BLENKINSOP, Thomas (1485/86-1534 or later), of Helbeck, Westmld.

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. 1485/86, 1st s. of Thomas Blenkinsop of Helbeck by Margaret, da. of Sir Richard Salkeld of Corby, Cumb. m. 1503/6, Eleanor, da. of Robert Lee ?of Isel, Cumb., 1s. suc. fa. 1 May 1503.1

Offices Held

Servant of the Cliffords; j.p. Westmld. from 1512; under sheriff, Westmld. by 1529.2


The Blenkinsop family, which may have derived its name from the township in southern Northumberland, had been resident in Westmorland since the reign of Edward II, when Richard Blenkinsop had acquired Helbeck as a result of his marriage to the heiress Isabel Helbeck. Although a family of moderate resources, it had had several members in Parliament; in 1491 John Blenkinsop had been returned for Westmorland with one of the Musgraves, who were also to provide Thomas Blenkinsop’s fellow-Member in the Parliament of 1529. The Blenkinsops’ manor at Helbeck was situated close to Brough where the Cliffords had one of their main residences, and in 1381 Thomas Blenkinsop and his heirs had been appointed by the 5th Lord Clifford constables of Brough castle for a period of 600 years, although the terms of this grant were later to be ignored.3

On the death of his father in 1503 Thomas Blenkinsop, then still a minor, became the ward of Henry, 10th Lord Clifford, who arranged his marriage to a daughter of Robert Lee. Clifford seems to have profited unjustly from the wardship; the King brought a case against him for loss of the royal due but later pardoned the offence. Blenkinsop early entered the service of the Cliffords and he was also soon active in local administration. In October 1524 he is said to have served in the army against Scotland. In 1525, with his son and another member of the family, he was among the servants who accompanied the 11th Lord Clifford to London for his creation as Earl of Cumberland; soon afterwards the earl granted him a wardship; and in 1528 he received on the earl’s behalf a meadow from Lord Dacre.4

It was clearly to his master that Blenkinsop owed his election as junior knight of the shire for Westmorland in 1529: the earl was hereditary sheriff there and Blenkinsop was himself to act as under sheriff during at least some part of the year which followed. Nothing is known of his part in the proceedings of the Commons, but in 1533 he strengthened his link with his fellow-knight Sir William Musgrave by marrying his son Thomas to Musgrave’s sister. There are occasional glimpses of his progress in the north: in October 1531 he was a witness to the portion of the will effecting the distribution of the lands of Sir William Bulmer and he himself is recorded as paying £10 a year in right of his wife out of the revenues of Little Corby and Warwick Bridge in Cumberland to Sir William Gascoigne.5

The last certain reference to Blenkinsop which has been found is of his membership of the grand jury which indicted Lord Dacre of treason in the spring of 1534: thereafter it may be either he or his son and namesake who is intended, as for example in the Westmorland commission of the peace in 1537 or among the gentlemen of the county listed in 1539 probably in connexion with the general muster of that year. If the elder Blenkinsop survived until 1536 he probably sat again in the Parliament of that year in accordance with the King’s request for the return of the previous Members. His name does not occur at the time of the Pilgrimage of Grace, although Lord Scrope is known to have spent a night at Helbeck while seeking to evade the rebels and a Christopher Blenkinsop was chosen a captain of citizens at Kirkby Stephen. He is said to have made a will to supersede the one which he had made in 1514 before the campaign in Scotland, but if he did it has not been found. Nothing is known of his religious sympathies but some of his descendants were to be recusants.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. J. Taylor


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., CIPM Hen. VII, ii. 807. Nicolson and Burn, Westmld. and Cumb. i. 583-4; CPR, 1494-1509, p. 466.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, i, v, viii, xii; Nicolson and Burn, i. 584.
  • 3. Nicolson and Burn, i. 492-3, 580-4; Harl. 2252; Clifford Letters (Surtees Soc. clxxii), 51; Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. n.s. xiv. 248; xlvi. 243-4; Vis. Northumb. ed. Foster, 17.
  • 4. CIPM Hen. VII, ii. 807; CPR, 1494-1509, p. 466; Nicolson and Burn, i. 571, 584; Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. n.s. xlvi. 279-80; LP Hen. VIII, iii, iv; T.D. Whitaker, Craven, ed. Morant, 333; Northern Hist. i. 48, 50; Test. Ebor. vi (Surtees Soc. cvi), 130.
  • 5. Test. Ebor. vi. 312; Nicolson and Burn, i. 584-5; LP Hen. VIII, vii.
  • 6. Clifford Letters, 51; M.H. and R. Dodds, Pilgrimage of Grace, i. 221; LP Hen. VIII, xiv; Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. iii. 206; Nicolson and Burn, i. p. xlix; Cath. Rec. Soc. liii. 62, 65.