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Thomas Willis

Birthdate: (78)
Birthplace: Fenny Compton, Warwickshire
Death: Died in Thistleworth, Middlesex, England
Immediate Family:

Son of Richard Wyllys and Sarah Wyllys
Husband of Mary Tomlins
Father of Henry Willis; Reverend Thomas Willis; Elizabeth Knowles (Willis); Anthony Henry Willis; Robert Bills and 1 other

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About Thomas Willis


Thomas Willis of (Fenny Compton), co. Warwick, pleb. St. John's Coll., matric. 11 June, 1602, aged 19, B.A. 2 June, 1606, M.A. 21 June, 1609; perhaps incorporated at Cambridge 1619; schoolmaster at Isleworth, Middlesex, about 50 years; called Willis by Wood in Ath. iii. 406; father of Thomas Willis 1646, see page 1650. [30]


WILLIS, THOMAS (1582–1660?), schoolmaster, was the son of Richard Willis of Fenny Compton, Warwickshire, and of his wife, whose maiden name was Blount. He was born in 1582, matriculated from St. John's College, Oxford, on 11 June 1602, graduated B.A. on 2 June 1606 and M.A. on 21 June 1609, and was incorporated at Cambridge in 1619. On leaving college he became schoolmaster at Isleworth, and remained there teaching for about fifty years. He published two Latin schoolbooks, ‘Vestibulum Linguæ Latinæ,’ London, 1651, and ‘Phraseologia Anglo-Latina,’ London, 1655, published with the author's initials only. The latter work appeared also in the same year under the title of ‘Proteus Vinctus.’ It occasionally goes by the name of ‘Anglicisms Latinized,’ and some copies contain the three title-pages. Prefixed are some Latin dedicatory verses. In 1672 William Walker (1623–1684) [q. v.] republished Willis's book, reprinted the laudatory verses, omitting the headings ‘To Volentius,’ then adding his own ‘Parœmiologia Anglo-Latina; or a Collection of English and Latin Proverbs and Proverbial Sayings match'd together,’ and placed his name alone on the title-page. The whole book has in consequence been occasionally assigned to Walker. The true state of things is honestly explained in the preface.

Willis died about 1660. He married Mary Tomlyn of Gloucester, by whom he had two sons and two daughters.

The elder son, Thomas Willis (d. 1692), was educated first in his father's school and afterwards at St. John's College, Oxford, where he was created M.A. on 17 Dec. 1646, by virtue of the letters of Sir Thomas Fairfax. He was possibly the ‘Mr. Thomas Willis, minister, who was chaplain to the regiment of Col. Payne, part of the brigade under the command of Major-general Brown.’ In 1646 he was appointed minister of Twickenham in Middlesex, and was instituted on 8 Oct. In 1651 he had his stipend increased by 100l. a year from tithes belonging to the dean and canons of Windsor. He was one of the commissioners for the county of Middlesex and city of Westminster for the ejection of ignorant and scandalous ministers. In August 1660 the inhabitants of Twickenham petitioned parliament for his removal. In the petition he is described as not having been of either university, but ‘bred in New England,’ and not ‘a lawfully ordained minister.’ In 1661 he was deprived of the living, but afterwards conforming he was instituted to the rectory of Dunton in Buckinghamshire on 4 Feb. 1663, holding it in conjunction with the vicarage of Kingston-on-Thames, to which he was instituted on 21 Aug. 1671. At this time he was chaplain-in-ordinary to the king, and had been created D.D. in 1670. He died on 8 Oct. 1692, and was buried at Kingston, Surrey.

He was twice married. By his first wife, Elizabeth, he had four sons and one daughter; and by his second, Susanna, who survived him, three sons and one daughter. Calamy says that he was a good scholar, like his father, ‘a grave divine, a solid preacher, of a very good presence, and a man zealous for truth and order in the churches of Christ, of great holiness of life, of a public spirit and much fervour in his work, and great usefulness in the county of Middlesex.’

He published: 1. ‘A Warning to England; or a Prophecy of Perilous Times,’ London, 1659. 2. ‘Help for the Poor,’ 1665. 3. ‘The Excellency of Virtue disclosing itself in the Virtues of a Good Life,’ London, 1676. 4. ‘The Key of Knowledge,’ London, 1682. 5. ‘עדוה אל God's Court; wherein the dignity and duty of Judges and Magistrates is shew'd,’ London, 1683. [Visitation of Warwickshire (Harl. Soc. Publ.), xii. 311; Wood's Athenæ, ed. Bliss, iii. 406, iv. 698–9, Fasti, ed. Bliss, ii. 95, 326–7; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Cobbett's Memorials of Twickenham, pp. 110, 124, 188–9; Lysons's Environs, iii. 291–2; Palmer's Nonconformist's Memorial, ii. 470; Lipscomb's Buckinghamshire, iii. 343; Manning and Bray's Surrey, i. 394; Aubrey's Antiquities of Surrey, i. 25; Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. p. 128; Lords' Journals, viii. 514, ix. 627; P. C. C. 193, Fane.]


"Willis, Thomas, son of Richard of Fenny Compton county Warwick, matriculated, St. John's College, 11 June 1602, aged 19 (as Willes), B. A. 2 June 1606, M. A. 21 June 1609 (as Willes), incorporated at Cambridge 1619, schoolmaster at Thistleworth (Isleworth), Middlesex." He married Mary, daughter of Tomlins of Gloucestershire, a sister of the Rev. Samuel Tomlins and his brothers Edward and Timothy. The Rev. Samuel Tomlins was minister of Northaw, in county Hertford, made his will 23 July 1661, which will was proved 11 October 1661.

To Lynn, Massachusetts, came Mr. Thomas Willis of Thistleworth, (Isleworth) schoolmaster, who married Mary, daughter of Tomlins, of Gloucestershire." It was in the year 1630, when Mr. Willis arrived at Lynn, Mass., with his sons Thomas and Henry; it is probable his two daughters came with him, as the Rev. John Knowles' wife Elizabeth (Willis) his wife, settled at Watertown, Mass. Elizabeth inherited her father's estate at Lynn, which the records show "was sold to Isaac Hart, (500 acres) by the Rev. John Knowles (of Watertown) and his wife Elizabeth, the daughter of Mr. Willis."

An old record at Lynn, states as follows: "Mr. Thomas Willis was of Lynn 1630, a member of the General Court, May 14, 1634, when delegates, instead of the whole body of commoners, first composed the Court; yet he is not recorded as having taken the freeman's oath before May 14, 1639. (The freeman's oath was taken at the same time by Mr. Edward Howell who founded Southampton L. I.) In June 1639, Mr. Willis was appointed by the General Court a member of Salem particular Court, to act with the Magistrates and was reappointed to the same office May 13, 1640 and June 2, 1641." "He had a grant of land in 1638, in the town (Lynn), 500 acres, none of the inhabitants have more." In the year 1642, Mr. Willis with others received a grant from the Plymouth Colony and founded Sandwich, Mass. This land, with other property, was inherited by his son Henry.

The reason for Mr. Willis coming to Massachusetts is thought to have been his leaning to Puritanism and so driven from his home, by the persecution of that sect. When the activity against the Puritans became relaxed, he returned to England. He was a man of great learning and probably had a considerable estate.

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Thomas Willis's Timeline

Fenny Compton, Warwickshire
Age 20
July 13, 1605
Age 23
Wiltshire, England
Age 36
Age 37
Isleworth, Middlesex
Age 39
Lancashire, England, (Present UK)
Age 78
Thistleworth, Middlesex, England