COLLINGWOOD, Robert (by 1499-1556), of Eslington, Northumb.

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. by 1499, 1st s. of John Collingwood of Eslington and Etal. m. (3) da. of Heron of Ford, 1s.; (1) (2) and (4) inc. da. of Sir Ralph Fenwick of Stanton; Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Haselrigge of Noseley and Gilmorton, Leics. and Eslington, 2da.1

Offices Held

Escheator, Northumb. 1524-5, 1536-7; j.p. 1525-38; dep., middle march by 1528; keeper, Wark-upon-Tweed, Northumb. 1530-8; commr. for suppression of monasteries, Northumb. 1536, musters 1539, relief 1550; other commissions 1535-51; member, council in the marches of Wales by 1537; sheriff, Northumb. 1538-9, 1544-5, 1553-4.2


The origin of the Collingwood family is not easily traced but it had probably been resident in Northumberland for at least two centuries. Although Robert Collingwood’s grandfather had been a knight of the shire, by 1529 the family was of minor importance: both the grandfather and father had been border officials and lessees of their property in the county.3

Robert Collingwood was probably the man so named who in 1509 was included in a list of residents at Eslington able to bring 20 horsemen into the field. It was, too, almost certainly he who was nominated for Northumberland on the sheriff rolls in 1513, 1514 and 1515; he was not pricked and he was not to be nominated again until 1537. In the border warfare of the next decade he was involved in many raids: in 1520 he was rewarded for his part in the destruction of Scottish fortresses, and in 1523 he was one of the leaders of companies who, as the Earl of Surrey told Wolsey, ‘rode further and in more danger than others and undoubtedly did no less hurt’. In Lord Dacre’s scheme for permanent garrisons at certain fortresses in the east and middle marches, Collingwood was to command a garrison of 20 men at Eslington.4

In 1523 Collingwood was granted an annuity of 20 marks during pleasure, but in December of that year, on the retreat of the Scottish commander, his company of 100 men was ordered to be discharged, and thereafter his services became less military in character. In 1526 he was involved in negotiations subsidiary to the peace with Scotland; he reported to Archdeacon Magnus on his meeting in the middle march with Scottish representatives, and his report was sent on to Wolsey. By 1528 he was a fee’d servant of the crown as a deputy of the middle march and he played his part in the extension of crown influence in the county. Unlike many local gentlemen he was not in the service of a magnate.5

Although there is no evidence of royal intervention in the election, Collingwood’s allegiance and service must have made him an acceptable knight of the shire in the Parliament of 1529. Whether his appointment in the following year as keeper of Wark, a border fortress second in importance to Berwick-upon-Tweed, interfered with his attendance at Westminster we cannot say, for of his part in the proceedings of the Commons nothing is known. When in 1535 the King heard of the partiality said to have been used by the 5th Earl of Northumberland at a warden’s court, he ordered an inquiry by the justices of assize or by three or four ‘indifferent men’, of whom Collingwood was one. It was probably in the following year that he himself sought pardon from the crown in the course of its proceedings against former escheators and sheriffs of Northumberland for failing to account annually at the Exchequer.6

Collingwood was probably returned again to the Parliament of 1536, in accordance with the King’s request for the re-election of the previous Members, and perhaps also to one or more of the Parliaments of 1539, 1542 and 1545, for which the names of the Northumberland knights are unknown. He took an active part in the dissolution of the smaller monasteries in Northumberland and was one of those engaged in the invidious task of seizing Hexham priory, where he was sent forward with Lionel Grey to negotiate with the resisters. By contrast, in the Pilgrimage of Grace his role was an inconspicuous and perhaps equivocal one. He is not known to have been with the ‘King’s party’ at Chillingham, but he probably attended the meeting of the gentlemen of Northumberland on 22 Oct. 1536, for which he had drawn up the agenda. Designed to secure the marches and affirm loyalty to the crown, this gathering allowed its convenor Sir Ingram Percy to induce those present to take the rebel oath: Collingwood may well have been one of those who objected to this.7

Collingwood’s obscurity during the ensuing conflict was offset by his services during the 3rd Duke of Norfolk’s mission to the north. By February 1537 he was advising Norfolk about lawless elements in Redesdale and Tynedale and later he was involved in the attempt to bridle them. He and John Horsley corresponded with Cromwell on border matters and Norfolk, who twice stayed at his house at Eslington, told Cromwell in July 1537 that he trusted Collingwood above all others in that region. His appointment as sheriff shortly after the rebellion— and again six years later— reflects the confidence placed in him, for in this disturbed period the crown used a small nucleus of men for important local office. Border affairs continued to absorb his attention: about this time one of the crown’s agents in the north described him as ‘a wise borderer [and] a true man well minded to justice’. The deterioration of relations with Scotland gave fresh scope to his expertise in local warfare: from 1543 he advised the Earl of Hertford and other commanders on such matters, and his own leadership of raid and counter-raid bore testimony to his skill. It was probably for these services that he obtained the curious but profitable privilege of ‘crowkeeping’.8

The political and religious changes of the succeeding reigns do not seem to have affected Collingwood’s position, although in February 1551 the Privy Council found it necessary to command him and others ‘to be conformate and obedient’ to such orders as should be prescribed by the deputy wardens of the east and middle marches. Conservative in religion, he was not averse to sharing in the spoils of the Dissolution: in April 1553 he paid £766 for a grant to himself and his brother Alexander of ex-monastic property in Northumberland. He had laid the basis of his estates in the county in 1542 when he bought Eslington from Bertram Haselrigge.9

Shortly before his death Collingwood distributed numerous annuities to relatives and friends. The will which he made on 12 June 1556 further illustrates both his substance and his generosity. He divided his property into three equal parts, leaving a third of it to his wife, a third to his executors to pay debts and legacies, and the remaining third to his grandson and heir Cuthbert. The wardship of the heir he gave to the executors, if it could be obtained from the court of wards, and that of his nephew John to his cousins Thomas and Ralph Collingwood. He invoked the intercession of the Virgin Mary and set up a chantry in Whittingham church. His descendants were to be recusants. The chief executor of his will and receiver of the income from his property was a priest, Richard Lancaster, to whom he left the large annuity of £4. The date of Collingwood’s death cannot be established with any precision, for although the will was proved in 1556 the month in question is obliterated.10

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. J. Taylor


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first certain reference. Northumb. Co. Hist. xiv. 525; Vis. Northumb. ed. Foster, 32, 51; Vis. of the North, i. (Surtees Soc. cxxii), 21; Vis. Leics. (Harl. Soc. ii), 15; The Gen. ii. 225.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, iv, v, viii, xi-xvi, xxi; CPR, 1550-3, p. 142; 1553, p. 365; Hodgson, Northumb. i(1), 353.
  • 3. Feudal Aids, iv. 64-65; Arch. Ael. (ser. 3), vi. 19, 27; (ser. 4), xii. 118; CPR, 1461-7, p. 269; Hodgson, i(1), 339.
  • 4. Hodgson, i(1), 340; LP Hen. VIII, i-iii.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, iii, iv.
  • 6. Ibid. iv, ix; Northumb. Co. Hist. xi. 53 et passim; E36/173/118.
  • 7. Northumb. Co. Hist. iii. 160-3; vii. 466; Hodgson, i(1), 353-4; LP Hen. VIII, xi, xii; M. H. and R. Dodds, Pilgrimage of Grace, i. 199-201.
  • 8. LP Hen. VIII, xii-xiv, xvi-xix, xxi.
  • 9. HMC Rutland, i. 38; APC, iii. 473; CPR, 1553, pp. 40-41; 1554-5, p. 126; Arch. Ael. (ser. 3), vi. 20.
  • 10. Wards 7/8/28; Wills and Inventories, i (Surtees Soc. ii), 147-8.