KEILWAY, Robert II (by 1517-81), of the Inner Temple, London; Stepney, Mdx. and Coombe, Warws.

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



Family and Education

b. by 1517, ?s. of Robert Keilway I of Salisbury, Wilts. educ. ?Oxf.; I. Temple. m. by Feb. 1553, Cecily, da. of Edward Bulstrode of Hedgerley and Upton, Bucks., wid. of Sir Alexander Unton (d. 17 Dec. 1547) of Wadley, Berks., 1da.2

Offices Held

Bencher, I. Temple by 1538, auditor 1538-41, 1551-2, gov. 1559, 1566.

J.p. Wilts. 1543-d., Berks. 1549-d.; recorder Bristol 1544/45-52; surveyor-gen. ct. wards 1546-d.; commr. chantries, Bristol 1546, Dorset, Som. 1548, accts. revenue courts 1547, of Admiralty in Nov. 1547, pensions and chantry lands 1548, royal charities 1548, relief, Wilts. 1550, goods of churches and fraternities, Salisbury 1553; custos rot. Berks. 1549; serjeant-at-law 29 Sept. 1552.3


Keilway first appears, other than as a member of the Inner Temple, in 1543. Although he owned the papers which were to be edited in 1602 as Keilway’s Reports, their author was almost certainly an older man who became a serjeant-at-law soon after 1508. ‘Mr. Keilway’ pleaded for Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, in a suit against Audley on 31 Mar. 1544 and he was described as Hertford’s servant when despatched by the Privy Council to join the earl in the north on 19 May 1545. It was on Hertford’s recommendation that Keilway was appointed surveyor of the wards and liveries. Shortly after Keilway’s purchase in December 1546 of the manor and advowson of Woodsford, Dorset, Hertford was licensed to alienate to him the advowsons of Homington church, Wiltshire, and of a chantry at Salisbury.4

Although returned for Salisbury in January 1545, Keilway was replaced on 19 Nov. after the meeting of Parliament had been twice postponed, since by then he had accepted election at Bristol, where he had become recorder by midsummer 1545 in succession to David Broke. Hertford, who had been constable of Bristol castle since 1517, and the city’s steward since 1 Dec. 1544, may have secured Keilway’s appointment: it is also possible that Hertford’s precursor as steward, Sir Edward Baynton, helped in the matter since the two men were close and Keilway was an overseer of Baynton’s will. Keilway’s family were no strangers to Bristol— a Robert Keilway of Lillington, Dorset, who may be identifiable with the Member, disposed of various properties in the city in the 1540s and 1550s, which had been acquired by an ancestor, William Keilway, about 1440. After the first session of the Parliament of 1545 Keilway was paid his wages and 12d. for a book of the recent Acts. He received no further payment until after the final session of the following Parliament (by which time he had ceased to be recorder), when a full settlement of the outstanding £35 was made.5

Hertford’s appointment as Protector on 31 Jan. 1547, shortly after he became Duke of Somerset, brought Keilway into the limelight. In the autumn he was chosen reader at the Inner Temple, only to be discharged at Somerset’s request, and in the following year he and (Sir) Walter Mildmay were given the task of controlling the dispersal of the chantries’ wealth so as to prevent a breakdown of education. Keilway was also appointed to supervise the new charitable activities and public works for which the crown had become responsible. On 26 Nov. 1548 in the second session of Edward VI’s first Parliament the bill ‘for process and demurrers in the law’ had been committed to Keilway after its first reading. Meanwhile he took part in several land transactions, alienating Woodsford in 1547 and acquiring the Hampshire manor of Rockstead in the following year, in addition to acting as a trustee for Somerset and Sir John Thynne. During 1548 Keilway approached Somerset on matters relating to Bristol and to Lady Jane Grey’s visit to the city.6

Keilway was endangered by the Protector’s arrest in October 1549, for on 26 Nov. he had to enter into a bond of £100 to present himself weekly before the Council until he should be discharged. His appointment as surveyor of the wards had been secured in the teeth of opposition from its previous holder, Sir John Hynde, who in 1546 had threatened to baulk Keilway’s promotion by having him made a serjeant-at-law. Hynde revived his claims and on 7 Feb. 1550 the Council resolved that Keilway should retain office but pay half his annual fee to his rival. Evidently Keilway’s services were too valuable to lose, since on 14 Feb. he was released from his weekly appearances: he was also present for the whole of the last session of the Parliament of 1547 unlike so many other of Somerset’s adherents whose attendance is doubtful. On 4 July 1552 the chancellor was instructed to issue a writ that Keilway should become a serjeant-at-law; although this did not have the effect of depriving him of his surveyorship, he did give up the recordership of Bristol and so forfeited the opportunity of serving for that city in the Parliament of March 1553. Nevertheless he remained active: the Duke of Northumberland used him as a trustee and in November 1552 William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, supported his request not to be burdened with service on commissions of the peace.7

Mary’s reign was a relatively quiet interlude in Keilway’s career. One who had been so closely involved in the despoiling of the chantries was not likely to be favoured by the Queen, although she retained him in the court of wards. On 6 Dec. 1553 Keilway obtained a lease of the demesne lands of Minster Lovell, which had been granted to his wife’s first husband; in December 1556 he also leased the site of Coombe abbey, Warwickshire, with adjoining estates. When Mary died Richard Kingsmill hastened to ask Cecil for a place in the wards, in succession to Nicholas Bacon or Keilway, both men who were to be given many more public duties under Elizabeth. Keilway died in February 1581.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. Bristol AO, 04026/3/312; Salisbury corp. ledger B, f. 300v.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Wright, Rutland (1684), 56; Req.2/13/14; Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-40, p. 327; Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvii), 222; Wards 7/4/21, 29, 42; DNB.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xx, xxi; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 91, 93, 238, 417; 1548-9, pp. 57, 136, 225; 1550-3, p. 396; 1553, pp. 359, 403, 416; Bristol AO, 04026/3/318; 04721/295; HCA 14/2.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, xx, xxi; Law Quarterly Rev. lxiii. 93-95; L. W. Abbott, Law Reporting in Eng. 39-48; H. E. Bell, Ct. Wards and Liveries, 20.
  • 5. HMC Bath, iv. 98; ledger B, f. 300v; Bristol AO, 04026/3/11-13, 318; 04027/91; 04719/318v-322; 04721/44, 295; PCC 28 Pynnyng.
  • 6. CPR, 1547-8, pp. 212, 238, 331, 367, 417; 1548-9, pp. 57, 136; 1553, p. 403; Cal. I.T. Recs. i. 150, 178; W. C. Richardson, Ct. Augmentations, 174-6; APC, ii. 408; CJ, i. 4; M. Blatcher, Ct. KB 1450-1550, pp. 104, 106; Bristol AO, 04026/4/54.
  • 7. APC, ii. 362, 386-8, 395, 397; LP Hen. VIII, add.; CPR, 1550-3, pp. 355, 357, 414; 1553, p. 112; 1555-7. p. 303; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 47; Bristol AO, 04027/91.
  • 8. CPR, 1553-4, p. 321; 1555-7, pp. 310-11; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 118.