BRANDLING, Robert (by 1498-1568), of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumb.

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

Family and Education

b. by 1498, 1st s. of John Brandling of Newcastle by Margaret, da. of Robert Heley of Yorks. m. Anne, da. of John Place of Halnaby, Yorks., wid. of John Ifield, 1da. suc. fa. 1522. Kntd. 1 Oct. 1547.2

Offices Held

Sheriff, Newcastle 1524-5, mayor 1531-2 or 3, 1536-7, 1543-4, 1547-8, 1564-5, alderman by 1539; gov. Newcastle merchant adventurers 1536, 1547, 1564; commr. chantries, Northumb., bpric. of Dur. and Newcastle 1548, relief from aliens, Newcastle 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553, reedifying castles and enclosing grounds upon borders 1555; j.p. Northumb. 1558/59-d.3


The Brandling family originated in northern Northumberland. Its fortunes in Newcastle seem to have been founded by Robert Brandling’s father, once sheriff and four times mayor, and governor of the Newcastle merchant adventurers, on whose death, in the words of a chancery bill, ‘great substance as well ready money, plates, jewels as merchandise and other goods’ came into the hands of his son and executor. Although it is difficult to assess the wealth of the Newcastle merchants of this time, Robert Brandling was one of the wealthiest and certainly the most illustrious of them.4

By 1520 Brandling had established himself in his profession; he had had the first of numerous apprentices attached to him and had already established trade with the Netherlands, where his brother Thomas was to domicile himself in Antwerp. As executor of his father’s will Brandling became involved with other Newcastle merchants in disputes with the neighbouring ecclesiastics. In a case in Chancery certain merchants were accused of breaking a contract made in June 1521 by which Thomas Strangways, comptroller of Wolsey’s household, was to provide them with 600 keels of coal for three successive years; Brandling himself was said to ‘have often and divers times refused to satisfy pay and recompense your orator of his great loss and damage which he hath sustained’. In another case of the mid 1520s Brandling demanded that a subpoena should be directed to the prior of Tynemouth to proceed no further in an action of debt against his father who had arbitrated in a dispute between the prior and the town of Newcastle.5

In 1524 Brandling began a long and prominent municipal career. While sheriff in that year he answered with Henry Anderson a petition made by the townsmen of Aideburgh, Suffolk, in which they claimed exemption as ancient demesne from customs which the merchants of Newcastle exacted. In 1526 he corresponded with the 3rd Duke of Norfolk about the detention by the Duke of Holstein of ships belonging to the town. At the time of the election of Brandling’s successor as mayor in 1532, dissension arose among the burgesses and the election was invalidated by reason of the insufficient number of electors. Brandling with other councilmen wrote to Cromwell for assistance and was kept in office until a fresh election could be held, a decision which probably gave rise to the doubt as to when his term of office had begun.6

Brandling established himself as a strong supporter of the central government in Newcastle. During his second mayoralty he was instrumental in securing the town against the rebels of 1536. The citizens wavered but he steadied them. Later, to prevent dissension in the town, Brandling reluctantly re-established the Observant Franciscans, and he further improved his position by punishing a heretic who had abjured his opinions before the bishop of Durham in 1531. William Blythman, a commissioner for the suppression of monasteries, reported favourably on Brandling’s actions. At the muster of Newcastle in 1539 Brandling was able to provide for the King’s service eight servants ‘well furnished in all points’ with bows, halberds, and harness ‘and more if need be’. During the ensuing wars with Scotland and France Brandling again figured prominently among the small group of merchants and councillors who supported the crown’s enterprises. As a merchant and shipowner he was busy supplying victuals, coal and transport for the armies and fleets.

In addition to accumulating wealth and holding many offices in his native town Brandling acquired extensive property in Northumberland and Durham.7

Brandling’s standing as a merchant and municipal magistrate, together with the favour in which he was held by the government, are sufficient to account for his return to Parliament in 1545; he had probably sat there before, at least in 1542, when an Act (34 and 35 Hen. VIII, no. 41) was passed in the second session for the naturalizing of his brother Thomas’s children. By 1547 his wealth and prestige made him the leading figure in Newcastle; in that year he entertained the Protector Somerset at his house in Bigg Market called the Great Inn and, after Pinkie, Somerset conferred a knighthood upon him at Newcastle. He was again returned for the town to the first Edwardian Parliament and in 1552, during its fourth and final session, the House of Commons exercised on his behalf its right to punish offences against its Members. On his way to this session Brandling and his servants were attacked at Topcliffe in Yorkshire by the servants of a personal enemy, Sir John Widdrington, assisted by Ralph Ellerker. On 15 Feb. Brandling made a complaint to the Commons and the House took action against this breach of privilege. Through the agency of the Duke of Northumberland as warden-general of the marches, certain of the offenders were brought before the House. Henry Widdrington, who confessed that he ‘began the fray upon Mr. Brandling’, was committed to the Tower; Ralph Ellerker also appeared before the House and was put in the custody of the serjeant-at-arms. The origin of the feud seems to be unknown, but it continued after this incident, for in 1555 the parties were referred to the arbitration of (Sir) Edward Hastings and others. The episode shows that at least on this occasion Brandling made the long journey to Westminster by land and not by sea. Brandling did not sit in Edward VI’s second Parliament, for which he might have felt little enthusiasm as about this time John Knox wrote sceptically of his support for the reformed religion.8

Brandling was twice returned for Newcastle in Mary’s reign. His religious views were doubtless acceptable to the regime, and it is not surprising that his name does not occur on lists of its opponents. In 1555 a letter of thanks was sent from the Privy Council to Brandling and the mayor of Newcastle for notifying them about a seditious book and causing a proclamation to be made in the parish church repressing it. He continued to serve on various commissions and in June 1557 he acted as an attorney before the Privy Council about civil dissension in Newcastle. He was to sit in one further Parliament, that of 1563, and although he was also mayor again, some mistrust of his religious views and advancing years may have reduced his public stature. He died in June 1568, apparently having deferred making a last will. A draft will dated January 1563 was discovered and, although at first its validity was challenged and letters of administration were granted on 20 Sept. 1568 to his three sisters, it was eventually proved in May 1569.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. J. Taylor


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference, Newcastle Merchant Adventurers, ii (Surtees Soc. ci), 187. Vis. Northumb, ed. Foster, 20; Vis. of the North, i. (Surtees Soc. cxxii), 160-2; Northumb. Co. Hist. xiii. 349; R. Welford, Newcastle and Gateshead, ii. 68.
  • 3. Arch. Ael. (ser. 4), xviii. 30-33, 35, 40; J. Brand, Newcastle , 240; Welford, ii. 121; CPR, 1548-9, p. 137; 1550-3, p. 394; 1553, pp. 47, 365; 1555-7, p. 54.
  • 4. Northumb. Co. Hist. loc. cit.; C1/575/13.
  • 5. Newcastle Merchant Adventurers, ii. 187-8, 205, 207-8, 210; Bronnen tot de Geschiedenis van den Handel met Engeland, Schotland en Ierland, ed. Smit, i. 270; C1/383/73, 575/13.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, iv, vi; C1/458/5; SP1/81/132; Welford, ii. 121, 128-30; Brand, 435-6, 738; Arch. Ael. (ser. 4), xviii. 31; E. Mackenzie, Newcastle, 614.
  • 7. M. H. and R. Dodds, Pilgrimage of Grace, i. 206-7; LP Hen. VIII, xi, xiv, xvi, xviii-xxi; Welford, ii. 182; Arch. Ael. (ser. 4), xxxix. 201; CSP Dom. 1601-3, Add. 1547-65, p. 367; Req.2/10/44; Newcastle Merchant Adventurers, ii. 163; APC, ii. 464; Northumb. and Dur. Deeds (Newcastle-upon-Tyne Recs. Committee, vii), 1; Brand, i. 427, Surtees, Dur. ii. 86; iii. 232; Northumb. Co. Hist. xii. 481, 491; xiii. 349.
  • 8. Welford, Men of Mark twixt Tyne and Tweed, i. 370-2; Newcastle Merchant Adventurers, i (ibid. xciii), 283-4; CJ, i. 18, 21-23; CPR, 1550-3, p. 294; APC, v. 193.
  • 9. APC, v. 153; vi. 96-97; CPR, 1555-7, p. 399; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 66; C142/152/116; Surtees Soc. xxi, 121; PCC 11 Sheffelde, ptd. Surtees Soc. cxxi, 35-38.