HESKETH, Robert (1560-1620), of Rufford and Martholme, Lancs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

bap. 20 Jan. 1560 at Whalley, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Hesketh of Rufford and Martholme by Alice, da. of Sir John Holcroft. m. (1) Mary (d. 21 July 1586), da. of Sir George Stanley of Crosse Hall, 4s.; (2) Blanche, da. of Henry Twiford of Kenwick, Salop, wid. of William Stopford, s.p.; (3) Jane, da. of Thomas Spencer of Rufford, 1s. 1s. illegit. suc. fa. 20 June 1588.1

Offices Held

J.p. Lancs. from c.1592, sheriff 1599-1600, 1607-8, commr. musters 1600.2


The Heskeths of Rufford, Martholme and Great Harwood were an ancient Lancashire family. Hesketh’s father (imprisoned in 1581), and his brothers Thomas and Richard were recusants, the latter being executed in 1593. Hesketh himself took a turn as knight of the shire in 1597, and as a justice of the peace and sheriff he presumably conformed to the point of taking the oath of supremacy. He is not mentioned by name in the journals of the House, but was appointed to the following committees as a knight of the shire: enclosures (5 Nov.), the poor law (5, 22 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), penal laws (8 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.) and the subsidy (15 Nov.).3

As sheriff of Lancashire Hesketh was, despite his Catholic connexions, commended by the Privy Council and by the bishop of Chester for his energetic pursuit of recusants. He was ‘so much the more to be esteemed because few in these parts do so sincerely affect the present proceedings, or so zealously bend themselves against those popish pioneers’. He was responsible for the capture of two seminary priests, and received £25 for conveying them to London. In 1601 he was required to furnish one light horse for Ireland.4

Hesketh owned property at Rufford, Holmes, Holmeswood, Martholme, Great Harwood, Howicke and Betton. He inherited the family residence at Martholme, a two-storied stone house which his father had rebuilt. In his will, dated 8 Sept. 1620, Hesketh expressed the wish to be buried in the chancel of the chapel at Rufford, ‘as near to my father as may be’. To his third wife, his sole executrix, he left houses and lands at Martholme, lands at Harwood and Tottlesworth and the right to ‘dig and delve’ for coal and other minerals. Mathew Dodsworth, Thomas Stanley, Richard Shuttlesworth and his son-in-law Roger Dodsworth were made overseers, each receiving a horse. No ‘blacks’ were to be given to his children, but he wished the poor people ‘to have cloaks and gowns to pray for me’. He died on 7 Nov. 1620.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N.M.S.


  • 1. Vis. Lancs. 1664-5 (Chetham Soc. lxxxii), ii. 135; Abram, Blackburn , 535-6.
  • 2. HMC Hatfield, xviii. 48; APC, xxxi. 223.
  • 3. DNB (Hesketh, Richard); Abram, 53, 55, 532; Gillow, Burghley’s Map of Lancs. 27. Thomas Hesketh is said to have had a cross against his name on Burghley’s map, which means that he was considered especially dangerous. However, he died in 1588 and the map was dated 1590. Stanley Pprs. (Chetham Soc. xxxi), 126; D’Ewes, 552, 553, 555, 557, 561.
  • 4. APC, xxx. 321, 751; xxxii. 283; HMC Hatfield, x. 153-4.
  • 5. Vis. Lancs. 135; Abram, 538-9; Lancs. and Cheshire Wills (Chetham Soc. n.s. xxviii), 21.