BURLEY, William (d.1458), of Broncroft in Corvedale, Salop.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

1st s. of John Burley I* of Broncroft. m. (1) Ellen, da. and coh. of John Grendon, wid. of John Brown of Lichfield, Staffs., 2da. (1d.v.p.); (2) Margaret, ?da. of Thomas Parys of Ludlow, Salop,1 1s. d.v.p.

Offices Held

Commr. to collect rents due to the executors of Thomas, earl of Arundel, in Bromfield, Yale and Oswestry2 Feb. 1416; of array, Salop May 1418, Jan. 1436, Sept. 1457; inquiry July 1421 (concealments), Nov. 1424 (escapes from Shrewsbury castle), Staffs., Herefs., Salop, Worcs., Glos. July 1427 (concealments), Flints. July 1428 (claims to Mold castle, q.), Salop Feb. 1433 (concealments, q.), Nov. 1434 (misappropriation of murage, Shrewsbury q.), Nov. 1435 (concealments, q.), Feb. 1439 (murder), Feb. 1448 (concealments), Staffs., Salop, Worcs. July 1458 (felonies); of weirs, Salop Nov. 1424, Dec. 1427; to raise royal loans July 1426, May 1428, Mar. 1430, Mar. 1431, Salop, Staffs., Derbys. Feb. 1434, Salop Mar. 1439, Nov. 1440, Mar. 1442, June 1446, Sept. 1449, May 1455;3 of arrest, Chester Jan. 1429;4 to distribute tax allowances, Salop Dec. 1433, Jan. 1436, May 1437, Apr. 1440, Mar. 1442, June 1445, July 1446; administer the oath against maintenance May 1434; of gaol delivery, Shrewsbury castle Apr. 1435 (q.), Nov. 1435, Oct. 1450, July 1455; to raise a subsidy, N. Wales Dec. 1437;5 of oyer and terminer, Carm., Card., Pemb. Aug. 1440, Card. July 1445; to treat for payment of subsidies, Salop Feb. 1441; assign archers Dec. 1457.

J.p. Salop 10 Feb. 1416-Mar. 1419, 29 Dec. 1420-July 1453, 7 Dec. 1453-d.

Escheator, Salop 8 Dec. 1416-30 Nov. 1417, 5 Nov. 1432-3, 7 Nov. 1435-23 Nov. 1436.

Sheriff, Salop 15 Jan.-12 Dec. 1426.

Dep. justiciar, Chester and N. Wales 20 Feb. 1428-c. June 1430, 4 Nov. 1438-c. Mar. 1441.6

Speaker 19-27 Mar. 1437, 1445.


On the death of his father in the winter of 1415-16, Burley inherited some nine manors and other more scattered properties in Shropshire. He later added to these the manors of Thonglands, Aldon, Clongonford, Bromfield and Norton-in-Hales, in the same county, and land at Oakley in Staffordshire.7 William followed in his father’s footsteps not only in his choice of profession but also in the continuation and strengthening of his connexions with certain members of the local gentry, with the borough of Shrewsbury, with the Lords Burnell and Talbot, and with the earls of Stafford and Arundel. Indeed, he far excelled his father, becoming a lawyer of exceptional ability and councillor to some of the leading magnates of the realm. His career had begun in a small way by May 1413, when he acted as a mainpernor at the Exchequer for the abbot of Wigmore, and in the following month he assisted Robert Corbet* of Moreton Corbet (formerly his father’s ward) to entail his manor of Shawbury. Corbet was at that time a retainer of Thomas, earl of Arundel, the treasurer of the Exchequer, whom Burley’s father had long served as a councillor and feoffee; and Burley, too, soon entered the earl’s service. On 1 Mar. 1415 he was rewarded with £10 for going to Calais with Arundel in order to pay the garrison, and a further £2 12s.6d. in part recompense for his ‘great labours’ in conducting an inquiry into its finances. Two months later Earl Thomas included Burley among the trustees of his extensive estates in Surrey and Sussex, and when he made his will at Chichester on 10 Aug., just before embarking with Henry V’s expedition to Normandy, he named him as one of those who, in the event of his death, were to take custody of all his moveable possessions. Burley was present at Arundel castle on 10 Oct., when the earl, having been invalided home, made his last testament. In this he appointed Burley as one of nine executors. The latter were still busy over the settlement of Arundel’s affairs in the following February, when, to assist them in their task, a royal commission, addressed to Burley and others of their number, authorized them to arrest any of the late earl’s officers and tenants in his marcher lordships who by their refusal to pay debts and rental arrears were hindering the payment of his retinue in the recent campaign.8

Burley was long to retain an interest in the administration of the former Fitzalan estates, and to strengthen his links with the earl’s kin and retainers. In 1418 he was associated with Sir Roland Lenthale, Arundel’s brother-in-law, as one of his feoffees, in a royal grant of the estates of the alien priory of Wootton Wawen and three manors belonging to the Norman abbey of Conches (which they were to hold until 1442), and he later acted on behalf of the earl’s widow in presenting to the rectory of Felton, and also in serving as steward of that part of the Fitzalan estates which she retained as dower. Then, too, he was among the trustees appointed by David Holbache*, a former retainer of the earl, for the foundation of his school at Oswestry. Much other legal business was now coming his way. He had continued the association begun by his father with Hugh, Lord Burnell (d.1420), from whom he leased several properties in Shropshire, and from the summer of 1416 he had acted as a trustee of Burnell’s extensive estates, sharing responsibility for marriage settlements on Burnell’s grand daughters, one of whom was betrothed to the eldest son of John Talbot, Lord Furnival (afterwards Lord Talbot and earl of Shrewsbury). Burley subsequently served as steward at Holgate of that part of the Burnell inheritance which came temporarily into Talbot’s keeping, having, in the meantime, in 1418, been nominated by Talbot, then King’s lieutenant of Ireland, among his attorneys at home during his absence abroad. Here Burley was once more perpetuating a connexion begun by his father, which was to last until Talbot’s death in 1453.9

From early on in his career Burley was employed by the borough of Shrewsbury, initially as legal advisor (for a fee of 20s. a year) and then, certainly from 1426, as steward (for 40s. a year), a post which he was to retain until his death 32 years later. Over the years he received an increasing volume of valuable gifts from the burgesses in gratitude for his services, which occasionally included acting on their behalf in the House of Commons when he represented the shire. Burley sat in four consecutive Parliaments for Shropshire between 1417 and 1421 and was to represent his home county in nearly every Parliament thereafter until his death in 1458, no fewer than 19 in all. On the rare occasions that he was not elected he always witnessed the electoral indentures drawn up at Shrewsbury castle; doing so before the Parliaments of 1421 (Dec.), when his father’s executor, (Sir) Richard Lacon*, was one of those elected, 1423, 1426 (when as sheriff he himself supervised the proceedings), 1447 and 1453. In the Parliaments of 1429 and 1431 he acted as one of the proxies for the abbot of Shrewsbury. Burley soon made an impression on the central authorities at Westminster: he was a j.p. almost without interruption from 1416 for 40 years, and had served terms as escheator and sheriff of Shropshire before his more important appointment, in 1428, by the Protector, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, to act as his deputy in the office of justiciar of Chester and North Wales. Among several rewards received for his services to the Crown was an Exchequer lease shared in 1430 with Hugh Burgh* and others of the manor of Monk Meole in Shrewsbury, of which they were already feoffees.10

Burley was clearly becoming an influential figure not only in Shropshire but in government circles as well. In 1434 he wrote to Thomas Haseley*, a senior official in Chancery, recommending that two men whom he had previously suggested as suitable collectors of parliamentary subsidies in Shropshire should not be appointed after all, one of them on the grounds that although ‘y hadde wennet he hade be sufficient ... nowe y knowe the contrarie’, the man proving to be ‘right nedy and powere’ and too young, ‘so that y darre not trusten hym to gedre the Kynges taske’. Burley’s recommendations for replacements were duly accepted. By December 1435 he had risen to be an apprentice-at-law, as such receiving rewards for ‘expediting matters for the King’s profit’ and assisting in the engrossment of diverse grants during the Parliament of that year. The same month he brought to the attention of the duke of Gloucester, Cardinal Beaufort and other lords of the Council, the fact that since 1416 no profit had accrued to the Crown from the lands which his late brother-in-law, Thomas Fouleshurst, had held in chief in Cheshire, Shropshire and Herefordshire, during the minority of his heirs, and he was promised a reward of £100 if this information proved correct. During the Parliament of 1437 the Speaker, (Sir) John Tyrell*, fell ill, and the Commons’ choice for a replacement was Burley (already a veteran of 12 Parliaments), who therefore acted for the rest of the session (a mere nine days, as it happened). He may have continued all this while as Gloucester’s deputy justiciar in Chester and North Wales, and was certainly re-appointed by him to the post in 1438. Furthermore, when, two years later, Gloucester was superseded as justiciar by the earl of Suffolk, the latter immediately confirmed Burley in office. In February 1440 he was rewarded with £5 for his labours on the King’s business during the parliamentary session at Reading, and on 27 Mar. 1442 he was awarded an annuity for life of £40 (over half of it charged on the borough of Shrewsbury, whose bailiffs promptly adopted the practice of paying him directly). Burley was soon afterwards in receipt of livery at the King’s wardrobe, most probably as a lawyer retained by the Crown. The Commons of the Parliament of 1445 again chose him as their Speaker, and it was he who, in a speech to the Lords, praised the contribution of the marquess of Suffolk to the securing of peace with France and the arrangement of the King’s marriage. Over the years, Burley made several loans to the Crown: for example, 100 marks in 1435, £40 in 1436, £20 in 1443 and a further £20 in 1444, sums commensurate with his income and status.11

An extremely capable lawyer and experienced parliamentarian, proved in the service of the Crown, Burley was naturally much in demand to perform legal and judicial services for many members of the titled nobility. Thus, he witnessed deeds for James, Lord Audley, and for his heir Lord John, and he was a feoffee of the estates of Richard, Lord Strange of Knockin, and his widow, cementing the latter connexion with the marriage of his own daughter, Elizabeth, to Lord Strange’s grandson, John Hopton. Whether there is any truth in the statement that Burley himself married a daughter of Reynold, Lord Grey of Wilton, may not now be discovered, but certainly he had business dealings with Lord Grey, who in 1441 undertook to pay him 1,000 marks and agreed that until he had done so Burley should have possession of his manors of Water Eaton and Waterhall together with the advowson of Bletchley, all in Buckinghamshire. By July 1441 Burley was occupying the office (held long previously by his father) of steward of the lordship of Caus, by appointment of Humphrey, earl of Stafford, and he continued to serve the earl in that capacity (for a fee of £5 6s.8d. a year), and also as an itinerant justice on his estates in Brecon, for the following five years, at least. He was almost certainly a member of Stafford’s council.12

But Stafford was not by any means the only magnate from whom Burley received fees. In 1435, after the death of John, earl of Arundel, he had taken out royal letters patent to ensure his being allowed to continue in the office of steward of the earl’s lordship of Oswestry and other estates in Shropshire during the minority of the heir. How long he had held this post is unknown, but at all events ten years previously he had been acting as steward of Ruyton-of-the-Eleven-Towns, another Arundel lordship, having perhaps assumed office as early as 1422, as direct successor to David Holbache. Burley was in receipt of an annuity of £10 from Oswestry in 1436, when the lordship was in the hands of Thomas Fitzalan’s widow and her then husband, John, earl of Huntingdon, and he was probably still steward of Ruyton in 1438 when commissioned, as one of the King’s attorneys, to require from the tenants of Chirk and Chirkland ‘gifts of the highest value which they have been wont to give at the voidance of the lordship’. When William, the young earl of Arundel, came of age, Burley naturally assumed a place as a member of his council.13 Nor had Burley severed his connexion with another great marcher lord, John Talbot (from 1442 earl of Shrewsbury). Indeed, in 1427 Talbot had appointed him co-janitor of Blackmere, and by 1433 Burley had succeeded to his father’s office of steward of that lordship, for a fee of £5. Burley was closely associated with two successive receivers-general of Talbot’s estates, Richard Legett and Roger Steadman, and he evidently served in the earl’s council until the latter’s death in 1453, although his loyalities may have been divided towards the end, when Talbot’s eldest son quarrelled with his father over the partition of his inheritance, for both father and son then sought the lawyer’s support.14

The earl of Shrewsbury had served in France under Richard, duke of York, and received annuities of £200 from him, so it may well have been through the earl that Burley first came to the attention of the duke (although his place in Corvedale was no more than an hour’s ride from Ludlow, one of York’s strongholds). The connexion may have dated from as early as 1436, when Burley contributed £40 towards financing York’s expedition to France, and was clearly well established by 1442, by which date Burley was holding the offices of steward of York’s lordships of Denbigh and Montgomery, and master of his forests in Denbigh, as well as being a prominent member of the ducal council. Altogether Burley received from York impressive annual fees of £73 6s.8d., which included the exceptionally large amount of 20 marks for his counsel; and this bounty was further supplemented at Michaelmas 1443 with a gift of £4 10s. for his assistance in the compilation of a valor of the ducal estates in Shropshire, Staffordshire and the marches of Wales. Furthermore, in 1448 York granted Burley the manor of Cressage, Shropshire (of which his sister, Isabel Fouleshurst, still retained a dower portion), together with that of Arley in Staffordshire (which latter had an annual value of £22). During the following two years Burley was party, as a feoffee, to transactions relating to the duke’s estates in six other counties.15

Burley was, therefore, in receipt of very substantial fees from a number of great lords with estates in the marches, but clearly his closest attachment during the 1450s was to York. His royal annuity was exempted from the Act of Resumption passed by the Parliament of 1450, in which the duke played a prominent part, and he himself represented Shropshire, as usual. But he was not elected to the strongly loyalist Parliament held at Reading in 1453 which attainted the duke’s chamberlain, Sir William Oldhall†. Moreover, after 35 years as a j.p. in Shropshire, he was then excluded from the bench, to be reinstated only after York came to power in November, during the crisis caused by the King’s mental illness. Burley was returned to the Parliament summoned after the Yorkist victory at St. Albans in 1455, and it was he whom the Lower House chose to lead deputations to the Lords on 13 and 15 Nov. (immediately after the opening of the second session) to request that a protector be nominated to deal with the chronic disorder in the West Country. That the Commons selected Burley, probably still a councillor of the duke of York, rather than the Speaker, Sir John Wenlock†, is a clear indication of their sympathies, and the outcome of their petition was indeed the appointment of York as Protector.16

Burley did not live to see York’s son ascend the throne. He died on 10 Aug. 1458, leaving as his heirs his daughter Joan (widow of Sir Philip Chetwynd of Ingestre, Staffordshire, and by then married to the great jurist, Thomas Lyttleton of Teddesley), and William Trussell†, son of his other daughter, Elizabeth. (Burley’s relationship with the Trussells had earlier drawn him into Sir William Trussell* of Kibblestone’s violent dispute with the Vernons.) Burley died intestate, and it was to Thomas and Joan Lyttleton, Humphrey Swynnerton and William More, chaplain, that Archbishop Bourgchier issued letters of administration. The Lyttletons and Trussell subsequently sued his widow, Margaret, for illegal retention of deeds and for wastage of their inheritance, and in 1465 she relinquished Cressage and Arley to the jurist. In his will made many years later (in 1481), Lyttleton made provision for prayers for his late father-in-law in Worcester cathedral.17

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Authors: J. S. Roskell / L. S. Woodger


See J.S. Roskell, ‘William Burley’, Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. lvi. 263-72. He was not, however, as stated there and in DNB (iii. 376), the gt.-gt. nephew and h. of Sir Simon Burley KG, who was executed in 1388, for that William Burley was a minor at the time of the death of his father, John, in 1428, and died in 1445 only a few months after attaining his majority: CCR, 1441-7, p. 257; CPR, 1441-6, p. 466; CFR, xvi. 76, 255-6, 325.

  • 1. Genealogist, xxxvii. 24; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 3), iv. 349.
  • 2. DKR, xxxvii (pt. 2), 12-13.
  • 3. PPC, vi. 242.
  • 4. DKR, xxxvii (pt. 2), 35.
  • 5. Ibid. 109.
  • 6. DKR, xxxi. 181, 245.
  • 7. Feudal Aids, iv. 249, 250, 252, 267-8; Reg. Mascall (Canterbury and York Soc. xxi), 182; Reg. Spofford (ibid. xxiii), 359; DKR, xxxvii (pt. 2), 782; CCR, 1422-9, pp. 207, 396; 1447-54, p. 482; CP25(1)195/22/41.
  • 8. CFR, xiv. 18, 68, 73; CPR, 1413-16, pp. 40, 336, 344; E403/619 mm. 14, 15; Reg. Chichele, ii. 71-78.
  • 9. CPR, 1416-22, pp. 153, 331, 362, 371; 1441-6, p. 103; A.J. Pollard. ‘The Talbots’ (Bristol Ph.D. thesis, 1968), 229-30, 417-20; CCR, 1454-61, p. 24; CAD, ii. C2398; SC6/1117/14; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 3), i. 78; iv. 195; xlvii. 52; Shrewsbury Lib. deeds 7313, 7421.
  • 10. C219/12/6, 13/2, 4, 15/4, 16/2; SC10/48/2390, 2396; CFR, xv. 322; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. n.s. ii. 115; CPR, 1429-36, pp. 106-7. In the Shrewsbury bailiffs’ accts. (Guildhall, box VIII, 359-85) he is clearly distinguished from William Burley† of Shrewsbury, who sat in the borough in 1427 and 1437 and never (contrary to the statement in Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 4), xii. 164-5) held office as steward.
  • 11. CPR, 1429-36, p. 467; 1436-41, p. 147; 1441-6, p. 73; PPC, iv. 323, 327; E403/721 m. 7, 736 m. 16, 749 m. 4; RP, iv. 502; v. 67, 69, 73; E404/53/158; SC1/44/24, 46/256; CFR, xvi. 194; CCR, 1441-7, p. 110; J.S. Roskell, Speakers, 80, 108-9, 216-17, 225-7.
  • 12. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xvii. 132; CCR, 1435-41, pp. 358-9, 362; 1447-54, p. 156; 1454-61, p. 53; CPR, 1436-41, p. 553; 1446-52, pp. 311-12; C. Rawcliffe, Staffords, 81, 159, 208, 223.
  • 13. CPR, 1429-36, p. 464; Shrewsbury bailiffs’ acct. 375; Shrewsbury Lib. deed 3600; E163/7/31 (pt. 2) m. 30.
  • 14. Pollard, 229-30, 242, 246-7, 305, 417-20; CCR, 1441-7, p. 155.
  • 15. SC11/818; VCH Salop, viii. 75; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 4), vi. 236-7; CPR, 1452-61, p. 82; Cat. Lyttleton Chs. ed. Jeayes, 89-92; CAD, vi. C4190; Som. Feet of Fines (Som. Rec. Soc. xxii), 113, 201; Dorset Feet of Fines, 327-8, 368.
  • 16. RP, v. 196, 284-6.
  • 17. Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 4), vi. 232-7; C139/171/11; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. n.s. iii. 200; iv. 112, 130-1; xii. 316, 328-9; Reg. Bourgchier (Canterbury and York Soc. liv), 190; CCR, 1461-8, p. 53; Cat. Lyttleton Chs. 95.