WORSLEY, Robert (d.1604/5), of Booths, 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

1st s. of Sir Robert Worsley of Booths by his 1st w. Alice, da. of Thurstan Tyldesley (the Earl of Derby’s receiver) of Wardley. educ. St. John’s, Camb. 1562. m. Elizabeth, da. of Sir Thomas Gerard of Bryn, 3s. 8da. suc. fa. 1585.

Offices Held

Keeper of New Fleet prison at Salford c.1579; commr. eccles. causes, diocese of Chester 1580.1


Worsley belonged to an old but declining Lancashire family. He was ruined finally by his keepership of Salford gaol, despite having such powerful connexions as the 4th Earl of Derby and the puritan 3rd Earl of Huntingdon. The latter wrote of him in 1581, ‘I wish Lancashire and all other counties had many such gentlemen so well affected’. As keeper of Salford gaol he had recusants in his charge, and early in 1582 he was writing to the Privy Council asking that preachers be appointed to attend them, as they ‘continue obstinate for want of instruction and conference’. Meanwhile Worsley set up bible readings for the prisoners during meals. In 1581 he was granted a third of recusancy fines in Lancashire and Cheshire, but in August 1582 the justices of Cheshire objected to paying because they were maintaining their own recusants at Chester. By June 1586 Worsley was petitioning the Privy Council, either to be relieved of his post, or to be given a new lease. In December 1589 he appealed again, complaining that his prisoners were unable to pay for their lodgings and diets, and were £800 in debt to him. Even the Privy Councillors reported that Worsley was ‘fallen into some decay, which their lordships do in conscience think meet should be repaired’. They recommended the Queen to grant him a 21-year lease of the fines. He also claimed expenses of £6,000 spent ‘to the overthrow of his whole estate’. His petition was accepted, but in September 1590 he had still not had his money and the Privy Council again urged his ‘painful diligence and care’. In January 1591 the Earl of Derby and the bishop of Chester entered the lists, and a warrant for reimbursing him was issued 30 May 1591, but it was too late. Little by little his lands were sold, including eventually, his manors of Booths and Worsley. Unable to accept his dispossession, in January 1592 he broke into the hall of Booths and repossessed it, for which he was brought before the next quarter sessions at Wigan. By October 1605 he was dead. Worsley’s grandson and heir settled on Yorkshire estates saved from the wreckage at Coulton and Hovingham.2

Worsley’s return to Parliament for a Cornish borough was an isolated incident in his life. His immediate patron must have been either William, 7th Lord Mountjoy or the 3rd Marquess of Winchester, but as no link with either has been established, it looks as though someone at court—perhaps Derby—interceded for him.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Irene Cassidy


  • 1. W. Dugdale, Vis. Lancs. iii (Chetham Soc. lxxxiii), 339-40; (xcviii), 83; VCH Lancs. iv. 383; CSP Dom. Add. 1580-1625, p. 25.
  • 2. HMC Hatfield, ii. 207, 209; Stanley Pprs. (Chetham Soc. xxi), 36, 60; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 600; 1581-90, pp. 46, 50, 52, 65, 73, 177, 335, 337, 638; APC, xviii. 278; xix. 444; xx. 201; xxi. 343; xxii. 468; Lansd. 68, f. 90; 78, f. 42; Peck, Desiderata Curiosa, i. bk. 3, pp. 38, 39, 49-50, 51-2; J. S. Leatherbarrow, Lancs. Eliz. Recusants (Chetham Soc. n.s. cx), 57, 73-86, 95, 100-1; VCH Lancs. iv. 383; Lancs. Q. Sess. Recs. (Chetham Soc. n.s. lxxvii), 38, 289-90.