Saturday, August 23, 2008

Question from Margaret - Comptroller and Surveyor at Woodstock

"Comptroller of the King's Works and Surveyor of the Manor of Woodstock" - One of my ancestors (Owen Whitton) was appointed to this position in 1523 (he died 1554). I would love to know what this entailed.
He was also a yeoman usher of the King's Chamber. Would he have held this position first then been promoted to comptroller? or could one be both at the same time?
Is he likely to have been at Woodstock all the time, or would he have been with the King?

1 comment:

PhD Historian said...

The Comptroller of the King's Works was a member of the Royal Household who oversaw the financial aspects of the building of structures (houses, castles, fortifications, etc.) for the king on all of his many properties throughout the realm. Think of the job as Chief Financial Officer for The King's Construction Company.

The Surveyor of the Manor of Woodstock was a local office and focused on that one manor alone. He was in charge of the day-to-day physical maintenance of the estate, both the lands, which included an ancient hunting forest, and the structure of the Palace of Woodstock (a separate officeholder would have managed the operation of the palace household). The Surveyor would have had a Comptroller of the Manor working under him. It did not require full-time presence at Woodstock. It is noteworthy that Woodstock, now the site of Blenheim Palace, was in a delapidated state when your ancestor was Surveyor, so the job probably entailed very little real work.

KB can probably describe the position of Yeoman Usher better than I can, but this was a job that gave your ancestor fairly close access to the king. If I am not mistaken, it entailed some degree of control over who did and who did not gain an audience with the king ... a job that could make its holder wealthy through the paying of bribes by access seekers.

Persons holding offices in the Tudor period almost always held multiple offices. Your ancestor could easily have held all three offices at the same time. In all likelihood, he remained close to the king as Yeoman Usher whenever possible, as this offered the most prestige and opportunity for gaining still more offices. His duties as Comptroller and Surveyor were probably carried out by deputies much of the time.