HORSLEY, Robert (by 1509-65 or later), of Acklington, Northumb.

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



Apr. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1509, poss. s. of Thomas Horsley. educ. L. Inn, adm. 30 Nov. 1523.2

Offices Held

Keeper of the gates and steward, Warkworth castle, Northumb. Jan. 1532-?d., bailiff by 1562, j.p. Northumb. 1538, 1547, q. 1553; custos rot. Northumb. c.1547; keeper, Acklington park, Northumb. by 1553; constable, Langley castle, Northumb. by 1553; commr. goods of churches and fraternities 1553.3


Robert Horsley does not appear in the pedigree of the main line of the Horsley family, which begins with Sir John Horsley, father of Cuthbert Horsley. Likewise unmentioned is the Thomas Horsley who was captain of Warkworth and escheator of Northumberland: as Robert Horsley was himself to hold office at Warkworth, he was perhaps Thomas Horsley’s son.4

Horsley may have spent several years at Lincoln’s Inn, where in 1350-1 one ‘Horsele’ paid 12d. ‘for keeping court in the hall with Mr. Brewse in vacation to the disturbance of the society’, but he was back in the north by, or soon after, January 1532 when the 5th Earl of Northumberland appointed him keeper of the gates of Warkworth castle, steward of the castle and superintendent of the park paling. He was there in 1533 when he paid for forage for the Scottish ambassadors who spent some time at Warkworth, and he was still steward ten years later, after the Percys’ downfall. In 1538, the year in which he was put on the Northumberland bench, he and two others reported on the royal fortress of Dunstanburgh; he made a further survey of the castle in 1543. He was one of those who took the deposition of Edward Bradford on the Clifford-Grey feud which followed the murder of John Ainsley, captain of Norham castle.5

From 1541 Horsley was active in preparing and taking part in the war with Scotland. In November 1542 he kept the night watch at Fenton Nesbit, near Wooler, and in August 1543 he and three others commanded a division ready to enter Scotland by the eastern route. That year also saw him fitting out Warkworth as a residence for Baron Parr as warden of the middle marches, as well as surveying the Moot Hall at Embleton. From 1546 until at least 1552 he was concerned with the supply of labour and victuals at Berwick.6

Nothing has come to light about Horsley’s attitude towards the political and religious changes of the years after 1547, and the matter is further obscured by his disappearance from the bench under both Mary and Elizabeth. As a knight of the shire in Mary’s second Parliament he took the place occupied in both the preceding and succeeding Parliaments by Cuthbert Horsley, but how far the family interest was at work it is hard to say. There is a glimpse of friction between him and Thomas Wharton I, 1st Baron Wharton, the warden of the marches, in a statement of July 1557 that he would be discharged of a recognizance if he were ‘henceforth of good abearing toward Lord Wharton and submit according to order’. This was the year in which the earldom of Northumberland was restored to Thomas Percy, and Horsley’s subsequent return to the earl’s service may afford a clue to his attitude to Wharton, who personified the hostility to the ancient families. From 1562 Horsley is found holding office of the earl and engaged in much business for him, surveying his lands and negotiating for the repair of Alnwick. The last reference found to Horsley is his appointment in September 1565 as supervisor of the will of Sir Robert Ellerker. He appears to have left no will and there is no inquisition post mortem.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. J. Taylor


  • 1. No return has been traced. Although allegedly resting on the Crown Office list (C193/32/1, f. 4v) which mistakenly calls Horsley ‘miles’, OR gives him his correct style.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from education.
  • 3. Northumb. Co. Hist. v. 54, 593; Estate Accts. of the Earls of Northumberland (Surtees Soc. clxiii), 38; LP Hen. VIII, xiii; CPR, 1547-8, p. 87; 1550-3, p. 395; 1553, p. 415; C66/801 ex inf. J. C. Sainty; Stowe 571, f. 71; Hodgson, Northumb. i. 364.
  • 4. Vis. Northumb. ed. Foster, 67; Northumb. Co. Hist. v. 53; Wills and Inventories, iii (Surtees Soc. cxii), 32-33; B. N. Wilson ‘The Reformation period in Durham and Northumb.’ (Durham Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1935), 472.
  • 5. Black Bk. L. Inn, i. 23; Northumb. Co. Hist. ii. 207; v. 54-55, 59; LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xvi.
  • 6. HMC Bath, iv. 34, 71; LP Hen. VIII, xviii, xxi; Northumb. Co. Hist. ii. 39; v. 59; APC, i. 345, 548; ii. 94; iii. 297; iv. 136.
  • 7. APC, vi. 117; Estate Accts. of the Earls of Northumberland, 38, 48-50; Wills and Inventories, iii. 32-33.