Thomas Woodward Part 2

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Some Questions Regarding the Parentage of, and other issues relating to, Thomas Woodward, Esq.,

Late of Isle of Wight County, Virginia, Formerly Surveyor of Carolina colony, Member of the Governor’s Council, etc.

By T.J. White (6 April 2008)

See also Thomas Woodward (Part 1)

Prologue: Related to George Woodward?

In attempting to establish the parentage and provenance of Thomas Woodward, who died in Isle of Wight County, Virginia about October the 5th, 1677 (1) (and who has been the subject of much research and speculation), many modern researchers, no doubt following the lead of genealogist and historian John Bennett Boddie in 1938 (2), have posited (ad infinitum) that said Woodward was somehow connected to the family of George Woodward and his wife Elizabeth Honywood (Honiwood, Honeywood, etc.), formerly of Burgate, Suffolk, Markeshall, Essex, and Charing, Kent. Boddie’s belief in Thomas Woodward’s relationship to these Woodwards and Honywoods has already been examined in a previous paper (3). Though I cannot at present prove that Boddie was wrong in his belief (and of course, he could have been correct), and although it is true that Thomas Woodward did indeed seem to be acquainted with Col. Sir Philip Honywood in Virginia (4) (undoubtedly a relation to the above Elizabeth), I hope at the least to show that serious question can now be raised regarding Boddie’s stated belief:

Introduction: Better evidence lies elsewhere

The above-referenced George Woodward had no fewer than twenty-one children by two successive wives, the above-mentioned Elizabeth Honywood, plus an earlier wife named Alice Woodford (5). Of those twenty-one children, and of the males who are now known to have married, only son Edward seems to have been of the right age to have been the father of our Thomas Woodward (born about 1600-1604). None of the children of wife Elizabeth Honywood seem to have been of the right age (old enough) to have fathered a son born around 1600 or 1604. And that Edward Woodward (wife Elizabeth Oxenbridge) is not presently known to have had a son named Thomas (though he indeed had a brother by that name, and it is possible he could have had a son with the same name). These facts alone (despite George Woodward’s prodigious number of offspring), seem to rule out (for the moment) consideration of him as the potential grandfather (or father) of our Thomas Woodward, of Isle of Wight, Virginia. We must at least begin to look elsewhere, if we wish to attempt to resolve this question. And—strangely enough—better evidence for Thomas Woodward’s possible parentage does indeed lie elsewhere:

Chapter 1: Christopher Woodward, Jr., Esq., of Lambeth Marsh, London

There was a man named Christopher Woodward, who lived in Lambeth Marsh, London (7). Originally (back in Roman times), “Lambeth Marsh” was indeed just what it claims to have been—only an ordinary tidal marsh on the south side of London, and across the River Thames from Westminster. By the time of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, however, the original marsh had largely been drained, and replaced with housing, so that “Lambeth Marsh” had instead come to refer, not to the ancient marsh itself, but to a thoroughfare bearing that name, and to the dwellings on either side of the thoroughfare (8).

This Christopher Woodward appears to have been identical to the man by that name (“of Lambeth, Surrey, Esq.”), who died on 25 August, 1627, and left a will in which he named a son Thomas (more on this Thomas momentarily) (9). Interestingly, the daughter Elizabeth “Ash” also mentioned in this 1627 will turns out to have been an ancestor of none other than the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (of recent memory), and thus of the present-day British royal family (10). This same Christopher Woodward who died in 1627 seems to have been the same person who in 1622 purchased a property in London from a Sir Nicholas Smyth (11). This property was described as being on the south side of Cheapside (then the most heavily-travelled street in London [12]), and in the northwest corner of the parish of St. Mary le Bow (13). Christopher Woodward’s son Thomas had evidently (so say the editors of “British History Online”) inherited this Cheapside property by the year 1630, which makes sense when one considers that his father Christopher had died in 1627. This Thomas Woodward was “dead by 1655” (again, according to the same editors), because it was in that year that his “widow” Grace Woodward “made a lease of 16A [one third of the said property], as guardian to her son Edward.” This same Edward Woodward “of Lambeth, gentleman” made a lease of the property himself (as an adult) in 1661 (14).

One can, of course, take the above statements flatly, at face value. In that case, we are manifestly dealing with a separate Thomas Woodward than the immigrant to Isle of Wight County, Virginia (even though, as per my earlier paper--and others, the immigrant Thomas Woodward is known to have held the office of Assay Master of the Royal Mint in 1649 [15]), since the latter Thomas Woodward (the immigrant) clearly left a widow named Katherine and several named children in Virginia in 1677 (16).

But was that Thomas Woodward of Lambeth Marsh, Surrey and St. Mary le Bow, Cheapside, really and truly deceased “by 1655”? Might it not be at least possible that, instead of merely dying, he had rather simply absconded to the colonies—to Virginia—leaving a wife and child (or children?) back in London to believe he had met an untimely end? Such occurrences were not at all uncommon back then. Another, equally-valid possibility is that he could have been officially “encouraged” to go there (in view of saving his skin—and head) because his outspoken Royalist political views (which had already caused Parliament to sack him from one lucrative position) had rendered his remaining in England ‘problematic’ for those then in power (the Cromwellian ‘Long Parliament’). This is all merely speculation on my part, yes, I know. But there are several circumstances which (intriguingly) lend themselves to this new interpretation:

Chapter 2: Some circumstances regarding Thomas Woodward, the immigrant

The Thomas Woodward who was the surveyor in Virginia and Carolina in the 1650s and 1660s is believed (by some researchers today) to have had an earlier wife than the one named in his 1677 will—not least due to the fact that he apparently had two separate sons named “John”: one who remained behind in England and successfully obtained his father’s old post of Assay Master of the Mint from Charles II in 1661 (upon the Restoration), later dying in 1665 (17), and a second one who apparently left descendants in Virginia and North Carolina and was alive in 1684, when he was mentioned in his mother Katherine Woodward’s will (18). If in fact Thomas Woodward the immigrant had had two separate wives—one left behind in England, and another remarried in the colonies, then this fact of two separate sons named “John” would make perfect sense.

Thomas Woodward the immigrant is last known to have resided in England (for certain) in 1649 (19). Thereafter, we can only speculate, due to insufficient evidence. Thomas Woodward the immigrant may or may not have been the same man who was appointed High Sheriff of Surrey in February 1650. Personally, I think he probably was, but I will quickly admit I have no proof to support my belief. Thomas Woodward the immigrant first appears in Virginia colony (provably) in 1652 (20). This would certainly mean he was absent from England “by 1655”, in time for him to be considered (even if only temporarily) dead and gone.

Despite the Restoration of Charles II to the English throne in 1660, and Thomas Woodward’s publicly-stated opinion that the King’s absence from the throne (prior to 1660) was his reason for not returning to England (21), Woodward in fact never again set foot in England—though he would have had plenty of opportunity to do so after 1660. The statement of the King himself in 1665, upon the death of Woodward’s son John, indicates as much (22).

Moreover, Thomas Woodward the immigrant seems to have shown a decided reluctance to communicate with certain people back in England (at least to his son John, and to the King—both of whom seem to have had no earthly idea where Thomas might have ended up [23]). But strangely, Thomas Woodward could be downright chatty with people in England when it suited his purpose (just evidently not with his son John, or with his Monarch): witness the long, detailed letter he wrote on 2 June, 1665, to Sir John Colleton, one of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina colony, regarding the (then-current) state of affairs in said colony (24). Given Thomas Woodward’s huge public stature in the colonies (even notoriety, in Puritan quarters), I find it difficult to fathom how or why his son John and especially his king, Charles II, can have been so ignorant as to his whereabouts in 1665. As Surveyor for the colonies of Virginia and Carolina, it would have been Thomas Woodward’s bounden duty to communicate regularly with his superiors in England and elsewhere in the colonies. Sir John Colleton apparently knew where he was in 1665. How is it then that the King of England (and Woodward’s own son) did not? It simply doesn’t add up.

This mystery begins to make a little sense, however, if we assume (for the sake of argument) that in fact Thomas Woodward didn’t want his English family to know where he was, in the 1650s and 1660s. Recall that in 1677, as Thomas Woodward lay on his deathbed, and wrote out his will (dying within only four more days), he stated publicly that he didn’t even know if he had grandchildren by his son John or not (25). I have said it before, but this fact indicates a serious breach in communication between Thomas and his son John in England (for what reasons we can only guess). By this time in colonial affairs, letters and persons were regularly making the transatlantic crossing again and again—occasionally returning to England for visits and sometimes even to die and be buried there.

Chapter 3: More Discussion of various Thomas Woodwards in England

Before closing this discussion, I would like to mention a few passing items of trivia which may possibly have some bearing on this Thomas Woodward, the immigrant. They can either be seen as possibly helping to clarify the issues, or perhaps only helping to further muddy the picture:

A “Thomas Woodward, Esq.”, had become a creditor (lender) in the amount of £1,000 to Sir Thomas Dawes, to satisfy a debt against the Crown, on 6 August, 1641. This was in company with several other gentlemen (apparently of quality), and was recorded in the Journal of the House of Commons (26). This fact, while probably relatively meaningless in and of itself, nonetheless shows this particular Thomas Woodward (whether or not he is the same as our immigrant) to have been a man of (a) considerable wealth and advantage, and (b) a man comfortable among the political elite of his day and age.

A “Thomas Woodward, gent.” was apparently a law student at the Middle Temple, of the famous Inns of Court in London, from at least the year 1618 (27). But even more than that, he was a personal friend whilst there of the English metaphysical poet John Donne (see below).

Thomas Woodward did not go there alone, however: with him there was also a brother named “Rowland Woodward”, as may be seen from the following reference, mentioning the two Woodward brothers in passing (for quite different reasons):

Donne may have traced his lineage back to an ancient Welsh line, the Dwyns of Kidwelly, yet his father was an ironmonger and citizen of London; his friends at Lincoln’s Inn, Rowland and Thomas Woodward, were the sons of a London vintner of the parish of St. Mary le Bow. Students of the Inns of Court without armour were entitled to style themselves gentlemen by virtue of the institution. (28)

This reference would seem to imply, however, that this Rowland and Thomas Woodward might have been considerably older than our Thomas Woodward, the immigrant, since the poet John Donne is known to have been born in 1572, and to have entered Lincoln’s Inn in 1592 (29). This turns out, in fact, to have been the case, as the following reference makes clear:

A Note on Rowland Woodward, The Friend of Donne
The late Sir Edmund Gosse concludes the first volume of his Life and Letters of John Donne (1899, i, 318) by saying, "There is none of Donne's friends of whom we would gladly know more than of Rowland Woodward." He states that nothing is known of him but his name, the epistles that Donne wrote to him, and the gift to him by Donne of a copy of the Pseudo-Martyr; he concludes that the important Westmoreland MS. also was given to him by Donne.
Professor Grierson (The Poems of John Donne, 1912, ii, lxxxi) disputes this conjecture about the Westmoreland MS.; and later, in the notes to the poems (ii, 146-47), adds some information about Woodward's life, taken from Mr. Pearsall Smith's Life and Letters of Sir Henry Wotton.
Mr. Pearsall Smith there establishes that Woodward was at Venice with Wotton in 1605; during his residence there he was imprisoned by the Inquisition. In 1607, while bringing home dispatches, he was attacked by robbers in France and left for dead. On February 2, 1608, £60 was paid to his brother Thomas for Rowland's "surgeons and diets." In 1608 he entered the service of the Bishop of London. In 1625 he petitioned for a pension. In 1630 he became Deputy Master of Ceremonies, and died in 1636-1637.
There is more, however, to be found out about him than that.
The registers of St.Mary le Bowe [sic] (Index Library) contain a long list of christenings in what is clearly Woodward's family:
Aug. 23 1573. Rowland Woodward s.of John.
Ap. 24 1575. Judith d.
July 16 1576. Thomas s.
June 21 1577. John s.
Mar. 29 1579. Baldwyne s.
May 22 1580. Rachel d.
Aug. 6 1581. Margett d.
Feb. 27 1582. Mary d.
Rowland, therefore, was the eldest of a family of eight, and was born in the same year as his friend Donne.
In the Index of Hustings in the Guildhall Records Office there is the will of a John Woodward, vintner, who left assets of £400 and debts of only £30; his wife Helen is the sole executrix ... (30)

This Rowland Woodward (the friend of Donne), then, turns out to have been a son of John, not a son of Christopher (whose 1627 will, in any case, did not name a son "Rowland"), and that John Woodward--not Christopher--turns out to have been the "London vintner" of the earlier reference. That John Woodward, of course, could have been a brother or even cousin of the Christopher Woodward who died in 1627: after all, they did both apparently reside in the same district of London, St.Mary-le-Bow.

This raises the intriguing possibility (if we assume several things) that our Thomas Woodward the immigrant to Virginia (if he was a son of that Christopher of "Lambeth Marsh, gent." and St.Mary-le-Bow, London) could have been a cousin to the brothers Rowland and Thomas Woodward who were the friends and intimates of the poet Donne. Of course, this is (again) only speculation, and due to the paucity of evidence, we will very likely never know the full truth, but these are interesting, compelling speculations all the same.

A “Rowland Woodward” (as mentioned by J. Gary Woodward in his website) was married by 1594, and was the father of a son named “Christopher Woodward”, who was baptized on 1 May 1594, in Orwell Parish, Cambridge (31). I have no way of knowing, at present, just how many “Rowland Woodwards” there were, running around England at that time, so of course I cannot say whether or not these two Rowlands were the same person. I will confess that the evidence looks intriguing, if not compelling. This Christopher Woodward (the son of Rowland) could have easily been the same Christopher Woodward who ended up at the 1624 muster in Jamestown, Virginia. It is fascinating to speculate that he could in fact have been a close cousin of the Thomas Woodward who also emigrated to Virginia.

And finally, the Edward Woodward mentioned above as the son of the Thomas Woodward of Lambeth Marsh, Surrey, appears to have been the same man who married in London in February, 1662-3: “Edward Woodward, of Lambeth Marsh, Surrey, Esq., … and Elizabeth Turner of St. Andrew’s, Holborn, widow, [were married at] St. Gregory’s or St. Bartholomew the Less, London.” (32)


We here have so many intriguing, unanswered (and unanswerable?) questions. The hopeful news, however, is that this present effort of mine is the result of only a few weeks research; let us see what future opportunities may reveal.


“Fees and Diets of the Officers and Ministers of the Mint, to be borne by the Keepers of the Liberties of England, by Authority of Parliament; and to be paid by the Warden, in Manner and Form hereafter expressed; and until the Parliament of England shall otherwise ordain.

£.s.d. John St. John:-First, To the Wardens of the Mint, for the Time being, for their Fee, by the Year 100-- Walter Grime:-To the Wardens Clerk, by the Year 20-- Henry Cogan:-To the Comptroller of the Mint, for the Time being, by the Year 66134 Peter Fenton:-To his Clerk, for his Fee, by the Year 1368 Andrew Palmer, Tho. Woodward:-To the Assay Masters of the Mint, for the Time being, for their Fee, by the Year 66134 From: House of Commons Journal Volume 6: 6 July 1649, Journal of the House of Commons: volume 6: 1648-1651 (1802), pp. 251-254. Date accessed: 04 November 2007. [emphasis supplied] See also Boddie (op.cit., page 108): “Thomas Woodward, Assay Master of the Mint, had also fled from England to Isle of Wight County about 1649. His story is told in a petition of his son John to Charles II, upon his restoration, as follows: ‘November 1661, Petition of John, son of Thomas Woodward, to the king: to be put into possession of the house and office of Assay Master of the Mint, held by his father until the late troubles, when John Bradshaw, the so-called President of the Council of State, on the 23rd of October, 1649, dismissed him for refusing obedience to the usurper’s power and put in Samuel Bartlett. On this his father repaired to Virginia with a public declaration never to see England again till His Majesty’s return; is forthwith sending him the joyful news, and wishes to keep the office until his [father’s] return, or if he be dead, to have a grant of it himself.” …

  • 20 Boddie, op.cit., page 127.
  • 21 Boddie, op.cit., page 108.
  • 22 ibid.
  • 23 ibid.
  • 24 op.cit., page 127, et seq.
  • 25 J. Gary Woodward, “Woodwards of Isle of Wight County, Virginia” op.cit.
  • 26 “British History Online” (op.cit.) 'House of Commons Journal Volume 2: 06 August 1641', Journal of the House of Commons: volume 2: 1640-1643 (1802), pp. 239-242. URL: Woodward. Date accessed: 03 November 2007.
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