WOODFORD, John (1586-1625), of Westminster; formerly of Britwell Place, Burnham, Bucks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. 27 Apr. 1586,1 1st s. of Robert Woodford of Britwell Place, and Ursula, da. of Roger Colte of Woodwickes, Rickmansworth, Herts.2 educ. St. Paul’s sch.; Balliol, Oxf. 1600, BA (Christ Church) 1604, MA 1606.3 unm. suc. fa. 1599.4 d. Sept. 1625.5

Offices Held

Sec. to Sir Thomas Edmondes*, Paris embassy 1610-17;6 jt. surveyor of the greenwax 1619-d.;7 sec. to James, Visct. Doncaster (later 1st earl of Carlisle) 1619-d.8


Woodford, whose ancestors had held the Britwell estate since the end of the fifteenth century, went up to Balliol with a leaving exhibition from St. Paul’s at the age of 14.9 On coming of age he sold his estate, presumably in order to pay £900 in portions to his younger siblings under his father’s will and to finance his own career.10 In 1610 he was recruited as a diplomat by Sir Thomas Edmondes, and his dispatches from Paris show that he soon became, as one historian has observed, ‘one of the small body of men who must have passed for expert in Anglo-French affairs’.11 Woodford held the fort after the recall of Edmondes in 1617, and hoped to succeed to the embassy with the aid of the ‘good friends’ at Court he had acquired via his sister’s marriage to the 1st Lord Gerard of Bromley (Thomas Gerard†).12 However, he was passed over in favour of William Beecher*, which caused him to be deeply ‘discouraged and dejected’, especially as he had ‘from time to time received good testimony that my diligences were approved [in] the painful service which I have done here these seven years without any profit or entertainment’.13 Instead, with Edmondes’ help, he obtained a newly created post in the Exchequer, that of surveyor of the greenwax fines, for the modest fee of 5 marks p.a.14 By 1619 Woodford had also succeeded Sir Francis Nethersole* as secretary to the Scottish favourite Lord Hay, Viscount Doncaster.15

At the general election to the third Jacobean Parliament Woodford was returned for Bury St. Edmunds on the recommendation of the borough’s main patron Sir Thomas Jermyn*, an associate of Doncaster. Reporting to Nethersole on the subsidy debate, Woodford wrote on 17 Feb. 1621, that ‘I am sure they [the Commons] would not have given so much but in contemplation of the Palatinate; yet that it might not appear that they neglected the king’s own wants they have thought fittest to pass the grant in a free gift to His Majesty’.16 He followed the monopolies debates with particular attention, no doubt anxious in case his surveyorship of the greenwax came under attack, as had the patent for duchy of Lancaster greenwax fines held by Sir Roger Aston* in 1606. Writing to Nethersole again on 15 Mar. Woodford was perhaps relieved to relay that the House was concerned ‘to acquit His Majesty’s honour and to have it appear that he had been misled by the certificates of those whom he had trusted with the consideration of the suites’.17 Although summoned before a sub-committee for grievances on 11 Apr., he seems to have escaped the opprobrium heaped upon the holders of other more notorious privileges.18

Woodford was absent from the autumn sitting, by which time he had return to France. He visited La Rochelle, ostensibly to protest against the impositions laid on English merchants; in fact under this pretext he was charged ‘to dispose the [Huguenots] to put themselves into such a posture of conformity as might give an entrance to an accommodation’ with the king of France.19

Woodford’s links with Doncaster, who became earl of Carlisle in 1622, were strengthened by the appointment of his cousin William (1581-1663) as the latter’s chaplain. Both were intimate at Essex House, the London home of Lady Carlisle’s cousin, the 3rd earl of Essex.20 It was via this connection that Woodford was returned for Tamworth to James’s last Parliament in 1624. Again he left no trace on the parliamentary records, and departed without leave before the prorogation.21 He was in Paris during the royal marriage negotiations at the time of the general election of 1625, and died there the following September.22 Throughout the last decade of his life Woodford was an assiduous letter-writer, corresponding regularly with Edmondes, Doncaster, Nethersole, and William Trumbull.23 He was the only member of his family to enter Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. C142/286/174.
  • 2. Vis. Bucks. (Harl. Soc. lviii), 227; Liber Famelicus of Sir J. Whitelocke ed. J. Bruce (Cam. Soc. lxx), 4.
  • 3. M. McDonnell, Reg. St. Paul’s Sch. 104; Al. Ox.
  • 4. C142/286/174.
  • 5. SP81/33, f. 188.
  • 6. J.W. Stoye, Eng. Travellers Abroad, 49; HMC Downshire, ii. 295.
  • 7. CD 1621, vii. 376; 43rd DKR, 8.
  • 8. Eg. 2595, f. 48.
  • 9. VCH Bucks. iii. 178.
  • 10. PROB 11/95, f. 23; C3/312/23.
  • 11. Stoye, 102, 104.
  • 12. HMC Buccleuch, i. 198; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 97-98.
  • 13. SP78/67, ff. 109-12v.
  • 14. CD 1621, vii. 376.
  • 15. T. Cogswell, Blessed Revolution, 94-5.
  • 16. SP14/119/102.
  • 17. CD 1621, ii. 230; vii. 372-6.
  • 18. Ibid. ii. 291.
  • 19. SP78/70, f. 27.
  • 20. CSP Dom. 1623-5, pp. 108, 271, 278.
  • 21. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 565.
  • 22. SP81/33, f. 188; Cogswell, 279.
  • 23. Add. 72332; Eg. 2595; Stowe 175-6.