The Twickenham Museum
People : Bankers and Politicians

Thomas Westrow
Parliamentarian soldier and MP
1653

Thomas Westrow was christened at the Church of St Christopher le Stocks, London on 3 October 1616, the son of Thomas Westrow (d.1625) and Mary Aldersey (1589-1678)), daughter of John Aldersey (c1541-1616), Haberdasher of London from Aldersey Hall in Cheshire. They had married on 10 January 1608. His father was a Grocer, Alderman and, in 1625, Sheriff of the City of London. He was buried, on 18 December 1625 in a vault below the chancel of the Old Church of St Peter upon Cornhill. He had been granted a coat of arms in 1613. His father was Timothy, sometime Grocer and Citizen in the parish.

Mary married again, in 1627, Sir Norton Knatchbull (1569-1636) Kt, of Mersham Hatch, near Ashford in Kent. She married, for the third time, Sir Edward Scot (c1578-1646) of Scotís Hall in Nettlestead, Kent. After he died she retired to Berden Hall, Berden, Essex, an Aldersey family property and here she died, in her 89th year and was buried in the church of St Nicholas, where there is a memorial stone describing her life.

Thomas, the son, had a brother, Edmund, and an older sister, Dorothy who, in 1630, married Sir Norton Knatchbull (1602-85) 1st Baronet, also of Mersham Hatch. The two Knatchbulls were, respectively, uncle and nephew.

Marriage and Family

Thomas married Anne Capell, in 1639 at the Church of St Martin in the Fields in London. She was the daughter of Sir Henry Capell and his second wife, Dorothy Lady Hoskins. Her brother Arthur, Baron Capell, a Royalist general, was beheaded in 1648.

They had at least four children: two sons, Thomas and Norton, and two daughters, Dorothy and Mary. Only the record of baptism for Thomas has yet been identified.

Thomas was christened at St Olave's, Hart Street on 27 May 1640. Nothing is known of him before 1664 when he bought the Manor of Thele at Stanstead St Margarets from Henry Lawrence, a cousin of Oliver Cromwell and, earlier, a member of the Commonwealth Council of State. To this extent he can be held to have continued his father's Parliamentary connections.

The Christian name Norton clearly celebrated the double connection with the Knatchbulls. The only record of his life yet found is a brief mention of him in Rhode Island, in September 1666, preparing to travel to England carrying a legal document on behalf of the Quaker Assembly in Rhode Island (Irvine Berdine Richman, Rhode Island, its making and its meaning, 1663-83 vol 3 online).

Dorothy married Edward Hulse (1631-1711/12). He graduated M.D. at Leyden and in 1677 was appointed 'Physician of the Court of the Prince of Orange' in Holland, a position which he retained later as Court Physician to his monarch, William III, in England. Their son, Sir Edward, physician to Queen Anne, George I and II bought Breamore House, near Fordingbridge in Hampshire in about 1745, where the family reside today.

Mary was born in 1649. She married, in 1666, Thomas Row and had 9 children. Their first son was christened Norton.

Career

In 1643 Thomas, described as a “man of property in Kent” became MP for Hythe in the Long Parliament. In February 1645, as Captain Westrow, he was charged by Sir Thomas Fairfax with raising a militia troop for the Parliamentary army. In 1646 he is recorded (Journals of the House of Lords, vol 8, 14 October) handling £500 to pay the garrison of Dover Castle. In 1647 he acquired, the Manor of Hartlebury, with its castle, which had been captured from the Royalists in the preceding year.

It is unlikely that he took any part in Cromwell's notorious campaign in Ireland in 1649. What appears certain is that he advanced money to fund the campaign, secured by the promise of land there with other “adventurers” as they were described, hoping to acquire land confiscated from Royalists and Irish Catholics. This interest he bequeathed to his son Norton.

He became friendly with Oliver Cromwell, who referred to him as “Tom Westrow” and, following the dissolution of the Long Parliament, invited him to join the much reduced Rump Parliament as the member for Hythe. This he did, until its dissolution in 1653. He died in October that year, at the age of 37, leaving his wife, a young family, and survived by “ my deare mother to whom I give as a remembrance of my humble love £20 to buy a ringe”.

He was a promoter of the republican oriented Bahamas project, which had strong support among the radical citizens

Residence at Twickenham?

Although Thomas described himself as “of Twickenham” in his Will of 16 September 1653 (PROB 11/239/171), there is no record of where he might have lived. To his wife he bequeathed his coach and “all those houses which are or shall be about my house at the time of my decease”, without saying where these were. He also mentioned a house in the Old Bailey, which was leased to tenants. He was certainly buried in St Mary's Church on 29 October 1653. A ledgerstone on the floor of the chancel in the old church read: Here lies the body of Thomas Westrow Esq, deceased the 29th October, 1653 Who is not dead but sleepeth. The simple inscription followed his “desire (that I) may be buried in the most speedy private and frugal manner”. The stone cannot be seen today, though it was recorded in 1797 by Edward Ironside when he published his research “The History and Antiquities of Twickenham”. It probably remains, with others, covered by the raised floor of the chancel.

In Twickenham he would not have been without company of his own religious and political persuasion. In 1642 John Browne, clerk of the Parliament, living at the Manor House, led the move to install the puritan Ferdinando Nicholls, then Thomas Willis as ministers, in place of Thomas Soame, the vicar of 26 years or more. In fact Dr Soame was not finally ejected until October 1646. “Captaine” Edward Prescott, the Parliamentarian son of Alexander Prescott contributed to Willis's stipend. He had inherited land and houses along Twickenham's riverside. By 1652 Edward Birkhead, Sergeant at Arms for the Commons and a known Quaker was living in Richmond House on the riverside. Shown on the maps of 1607 (Tresswell) and 1635 (Glover) were a number of riverside properties, any of which could have been leased to Westrow during this period.

Reputation

Thomas Westrow's career was short, curtailed by early death, yet he had already had his portrait painted, in 1643 at the age of 27. This picture, inherited by his daughter Dorothy hangs today in the ancestral home of the Hulse family at Breamore House, near Fordingbridge in Hampshire.

Cromwell, to whom he was “Tom Westrow”, wrote to Lord Wharton at Upper Winchington on 27 August 1651 mentioning him and urging Wharton to help with preparations for the coming battle of Worcester:

I know I write to my Friend,- therefore give me leave to say one bold word.

In my very heart, your Lordship: Dick Norton, Tom Westrow, Robert Hammond have, though not intentionally, helped one another to stumble at the Dispensations of God, and to reason yourselves out of His service!-……… Your Lordship's faithful and most humble friend, Oliver Cromwell


Thomas Carlyle's commentary on this letter gives information about Westrow's life and his friendship with the poet George Wither:

Dubitating Wharton, he might also help to rally forces; his name, from 'Upper Winchington in Bucks' or wherever he may be, might do something. Give him, at any rate, a last chance.-'Tom Westrow,' here accidentally named; once well known man, familiar to the Lord General and to men of worth and quality; now, as near as may be, swallowed forever in the Night-Empires; - is still visible, strangely enough, through one small chink, and recoverable into daylight as far as needful. A Kentish man, a Parliament Soldier once, named in military Kent Committees; sat in Parliament too, 'recruiter' for Hythe, though at present in abeyance owing to scruples. Above all, he was the friend of poor George Wither, stepson of the Muses; to whom in his undeserved distresses he lent beneficent princely sums; and who, in poor splayfooted doggerel, - very poor, but very grateful, pious, true, and on the whole noble, - preserves some adequate memory of him for the curious. By this chink Tom Westrow, we find by good evidence, did return to his place in Parliament and the ancient figure of his Life, is still recoverable if needed………... (letter CLXXXI, 27 August 1651 to Lord Wharton; from The Works of Thomas Carlyle, volume 2, 1845)

When Thomas died, forgiving his friend the poet George Wither (1588-1677) a debt of over £500, Wither wrote and published a poem in tribute: Westrow revived. A funerall poem without fiction composed by G. W. ... that God may be glorified in his Saints; that the memory of Thomas Westrow Esq. may be preserved, etc

back to top