NOWELL, Robert (c.1520-69), of Gray's Inn and Hendon, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1520, 4th s. of John Nowell of Read, Lancs. by his 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. of Robert Kay of Rochdale, Lancs. educ. Middleton g.s. Lancs.; Brasenose, Oxf.; G. Inn 1544. prob. unm.2

Offices Held

Eccles. commr. Canterbury, Chichester, Rochester and Winchester dioceses 1559; Autumn reader, G. Inn 1561; attorney of ct. of wards from 1561; steward to dean and chapter of St. Paul’s; commr. to audit accounts in the Queen’s household 1565;3 j.p. Mdx. from 1564.


Kinsman of Andrew Noel and his father, to whom he acted as legal adviser, Robert Nowell belonged to the senior branch of the family, which retained the older spelling of the name. A convinced protestant, like his cousins Alexander and Laurence, he had been out of favour in Mary’s reign, but soon after Elizabeth’s accession was found a profitable post in the court of wards by his close friend and patron, Sir William Cecil. It was doubtless also Cecil who, as high steward of Westminster, promoted Nowell’s candidature at Westminster in 1563. Nowell was described as a ‘favourer’ of religion in the 1564 bishops’ reports.4

By 1563, when he made his will during an outbreak of plague, Nowell held leases of property in Hertfordshire and Cardiganshire. He made numerous bequests to various relatives and friends, including 100 marks to Cecil, (advising him, ‘neither to trust too much to himself, nor to this deceitful world’), but devoted most of his fortune to charity. He died 6 Feb. 1569. Many years later his brother and executor, Dean Nowell, recounted to Burghley how Robert as he lay dying in his chamber at Gray’s Inn, charged him to deal faithfully in the matter of these charities, showing particular anxiety that their own school and college should be remembered, adding ‘If you would procure anything to continue with my money, you shall do it best and most surely in the Queen’s Majesty’s name, whose poor officer I have been’. Nowell was buried in St. Paul’s, ‘in the place called sancta sanctor’, after an elaborate funeral attended by heralds, all the canons of the cathedral, and many poor men to whom gowns were distributed.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: S. M. Thorpe


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. A. B. Grosart, The Spending of the Money of Robert Nowell, pp. xxxi, xxxv, xxxvi.
  • 3. HMC 11th Rep. III, 94; CPR, 1560-3, p. 6; Grosart, xxxvi.
  • 4. DNB (Nowell, Alexander); CPR, 1563-6, p. 342; J. Hurstfield, Ct. of Wards, 225; Westminster Abbey, Reg. 5, f. 18b; Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 60.
  • 5. Grosart, xxxvi, xxxvii, xliv-lii; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 431.