WHALLEY, Richard (1498/99-1583), of Kirton, Welbeck and Sibthorpe, Notts. and Wimbledon, Surr.

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



Apr. 1554
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. 1498/99, o.s. of Thomas Whalley of Kirton, by 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. of John Strelley of Woodborough, Notts. educ. St. John’s, Camb. m. (1) Laura, da. of Thomas Brockman or Brookman of Essex 5 ch.; (2) by 1540, Ursula, 13 ch.; (3) Barbara, 7 ch.1

Offices Held

J.p. Yorks. (N. Riding) 1538-47, (E. Riding) 1547-50, Notts. 1543, 1554, q. 1558/59; commr. musters, Yorks. (N. Riding) 1539, chantries, Yorks., Hull and York 1546, 1548, relief, Notts., Yorks. (E. Riding) 1550; comptroller, household of 1st Earl of Rutland Dec. 1540-Nov. 1541; receiver, ct. augmentations Yorks. 1545-June 1552; esquire of the body by 1545; jt. keeper, castle and parks at Wressell and bailiwick, E. Riding 1546; chamberlain, household of Duke of Somerset by 1547.2


Richard Whalley’s great-grandfather held land in Darlaston in Staffordshire but moved to Nottinghamshire after his marriage to the heiress of Thomas Leke of Kirton in that shire, and established his family at Kirton.3

After a spell at Cambridge, Whalley entered the household of Sir Thomas Lovell I: he was one of the young gentlemen mentioned in Lovell’s will of 10 Dec. 1522 and at the funeral in 1524. Nothing has been discovered about him from that time until his appearance on the North Riding commission of the peace in 1538: on both this and the commission for the following year his is the last name, so that he was probably a newcomer. It was a namesake, probably of Dalby in the North Riding, who entered Gray’s Inn in 1529 and died in 1560 after serving for a year as attorney to the council in the north. Whalley is said to have surveyed religious houses in Leicestershire in 1536 with John Beaumont, but his name does not appear on the relevant commission; he did, however, examine certain lands in that county in which his son Hugh, one of Cromwell’s servants, was interested and he encouraged him to purchase them.4

Whalley was himself to acquire substantial monastic estates in Nottinghamshire. Outstanding among them was the abbey of Welbeck, which he purchased in February 1539. In the following year he bought Hardwick Grange and other property in Hardwick, Osberton and Worksop, and acquired the grain rent from the lessee of Gringley rectory. Two years later he wrote to John Gates asking him to further his suit for other properties, to the value of 100 marks a year; although he claimed that these were only ‘mean lands’, incapable of improvement, and desirable only because they intermingled with his estates, he considered them valuable enough to send Gates a gold chain and to offer him 100 marks if he could secure the King’s favour. Apparently Whalley was unsuccessful in this case, and it was not until 1545 that he received a further grant, the reversion of the college, wardenry and chantry of St. Mary of Sibthorpe and other property there after the death (which took place in 1550) of Thomas Magnus, archdeacon of the East Riding. In 1546 Whalley bought the rectory and advowson of Car Colston, together with lands in Carlton, Cromwell and Sutton, from John Bellow and Robert Bigod, the large-scale dealers in such properties. The grant of a valuable wardship in Yorkshire in 1548 closes his list of acquisitions until Elizabeth’s accession.5

The reign of Edward VI saw the climax of Whalley’s career. He became chamberlain of the Duke of Somerset’s household and was intimately involved in the Protector’s affairs: he is even said to have been related by marriage to his master. He also dealt with large sums of crown money, some to be employed at Boulogne in the summer of 1549. It was presumably with Somerset’s support that Whalley was returned for Scarborough to the Parliament of 1547, although as augmentations receiver in Yorkshire he was well known in the county. He acquired a house at Wimbledon for which William Cecil had unsuccessfully sued. It appears from a letter of Cecil’s to (Sir) John Thynne that Cecil expected Whalley to succeed to one or other of Sir Anthony Denny’s offices on Denny’s death in September 1549; if there were any such expectation it was doubtless prevented by Somerset’s fall a month later.6

Whalley was among those of the duke’s adherents who were imprisoned after the coup of October 1549. He had certainly been in the duke’s confidence in the days preceding his arrest. When Somerset travelled to Windsor with the King, Whalley and the duchess removed several coffers of goods from London to Whalley’s house at Wimbledon, and the duke instructed Whalley to comfort his wife during the crisis which was to follow. Released on a bond of 1,000 marks in January 1550, a few days before the duke, Whalley was instructed to pay his colleagues in the household: the clerk comptroller, John Raves, later complained that Whalley had embezzled £60 owing to him. With Somerset’s restoration to his estates in June 1550 the Earl of Warwick set out to win over some of his rival’s adherents, and with Whalley he seems to have been momentarily successful. In a letter to Cecil of this time Whalley echoed Warwick’s charge that Somerset had acted arrogantly and said that the majority of the Council agreed. After exhorting Cecil not to leave Somerset ‘until you so thoroughly persuade him to some better consideration of his proceedings’, he went on: ‘and for what his lordship [Warwick] is my very good lord, and hath friendly promised his help in the furtherance of my suit, I heartily pray you fail not to remember the same’. A few days later the Council gave Whalley leave to purchase lands of the King valued at £50 a year.7

Whalley’s defection did not last and within a few months he was intriguing for Somerset’s restoration to power. In February 1551 the King noted in his journal that Whalley had been arrested and examined ‘for persuading divers nobles of the realm to make the Duke of Somerset protector at the next Parliament’: this, the King wrote, was affirmed by the 2nd Earl of Rutland, who had exposed Whalley’s intentions in a debate with him before the Council. (Sir) Francis Leke was also called as a witness. Whalley was committed to the Fleet but was released in April. Six months later Somerset’s arrest was followed by Whalley’s, and the 5th Earl of Shrewsbury was asked for a detailed account of a conversation with him the previous summer. It was probably under the threat of a treason charge that Whalley, ‘a busy headed man anxious to be set on work’, became a principal witness against Somerset at the trial in December, but after the execution he was kept in the Tower for several months, with occasional visits from his wife and his brother Walter, who was deputizing for him in the receivership of Yorkshire. In June 1552 the King wrote that he had confessed ‘how he lent my money upon gain and lucre ... how he bought mine own land with my money, how in his account he had made many false suggestions, how at the time of fall of money he borrowed divers sums of money and had allowance for it after ... the whole sum £2,000’. Like Sir John Thynne and Sir Thomas Holcroft, Whalley was deprived of his public office, and all three were released in June 1552.8

Whalley had missed two sessions of Parliament through imprisonment and he may even have been deprived of his seat. On the list of Members revised in preparation for the final session, which opened in January 1552, the name of the first Member for Scarborough is given as Edward Whalley. This must be a copyist’s error, for not only has no one of that name been found who could conceivably have been by-elected to the seat but Richard Whalley, if deprived, would hardly have been replaced by a namesake. Yet the error itself is an ambiguous one. If it lies in the christian name, Richard Whalley is shown to have kept his seat, his enforced absence from it notwithstanding, whereas if the surname is wrong, he must have lost it. Of the two possibilities the first may be judged the more likely, for Whalley’s continued, if nominal, Membership would have been consistent with the experience of Somerset’s other followers in the House.9

While in prison Whalley encouraged Richard Eden in his experiments in transmutation. He himself could certainly have done with a new source of wealth for his affairs were in confusion. He had mortgaged three Nottinghamshire manors to his fellow-Member Sir Maurice Denys, but his imprisonment prevented him from redeeming them at the agreed time while Denys protested that the lands were worth £40 a year less than Whalley had claimed: early in Mary’s reign Denys was still seeking the £3,000 he claimed by default. Whalley’s neighbours also seized one of his wards, whose return was ordered by the Council in June 1552. The position was made worse by his fourth and longest imprisonment which began in August 1552. Ostensibly for peculation, it was probably a political sanction: it was brought to an end within a few days of Mary’s accession by the order which also freed the bishops of Durham and London.10

Whalley was never again of political account, but he was to resume his interrupted career in Parliament. Unable to regain his receivership in Yorkshire, he was no longer a justice of the peace there and had to look for a seat elsewhere. His election to the Parliament of April 1554 for East Grinstead, a duchy of Lancaster borough, he probably owed to his association with Sir Thomas Holcroft who was acting with the 12th Earl of Arundel early in 1554 and himself sat on this occasion for the earl’s borough of Arundel. As steward of the duchy lands in Sussex, the earl could have procured Whalley his seat, with the chancellor of the duchy, Sir Robert Rochester, perhaps agreeable because Whalley’s first wife had probably been a kinswoman of his. Whalley’s final achievement was his knighthood of the shire for Nottinghamshire in the next two Parliaments. To his own standing in the county, where he concentrated his energies after withdrawing from Yorkshire, he was probably able to add the support of the 2nd Earl of Rutland, whose father he had served and who was again on friendly terms with Whalley after having testified against him in 1551. Whalley can scarcely have sought election out of enthusiasm for the Marian Restoration, for Strype records that during ‘Queen Mary’s dismal days’ he entertained the scholar William Ford, ‘a great enemy of papism in Oxford’, at his home at Welbeck. He is not likely to have overlooked the degree of financial protection which Membership conferred by way of freedom from arrest for debt, for his financial embarrassment, which his plethora of children did nothing to relieve, outlasted his political misadventures.11

It was probably to relieve his position that in 1559 Whalley seems to have contemplated the sale of Welbeck abbey: a licence to alienate the property to a London clothworker was apparently not used, perhaps because about the same time he negotiated the provision of 1,000 tons of wood for Berwick from his forest there. He continued to supply large quantities of timber to the crown; in 1565 the Queen had 3,000 tons of it in Whalley’s charge, much of it waiting at the coast for shipment to Berwick. By the time he made his will in October 1583 he had evidently made plans for the settlement of his property. The lease of the manor of Welbeck devolved upon his son-in-law (Sir) John Zouche II according to indentures which Whalley and his son Thomas made with Zouche, who entered into bonds to perform Whalley’s will. Whalley specified the manner in which his daughter Anne was to receive the £300 he had previously assigned to her and referred to a further indenture by which he had granted to James Couper and William Poule his movable goods, chattels, leases and jewels for a purpose specified in the indenture, saving the third part reserved to the use of his wife and executrix, which she was to use to pay the wages of household servants, to fulfil bequests and if possible to augment the portions he had assigned to three of his daughters. Whalley died on 23 Nov. 1583 and was buried in Screveton church. Thomas Whalley had died shortly before his father who was therefore succeeded by his grandson Richard, a knight of the shire in the Parliament of 1597.12

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Authors: C. J. Black / R. J.W. Swales


  • 1. Aged 84 at death according to MI, J. T. Godfrey, Notts. Churches: Hundred of Bingham, 391. Vis. Notts. (Harl. Soc. iv), 116-17; Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 161; DNB.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, xiii-xv, xviii, xx, xxi; CPR , 1547-8, p. 92; 1548-9, p. 136; 1553, pp. 353, 357; 1553-4, p. 22; 1563-6, p. 38; HMC Rutland, iv. 307; SP12/2, f. 53; HMC Bath, iv. 338; Rep. R. Comm. of 1552 (Archs. of Brit. Hist. and Culture iii), 55.
  • 3. Vis. Notts. 117.
  • 4. PCC 27 Jankyn; LP Hen. VIII, iv, xiii; G. I. Adm. 7; CSP For. 1560-1, p. 385; VCH Yorks. (N. Riding ), ii. 125; Lansd. 1218, f. 13v.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, xiv, xv, xx, xxi, add.; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 308.
  • 6. SP10/6/35 APC, ii. 303, 323; Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 2, f. 116.
  • 7. Orig. Letters ed. Ellis (ser. 1), ii. 175; SP10/9/42, 52; C1/1377/24, 1482/60; Tytler, Edw. VI and Mary, i. 276; ii. 21-24; APC, ii. 372; iii. 59; W. K. Jordan, Edw. VI, ii. 75.
  • 8. Burnet, Hist. Ref. 31, 76; APC, iii. 215, 248, 398, 459; iv. 31, 72, 82, 201; SP10/14/37; E. Lodge, Illustrations, i. 170; Harl. 2194, f. 20v; Jordan, ii. 79-80.
  • 9. Hatfield 207.
  • 10. Bull IHR, xliv. 308-15; APC, iv. 90, 126, 176, 234, 312; R. Ruding Annals of Coinage, i. 177.
  • 11. APC, v. 238; Vis. Essex, 161; Strype, Eccles. Memorials, iii(1), 277.
  • 12. CPR, 1558-60, p. 8; 1560-3, pp. 30-31; APC, vii. 59; CSP For. 1562, p. 425; 1564-5, pp. 310, 329; NRA 5959, p. 58; York wills 23, f. 159; Godfrey, 391.