SPARROW, Robert (by 1459-1528), of Winchelsea, Suss.

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 1459, poss. s. of Thomas Sparrow of Winchelsea by Margaret. m. by 1522, Joan, wid. of Robert Borraunt, 2s. 2da.4

Offices Held

Jurat, Winchelsea 1496-d., mayor 1501-2, 1511-12, 1517-18, 1524-5, dep. mayor in 1505, 1512, 1516, 1518; bailiff to Yarmouth 1497, 1509, 1521.5


Robert Sparrow probably sat for Winchelsea in four consecutive Parliaments with Thomas Ashburnham and Ashburnham’s son John as his fellow-Members. His election with John Ashburnham is known only from a 17th-century list of Members where it is dated ‘Henry VIII’ without a regnal year. The names of the port’s representatives are known for five Henrician Parliaments, leaving those of 1512, 1515, 1536 and 1539 unaccounted for, but as Sparrow and Ashburnham were dead by 1528 they can only have sat together in the first two of these: that they did so in both is likely in view of the King’s call for the re-election in 1515 of the previous Members. Nothing is known about Sparrow’s part in the House, but in April 1514 the Brotherhood of the Cinque Ports directed him and John Warren of Dover, both of whom seem to have remained in London after the dissolution of the Parliament of 1512, to deposit with the nominees of the lord warden money collected towards the recent subsidy until a dispute over the assessment was settled; a year later, while the Parliament of 1515 stood prorogued, the Brotherhood asked the same pair to sue for the discharge of the assessors. For their efforts in obtaining a verdict favourable to the ports they were paid 30s. each in 1516 and allowed £5 4s.4d. towards disbursements made to ‘learned men’ in the court of Exchequer. Sparrow was later involved in the dispute between Winchelsea and Sandwich over the allocation of the relief conceded by the Exchequer.6

Sparrow was a Winchelsea merchant who imported wine, raisins and other commodities. His parentage has not been traced, but he may have been the son of Thomas Sparrow described in the customs account for 1485-6 as a ‘native’ of the town. For 33 years from 1492 he was active in municipal affairs and often represented the port at the Brotherhood. In 1519 he excused himself from being elected bailiff to Yarmouth for a third time as he was in his 60s, but two years later he agreed to undertake the journey to Norfolk: he subsequently accepted election to Parliament in 1523 and to the mayoralty for a fourth time in 1524. By his will made on 24 June 1528 he asked to be buried in the churchyard of St. Thomas the Martyr in Winchelsea. After providing for his wife he left his son William £10 on completing his apprenticeship, his son Joseph the same amount but without the same proviso, his daughter Joan £13 6s.8d. and her sister Agnes £10 on reaching 20. He named his wife executrix and Thomas Ensing overseer of the will, which was proved on the following 25 Aug.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Patricia Hyde


  • 1. Add. 34150, f. 135.
  • 2. Ibid. f. 138.
  • 3. Ibid. f. 136.
  • 4. ‘Above 60 years’ in July 1519, Cinque Ports White and Black Bks. (Kent Arch. Soc. recs. br. xix), 176; Rye chamberlains’ accts. 4, f. 112; PCC 36 Porch.
  • 5. Cinque Ports White and Black Bks. 121-91 passim.
  • 6. Ibid. 155, 158, 161-3, 165.
  • 7. E122/34/30, 35/5, 11, 18; C1/510/45; Cinque Ports White and Black Bks. 183; PCC 36 Porch.