WHITNEY, Robert (c.1536-90), of Thetford, Norf.
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Family and Education
b. c.1536, s. of Nicholas Whitney of Saffron Walden, Essex. educ. ?Peterhouse, Camb. 1549, aged under 14. m. Jane, 2s. 1da.
Servant of Philip, 13th Earl of Arundel by 1580.
The Whitneys of Essex may have been related to the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire landed family of the same name, but the pedigrees are confused and inaccurate. Whitney’s will refers to two brothers called Thomas, and it may have been one of these who was a gentleman waiter in the household of Lord Surrey (later Earl of Arundel) in October 1571, and was ordered to leave the Duke of Norfolk’s house at Kenninghall, to ‘remove to Walden and there to remain in ordinary’. Arundel had land in and around Saffron Walden, and it is therefore likely that the Whitneys were a local family in his service there, perhaps even related to him. In 1580 Whitney was commissioned by Arundel, together with William Necton and Henry Russell, to take an inventory of the goods in Arundel castle, and his name appears again, as ‘my servant’, in another of the Earl’s commissions three years later, this time a much more far-reaching one dealing with the leases of a large number of tenants. Thus, although Whitney resided at Thetford in 1590, and possibly by 1584, he owed his return for the borough to Arundel, who had a residual interest there, his father having owned the manor. Indeed, the town books noted that Whitney was ‘commended by our lord the Earl of Arundel’.
Arundel was imprisoned in 1585 and remained in the Tower until he died 11 years later, and there is little more of interest to say about Whitney. In the later 1580s the Thetford town books record two disputes between him and the corporation, one of them about rights of common at Westwick and possibly connected with a sheep pasture which Arundel had conveyed to Whitney on the understanding that the profits should go to Sir Roger Townshend.
A local subsidy list for 1586 indicates that in the last years of his life Whitney was a man of some substance. He died between 17 Aug. 1590, when he made his will, and 17 Dec. the same year, when it was proved by his widow and executrix. He asked to be buried in St. Peter’s church, Thetford, to which he left 40s. The will gives no details about his property. The movable goods were divided into halves, one for the executrix, the other for the two sons, Francis and George, and their sister Anne.
Vis. Suff. ed. Metcalfe, 69, 103; Vis. Herefs. ed. Weaver, 75-6; Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 267; Add. 19815, ff. 13, 59; PCC 85 Drury, 16 Sainberbe; Cath. Rec. Soc. xxi. 18, 381; Lansd. 30, f. 217 seq.; Thetford hall bk. 1568-1622, pp. 113, 142; loose letter in Gawdy letter bk. Norf. Arch. Soc. lib.; bk. of ancient deeds at Thetford, 267.