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Wentworth Household Records

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Jurisdiction 1: FamilyDocument category 1: Correspondence
From region: Yorkshire, WestFrom place:
Relevant material from 1612 to 1638
Edited by Sylvia Thomas.

These transcriptions appear with the permission of Sheffield City Council, Libraries, Archives and Information: Sheffield Archives. WWM (Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments): reproduced with permission from The Milton (Peterborough) Estates Company and the Director of Communities, Sheffield City Council (the Wentworth Woodhouse papers have been accepted in lieu of Inheritance Tax by HM Government and allocated to Sheffield City Council).


Wentworth Woodhouse is in the parish of Wath-upon-Dearne, five miles from Rotherham and nine from Barnsley. It was the seat of the Wentworth family from the fourteenth century.

William Wentworth of Wentworth Woodhouse, baronet (1562—1614), ‘a wealthy Yorkshire landowner whose family had long been established in the West Riding, was lord of two manors and master of a yearly income of several thousand pounds. Something less than a nobleman, something greater than a country squire, he belonged to that rising aristocracy of wealth who counted themselves inferior to none. His wife [Anne] was the daughter and heiress of Sir Robert Atkinson of Stowell in Gloucestershire… Sir Robert had a house in London and it was here that his daughter gave birth to her son’ [Thomas, on 13 April 1593]. [Wedgwood, chapter 1]

Thomas Wentworth, first earl of Strafford (1593--1641), lord lieutenant of Ireland, was the second and eldest surviving son of William Wentworth. He was first elected to parliament in 1614, and again in 1620. His guiding belief was that there should be ‘a harmonious union betwixt the kinge, the nobles and Commons’ in order to achieve successful legislation (Cooper, Wentworth Papers, 153--5) but, as an opponent of the policies of the duke of Buckingham, he became allied to men hostile to the royal favourite.

Wentworth’s first wife Margaret died on 14 August 1622, and by 1624 he was looking for an heiress to be his new wife, eventually settling on Lady Arabella Holles (1608/9 – 1631), daughter of John Holles, first earl of Clare. They were married on 24 February 1624/5.

The influence of Buckingham, and of Sir John Savile, who was also hostile to Wentworth, resulted in the king’s decision to appoint him sheriff of Yorkshire in November 1625, so that he could no longer sit in Parliament. Over the next few years he continued to align himself with opponents of royal policy, refused to pay the forced loan raised to finance the war against France in 1626-7, and was imprisoned from June to December 1627.

Elected a knight of the shire again in 1628, he spoke in favour of the bill of right, whilst at the same time believing that only adequate financial resources would enable the king to govern in accordance with the law and tradition, a principle in which Wentworth had a profound belief. His moderation in opposition earned him elevation to the peerage as Baron Wentworth of Wentworth Woodhouse and baron of Newmarch and Oversley on 22 July 1628. This apparent change of sides was seen as controversial in Yorkshire.

After Buckingham’s death in August 1628 Wentworth was in December created Viscount Wentworth and on 25 December lord president of the north. He was successful in this office but ruthless in his methods, which made him a number of enemies.

His second wife died on 5 October 1631, and he was deeply affected, all the more because her family, with whom he was on poor terms, held him responsible. They had four children, three of whom survived. Wentworth married again in October 1632. His third wife was Elizabeth (c.1614 – 1688), daughter of Sir Godfrey Rodes of Great Houghton, Yorkshire. This marriage produced a daughter, Margaret (d. 1681).

On 12 January 1631/2 he was appointed lord deputy of Ireland, arriving in Dublin on 23 July 1633. Over the next six years he successfully and again ruthlessly exercised power on behalf of the king, increasing revenues for the crown, and also enriching himself, although opposing corruption. He again made powerful enemies. In August 1639 Charles I, whose government was under threat from Parliament and from the Scots covenanters, recalled Wentworth to England to become his chief councillor, making him in January 1639/40 lord lieutenant of Ireland and creating him earl of Strafford. On the illness of the earl of Northumberland, the official commander, Strafford was sent to lead the king’s forces in northern England in August 1640, but the situation was hopeless, and his authority declined rapidly. ‘Black Tom Tyrant’ was held responsible for the king’s disastrous policies and mistakes of the past ten years.

In November the Commons accused him of high treason and impeached him in the House of Lords. Strafford was so skilful in his own defence that the proceedings seemed likely to collapse, but the Commons passed a bill of attainder on 21 April 1641. In the face of intense public hysteria against him whipped up by his enemies the bill was passed and given assent by the king on 10 May (despite an earlier royal promise to save his life). He was beheaded on Tower Hill on 12 May 1641.

C.V.Wedgwood, Thomas Wentworth, First Earl of Strafford, 1593-1641: a Revaluation, London, 1961.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB): Thomas Wentworth.

J.P.Cooper, ed., Wentworth Papers, 1597-1628, Royal Historical Society, Camden Fourth Series, vol. 12, 1973.]

*The records are presented here in draft form and have not had final checking and editing for official publication by REED staff. Permission to cite this material must be sought from Sylvia Thomas.