Thame Local History
Isobel Williams, daughter of Sir John Williams, married Sir Richard Wenman,
a wealthy wool merchant from Witney.
The name Wenman is said to derive from the family's early associations with wool wagons, or wains. The family was among many sixteenth century yeoman traders who rose to great wealth and power through the wool trade.
Sir Richard and Isobel Wenman moved into Thame Park. Thame Park House consisted at this time of the Abbot's lodging and the somewhat delapidated ancient Abbey. Parts of the east wing of the house, adjoining the Abbot's lodging, date from the sixteenth century.
Sir Richard's grandson, also called Richard Wenman, saw military service on behalf of Queen Elizabeth, and for this he too was knighted, at Cadiz in 1596.
In the wake of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 both Sir Richard Wenman and his wife Agnes were questioned on their part in the conspiracy. No action was taken, as it appears that Agnes Wenman may have had several innocent dealings with Roman Catholics involved on the margins of the plot to assassinate the King and Parliament.
In fact, under Charles I in 1628 Sir Richard was created the first Viscount Wenman.
The second Viscount Wenman had different allegiances. He died in a reduced state of finances in 1664. Thame Park had been commandeered by the Royalist Cavaliers during the Civil War due to the Viscount's support for the Parliamentary cause.
The Wenman dynasty was preserved at Thame Park when the daughter of the second Viscount married her cousin, Sir Francis Wenman, who took up residence there.
Sir Francis Wenman was a man of considerable wealth, for in 1660 he was amongst those who offered to contribute £2000 to the Order of the Royal Oak, being set up by King Charles II.
Over the next three or four generations, the Wenmans of Thame Park were engaged in something of a social rivalry with the Bertie's of Rycote, a mile or so away.
Rycote Palace was a spectacular Tudor residence, and plans were laid to create a grand residence at Thame Park, in the style of the time.
Philip Wenman, the sixth Viscount, added a grand Palladian frontage to the house at Thame Park, and this was begun in 1745, to the design of Francis Smith of Warwick. It was at this time that the remains of the Cistercian Abbey were pulled down.
Ironically, this year saw a fire at Rycote Palace that destroyed much of its grandeur.
In 1754 the sixth Viscount Wenman contested the famous General Election in Oxfordshire, at which the ruling Whigs challenged the Tories in their heartlands. The Wenmans had long represented the county in Parliament as Tories, but in 1754 there was a Whig victory in Oxfordshire.