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Last Updated Feb 2001



Crest: The old crest of the Wise's of Sydenham, England, was a mermaid proper. The arms, crest and motto of Devonshire, England,England Wise's were granted John Wise of Sydenham in 1400. These are recorded by Henry St. George in his " Visitation of Devonshire, 1620".

The arm are:

Arms: Sable, three chevronels ermine

Crest: A demi-lion rampant gules, guttee argent, holding in his paws a regal mace

MOTTO: "Sapere aude" (Dare to be wise).

Lions (argent) Silver (English)

Lerk (argent) Silver (Scottish)

Tulips Red (Dutch)

This was from the book Col. John Wise of England and Virginia (1617-1695)

(I kept the spelling the same, as it was in the book)

The significance of the three chevronels on the sable shield has ever represented the fact that three great families of Wises rose into prominence in Devonshire, these heraldic figures standing for the gables of three roofs, or separate houses, from the same general stock. Whether the three families of Wise were those of Sir John Wise of "Totness," Sir Thomas Wise of "Mount Wise" and "Sydenham," and William Wise of "Cudleston," who were contemporaries in the time of James I., and heads of the three branches sprung from James Wise of "Sydenham" (Henry VIII), or whether, as heretofore suggested, the three families were the ancient branches of Oliver, Sir John, and Henry, who were sons of Serlonius Wise (1100-1200 A.D.), is not clear. It is probable, however, that the three families indicated were the contemporary branches at the time the arms were granted.

We have seen that James Wise of "Sydenham" and Alicia Dynham, daughter of John Dynham of Wortham, had four sons--John, Sir William, Sir Rychard, and George.

The descendants of Sir William Wise, and his brother George, are not known, Rychard Wise became Sir Rychard Wise of "Cudleston," who inserted a star in the family arms. His son was John Wise of "Cudleston." Of his two sons, John and William, there is no record of the elder, who was the legal heir and namesake of his father. His brother William inherited the estate of "Cudleston," and it is possible that John migrated to America in 1635. The descendants of William of "Cudleston" became the Wises of "Gilsdon," who died out in the third generation, of which Matthew Wise of "The Priory," Co. Warwick, who died in 1776, Henry Wise of "Hampton Court, who died in 1706, and John Wise of "Brompton," their brother, were the male members.

The elder brother of Sir William, Sir Rychard, and George--John Wise of "Sydenham"--married Alicia, daughter of John Harris of Hayne, Sergeant at Law, and had issue: John Wise of "Totness," Nicholas, James, Charles, Erkenbold or Arkenold, Thomas of "Sydenham," and five daughters--Elizabeth, Alice, Dorothy, Mary, and Anne.

John Wise of "Totness," first son of John Wise and Alicia Harris, married Emmota, daughter of Richard Vavasour of "Hazlewood," and had issue: William Wise of "Totness," born 1560, died 1626; Samuel, Christopher, and Henry. William of "Totness" married Friswida, and had two sons--John Wise of "Totness," who died September 6, 1670, William, of whom nothing is know--and three daughters. John Wise of "Totness" married Susannah, daughter of Samuel Prestwood, and his son John Wise of "Totness," by his second wife, Dorothy Brookings, perpetuated the line through a younger son, Samuel of "Totness" and Barnstaple," from whom was descended the late Vice-Admiral Wise, of the British Navy, and Maj. Lewis Lovatt Ayshford Wise, now of "Mayhurst," Maybury Hill Woking, who has two unmarried daughters, Elfrida, born in 1875, and Elsa Muriel, born in 1878. With the death of Major Wise will cease to exist the name of Wise in England. Such is the tragedy of a name that has been honored in England for ten centuries.

The second John Wise of "Totness" had, as we have seen, three brothers--Samuel, whose descendants are known, but whose line apparently died out in the first generation; Henry, who died in 1622; and Christopher. Nothing is known of the last nor of his nephews, Nicholas and Christopher, sons of Samuel. It may be that the Nicholas Wise of Lower Norfolk County, Virginia, 1660 and that the Christopher Wise, of the Barbadoes, in 1665, are thus accounted for.

One of the brothers of John Wise of "Totness" was Thomas Wise of :Sydenham," who married Mary, daughter of Richard Buller of "Shillingham," Co. Cornwall. Their only recorded son was Sir Thomas Wise, K.B., M.P., of "Sydenham" and "Mount Wise." who married Margaret, daughter of Robert Stowford of Stowford, Co. Devon. He was created a knight of the Bath at the coronation of James I, was High Sheriff of Devon in 1612, and represented Beeralston in Parliament in 1620. He built for his residence a "fair house" at Mount Wise, on one of the beautiful headlands, jutting out into Plymouth Bay, in the parish of Stoke Damarel, on the lands, which had come into the family through his ancestress--Margaret Britt, Besides building the "beautious Mount Wise," he also built "Sydenham House." The latter, say Westcote, "is the seat of the knightly and dignious family of Wise, and beautified with buildings of such height, as the very foundations are ready to reel under the burthen."

"Sydenham House," which is a fine example of the domestic architecture of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, is built in the form of the letter "E," a compliment often paid to the Queen by builders of that period. It lies in a valley, and is surrounded by a wall, access being afforded to the court through a pair of very high open-work iron gates. Above the central doorway, within a niche, are the arms of Wise, Sa, three chevronels, Erm. "It is to be regretted that that the gable to the right of the entrance,: says Worthy, "has been despoiled of its transom windows, for which common modern sashes have been substituted; those remaining prove that the original windows must have been very large and handsome.

"The hall bears the date 1658, when the house was repaired in consequence of the injuries it had received during the Civil War, when having been garrisoned for the King, it was taken after a siege by Parliamentary forces under Colonel Holbourne, in January, 1645. One gable of the building is in a very ruinous condition and there is a tradition that it was never finished; but this is improbable and I imagine that the family having suffered so much in the late troubles, could not afford to restore the whole house to its original condition, and that the dilapidated state of this portion of the structure is probably due to the storm it experienced in behalf of royalty. There is a great deal of oak panelling in the various rooms, and in one of them the wainscot conceals a flight of winding stairs constructed in the thickness of the wall, and leading to the top of the house being also a quantity of ancient furniture, and a large number of family pictures reain on its walls" ("Devonshire Parishes," Charles Worthy, Vol. pp. 173, 174).

Among the portraits referred to are those of the nine daughters of the second Sir Thomas Wise, including Mary, who married Sir Samuel Rolle, and their mother, Margaret, daughter of Edward, Viscount Chichester of Carrickfergus, and her daughter-in-law, Arabella, wife of Sir Edward Wise. A photographic copy of the portrait of the second Sir Thomas Wise is among the papers of the late John Sergeant Wise of Virginia and New York, and shows him to have been a strikingly handsome man.

The first Sir Thomas Wise died in 1629. His son, Sir Thomas Wise of "Sydenham" and "Mount Wise," married Lady Mary, daughter of Edward, Viscount Chichester, Earl of Donegal.

The members of the family of Wise were devoted adherents to the royal cause during the great rebellion, and suffered much for their loyalty by fine, sequestration, and imprisonment. But although the elections of 1640 ran in favor of the popular party, the second Sir Thomas Wise, who was Sheriff of Devon in 1638-9, retained sufficient influence to be returned as the representative of his county in the memorable Long Parliament.

His son was Sir Edward Wise, who was born in 1632, and died in 1695. He was a member of the Oakhampton Convention Parliament, and was created a Knight of the Bath in 1661. In 1651 he married Arabella, daughter of Oliver St. John, eldest son of the Earl of Bolinbroke. In 1667 he sold "Mount Wise" to Sir William Morice, and died in 1673. Sir Edward Wise had two sons, St. John and Thomas, who died without issue, and thus ended the "Sydenham" branch of the family about the same time that the "Cudleston" branch died out leaving only the "Totness" branch, of which we have seen there is but one male survivor.

"Sydenham" passed to Edmund Tremayne of Collacombe, who married Arabella Wise, sister of the said St. John and Thomas, and from him back to the "Totness" branch of the Wise.

We now return to Nicholas, James, Charles, and Erkenbold or Arkenold Wise, sons of John Wise and Alicia Harris, and brothers of John Wise of "Totness," and Thomas Wise of "Sydenham," whose lines we have traced. As in the case of their uncles, George Wise and Sir William Wise, no record of their descendants exists, and the various emigrants to America my have been their grandsons. A Nicholas Wise appeared in the Lower Norfolk Count, Virginia, about 1660, a Joseph Wise in Massachusetts, and an Abraham and Christopher Wise in the Barbadoes about the same time, and John Wise in Virginia in 1635. It would seem that the political disturbances in England, in which the Wises were deeply involved, had something to do with the migration of the younger sons.

In concluding this sketch of the Wise family in England, it is proper to refer to the Irish family of Wyse, which uses the same arms as the Devon family of Wise.

Sir Thomas Wyse, K. C. B., M. P., of Waterford, Ireland, who was British Minister to Athens, and a prominent Catholic leader, married Letitia, the daughter of Lucien Bonaparte. She was born December 1, 1804. She was soon separated from from her husband, but left a son, Lucien Napoleon Bonaparte Wyse, and a daughter, Maria Bonaparte Wyse. Lucien Napoleon Bonaparte Wise of the French Navy was a celebrated engineer, and the principal assistant of de Lessups in the Panama Canal operations, of the French. From him was descended Colonel Wyse, U.S. Army, whose daughter is now the wife of Admiral Benson, Chief of Operations, U. S. Navy, The American Wyses also use the same arms as the Wises of Devon, but surmounted with the French Imperial Crest.

Maria Bonaparte Wyse, whose salon was celebrated during the second Empire, married: First, Prince de Salms: second, Urbain Rattazzi, the Italian statesman: and, third, Senor de Tuto, a Spaniard. Frederick Harrison, in his delightful memoirs, refers to her as a "most remarkable woman," and that indeed she was.