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)


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 it cannot presently be definitively proven 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), it can be shown (at the very least) that serious question can now be raised regarding Boddie’s stated belief:

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:

Christopher Woodward, Jr., Esq., of Lambeth Marsh, London

There was a man named Christopher Woodward, who lived in Lambeth Marsh, Surrey (London)(7). Back in Roman times, “Lambeth Marsh” was indeed 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 (9). He also seems to have been the same man by that name who was recorded in the 1623 "Visitation of Surrey." That Christopher Woodward, whose father Christopher senior originally hailed from County "Sallop" (Shropshire), was recorded as being "of Lambeth in com. Surrey" in that year, and had seven children, of whom the middle child was a son Thomas, said to have been fourteen years of age in 1623 (thus born about 1609). I will say more on this Thomas Woodward momentarily. Interestingly, for what I will say shortly, the grandfather of this Christopher Woodward Jr. was an Edward Woodward of County Salop.(10)

Equally interesting is the fact that the daughter Elizabeth “Ash” also mentioned in this same 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 (11).

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 (12). This property was described as being on the south side of Cheapside (then the most heavily-travelled street in London [13]), and in the northwest corner of the parish of St. Mary le Bow (14). 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 (15).

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 [16]), since the latter Thomas Woodward (the immigrant) clearly left a widow named Katherine and several named children in Virginia in 1677 (17).

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’). Perhaps he was even sent there involuntarily by the English Parliamentarian government (this would later become a common--and highly controversial--practice during the Restoration), though this last possibility would appear unlikely based on Woodward's evident position of influence and power upon his arrival in Virginia. This is all merely speculation, yes; but there are several circumstances which (intriguingly) lend themselves to this new interpretation (that the Thomas Woodward of Lambeth, Surrey might not have died "by 1655"):

Some observations 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 possibly had an earlier wife than the one named in his 1677 will. There is at least one big reason why: Thomas Woodward the surveyor 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 (18), 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 (19). 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 apparent fact of two separate sons named “John” would make perfect sense, and the possibility would then be opened that Thomas Woodward the immigrant could have been a Seventeenth-Century bigamist. One hesitates to make such a statement on so little evidence, but the evidence (as it is) at least leaves open this possibility, and (due to the paucity of evidence), this writer feels little else is left to do except speculate.

Thomas Woodward the immigrant is last known (for certain) to have resided in England in 1649 (20). Thereafter, we can only speculate, due to insufficient evidence. Thomas Woodward the immigrant may or may not have been the same man (by that name) who was appointed High Sheriff of Surrey in February 1650. Perhaps indeed he was, but it must be quickly admitted that no proof exists to support this statement. And (in any case), how could a man who was evidently so unpopular with Cromwell's 'Long Parliament' have been appointed to yet another post, only a few short months after he had been sacked from an earlier one (by the same hostile Parliament)? Thomas Woodward the immigrant first provably appears in Virginia colony in 1652 (21). This would certainly mean he was absent from England “by 1655”, in time for him to be considered dead and gone (even if only temporarily). This last is mentioned only because it fits the known evidence.

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 (22), Woodward in fact apparently 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, seems to indicate as much (23).

Moreover, Thomas Woodward the immigrant seems to have shown a decided reluctance to communicate with certain people back in England: witness his elder son John, and the King—both of whom seem to have had no earthly idea where Thomas might have ended up by 1665. [24] Strangely, though, 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. (25) Given Thomas Woodward’s huge public stature in the colonies (even notoriety, in Puritan quarters), It seems difficult indeed 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 well enough 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. Unless ...

Perhaps, on hindsight, this may have been due to political machinations: perhaps Woodward did indeed communicate regularly with certain persons back in England, but not to other persons, because of differences in ideology and political intent. One can speculate further and ask the question whether Thomas Woodward the immigrant might not have somehow turned against his Monarch by 1660, participating in intrigues against him. This would certainly explain why Woodward's presence (though known to Colleton) was evidently a closely-guarded secret kept from Charles II and from Woodward's own son. One can speculate even further, and ask whether or not Thomas Woodward the immigrant was perhaps a colonial agent of Parliamentary interests--in other words, a spy, despite the fact that he was 'sacked' from his Assay Master post by them. Perhaps that 'sacking' (and his later loudly-spoken 'Royalist' opinions) was only a ruse, to establish his fake Royalist credentials. Perhaps he had been a Parliamentarian the whole time. Perhaps the post of High Sheriff of Surrey in 1650 was his 'reward' (compensation) for having lost his post as Assay Master. Perhaps even some of the colonial officials in Virginia were themselves unaware of Woodward's true nature. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps ...

This mystery begins to make considerable sense, if we assume any or all of the above possibilities (for the sake of argument), and furthermore assume that in fact Thomas Woodward in the 1650s and 1660s didn’t want his English family to know where he was, due to sharp political differences between them. Recall that families were similarly divided (even father against son, as may have been the case here) during the American Civil War. Recall also that in 1677, as Thomas Woodward lay on his deathbed, and wrote out his will (dying within only four more days), he publicly stated that he didn’t even know if he had grandchildren by his son John or not (26). It has been said before, but this fact indicates a serious breach in communication between Thomas and his son John in England. And as mentioned, we can only guess why this might have been the case. 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.

Hopefully, this paper will have provided (at the very least) some useful speculation as to some of the possible reasons why this mystery might have existed.

Various Thomas Woodwards in England

There were at least two other "Thomas Woodwards" mentioned in Seventeenth-Century English sources, who may or may not have been the same man as our immigrant to Virginia. This next broad series of sections will discuss them one by one. At least one of them (the friend of the poet Donne) was almost certainly NOT the same man as the immigrant to Virginia, but is included here anyway, both for his interest as a person in his own right, and also simply to eliminate him, so as to avoid confusion when searching for evidence which might apply to the immigrant.

The first of these Thomas Woodwards, 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 (27). This Thomas Woodward may or may not have been the same person as the immigrant to Virginia. We simply have insufficient proof one way or the other. We nonetheless can see, whether or not he was the same person as our immigrant, that this particular Thomas Woodward was a man of (a) considerable wealth and advantage, and (b) a man comfortable among the political elite of his day and age. These facts would seem to imply at least a strong possibility that he could have been the same person as our immigrant.

Then there was the above-mentioned “Thomas Woodward, gent.,” who was apparently a law student at the Middle Temple, of the famous Inns of Court in London, and was connected with that hallowed institution from at least the year 1618 (28). But even more than that (as mentioned above), he was a personal friend whilst there of the English metaphysical poet John Donne.

Thomas Woodward and his brother Rowland, friends of the poet Donne

That Thomas Woodward did not go to the 'Inns of Court' 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. (29)

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 (30). 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 ... (31)

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 Brief Aside: Other Mentions of "Rowland Woodwards"

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 (32). 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 yet (strangely), the Rowland Woodward who married and was the father of the Christopher who was born in 1594 apparently married in 1574: according to the L.D.S. Church's International Genealogical Index (I.G.I.), this particular Rowland Woodward's wife was a Dennys (Denise?) Willmott, and he wed her in Orwell, Cambridge on either 1 October or 31 October, 1574--precisely the same place where Christopher would later be christened in 1594. If all of this data is correct, then clearly we are dealing with two separate Rowland Woodwards here. A probable "birthdate" of 1549 has been supplied (by some unknown person) for this second Rowland Woodward (the father of Christopher).

And if all the above weren't confusing enough, we have yet a third "Rowland Woodward," who was christened on 11 November, 1576, in the parish of St.Mary Magdalene, Old Fish Street, London. This Rowland's father was recorded as "Willm" Woodward [sic].

Either one of the above Rowland Woodwards, or perhaps yet a fourth man by this name, is also listed in the I.G.I. as having married an "Ellinor Grimsditch" in London on 5 January, 1626.

Tying Up Loose Ends

The Thomas Woodward who was the friend and intimate of the poet John Donne also seems to have been at one time the unwilling object of the poet's occasional homosexual interest: four verse letters exist (written when Donne was eighteen and Woodward sixteen), addressed to "T.W.", and expressing (as George Klawitter has shown) "first, the poet's infatuation for his friend, and then, his severe disappointment when the youth fails to respond with a like ardor." These poems, says Klawitter, "including Woodward's response, are full of sexual puns and a highly charged homoeroticism." (33) Anyone with more than a passing familiarity with Elizabethan literature and biography should not be unduly surprised by this disclosure. Even the great Shakespeare himself addressed the first one hundred and twenty-six of his famous Sonnets to a handsome young man, usually in tender, sometimes arguably in homoerotic, tones (and this despite C.S. Lewis' puritan denial of the same). There were of course still others, such as Marlowe and Barnfield, who were far more explicit than this, and left no doubt at all about their proclivities and interests.

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.” (34) We will note here that this Edward Woodward appears to have been named for his great-great-grandfather of the same name.


So much for attempting research on people living in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century England, right? The deeper one digs, the greater the unresolvable puzzles one apparently turns up.

We here have so many intriguing, unanswered (and unanswerable?) questions regarding both Thomas Woodward the immigrant to colonial Virginia, and all of these other "Thomas Woodwards" recorded in Seventeenth-Century English sources, who may or may not have been identical with him. The hopeful news, however, is that this present effort 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.” …

  • 21 Boddie, op.cit., page 127.
  • 22 Boddie, op.cit., page 108.
  • 23 ibid.
  • 24 ibid.
  • 25 op.cit., page 127, et seq.
  • 26 J. Gary Woodward, “Woodwards of Isle of Wight County, Virginia” op.cit.
  • 27 “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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