WIGSTON, Roger (1482/83-1542), of Wolston, Warws.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. 1482/83, yst. s. of John Wigston of Leicester, Leics. by Elizabeth, da. of one Gillot. educ. I. Temple, adm. 1514. m. by 1509, Christian, da. and coh. of Edward Langley, wid. of William Pye, 2s. inc. William 4da.4
Commr. subsidy, Leicester 1515, Coventry 1523, 1524, enclosures, midlands 1517, for survey of monasteries, Warws. 1536, loan 1542; receiver, Beaumont lands 1516-30, jt. (with Sir John Dauntesey) receiver-gen., wards’ lands Feb. 1518-Oct. 1520; j.p. Warws. 1522-d., Salop and Staffs. 1536-d., Worcs., Glos. 1537-d., Herefs. 1538-d., Cheshire 1539-d.; recorder, Coventry by 1524-41; receiver, duchy of Lancaster, Tutbury honor, surveyor and receiver, Castle Donington 1528-42; gen. surveyor, King’s woods 1530, member, council in the marches of Wales 1534; solicitor, Kenilworth abbey, Warws. and St. Mary’s college, Warwick by 1536; steward, Pinley priory, Warws. by 1536; sheriff, Warws. and Leics. 1541-2.5
Of the several strands which were to be interwoven in Roger Wigston’s varied career, two were contributed by his forbears: commerce and civic authority. The Wigstons had been leading merchants in Leicester for nearly a century and by his time the filling of the mayoralty from its ranks had become ‘something of a family tradition’.6
Wigston’s father, himself twice mayor of Leicester, also had interests in Coventry and these he probably left to his youngest son, together with a legacy of money. The young man followed an elder brother into the Company of the Staple, of which he became mayor at least once and would be listed, before his death, one of the two dozen outstanding merchants. Besides producing wool from his own estate at Wolston, the impropriate rectory which he leased from the Coventry Charterhouse, he also bought it for export, at times with borrowed money: in a letter dated only 27 July, he sought a loan from his brother Thomas, a priest of Newark, ‘for now is the chief time of all the year for me to occupy that poor stock that I have or can make for buying of wool’, and his brother William died his creditor for £86.7
Less traditionally, Wigston also undertook a different apprenticeship, to the law. His admission to the Inner Temple, when he was about 30 years of age, was sponsored by Ralph Swillington, recorder of Leicester, and he must have learned enough law to qualify him for his own recordership of Coventry. More important, it was probably this channel which led, within two years, to his entry into the King’s service and, within a further two, to the receiver-generalship of the wards. From 1517, when he served on Wolsey’s enclosure commission, he was increasingly called upon for such investigatory and administrative duties. Public recognition in its turn fostered private practice: a string of religious houses in Leicestershire and Warwickshire retained his services as counsel and from 1530 he is found writing to Cromwell on their behalf. As recorder of Coventry from 1524 he handled much of the city’s litigation, including disputes with the crown arising out of the Dissolution. Then in 1533 he became a member of the newly reorganized council in the marches; its president was Rowland Lee, Wigston’s own bishop at Coventry, who doubtless had something to do with the appointment.8
To this mounting activity Wigston was to add regular Membership of the Commons. He is first known to have sat there in 1523 as the second Member for Leicester, but he could have done so in 1515 (when he was a subsidy commissioner), especially if he was then residing in the Temple and so unlikely to expect parliamentary wages. If Wigston’s name is almost enough to account for his adoption by Leicester, his successive returns for Coventry from 1529 were as clearly a by-product of his recordership. (It is only the Parliament of 1536 for which, in the absence of returns, Wigston’s Membership remains uncertain, although highly probable in the light of the King’s request for the return of the Members of the previous Parliament.) Of the part he played in the Commons there is only one tiny indication, the appearance of his name among a list of seven on the dorse of an Act passed during the first session of 1534: the purpose of the Act, to limit the number of sheep owned by any individual, explains Wigston’s connexion with it, presumably as an expert scrutineer, but whether his self-interest is reflected in the watering-down clauses which weakened its effect must remain a speculation. Among other Acts passed during his Membership which touched his interests and must have engaged his attention were those of 1534 concerning Wales and the marches (26 Hen. VIII, cc.4-6, 11, 12). In 1535 Wigston was involved in a piece of electioneering: as he reported to Cromwell, the death of Sir Edward Ferrers, one of the knights for Warwickshire, had given rise to intrigues among the freeholders about the consequent by-election and it was necessary for Cromwell to make known his wishes if, as Wigston understood, ‘it is your mind to have the house furnished with good and discreet men’. The outcome of this episode is unknown as no trace of the by-election survives. A similar opportunity was to present itself in 1541, when Wigston was sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire at the time of the elections to Parliament. His own return for Coventry, although technically invalid, was not without precedent, and may have been part of the arrangement by which he gave up the recordership. What influence, if any, he wielded in the two counties of his bailiwick is difficult, if not impossible, to discern: the names of the knights for Warwickshire are lost, and of those for Leicestershire the only one known is that of Sir Richard Manners, who as steward of the honor of Leicester and brother of the 1st Earl of Rutland can have needed no support. (If the other was Thomas Brokesby, Wigston may have been of assistance.) Wigston’s own Membership was to be cut short by his death, but he does not appear to have been replaced until the session of 1544, when his successor as recorder, Edward Saunders, took the seat.9
Wigston’s attitude towards the religious changes of his later years is not easy to determine. The revelation, in the course of heresy proceedings staged in the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield in 1511-12, that ‘master Wyggeston’, perhaps Roger Wigston’s father or uncle, had ‘fine books of heresy’ in his possession is an interesting glimpse of a possible Lollard background; but there is no corresponding hint of reform about Wigston himself. When John London, the monastic spoliator, visited him in 1539 he found Wigston much esteemed and resorted to in the shire and his children a great credit to him, all his sons and sons-in-law being in the King’s service. London added that Wigston had accepted the Dissolution without protest and had served as a commissioner, despite his personal connexion with several houses and his part in the foundation of the Wyggeston hospital. The recipient of several leases of crown property down to 1530, Wigston appears to have had no grants of monastic property and even failed to get his lease of Wolston renewed. The impression left is of a man who accepted rather than welcomed what was going on.10
When he died on 27 Nov. 1542 Wigston held a respectable amount of property: there were Bredon, Dalby and Hathern in Leicestershire, and in Warwickshire the manor of Nethercot, land in Rugby, and various leases, notably that of the priory of Pinley, where his sister had been prioress. Most of this property he left to his elder son after making provision for his wife and small bequests to servants and relatives, for his daughters were already married (one of them was later to marry Edward Aglionby II as her third husband), and his younger son, a priest. He was buried in Wolston church as he had asked to be.11
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: S. M. Thorpe
- 1. Leicester Recs. ed. Bateson, iii. 23.
- 2. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
- 3. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
- 4. Aged 36 in 1519, Pollard mss in custody of HP. A. H. Thompson, Wyggeston Hospital Recs. p. xiv; LP Hen. VIII, iii, xiii; Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. xii), 37; PCC 15 Spert.
- 5. LP Hen. VIII, ii-iv, vii, x-xii, xviii, add.; Statutes, iii. 169; E179/123/120, 133/120; H. E. Bell, Ct. of Wards and Liveries, 10; Somerville, Duchy, i. 544; Coventry Leet Bk. (EETS cxxxiv), ii. passim; Val. Eccles. iv. 5n; Leicester Recs. iii. 34.
- 6. VCH Leics. iv. 27 seq.
- 7. Thompson, pp. xiii, xiv, 44, 51-52; LP Hen. VIII, v, add.
- 8. Cal. I.T. Recs. i. 30; LP Hen. VIII, iii-vii, ix, xi-xvi, xxi; Wealth and Power, ed. Ives, Knecht and Scarisbrick, 57 58.
- 9. House of Lords RO, Original Acts, 25 Hen. VIII, no. 13; Agrarian Hist. England and Wales, iv. ed. Thirsk, 217; LP Hen. VIII, vii; Coventry mayors’ accts. 1542-61, p. 4.
- 10. Jnl. Eccles. Hist. xiv. 162-3; LP Hen. VIII, iv, vii.
- 11. PCC 15 Spert; C142/69/73/82.