BESELEY, Edward (by 1532-1613 or later), of York and Skelton in Overton, Yorks.

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



Oct. 1553
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1532, s. of Christopher Beseley of York by Margaret, da. of Richard Cowpon of Mytholmroyd. educ. M. Temple. m. (1) by 1556, Agnes, da. of Reginald Beseley of York, at least 1s. 1da.; (2) by 1573, Bridget, da. of William Nelson of Skelton, at least 3s. 4da.2

Offices Held

Jt. (with Reginald Beseley) clerk of the county and castle of York Feb. 1555-89 or later.3


Edward Beseley must have been nominated as one of the first two Members for Ripon by either the 5th Earl of Shrewsbury, president of the council in the north, or Sir Robert Rochester, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. Of the two patrons Shrewsbury Shrewsbury is the more likely to have done so, as two years later John Cryche sent him a list of the Members for Ripon, Knaresborough and Boroughbridge in the Parliament of 1555, ‘which according to your Lordship’s commandment I have delivered unto Beseley’. It may have been his kinsman and father-in-law Reginald Beseley who commended Beseley to Shrewsbury for the seat at Ripon, and Reginald’s support must have been decisive at Scarborough, where he had been recorder since 1547; at Thirsk, too, a borough which Reginald had himself twice represented, the same influences are to be seen at work.4

Edward Beseley’s legal career also doubtless owed something to his father-in-law. Both were of the Middle Temple, where in 1555 they seem to have shared a chamber, and it was probably Edward Beseley who was re-admitted to the inn on 27 Nov. 1559 provided he secured the goodwill of the justices of the common pleas. When in February 1555 Reginald Beseley surrendered his patent as clerk of the castle and county of York, it was in return for a grant of the office to himself and Edward for life in survivorship. Thirteen months later the corporation of York resolved to appoint Edward Beseley ‘to solicit the city matters at this next term above in London in room of his father’ and instructed him as to what he should do. He reported to the city as its solicitor on 10 June 1558, but there is no record of his later employment: perhaps his religion stood in his way.5

In the years that followed Beseley acquired some landed property. In July 1558 he and William Edrington of Great Driffield, Yorkshire, purchased various Yorkshire properties, including the reversion of a lease held by Reginald Beseley, for £822. When Reginald died between 1562 and 1564 he left most of his property to his wife, but with remainder in tail to his daughter, Beseley’s wife, subject to the payment of an annuity of 40s. to his son George. Further accessions included the manor of ‘Skewkyrke’ (?Skircoat) bought from James Blount, 6th Lord Mountjoy, in May 1567 and the manor of Skelton brought by Beseley’s second wife, quit-claimed to him in 1573. In 1576 he was said to be worth £6 13s.4d. in lands but in goods ‘little or nothing’, while in the following year his goods were rated at £20.6

Beseley was a Catholic. Two of his kinsmen, George and Richard Beseley, were seminary priests: George, who was to be executed for treason in 1591, may just possibly have been his son. Three of his second wife’s brothers were also priests, one of them being executed in 1578. Bridget Beseley, a great-granddaughter of William Nelson of York and Riccall, was even more staunch in her faith than her husband, who occasionally went to church but did not communicate. He was gaoled for recusancy as early as January 1572, and four years later he was again ‘in ward for the like offence’: among recusants listed with the Beseleys in 1577 was his sister Elizabeth, whose husband John Dyneley was lord mayor of York at the time. His entrenchment in the Catholicism of the north makes it understandable that as a Member of Marian Parliaments Beseley had taken no part in the opposition to the Catholic restoration.7

His recusancy had not cost Beseley his office as clerk of the castle and county of York, but between 1589 and 1591 he was dispossessed of it by members of the Slingsby family: the Privy Council intervened on his behalf, with what result is not known. He and his wife were still recusant in 1611, when half their manor of Skelton was granted on that account to Alexander Stratton. In 1613 they conveyed the manor to their eldest son, William, who was also a recusant, but thereafter nothing has been discovered about them.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 2. Presumed to be of age at election. Glover’s Vis. Yorks. ed. Foster, 218; Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. v. 33; cx. 142.
  • 3. CPR, 1554-5, p. 223; APC, xvii. 139; xxi. 161-2.
  • 4. HMC Shrewsbury and Talbot, ii. 349.
  • 5. M.T. Recs. i. 104, 117, 125; CPR, 1554-5, p. 223; Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. cx. 142, 149, 151-2, 182.
  • 6. CPR, 1557-8, p. 390; 1566-9, p. 101; VCH Yorks. (N. Riding), ii. 169; Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. cxv. 135; Cath. Rec. Soc. xxii. 23.
  • 7. G. Anstruther, Seminary Priests, i. 28, 245-7; CSP Dom. 1591-4, pp. 228, 246; H. Aveling, Northern Catholics, 54, 80, 88-89; Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. cxv. 117, 135; Cath. Rec. Soc. xviii. 92; xxii. 23; liii. 25, 123, 190, 282, 350; lvii. 215; lx. 86; monograph ser. ii. 342; E. Peacock, Yorks. Roman Catholics 1604, p. 118; VCH Yorks. (N. Riding), ii. 169.
  • 8. APC, xvii. 139; xxi. 161-2; VCH Yorks. (N. Riding), ii. 169.