SHERBORN, Sir Richard (by 1522-94), of Stonyhurst, Lancs.

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 1522, 1st s. of Thomas Sherborn of Stonyhurst by Joan, da. of Sir John Towneley of Towneley. m. (1) 1538, Maud (d. 10 Nov. 1588), da. of Sir Richard Bold of Bold, 5s. 3da.; (2) 1588, Isabel Wood, 1s. 2da. illegit. bef. m., also 1s. illegit. by Grace Ryddynge. suc. fa. 22 Sept. 1536. Kntd. 11 May 1544.1

Offices Held

Dep. steward, duchy of Lancaster, Blackburn hundred, Lancs. 1543, steward and master forester, Bowland and Quernmore 1554-d., dep. master forester, Amounderness 1560-1 and 1586-7; commr. chantries, Lancs. 1552, 1554, eccles. causes, diocese of Chester 1562, to survey crown lands, Lancs. 1576, musters 1577, 1580; servant of earls of Derby by 1555, member, council by 1561; butler, Lancs. 1559; searcher, port of Liverpool 1559; lt. I.o.M. in 1561; j.p. Lancs. by 1564-83 or later; member eccles. comm. in 1568; clerk of the market and feodary, Bowland and Lancs. 1582; dep. lt. Lancs. by 1585-d.2


Richard Sherborn’s father died in 1536 while sheriff of Lancashire. Sir Thomas Holcroft acquired Richard’s wardship in June 1538 and shortly afterwards married him to Maud Bold: guardian and ward were knighted together at Leith in 1544. By then Sherborn had already been involved in an attempt to overthrow the liberties of the town of Clitheroe, four miles from Stonyhurst. He had licence to enter on his lands without proof of age and without livery in February 1544 and in the same year he obtained Holcroft’s interest in the lease of Wigglesworth in Yorkshire, formerly in the possession of Sir Stephen Hamerton, and he was probably helped by his former guardian in the scramble for monastic lands. He purchased Wigglesworth and certain former properties of Whalley abbey for £712 in 1558.3

Of much greater significance in Sherborn’s career, however, was his connexion with the earls of Derby. He followed his father into their service and held many offices under the 3rd and 4th Earls; he was an executor of the 3rd Earl’s will and his son, another Richard, was to marry Catherine Stourton, whose mother was a Stanley. Sherborn’s parliamentary career mirrored this noble patronage. His election as first knight of the shire to Queen Mary’s first Parliament, when he had barely turned 30 and before he had taken any significant part in local administration, was a striking tribute both to his own standing with the 3rd Earl and to that magnate’s early and notable support of the new monarch; and even though he could not hope to retain so exalted a place—which would be occupied on the next three occasions by the earl’s younger son—Sherborn owed it to the same pervasive influence that he was to reappear in three subsequent Parliaments. In two of these he sat for Preston, a borough monopolized by nominees, and in the third for Liverpool, where Derby’s influence was especially strong: Sherborn was, indeed, styled on the return for Liverpool ‘knight and steward to the noble earl Lord Edward Earl of Derby’. Nothing is known about Sherborn’s part in the work of the House.4

Sherborn was to continue in the Stanleys’ service after 1558 but he did not sit in any Elizabethan Parliament, presumably because of his reservations about the Anglican settlement. In 1561 he was one of the members of Derby’s council who sat in judgment on a dispute at Liverpool; described in the municipal records as the earl’s chief councillor, he was said to be a friend of the town. He accompanied Derby on his visit there in 1566 and his name appears on the burgess roll in 1572 and 1589. In 1562 he was mentioned as having taken, as Derby’s officer, £80 in duties from a Portuguese shipowner. In 1578 he was acting as Lady Derby’s agent in a dispute over Neroche forest in Somerset. He was deputy to the 3rd and 4th Earls as master forester of Amounderness. In July 1555 the 3rd Earl had granted him to the custody of Greenhalgh castle and park, and in July 1567 the earl added the stewardships of Bolton in Lonsdale and of the wapentake of Ewcross with the master forestership of the chase of Ingleborough in Yorkshire. He was to have accompanied the 4th Earl to France in 1585 as his treasurer, but was apparently prevented by illness.5

Sherborn was more than a trusted servant of the Stanleys. If he served them as lieutenant of Man, he also served the crown as deputy lieutenant of Lancashire when the 4th Earl of Derby was lord lieutenant. He received so many insructions from the central authorities to inquire into local disputes that he has been called ‘almost a special investigator’; one such dispute concerned Richard Houghton (probably the bastard son of Sir Richard Houghton) and Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicesrter. In June 1563 Sherborn purchased the manor of Leagram from Dudley for £1,619; it had once been leased to his father Thomas and was closely connected with his stewardship of Bowland.6

If Sherborn’s religion did not exclude him from active local service, especially as a deputy lieutenant of his county at a time of threatened invasion, it does seem that his sympathies were Catholic. He was judged unfavourable as a justice of the peace in 1564 and in or about 1588 he was deleted as a Catholic and a generally obnoxious person. The accusations seem to have had no effect and Sherborn remained in office. He is even said, most implausibly, to have been so favoured by Elizabeth that he was allowed to maintain a priest. The earls of Derby could no doubt have protected him but they could scarcely have secured him the offices he held if his Catholic sympathies had been pronounced. Four years after being thought unfavourable as a justice he was a member of the ecclesiastical commission and in July 1568 sat in judgment on eight leading recusants at Lathom. In 1585 he was one of the signatories to a document on ‘the enormities of the sabbath’, a document apparently of a Puritan nature although Sir Richard may have signed as one concerned rather with public order than with theology. Certainly there was no special significance in his signing the Lancashire Bond of Association. Shortly before Sherborn’s death his son’s second wife Anne, daughter of Henry Kighley and widow of Thomas Houghton, was summoned before the Privy Council as a recusant; on that occasion she conformed but the Sherborn family was later recusant. Sherborn had been one of those who reported on the affray in which Thomas Houghton was killed.7

Sherborn died on 26 July 1594, having made his will on the previous 2 Oct. Amongst the legatees was Richard, eldest son of his daughter Mary and Thomas Fleetwood, himself the son of John Fleetwood of Penwortham. Sir Richard Shuttle-worth, chief justice of Chester and a Sherborn connexion by marriage, was supervisor of the will. A memorial in the church at Mitton lists several of Sherborn’s chief offices, but does not mention his having sat in Parliament. He had begun the rebuilding of his home before his death and the work was completed by his son Richard. The house passed into the ownership of the English College from Liege in 1794 and is now a Catholic public school.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference, but said to be ten at fa.’s death. Vis. Lancs. (Chetham Soc. lxxxi), 58; (lxxxviii), 264; C. D. Sherborn, Sherborn Fam. 27 seq.; Chetham Soc. lx. 267; VCH Lancs. vii. 5.
  • 2. VCH Lancs. ii. 97-98; vii. 5; CPR, 1560-3, pp. 280-1; 1572-5, p. 92; Chetham Soc. n.s. lxxii. 24; APC, xii. 8; xviii. 386; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 77; HMC Foljambe, 25; DKR, xliii. 274; Somerville, Duchy, i. 467n, 491, 501; CSP Dom. 1591-4, p. 402.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xix; Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. xxxv. 171; DKR, xxxix. 559; CPR, 1554-5, p. 330; 1557-8, p. 174.
  • 4. PCC 38 Daper; Liverpool Town Bks. ed. Twemlow, i. 52a.
  • 5. Twemlow, i. 165, 169, 313; ii. 831, 838; APC, vii. 107; xi. 49; Chetham Soc. n.s. xix. 76; lxxii. 30; Lancs. and Cheshire Hist. Soc. xcii. 51, 53.
  • 6. J. B. Watson, ‘Lancs. gentry 1529-58’ (London Univ. M.A. thesis, 1959), 478; APC, xi. 89, 163, 191; CPR, 1560-3, pp. 538, 581; Chetham Soc. n.s. lxxii. 2, 12, 27.
  • 7. VCH Lancs. vii. 5, 131; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 77; CSP Dom. 1591-4, pp. 159-60, a document tentatively dated 1591 but see H. H. Leonard, ‘Knights and knighthood in Tudor Engl.’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1970), 256n; Cath. Rec. Soc. iv. 178-9; J. Croston, Samlesbury, 104-5; J. S. Leatherbarrow, Lancs. Eliz. Recusants (Chetham Soc. n.s. cx), 27, 32, 99; Harl. 1926, f. 80; APC, xxiv. 281, 334, 410; Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. lxxxviii. 45.
  • 8. Chetham Soc. lx. 267; T. D. Whitaker, Whalley (3rd ed.), 467; Ducatus Lanc. i. 161; Pevsner, N. Lancs. 239-40.