DARKNALL (DARTNOLL), Robert (by 1501-53/56), of Canterbury, Kent and London.

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



Mar. 1553
Oct. 1553

Family and Education

b. by 1501. educ. ?M. Temple. m. 1522, Alice, da. and coh. of Henry Goseborne of Canterbury, wid. of John Simon, at least 2s. 1da.6

Offices Held

Member, the Household 1537; teller, receipt of the Exchequer 1550-d.; commr. relief, Mdx. 1550.7


Robert Darknall, gentleman, who probably sprang from the family settled at Penshurst, Kent, was admitted to the freedom of Canterbury in 1522 by right of marriage to the widowed daughter of a freeman. The couple settled in St. Andrew’s parish, Canterbury, Darknall paying the churchwardens there 12d. during 1527-8 ‘for waste of six torches’ at the funeral of one of their children.8

Darknall entered Parliament early in 1533, replacing Thomas Atwode. In 1533 he received 66s.8d. ‘in party of payment of his stipend or wages’ and in the following year a further part-payment of £6 13s.4d.: during most of the two sessions to which these payments refer he served alone, his fellow-Member John Bridges helping the city’s finances by staying at home. The next session was attended by both Members, Darknall being present for 44 days, practically the whole session, and Bridges for 20. Each was said to have been paid at the rate of 2s. a day although Darknall seems only to have received £3 6s.8d. The accounts are missing in which payments for the last session of this Parliament and for its successor of June 1536 were presumably recorded.9

The fact that Darknall had sat for Canterbury in the later sessions of the Parliament of 1529 puts a different complexion on Cromwell’s intervention in the Canterbury election of May 1536 from that which it usually wears. Cromwell did indeed interfere in the election, but only to ensure compliance with the King’s general request for the return of the previous Members. Although the city—and perhaps the Members themselves—would have preferred a change, there is nothing to suggest that the men concerned had not been freely chosen before, neither of them looking remotely like a nominee. Darknall was to be re-elected in 1542 and 1547, without any trace of interference from outside, and he may well have sat in the intervening Parliament, that of 1545, for which the name of only one of the city’s Members is known. In 1542 he made things easier by remitting half his wages, being given £4 for the moiety of 80 days at the Parliament at 2s. a day, ‘over and above the other moiety by him given of his benevolence to the city’, and a supplementary payment for his labours in obtaining lands from the King, evidently the leases and rents granted to Canterbury in September 1542. In 1543 and 1544 he again took only half the wages due to him: for 100 days at the second session and 75 days at the third he was paid £5 and £3 15s. It was this Parliament which passed an Act (34 and 35 Hen. VIII, c.18) for the privileges of Canterbury, defining the liberties which the city enjoyed by its charter. No payment of wages in respect of the Parliament of 1547 is entered in the chamberlains’ accounts, but Darknall was paid 6s.8d. for the serjeant of the Parliament’s fee in 1549. The accounts for 1552-3 are missing.10

In the first Parliament of Mary’s reign Darknall was returned for Rochester, presumably with the help of a previous Member there, William Roper, who was a neighbour of his at Canterbury. It seems that by this time he had left Canterbury. In May 1537, the year in which he became one of the King’s household, a lease of St. Sepulchre’s nunnery was granted to him as Robert Darknall of Canterbury, and in June, as Robert Darknall of the Household, he secured the lease of a water mill in Charlton, Kent. In the course of the next five years, variously described as of the Household or of London, he acquired the joint ownership of three messuages and a wharf in Gravesend and a messuage and garden in London, and in individual possession a string of leases and titles in Essex, Kent, London, Northumberland and Yorkshire, all of ex-monastic property. In January 1550 he was appointed a teller of the receipt of the Exchequer: in the short period for which he held this office he was to embezzle £2,000. A year later he bought from the crown for 500 marks the dissolved hospital of St. James next Canterbury and a manor belonging to it. On the accession of Mary he sued out a general pardon as Robert Darknall of London esquire, alias one of the tellers of the Exchequer.11

Darknall was never a justice of the peace and the man of his name put on the commission of sewers for Essex in 1553 was probably his son, a servant of Baron Rich, who on 25 Jan. 1555, lying sick at Leigh’s Priory, Rich’s Essex home, made his testament nuncupative, leaving the residue of all his goods to his brother John. Robert Darknall senior also died about this time. In 1552 the office of a teller in the Exchequer, when next one should fall vacant was granted to Roger Alford. Ten years later Alford surrendered this patent, having held the office since Darknall’s death; no reference was then made to another patent to him of 20 Jan. 1556, so that he must have succeeded under the earlier patent as soon as Darknall died and have obtained the second in confirmation.12

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament; Canterbury chamberlains’ accts. 1532-3.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, x. 929.
  • 3. Canterbury chamberlains’ accts. 1541-2.
  • 4. Hatfield 207.
  • 5. Canterbury burmote bk. 1542-78, f. 75v. Only part of the name ‘Robert Da ...’ can be read on a torn indenture, C219/20/146.
  • 6. Date of birth estimated from admission as freeman. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. lxxiv), 8; (xlii), 74 incorrectly gives his wife as Alice Crispe.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, xiii; CPR, 1549-51, p. 178; 1553, p. 356.
  • 8. Hasted, Kent, iii. 249; Freemen of Canterbury, ed. Cowper, col. 114; Canterbury prob. reg. C13, f. 109; Reg. St. Alphaege, Canterbury, ed. Cowper, pp. xv, xvi; Arch. Cant. xxxiv. 19.
  • 9. Canterbury chamberlains’ accts. 1532-5.
  • 10. Ibid. 1541-4, 1549-50; HMC 9th Rep. pt. 1, p. 153.
  • 11. LP Hen. VIII, xiii-xix; CPR, 1549-51, p. 178; 1550-3, p. 181; 1553-4, p. 439; EHR, lxxviii. 233-4.
  • 12. CPR, 1550-3, pp. 310, 408; 1553, p. 356; 1553-4, p. 36; 1555-7, p. 157; 1560-3, p. 340; PCC 23, 37 More.