ELLERKER, Sir Robert (by 1500-65/66), of Hulne Park, Northumb.
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Family and Education
Chamberlain, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumb. 1532-61; j.p. Northumb. 1537-60, q. 1561-?d.; sheriff 1556-7; commr. musters 1539, for enclosure upon the east march 1553.2
Robert Ellerker, probably the fifth younger brother of Sir Ralph Ellerker, seems to have been the first of his family to settle in Northumberland. He started his career in the service of Lord Darcy; in June 1521 he is mentioned as a gentleman in Darcy’s household and during the border warfare of 1523 as a captain in Darcy’s retinue. Ten years later he began his long service with the crown when he became joint chamberlain of Berwick, a post he was later to hold alone. Shortly after this he was knighted, perhaps at Anne Boleyn’s coronation, for he was so styled in a Star Chamber case in May 1534.3
Ellerker’s settlement in Northumberland was doubtless connected with his marriage shortly after 1531 to his kinswoman the widow of Sir Edward Grey: a list of fee’d gentlemen probably drawn up between 1537 and 1540 records that Ellerker ‘may dispend 100 marks yearly in the right of his wife of Mr. Grey’s lands’, and in 1541 he became guardian of his stepson Ralph, who was still a minor. It was his support of the Greys in their feud with Nicholas Horsley which brought Ellerker into the Star Chamber in 1534 on charges of stealing animals and fish from Horsley and molesting his tenants, yet when in the following year the King ordered that an accusation of partiality against the 5th Earl of Northumberland should be investigated by the justices of assize or three ‘indifferent men’ Ellerker was one of those chosen. On the outbreak of the Pilgrimage of Grace he took a stand against the rebels uncharacteristic of the gentry of Northumberland: ignoring Sir Ingram Percy’s order to take the rebels’ oath, he organized resistance from the Greys’ castle of Chillingham and sought to win the support of the captain of Berwick Sir Thomas Clifford. In 1537 became a fee’d servant of the crown and in the list of these he was commended as ‘a true man a good borderer and well minded to justice’. His position was strengthened by grants of ex-monastic property in Northumberland, chief among them that of the Black Friars’ house of Hulne Park, with two water mills and burgages and rents in Alnmouth, Alnwick and Howick, which he received in 1539.4
Ellerker’s record during the Scottish wars of the next 20 years was marred by his neglect of his duties at Berwick. First noticed in August 1543, his frequent absences were to incur pecuniary sanctions and the threat of dismissal: orders to return had to be repeated in 1551, 1554 and 1556. It may be that Ellerker wanted to play a more active role. When in 1544 he carried a letter from the Earl of Hertford to the Privy Council he asked to be given the command of some of the northern troops in the coming expedition to France: it is not known whether he got his wish but he was paid for conducting from Berwick to London 200 horsemen destined for France.5
As As sheriff of Northumberland in 1556-7 he had to contend with the bitter Carr-Heron feud which reached a climax in an affray at Ford castle in which the mayor and treasurer of Berwick were killed. Lord Wharton, warden of the marches, reported that George Heron and his friends, who included the Forsters and the Greys, regarded Ellerker as taking the side of the Carrs, and Ellerker certainly had a quarrel of his own with Sir John Forster over one of his mills at Alnwick. Although the division in the county must have entered into the election to the Parliament of 1558, it is likely that Ellerker’s return on that occasion owed something to his successor as sheriff, his ex-ward Ralph Grey, a member of the opposing faction.6
Ellerker found it difficult to accommodate himself to the government of Elizabeth. In 1561 he relinquished the chamberlainship of Berwick in return for an annuity of £20. In 1564 the bishop of Durham passed on to the Council Sir John Forster’s judgment of Ellerker as ‘a very papist and altogether unlearned’, but he was retained as a quorum member of the commission of the peace issued in that year. There are signs that with the weakening of his ties with the crown he attached himself to Thomas Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland, against the new generation of royal agents in the north. In 1562 he was in receipt of annuities of £6 13s.4d. and 25s.5d. from the earl: such annuities were generally granted to persons in the earl’s service and although Ellerker is not known to have been one of these he was to include in his will a request that the earl would receive his son William as a servant.7
Ellerker made his will on 6 Sept. 1565 and probably died soon afterwards; the will bears no indication of probate, but he was certainly dead before 23 Sept. 1566. He asked to be buried in Alnwick church, and among numerous bequests to his kin he left the house at Hulne, his leases of the tithe corns and sheaves of Ewart, Lilburn and Nesbit, and certain lands in Felkington to William, and his landed interest in Chillingham, Newton and Rivelty to his other son Robert. He appointed Robert Horsley of Acklington Park and Ralph Collingwood of Whittingham his supervisors.8
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: M. J. Taylor
- 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Yorks. (Harl. Soc. xvi), 109; Arch. Ael. (ser. 4), xiv. 131-2.
- 2. LP Hen. VIII, v, xiii, xiv; CPR, 1547-8, p. 87; 1553-4, p. 22; 1560-3, pp. 341, 441; Stowe 571, f. 47; Hodgson, Northumb. i. 362.
- 3. LP Hen. VIII, ii; St.Ch.2/21/66.
- 4. Northumb. Co. Hist. xi. 119; xiv. 309, 328, 332; Hodgson, i. 347; ii(1), 68n; HMC Bath, iv. 46; St.Ch.2/21/66; LP Hen. VIII, ix, xii, xiii, xv, xxi; G. Tate, Alnwick, ii. 56-57; Percy Bailiff Rolls (Surtees Soc. cxxxiv), 108.
- 5. HMC Bath, iv. 34, 46, 52, 71, 73; LP Hen. VIII, xviii, xix; APC, iii. 474; v. 96, 264; J. Scott, Berwick, 138.
- 6. Northumb. Co. Hist. xi. 388; E. Lodge, Illustrations, i. 279, 285; HMC Shrewsbury and Talbot, ii. 22, 50-51.
- 7. CPR, 1560-3, p. 341; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 66; Northumberland Estate Accts. (Surtees Soc. clxiii), pp. lii, 45.
- 8. Wills and Inventories, iii (Surtees Soc. cxii), 32-33; CPR, 1563-6, p. 465.