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Thomas Warde (d. 1538)
Born: circa 1480
Porter of the Outer Gate of Windsor Castle
d: 24th July 1538 in Winkfield, Berkshire

Thomas was the son of Thomas Warde Senior, a London merchant (and third son of Sir Christopher Warde of Givendale, Yorkshire), by Elizabeth, daughter of William Cunnington from Huntingdonshire. It is said that his parents had fourteen sons, but that he was the only one to reach adulthood.

About the time of his marriage to Maud, the daughter of Thomas Moore of Bourton in Buckinghamshire, Thomas Junior made his way to the Royal court and, in 1509, managed to secure the position of Yeoman Harbinger to King Henry VIII. He held this post until his death, overseeing the needs of the King and his retinue when they travelled around the country and lodged outside the Royal palaces. Two years later, he was rewarded for his endeavors with a Royal grant of thirteen tenements with gardens previously belonging to the attainted Sir Richard Charleton. They were located in southern Holborn “opposite the Bishop of Ely's mansion, and abutting on Fetter Lane” and held a yearly value of £5. In May of the same year, Thomas first began his long connection with Berkshire when, by a privy seal dated at Greenwich, the King granted to him and William Norborough, the office of Porter of Wallingford Castle. Another in the October, granted him £5 per annum from the lordship of Denbigh in North Wales.

By now Thomas was something of a rising star in the Royal Household and, in 1515, the King had appointed him to the much more prestigious post of Keeper of the Outer Gate of Windsor Castle, where the Royal household often resided. In this capacity, he attended the Duke of Buckingham when he stopped at the castle under arrest and on his way to London in 1521. It was Thomas' evasive answers to the Duke's questions which made him realise his fate was sealed. He was executed soon afterward for the supposed crime of wishing the King dead.

Thomas had rented Hurst Grange from Abingdon Abbey from 1518 and three years later, the King granted to him, George Dudworth and Robert Cely, lands in the parish of Amersham in Buckinghamshire, lately belonging to Thomas Barnard and other heretics. So Thomas had obviously become a trusted member of the new Church of England. The following year, he became bailiff of the manor there. He almost certainly also owned lands in Berkshire by this time as well, possibly at Waltham St. Lawrence where he is known to have resided at one time. Later he certainly owned land in Windsor, Winkfield and White Waltham. By 1523, Thomas was making something of a name for himself locally, being appointed commissioner for collecting the Berkshire subsidies in both that year and the next; MP for Windsor in 1529; and Escheator of Oxfordshire and Berkshire in 1531, reporting to the Exchequer concerning ownerless land in the counties. In 1528, he had also become Controller of the Works at the Castle and, by 1531, Keeper of the Butts and the Armoury as well. The Privy Purse Expenses record a number of payments to him for new archery butts and pricks. From 1524, Thomas lived at Chawridge Manor in Winkfield where he acted as receiver for St. John's College, Cambridge but, after eleven years, he moved into Cranbourne Lodge when he was made Keeper of the surrounding Royal chase. Thomas had also been a local Justice of the Peace since 1526, a position which drew him into the notorious case of the Windsor Martyrs.

In 1543, Robert Testwood, a lay clerk of the choir at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, got himself into considerable trouble for his extreme protestant views. This was a period when, despite the break with Rome, churches in England remained essentially Catholic in nature. Testwood, however, had other ideas. He reprimanded pilgrims at the castle chapel for making offerings to the saints and even knocked off the nose of the statue of the Virgin Mary there! The crowd turned into an angry mob and a number of the canons threatened to kill him. He was forced to flee to his home where he shut himself up in fear for his life. However, when the canons became aware that he was preparing to send a letter to the Vicar-General, the dreaded Thomas Cromwell, they became keen for reconciliation. They twice sent for him to meet with them but he would not leave his house. So, eventually, they send for "old Master Ward, a justice of peace, dwelling three or four miles off”. Warde was very reluctant to interfere in such dangerous matters, but was persuaded to visit Testwood and eventually coaxed him into leaving his home with a promise of the JP’s personal protection. However, on their way to the Chapter House, one of the canons’ servants attacked Testwood with a knife and only Thomas Warde’s harsh words prevented bloodshed. Thanks to Thomas the meeting was successful and peace was restored but, ultimately, it could not hope to stem the swell of antagonism building against Testwood and other Protestants in the town. Within a few months Testwood and two others were burnt as heretics.

Shortly before his death on 24th July 1538, Thomas obtained a grant of the manor of Windsor Underore, below the castle, which had been the property of Reading Abbey. He was buried in Winkfield Church and amongst those attending his funeral were his own chaplain, Richard Gibson, and his friends, Sir John Norreys of Yattendon (and formerly Ockwells) and Thomas and Richard Weldon of Cookham and Bray. Thomas left a considerable fortune to his only son, Richard (later Sir Richard Warde MP), who was, soon afterwards, able to purchase the manors of Winkfield and Hurst.


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