CHESEMAN, Robert (1484/85-1547), of Dormans Well, Norwood, Mdx. and London.

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. 1484/85, o.s. of Edward Cheseman of Dormans Well by Joan Lawrence of Lancs. educ. ?I. Temple. m. Alice, da. of Henry Dacres of London, 1da. suc. fa. Aug. 1509/Nov. 1510.2

Offices Held

Secondary, Bread St. Compter 1511-13, commr. subsidy, Mdx. 1515, 1523; other commissions, London and Mdx. 1524-41; escheator, Kent and Mdx. 1519-20, 1530-1; j.p. Mdx. 1528-d.3


From his father, who had rounded off a long career as filacer and attorney in the King’s bench by becoming cofferer of the royal household, Robert Cheseman inherited a substantial estate in Kent and Middlesex. The independence which this gave him, and which he strengthened by his marriage to an alderman’s daughter, may explain his early resignation of the post of secondary of the compter in Bread Street and his avoidance of permanent office thereafter. He leased a house in Fetter Lane, London, from the Goldsmith’s Company and his wife brought him other properties in the City, but his home was Dormans Well at Norwood, and Middlesex the setting for most of his work in local administration.4

Cheseman is best remembered as the subject of Holbein’s portrait, formerly in the royal collection and now at the Mauritshuis. Although this painting, which dates from 1533, suggests that Cheseman was a figure at court, he has not been found holding office or enjoying status there, and the conjecture that the falcon at his wrist means that he was the King’s falconer lacks documentary support; he may merely have shared the enthusiasm for the sport shown by Ralph Sadler, his fellow-knight for Middlesex in 1539. His election on that occasion, and re-election to the following Parliament, Cheseman must have owed to a combination of local standing and influential connexions. By 1539 he had added considerably to his stake in the county, having leased the manor of Osterley (once owned by his father) from Syon abbey in 1534 and the possessions of the Trinity friars of Hounslow three years later, and being keeper of the archbishop of Canterbury’s park at Pinner. Whether he came in under Sadler’s, or Cromwell’s, wing in 1539 is not known, but his kinsmen by marriage John Pakington and George Rolle, with the first of whom he sat in 1539 and the second in 1542, were legal associates of Cromwell, and his brother-in-law Robert Dacres was a Privy Councillor. During the rebellion of 1536 he had been summoned to attend the King with 30 men, and in both 1543 and 1544 he was called on to supply foot soldiers for service in France. It is unlikely that he took part in the second of these campaigns, for on 6 May 1544 he concluded an agreement for the marriage of his daughter and sole heir Anne with Sir Leonard Chamberlain’s son Francis and on the following 28 June he enfeoffed, among others, John Newdigate and John Pollard, of certain lands to the young couple’s use. Anne Cheseman was then still a child, for by his will of 4 Oct. 1546, which was witnessed on 31 May 1547, her father committed her to the care of her mother until she became 18. He nevertheless named her an executor with her mother; among the overseers was (Sir) William Stanford. Cheseman died on 3 July 1547 and was buried in the tomb which he had prepared for himself in Norwood church. His widow died in 1558, and his cousin and namesake of Lewisham, Kent, also outlived him.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
  • 2. Aged 48 in 1533 according to inscription on portrait. Mdx. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lxv), 47; PCC 33 Bennett, 7 Populwell; C1/395/3.
  • 3. City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 2, ff. 117v, 161v; Guildhall Misc. ii. 431; Statutes, iii. 170; LP Hen. VIII, iii, iv, vi, viii, xiii, xvi, add.
  • 4. M. Blatcher, ‘Ct. of King’s bench in the 15th cent.’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1936), 149, 151, 153-5, 158-9, app. xxiv-xxv; LP Hen. VIII, ii; PCC 7 Populwell; C1/1125/18-19.
  • 5. VCH Mdx. i. 192; iii. 109; iv. 44-45; C1/974/19, 1301/63-4; 142/85/1; LP Hen. VIII, xi, xviii, xix; PCC 7 Populwell, 34 Noodes; Pevsner, Mdx. 127; Mdx. Peds. 47.