Thomas Willis (Clerk of the Crown in Chancery)

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Thomas Willis (1576–1656) was a member of the English landed gentry and Clerk of the Crown in Chancery at the outbreak of the English Civil War, owing to which he suffered the loss of his position and some of his estates. He appears in the 1619 update to the 1575 Visitation of Cambridgeshire, with reference made to his position and ownership of lands at Ashe, Hampshire.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Landed gentry Largely historical British social class, consisting of land owners who could live entirely off rental income

The landed gentry, or simply the gentry, is a largely historical British social class consisting in theory of landowners who could live entirely from rental income, or at least had a country estate. It belonged to aristocracy, but was distinct from, and socially "below", British peerage, although in fact some of the landed gentry were wealthier than some peers, and many gentry were related to peers. They often worked as administrators of their own lands, while others became public, political, religious, and armed forces figures. The decline of this privileged class largely stemmed from the 1870s agricultural depression; however, there are still many hereditary gentry in the UK to this day, many of whom transferred their landlord-style management skills after the agricultural depression into the business of land agency, the act of buying and selling land.

In the Government of the United Kingdom, the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery is a senior civil servant who is the head of the Crown Office.



Thomas Willis was the son of Thomas Willis (or 'Willys') the elder, of Eyhall and Rouses Place in Cambridgeshire, and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of John Hasell of Dalemain, near Penrith. [lower-alpha 1]

Dalemain Grade I listed building in Eden, United Kingdom

Dalemain is a country house 10 miles south-west of Penrith in Cumbria, England. It is a Grade I listed building.

Penrith, Cumbria town in Cumbria, England

Penrith is a market town and civil parish in the county of Cumbria, England. It lies less than 3 miles (5 km) outside the bounds of the Lake District National Park. Historically in Cumberland, Penrith's local authority is currently Eden District Council, which is based in the town. Penrith was formerly the seat of Penrith Urban and Rural District Councils. From 1974 to 2015, it was an unparished area with no town council of its own, but a civil parish was recreated in 2015, as Penrith Town Council. The first elections to it took place on 7 May 2015.

In 1618, Willis purchased the manor of Ashe in Hampshire from its previous owner, Andrew Holdip.

Hampshire County of England

Hampshire is a county on the southern coast of England. The county town is the city of Winchester. Its two largest cities, Southampton and Portsmouth, are administered separately as unitary authorities; the rest of the county is governed by Hampshire County Council.

On 2 March 1641, [lower-alpha 2] Willis the subject of this biography and his son Thomas were granted by Charles I the office of Clerk in Chancery, with reversion to his second son Valentine (then eight years old), the latter with power to act during his minority by deputy, to be appointed by his father. Willis was serving in this capacity when the English Civil War; he remained in London until August 1643, but was detained by royalist forces while visiting his estate in Hampshire and brought to Oxford, where he served the King until 1645. During this period, Parliament required the services of a Clerk in Chancery, and promoted Willis's deputy, John Bolles, to that status.

Charles I of England 17th-century monarch of kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland

Charles I was the monarch over the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution.

English Civil War Civil war in England (1642–1651)

The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of civil wars and political machinations between Parliamentarians ("Roundheads") and Royalists ("Cavaliers") principally over the manner of England's governance. The first (1642–1646) and second (1648–1649) wars pitted the supporters of King Charles I against the supporters of the Long Parliament, while the third (1649–1651) saw fighting between supporters of King Charles II and supporters of the Rump Parliament. The war ended with Parliamentarian victory at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

In 1645, following the King's defeat, Willis returned and submitted to Parliament, petitioning the House of Lords- and, upon the dissolution of that house on 19 March 1649, the House of Commons- for financial reimbursement of damages sustained to his estate by Parliamentary's forces, as well as funding for cancellation of debts resulting from this damage; he was required to take out mortgages, for which by this time he was liable to pay back, on his property at Ashe. The petition mentions that his annual fee as Clerk of the Crown was £66 13s. 4d.

House of Lords Upper house in the Parliament of the United Kingdom

The House of Lords, also known as the House of Peers and domestically usually referred to simply as the Lords, is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is granted by appointment or else by heredity or official function. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster. Officially, the full name of the house is the Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.

House of Commons of England parliament of England up to 1707

The House of Commons of England was the lower house of the Parliament of England from its development in the 14th century to the union of England and Scotland in 1707, when it was replaced by the House of Commons of Great Britain. In 1801, with the union of Great Britain and Ireland, that house was in turn replaced by the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.

In April 1654, the war having concluded in 1651, Willis tried to reclaim his position, but having been branded a delinquent by the Parliament, the office of Clerk in Chancery was granted to Nathaniel Taylor in 1655. Willis died the following year. By this time his son Thomas Willis had also died (on 2 March 1644), leaving his brother Valentine, to whom the office of Clerk in Chancery had been granted in reversion in 1641, to sue Taylor for possession of the position. After a protracted three-year dispute, Valentine Willis was admitted as Clerk of the Commonwealth in February 1660, and following the Restoration three months later, he was recognised as Clerk of the Crown.

Restoration (1660) 1660 restoration of the English, Irish, and Scottish monarcies

The Restoration was both a series of events in April–May 1660 and the period that followed it in British history. In 1660 the monarchy was restored to the kingdoms of England, Ireland and Scotland in the person of Charles II. The period that followed the Wars of the Three Kingdoms was officially declared an Interregnum.


Thomas Willis married Barbara Loker, the kinswoman and heir of Roger Loker; [lower-alpha 3] They had children:


  1. Thomas's brother Richard was the father of Thomas and Richard, who were each raised to the dignity of baronet, and were thus the ancestors of the two branches of the Willys baronets.
  2. All dates are given in the Julian calendar with the start of year adjusted to 1st January (see Old Style and New Style dates)
  3. According to the record of the birth of his elder son Thomas at Wield in Southampton on the 16 February 1617

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