Born: ABT 1475

Died: 1548, Sandwich, Kent, England

Father: John WINGFIELD of Letheringham (Sir Knight)

Mother: Elizabeth FITZLEWIS

Married: Joan HOBARD

The details in this biography come from the History of Parliament, a biographical dictionary of Members of the House of Commons.

Born ABT 1475, eighth son of Sir John Wingfield of Letheringham, by Elizabeth, da. of Sir Lewis John of West Horndon, Essex; bro. of Humphrey and Sir Robert. m. Joan, dau. of John Hobard of Sandwich, wid. of John Webbe of Sandwich, d.s.p. Comptroller of customs, port of Sandwich 2 Mar 1515-42 or 43, gauger from 1546; jurat, Sandwich 1519-23, 1534-48, auditor 1519, 1522, bailiff to Yarmouth 1521, commr. Subsidy, Sandwich 1523, Kent 1524, gaol delivery, Canterbury 1525, burgess to the Shepway 1534, 1536; comptroller of the King's works, Dover 1536-40; paymaster of the King's works in the Downs 1539; capt. Deal castle 1540.

Thomas Wingfield's official connexion with Sandwich seems to have begun with his appointment as comptroller of customs there in 1515. By then he must have been about 40 his father had died in 1481 but of his earlier life nothing has been discovered. His marriage to the widow of the previous comptroller, a freeman of Sandwich, qualified him for the freedom of the port, which he received on 10 Dec 1517, the four jurats who stood surety for him being John Cock, Thomas Goddard, John Hobard and John Westcliffe. His own first spell as a jurat was cut short when in 1523 he and Richard Taylor were dismissed ‘by assent of all the whole commonalty’. No reason for this action was recorded in the town book, but from other entries it appears that Wingfield was disliked. In 1517 a man had been committed to gaol for calling him a ‘false and untrue gentleman’, and in 1525 a local tailor went further by proclaiming ‘that Wingfield had set up certain arms in the church which if they were his he was a traitor, for he knew never none that did give such a bar in his arms unless he were a traitor’; this was accompanied by a somewhat confused accusation which included references to ‘Mr. Wingfield's wench’, and together they cost the tailor seven years’ banishment from the port. More significant was the assembly's resolution of Dec 1526 that if Wingfield would not pay his town dues as other freemen did he would at the next general assembly forfeit his freedom for ever without redemption. The threat was not implemented, but it helps to explain why for the time being Wingfield played no part in the government of the town, although he was still comptroller at the port. He was also sparingly employed during this period by the central government.

This ten-year exclusion was brought to an unexpected end when on 29 Dec 1533 the whole commonalty of Sandwich elected Wingfield one of its Members of Parliament in place of John Boys, who had died in the previous Mar; on the following 2 Jul 1534 he was readmitted a jurat. What lay behind this volte face is not clear, but there must have been pressure from outside. Wingfield came from a powerful family one of his younger brothers, Humphrey Wingfield, had recently been elected Speaker but neither this brother nor two others, Sir Richard and Sir Robert mentioned him in their wills, detailed though these were. If family influence is to be discounted, it may be conjectured that Cromwell intervened in the course of his systematic filling of vacancies: the surviving Member, Vincent Engeham, was perhaps already revealing the conservative outlook which was to show later, and a court nomination would redress the balance. By contrast, Wingfield's re-election in 1536 was due, as were those of all known Members for the Cinque Ports, to the King's request for the return of the previous Members, and in common with them it reflects no interest in the individual case.

Wingfield was paid by Sandwich for his parliamentary service, but as the accounts are defective the full amount of his wages is not known. In 1534 he and Vincent Engeham received £12, evidently for attending the sixth session. In Feb 1535 the town officers reviewed all the accounts and agreed that Wingfield was owed 30s. for attendance in Parliament and 15s. for town business; they decided to pay him 40s. out of the box of ‘bonne pens’, or beer money, and when a few days later the box was opened he was given this sum ‘upon his parliament wages’ and he remitted the balance. Finally, on 12 May 1538 he was paid 18s., the residue of the wages owing to him for the Parliament of 1536.

In 1534 Wingfield resumed the attendances at the Brotherhood of the Cinque Ports which he had begun in 1520 but which had been interrupted in 1523 by his dismissal from the juratship. In Jul 1534 the Brotherhood agreed that Thomas Wingfield should give the oath at the court of Shepway to George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, the new lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, and two years later he was again chosen to perform this ceremony when Sir Thomas Cheney assumed office. Five months earlier, in Apr 1536, he had been appointed comptroller of the works at Dover, a town of which he had been a freeman since Sep 1515. On him fell the responsibility for clearing the entrance to Dover haven and building the new defence works there, a task which went forward amid bickering between the local officials and under reproof from above at their incessant demands for money. This harrying did not affect Wingfield's tenure of office, which lasted until 1540, when he became captain of the ‘great castle at the Downs’, that is, Deal castle.

Soon after this Wingfield gave up the comptrollership at Sandwich; his last extant controlment roll runs to Michaelmas 1542 and the first of his successor begins 12 months later. On the outbreak of war with France he was made victualler of the King's ships and from Nov 1545 was stationed at Dover to convey letters and execute orders: as King's commissioner he drew 6s.8d. a day from Oct 1545 to Feb 1546 and 10s. a day from Feb to Apr 1546, when the appointment came to an end. On hearing that he was to be discharged, the admiral, John Dudley, Viscount Lisle, wrote to Sir William Paget that he thought Wingfield ‘one of the meetest men, both for experience and diligence, that is to be placed here’, a notable tribute to a man then approaching 70. His age did not deter him from accepting, in the following Nov, a lease for 21 years from Michaelmas 1547 of the office of gauger in the port of Sandwich at a rent of 3s.8d. with 4d. increment. The re-granting of this lease on the same terms to Francis Wilford in Mar 1551 provides a terminal date for Wingfield's death: his captaincy of Deal castle was also filled by another appointment that year. As his name is missing from the list of Sandwich jurats from Dec 1548, his death took place within this two-year period and probably towards the end of it. He appears to have died intestate.
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