BROWNE, Sir Valentine (d.1589), of Hoxton, Mdx., Croft, Lincs. and Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumb.
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Family and Education
s. of Sir Valentine Browne of Croft. m. (1) Alice or Elizabeth, da. of Robert Alexander of London, 1s.; (2) Thomasine, da. of Robert Bacon, 2s. 1da. suc. fa. 8 Feb. 1568.2 Kntd. 1570.
MP Sligo [I] 1585.
Auditor at Berwick 1550-3; auditor of the Exchequer to 1565; victualler of Berwick 1559-75, treasurer 1560-75; v.-adm. at Berwick by 1574; member, council in the north 1574; high steward and receiver-gen. of escheated lands in Ireland 1587.3
J.p. Cumb., Yorks (all 3 ridings), Lincs. (all 3 divisions) from 1569, Northumb., Westmld. from c.1573.
Browne was a pay official who served with many Elizabethan armies. Nothing is known of his birth or early life, but in 1584 he was regarded as an aged man. He was working as auditor at Berwick in 1550 and for the next three years travelled to and from the town. He was sent to Ireland to audit accounts in the winter of 1553, in the summer of 1556, and for a third time in 1559. He had served at Calais and was later employed at Dover, paying officers returning from the Continent.4
For the next 15 years of his life he was employed continually at Berwick. In December 1559 he took £16,000 to the garrison and soon afterwards was appointed treasurer there. During the Northern rebellion, Browne was, in the words of the rebel Earl of Northumberland, ‘the most forward gentleman in the Queen’s service’, and in 1570 was knighted by the Earl of Sussex. After the rebellion Northumberland became his prisoner, much to Browne’s embarrassment. He implored Burghley to have the Earl removed to other custody, lamenting that Northumberland had not changed his ‘mummish opinions’. As a financial official, Browne was in constant touch with Burghley, to whom he often turned for various favours.5
In 1574, the year when he became a member of the council in the north, Browne suffered a reverse, Lord Hunsdon complaining in October to the Privy Council that the soldiers at Berwick were not being paid, and were receiving poor and insufficient victuals. Browne was summoned before the Council in December, and in March 1575 a commission was set up to examine his accounts. The following May he was imprisoned in the Fleet. He was released on 12 July but lost his office of victualler and treasurer of Berwick.6
Owning property in Berwick, Browne maintained his interest in the north despite his loss of office. In August 1583 he wrote to Walsingham warning him that certain persons ‘beyond the Tyne’ would resort to him, ‘tending to praise themselves and their great services to the realm’. He bewailed the ruined castles that were once of great value to the Crown but were now enclosed by sheep-farmers, ‘and the people clean driven away’ from the adjoining towns. In March 1584 Browne was appointed, with three others, to the arduous task of surveying escheated lands in Ulster. The treasurer in Ireland, Sir Henry Wallop, observed that he had ‘endured the travel well for his years’. In the following year, while he was living at Ross Castle near Killarney, he was elected member for county Sligo in the Irish parliament. He went to Ireland in 1587 as an undertaker for repopulating the wastes of Kerry and Desmond, and died there in 1589, being buried in St. Katherine’s church, Dublin, on 19 Feb.7
Browne would have needed no patron to be returned to Parliament for Berwick, where he was victualler and owned property. His return at a by-election for Thetford is explained by his own marriage to a niece of Lord Keeper Bacon, and his sister’s to a Norwich alderman, Thomas Layer. In Parliament he served on two committees, concerned with tillage and the maintenance of the navy (21 May 1571), and the inning of salt marshes (6 Mar. 1576).8
In his will, dated 13 June 1588 and proved 27 Mar. 1589, Browne asked to be buried ‘in an honest and quiet wise, without any manner of superfluous charges or expenses’. He owned houses in Berwick, the manor of Oulchester, Northumberland, and property in Norfolk, Yorkshire, Hertfordshire and Lincolnshire, which he left to various members of his family. Attached to his will was a list of debts owed to him, totalling more than £2,000, and debts owed by him amounting to almost the same sum. Only a few months before his death, he received from the Crown money due to him from the time of the Northern rebellion.9