Sir Nicholas Wadham (by 1472–1542) of Merryfield in the parish of Ilton, Somerset and Edge in the parish of Branscombe, Devon was the grandfather of Nicholas Wadham (1531–1609), posthumous co-founder of Wadham College, Oxford whose wife Dorothy Wadham outlived him and, in her advanced old age, saw the project through to completion.
Originally taking their name from the manor of Wadham, Knowstone between South Molton and Exmoor in north Devon, Nicholas Wadham was descended from an ancient West Country gentry family with a leaning towards the law. He was the eldest son and heir of John Wadham (died 1502) of Merryfield and Edge and Elizabeth Stucley, daughter of Sir Hugh Stucley of Affeton Castle and Sheriff of Devon in 1449, who had married Katherine de Affeton sole heiress of the Manor of Affeton, Nicholas Wadham's grandmother.
Sir Nicholas was Member of Parliament for Somerset as a Knight of the Shire with his kinsman Sir William Stourton, 7th Baron Stourton (c. 1505 – 1548), in the Reformation Parliament of 1529 to 1534.
Nicholas Wadham was Esquire of the Body to King Henry VII (1485–1509) in 1503, and knighted in 1504 "at ye creacion of Prince Henry", then only thirteen years of age. He was Sheriff of Devon in 1502 and 1515, Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset in 1498 and 1534, and Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1516. He was Captain of the Isle of Wight with residence at Carisbrooke Castle from 1509-1520, and with his uncle Sir Edward Wadham was present with King Henry VIII (1509–1547) at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, in 1520.
In 1512, he was one of the Commission for fitting out at Southampton the abortive expedition under Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset (1477–1530) to aid Ferdinand of Aragon in his invasion of France and, from 1521–1523, was Vice Admiral to Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey (1473–1554), High Admiral of England from 1521 to 1525.
He was granted a patent in 1524, licensing him "to make a park at Merifield of 200 acres of pasture and 40 acres of woodland". In 1530, he was appointed one of the Commissioners for making inquisition into the estates of Cardinal Wolsey. Both Sir Nicholas and his uncle, Sir Edward Wadham, were jurors in Bristol at the indictment for treason in May 1521 of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham of Thornbury Castle in Gloucestershire. In 1524, he received an honorary admission to the Middle Temple.
Marriage and children
He married four times:
First to his cousin Joan Hill, a daughter of Robert Hill of Halsway Somerset Bridport Dorset and Houndstone near Yeovil and, of Alice Stourton, one of the three daughters and co-heiresses of John Stourton (died 1438) of the manor of Preston Plucknett, today (in 2017) known as the Abbey Farm House and Abbey Barn, Yeovil, and of Brympton d'Evercy. Joan Hill was a great granddaughter of Sir Robert Hill (died 1426) of Shilston Justice of the Common Pleas from 1408 to 1423 and Elisabeth (sometimes called 'Isabella') Wadham. By descent of the Hill, Champernowne and Gilbert families, Nicholas Wadham was a cousin of the Devonshire adventurers Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Sir Richard Grenville. Joan’s sister, Margaret Hill, was married to Sir Hugh Luttrell (b.1456) of Dunster Castle. The Hill sisters were half-sisters maternally of Giles Daubeney, 1st Baron Daubeney of Barrington Court near Ilminster who, along with the Luttrells and Wadhams, was a firm supporter of Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, later, King Henry VII.
Nicholas Wadham's six children with Joan Hill were:
- John Wadham (died 1578), the son and heir of Merryfield and Edge, and father of Nicholas Wadham (1531–1609) co-founder with his wife Dorothy Wadham, of Wadham College, Oxford.
- Laurence Wadham of Merifield, who died in 1522, and whose only child Nicholas Wadham, married to Dorothy Berkeley of Stoke Gifford, Stoke Park, Bristol died without children.
- Giles Wadham, Rector of Barton St David.
- Andrew Wadham, "one of the Gentlemen Ushers of the Queen's grace" to Queen Catherine Parr; perhaps, at the behest of her friend and lady-in-waiting, and his kinswoman, Joan Champernowne. He was taken into the household of Sir Thomas Cromwell as a young man. Married to Anne, daughter of Laurence Saunders he died, without children, in 1550, at their home Delapré Abbey.
- Mary Wadham, who married Sir Richard Chudleigh of the Manor of Ashton.
- Elizabeth Wadham, was married twice:
To Sir Edward Bampfield (died 1528) of Poltimore, Devon. Their son Richard Bampfield (1526–1594), Sheriff of Devon in 1576, began construction in 1550 of the Tudor period Poltimore House and, in 1590, Bampfylde House, Exeter; along with The Great House, Bristol one of the finest town houses in the West Country in the Elizabethan era. She was also married to John Warre of Chipleigh (Chipley Park, Somerset), second son of Sir Richard Warre of Hestercombe.
Margaret Seymour, Lady Wadham (died 1520), second wife to Sir Nicholas Wadham and also his distant cousin, was a sister of Sir John Seymour (1474–1536) of Wulfhall, married to Margery Wentworth, parents to Queen Jane Seymour and Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset; and thus grandparents to King Edward VI (1547–1553). Margaret Seymour died in 1520, whilst she and Sir Nicholas were still resident at Carisbrooke Castle where he was governor, and there is a fine monument to her memory in St. Mary's Church, Carisbrooke on the Isle of Wight. They had three children:
- Nicholas Wadham, who died as a baby, in 1508. His monumental chrysom brass is in St Peter's Church, Ilton Somerset, where he lies buried beneath the arms of Wadham... and angel wings of Seymour.
- Katherine Wadham, and
- Jane Wadham, first cousins to Queen Jane Seymour and Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset. Both Wadham women became reluctant nuns at Romsey Abbey; both appear to have married after the dissolution of the abbey in 1539.
He married lastly, Joan Lyte (died 1557), a daughter of Richard Lyte of Lytes Cary Somerset, now maintained by the National Trust (NT), the widow of William Walton of Barton St David. There is a monumental brass to Dame Joan Wadham in St Peter's Church, Ilton.
There were apparently no children by his third and fourth marriages although his will, written in 1539, leaves "to my son Nicholas, my third best horse" and a hundred pounds. Given that his son Nicholas by Margaret Seymour died as a baby and was buried at Ilton in 1508, this remains something of a mystery.
Notes and references
- Devon heraldry
- Dictionary of National Biography
- Per monumental brass in Ilton Church
- Sir Nicholas as a representative of Somerset, Sir Edward among those representing Gloucestershire
- T.G. Jackson, Wadham College, Oxford; p. 5
- Rev. John Hutchins (antiquary) (1698–1773), The History and Antiquities of Dorset; 1st pub. 1774, 2 vols.
- Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, vol 3, 1519-1523, (pub. London HMSO 1867), pp. 485–516
- See Sir Hugh Luttrell b.1456 at Tudorplace.com
- The Visitations of the County of Somerset, p. 6., Berkeley of Stoke Gifford, Glos.
- Somerset Record Society, vol XVI Somerset Medieval Wills, where Andrew Wadham is described as such in the will of Thomas Strowde (Strode/Stroud), proved March 24th, 1544
- Vivian, p. 189; Descendants given in Pole, Sir William (died 1635), Collections Towards a Description of the County of Devon, Sir John-William de la Pole (ed.), London, 1791, p. 255
- Vivian, p. 39; Pole, p. 231
- Hampshire Nunneries; by Diana K. Coldicott, pub. 1989, pp. 136–137, & 146
- Wadham Pedigree in T.G. Jackson, Wadham College, Oxford, pub.1893; p. 27
- Somerset Wills; 1539. Nicholas Wadham, Kent. [15 SPERT.] Proved January 31st, 1542. Pages 55 & 56
- Thomas Graham Jackson, Wadham College, Oxford, its Foundation, Architecture and History, with an Account of the Family of Wadham and their Seats in Somerset and Devon, Oxford, 1893
- Pole, Sir William (died 1635). Collections Towards a Description of the County of Devon, Sir John-William de la Pole (ed.), London, 1791, p. 141, pedigree of Wadham of Egge, Branscombe
- Prince, John, (1643–1723). The Worthies of Devon, 1810 edition, biography of Wadham, Sir John, Knight, (died 1412), pp. 748–752
- Stevens, Hariet Weeks Wadhams. Wadhams Genealogy: Preceded by a Sketch of the Wadham Family of England, New York, 1913
- Rogers, William Henry Hamilton. Memorials of the West, Historical and Descriptive, Collected on the Borderland of Somerset, Dorset and Devon, Exeter, 1888, pp. 147–173, The Founder and Foundress of Wadham
- Virgoe, Roger. Biography of Wadham, Sir Nicholas (by 1472–1542), of Merrifield, nr. Ilton, Som., Published in The History of Parliament: House of Commons 1509–1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
- Vivian, Lt.Col. J.L., (Ed.). The Visitations of the County of Devon: Comprising the Heralds' Visitations of 1531, 1564 & 1620, Exeter, 1895