APLEY, Robert (by 1519-96), of Barnstaple, Devon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1519, s. of one Apley (d. by 1556) of Barnstaple. m. (1) by 1540, Agnes (d. Feb. 1555), 1s.; (2) May 1555, Kate Manning, wid. (d.1585); (3) Dorothy (d.1666); at least 3 other s. 6da.1

Offices Held

Alderman, Barnstaple by 1550-d., mayor 1554-5, 1582-3, chamberlain 1583.2


Throughout his long life Robert Apley, a merchant of Barnstaple, took a prominent part in the affairs of that town. From 1540 he was entrusted with confidential business by the mayor and aldermen and travelled frequently to London on municipal business. The surviving fragments of his official correspondence reveal a diligent and conscientious man. He was one of the parishioners who surrendered the church furnishings to the Edwardian commissioners, and with another merchant he purchased on behalf of the mayor and council the former chantry property in the town from Roger Prideaux and his uncle Nicholas Prideaux.3

Nothing is known of the part which Apley played during the Parliament of November 1554 save that he was not one of the Members who withdrew from it without leave before its dissolution, but in the course of the following one he and his fellow-Member, George Stapleton, were notably active. They settled arrears of £4 2s.3d. owing for the market, saw to it that the confirmation of the town’s charter was enrolled, initiated a defence to a lawsuit by Lord Rich, approached Cardinal Pole for the foundation of a grammar school and gained the support of prominent officials for that cause, and discussed a number of other topics with Sir William Paulet, Marquess of Winchester, Sir William Petre and (Sir) John Baker I. The gifts and entertainment involved amounted to £80, which they raised from their own pockets or on credit, ‘to the no little hindrance of us in our trades and also loss, and also the sustaining displeasure of gentlemen and men of worship’. They presumed that their wages and expenses would be paid on their return, but in this they were disappointed and in 1556 they wrote to complain of their shabby treatment, which led them to the conclusion that in future they would be sure of their wages before they undertook to serve. Apley, at least, seems to have got his money because in the following year he went to London on behalf of the town, but he was not elected one of its Members again until the second Parliament of Elizabeth. He died on 25 Nov. 1596.4

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. N. Devon Athenaeum, Barnstaple, 557; D. Drake ms ‘MPs Barnstaple’ 27; PCC 61 Cobham; C142/216/23.
  • 2. T. Wainwright, Barnstaple Recs. i. 43.
  • 3. N. Devon Athenaeum, 46/509; 552;840.
  • 4. N. Devon Athenaeum, 1135; 1139.