URSWYK, Thomas, of Tatham, Lancs. and Badsworth, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



May 1421

Family and Education

2nd s. of Sir Robert Urswyk* by his 2nd. w. Ellen. m. by Apr. 1405, Joan, at least 1s. 1da.1

Offices Held

Commr. to make an arrest, Lancs. 1410;2 of array Mar. Mar. 1430; to assess persons liable for taxation Apr. 1431.

Master forester of Amounderness, Quernmore and Wyresdale in the duchy of Lancaster, Lancs. 1 July 1413-10 Nov. 1443; receiver of the duchy estates in Lancs. and Cheshire 24 Nov. 1417-10 Nov. 1443; chief baron of the duchy exchequer, Lancaster 1436-10 Nov. 1443.3

J.p. Lancs. Mar. 1418, Aug. 1426, Dec. 1435, Mar. 1436, Feb. 1437, Mar. 1440-aft. May 1441.4

Collector of taxes, Lancs. Apr. 1431,5 Jan. 1436.

Dep. to Thomas Chaucer*, chief butler of England, in Liverpool to Dec. 1422, extended to all Lancs. 2 May 1429.


On the death of his father, Sir Robert, in 1402, Thomas received half the manor of Badsworth with extensive appurtenances in Yorkshire, which he shared with his elder half-brother, Robert, the heir to the rest of the family estates. Relations between the two men were evidently cordial, as four years later Robert settled all his property in trust upon Thomas, who was, indeed, eventually to succeed him. Thomas seems also to have been close to Sir James Haryngton*, the second husband of his sister, Ellen, on whose behalf he made an oath in Chancery, in 1408, about the loss of certain letters patent, and for whom he later acted as an executor. His dealings with Thomas Hardwick, the rector of St. Michael’s on Wyre in Lancashire, proved rather less amicable. At about this time the latter complained to the chancellor that Urswyk had persistently confiscated the profits of his benefice in flagrant disregard of orders from the Crown. The outcome of the case is not known, although some years later, in 1423, Urswyk set aside certain property in Great Sowerby for the support of a chaplain in the church, so he must have retained some authority there. At all events, the disputed patronage did little, if anything, to hinder the progress of his career. By 1410 he was serving as a royal commissioner; and in July 1413 Henry V permitted him to share the post of master forester of Amounderness, Quernmore and Wyresdale with his half-brother, who had himself been in office since the death of their father, the previous occupant. The grant was made jointly to them both in survivorship, but Thomas alone was singled out for preferment four years later, when he became receiver of the duchy of Lancaster estates in Cheshire and Lancashire at a fee of ten marks p.a. His appointment did not, apparently, meet with the approval of the current occupant, Ralph Radcliffe*, who refused to surrender the necessary muniments or vacate the post until two sharply worded directives had been issued by the duchy authorities. Once installed, however, Thomas continued to discharge his duties for the next 26 years, during which period he also served regularly on the Lancashire bench. His influence in the local community was strengthened even further on the death, in 1420, of Robert Urswyk, whose two daughters’ share of the family estates was confined to their grandmother’s inheritance in Upper Rawcliffe and land in Westmorland, leaving him in possession of extensive holdings centered on Tatham, together with the other half of the manor of Badsworth.6

No doubt as a result of his improved position, Thomas was able, in 1420, to arrange a marriage between his daughter, Ellen, and the heir of William Assheton of Croston in Lancashire. He also attended the county elections to the Parliament of that year; and in February 1421 he obtained a papal indult allowing him to make use of a portable altar. He was himself ideally qualified to serve as a shire knight, and his return to Parliament in the following May evinces further proof of his standing among the Lancashire gentry. He also had pressing personal reasons to seek election, since his visit to Westminster enabled him to negotiate a lease of the herbage, pasture rights and vaccaries in the Myerscough and Bleasdale area of Lancashire which his late half-brother had previously occupied as a tenant of the duchy. Although the rent was increased by about a quarter to £84 15s. a year, Thomas still agreed to take on the farm, and he remained as lessee until his death. Another urgent matter concerned certain debts charged to Robert Urswyk during his term as sheriff of Lancashire, for which Thomas, the next heir, was now held responsible. Since he had, but a few weeks earlier, sustained quite heavy expenses in bringing a troop of archers to London, he was allowed to offset these against the demands of the Crown, and thus obtained his quietus. The Commons were still sitting when he agreed to stand surety at the Exchequer for a friend who had obtained custody of a royal ward, so the session was clearly taken up with a good deal of private business. He again represented Lancashire in the Parliament of 1422, the occasion being marked by his appointment as deputy to Thomas Chaucer, the chief butler of England, at Liverpool. Seven years later the scope of his commission was extended to cover the whole county, but he made no further appearances in the House of Commons.7

Thomas was retained in his two duchy of Lancaster offices on the accession of Henry VI, his main preoccupation then, however, being an attempt to establish an undisputed title to the manor of Badsworth. His suit with Thomas Broket† and his wife over the ownership of the manor, which reached the courts in the autumn term of 1424, may perhaps have been collusive, although the outcome is not now recorded. During this period, Thomas was active as a trustee of lands in the Lancashire villages of Chipping and Ashton; he also agreed to arbitrate in a property dispute between the abbot of Furness and his neighbour, Sir Richard Kirkby, whose son-in-law, Nicholas Boteler*, also acted as a mediator. In 1431 he served on an inquisition into feudal tenures in the wapentake of Lonsdale, his assiduity as a local administrator being rewarded in the following year with a 20-year lease of herbage in Quernmore, where he was already master forester. His dealings with Ralph Radcliffe must have improved somewhat by this date, since despite their earlier differences he agreed to execute the latter’s will.8 Not long afterwards, Thomas acquired an interest in the advowson of Sefton church, a step which probably brought him closer to (Sir) Thomas (later Lord) Stanley, with whom he offered guarantees, in 1433, for Thomas Lathom as escheator of Lancashire. From 1440 onwards, he and Stanley shared the master forestership of Amounderness, Quernmore and Wyresdale; and it was to Stanley that these offices, as well as the receivership of Lancashire and Cheshire, eventually passed. Meanwhile, in May 1434, Urswyk’s name appeared on the list of local gentry who were to take the general oath that they would not support anyone who disturbed the peace. He had already by then been fortunate enough to obtain a share of the Lancashire estates of Thomas Astley, a minor in the custody of the Crown. One of his partners was James Radcliffe, whose kinsman, William Radcliffe of Todmorden, persuaded Urswyk to stand bail of 400 marks on his behalf in 1436, some time after his release under heavy securities from Lancaster castle. The Radcliffes were a prolific and often violent clan, much given to litigation; and Urswyk must surely have come to regret his involvement in their affairs. Three years later William actually murdered one of his relatives, the eldest son of Sir Thomas Radcliffe*, although he claimed to have been acting in self-defence. No less a person than the earl of Salisbury took it upon himself to settle the dispute, appointing Urswyk as an arbitrator. The latter earned William Radcliffe’s undying hatred by finding against him, and he was duly denounced in a petition to the chancellor of England. At the same time, Sir Thomas’s other sons were suing Urswyk for his failure, as receiver of Lancashire, to pay their father’s annuity, so he thus faced charges of corruption and duplicity from both sides of this divided family.9

In other respects, Urswyk’s life continued on its established course. He attested the returns made for Lancashire to the Parliaments of 1437 and 1442, having by then added the post of chief baron of the exchequer at Lancaster to his other duchy offices. His years of loyal service reaped their reward in 1442 with the grant of an annuity of £10 charged upon the herbage of Myerscough and hence deductable from the farm which he already paid to the Crown. He probably died soon after relinquishing all his appointments in November 1443, when he was already in possession of a papal indult for the plenary remission of sins at the hour of death. He had at least one son, Robert, married to Katherine Haryngton, and it is possible that the Thomas Urswyk (d.1479), who became chief baron of the Exchequer at Westminster after a distinguished career in the employment of the duchy of Lancaster, was another one of his children.10

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


  • 1. VCH Lancs. vi. 93; vii. 269; CP25(1) 279/150/16.. Chronological evidence, as well as the descent of certain family property, suggests that Thomas was the son of his father’s second, not first, marriage, but we cannot be entirely sure on this point.
  • 2. Chetham Soc. n.s. xcvi. 148.
  • 3. Somerville, Duchy, i. 484-5, 494, 506.
  • 4. Ibid. i. 494; DKR, xl. 533-7.
  • 5. DKR, xxxiii. 33.
  • 6. VCH Lancs. vii. 265-6, 269, 270; C1/16/47; CP25(1)279/150/16; DL42/17 (2), ff. 57-57v, 62v; DKR, xxxiii. 19; CPR, 1408-13, p. 32.
  • 7. VCH Lancs. vi. 93; CPL, vii. 330; C219/12/4; Chetham Soc. n.s. xcvi. 148; CFR, xiv. 391; DKR, xl. 536; Somerville, i. 494; CPR, 1422-9, pp. 8, 537.
  • 8. DL42/18 (1), f. 20v, (2), f. 26; Peds. Plea Rolls ed. Wrottesley, 318; Lancs. Feet of Fines, iii. 90, 94; DKR, xxxiii. 33; xxxvi (1), 170; Feudal Aids, iii. 93.
  • 9. C1/9/400; DL42/18 (1), f. 11; VCH Lancs. iii. 63; Somerville, i. 466, 494, 506; CPR, 1429-36, p. 379; DKR, xxxiii. 41; J.D. Whitaker, Craven, ed. Morant 519.
  • 10. C219/15/1, 2; VCH Lancs. vii. 269; DKR, xl. 536; CPL, ix. 240; Somerville, i. 482; HP ed. Wedgwood 1439-1509, Biogs. 897-8.