CAREY, Robert (c.1515-87), of Clovelly and Exeter, Devon.

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



Oct. 1553

Family and Education

b. c.1515, 4th s. of Robert Carey (d. 15 June 1541) of Clovelly and Cockington, but 1st s. by 3rd w. Margaret, da. of William Fulkerham. educ. M. Temple. m. by 1542, Margaret, da. of one Milleton, wid. of John Gifford of Yeo, Devon, 6s. 3da.1

Offices Held

J.p. Devon 1547-d.; commr. chantries, Devon and Cornw. 1548, relief, Devon 1550, to try maritime cases 1578; other commissions 1554-65; sheriff, Devon 1555-6; recorder, Barnstaple aft. 1560.2


Robert Carey the elder, well known for his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, divided his property equally between the children of his three marriages so that his son and namesake inherited estates in north Devon, centred on Clovelly, as the foundation of a position in the county. By descent and through his father’s marriages the younger Robert Carey was connected with leading local families, notably the Carews, Fulfords and Paulets. At the Middle Temple he must have shown early promise because he was chosen with Nicholas Bacon and Thomas Denton to prepare and present to Henry VIII a report on the course of study at the inns: he was also probably the Robert Carey who received £20 from Cromwell in 1539-40. Later, however, he seems to have dodged professional advancement: chosen Christmas steward several times after 1552 and Lent reader three times between 1555 and 1557, he declined on each occasion at the cost of a fine. His practice appears to have been largely a provincial one; he was retained by several corporations in Devon and by neighbouring magnates. In 1561 he played a prominent part in the divorce of his stepdaughter Wilmot Yeo so that she could marry his nephew George Carey of Cockington.3

Carey’s election to the first Marian Parliament answered to his combination of local and professional standing. His fellow Middle Templar Anthony Bury, whose counsel was still retained by the corporation, may have had a hand in his choice, as probably also did the recorder, Sir Hugh Pollard, who had many connexions with that inn, and (Sir) John Chichester, whom Carey was to succeed as recorder and to be associated with in Cornish mining. Carey was probably related to his fellow-Member, the Barnstaple merchant Roger Worth: it was in Worth’s house that in 1555-6 he was given sugar and malmsey by the mayor, having a year before received a box of marmalade. Carey may well have been instrumental in Thomas Marrow’s grant of the manor of Barnstaple in 1557. Of his part in the proceedings of the Parliament all that is known is that on 20 Oct. 1553 he had committed to him after its second reading (although in the original Journal his name is struck through) a bill to enable Bristol to take recognizances of the staple and apprentices as these were taken in London, and that he was not among the Members noted as having ‘stood for the true religion’, that is, Protestantism.4

Carey’s retention on the Devon bench under both Mary and Elizabeth confirms the impression that he had no strong religious views and the pious preamble to his will is doctrinally non-committal: it only asks for God’s grace to help him to live and die a Christian and to make his children ‘profitable members of this commonwealth of England’. He made the will on 16 Aug. 1579 but did not die until 1 Apr. 1587, and then as the result of contracting gaol fever at the ‘Black Assizes’ which he had helped to conduct. He was buried, as he had wished to be, near his parents’ tomb in Clovelly and a monument was erected to his memory. At the inquisition held at Exeter on 18 Apr. 1588 Carey’s son and heir George was found to have been 43 years old at his father’s death.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from family history, C142/62/11; F. Harrison, The Devon Carys, 180-1; Vis. Devon (Harl. Soc. vi), 49-50; N. Devon Athenaeum, Barnstaple, D. Drake ms ‘MPs Barnstaple’, 24-25.
  • 2. CPR, 1547-8, p. 82; 1548-9, p. 135; 1553, p. 352; 1554-5, pp. 108, 243; 1563-6, pp. 42, 334; J. Hoker, The description of the citie of Excester (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. xi), 584-97; APC, vii. 283; N. Devon Athenaeum, ‘MPs Barnstaple’, 24; 2518; 2520.
  • 3. Harrison, 180 et passim; M.T. Recs. i. 80, 88, 94, 98, 103-4, 109, 136; LP Hen. VIII, xiv; E. Waterhouse, Fortescutus Illustratus (1663), 539-46; R. M. Fisher, ‘Thomas Cromwell, humanism and educational reform’, Bull. IHR, L. 151-63; M. Hastings, Ct. Common Pleas, 65.
  • 4. N. Devon Athenaeum 3972, f. 61; APC, vi. 118, 133; CPR, 1555-7, pp. 540-1; C. G. Ericson, ‘Parlt. as a legislative institution in the reigns of Edw. VI and Mary’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1973), 445.
  • 5. Harrison, 182-3; PCC 23 Windsor; C142/216/23.