote from the parsonage at Rosthorne, Cheshire, of which he was presumably the incumbent, to three eminent lawyers, Henry Bradshaw, Edward Griffin and John Sewster, under the mistaken impression that Whorwood had either not made a will or that he had not been mentally capable of doing so. He proceeded to describe the making of a will, which he himself had written ‘upon a cupboard, standing by the bedside’, and gave details of its contents which tally with those of the will as proved. The episode lacks explanation.11

Whorwood’s heirs were his two daughters, both of them minors. John Dudley, Viscount Lisle must quickly have acquired the wardship of Anne, the elder daughter, for by March 1546 she had married his son Ambrose Dudley. A month after her death in 1552 Lisle, now Duke of Northumberland, acquired the wardship of the younger daughter, Margaret, which in February 1553 passed to his son-in-law Sir Henry Sidney. She was to marry Thomas Throckmorton II.12

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. R. Johnson


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from education. Wm. Salt. Arch. Soc. v(2), 311; Shaw, Staffs. ii. 230; C142/102/78; LP Hen. VIII, xii.
  • 2. LP Hen. VII, iv, v, x-xviii, xx.
  • 3. Shaw, ii.230, 264-7; C142/46/26.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, iv; M.T. Recs. i. 63, 65, 76; Foss, Judges, v. 102.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, iv, v.
  • 6. House of Lords RO, Original Acts, 27 Hen. VIII, no. 53; LP Hen. VIII, x. 40(ii) citing Cott. Otho C10, f. 218; xi. 381; xiv; C218/1; Rymer, Foedera, vi(3), 74.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, ix. 1077 citing SP1/99, p. 234; xiv.
  • 8. Ibid. xi-xiii; M. H. and R. Dodds, Pilgrimage of Grace, ii. 212.
  • 9. LP Hen. VIII, vii, xiv, xvi-xviii; City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 10. f. 7.
  • 10. W. C. Richardson, Ct. Augmentations, 389; LP Hen. VIII, xii-xix; C142/73/72, 102/78, 89; E150/1153/9; PCC 3 Jankyn; House of Lords RO, Original Acts, 33 Hen. VIII, no. 44; 34 and 35 Hen. VIII, nos. 29, 32, 36, 39, 42, 43, 45; 35 Hen. VIII, nos. 19, 20, 23.
  • 11. PCC 30 Pynnyng; Mill Stephenson, Mon. Brasses, 494; LP Hen. VIII, xx.
  • 12. C142/102/78; CP, xii(2), 402; CPR, 1553, p. 1; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 41.