WORSLEY, Richard (by 1517-65), of Appuldurcombe in Godshill, I.o.W.

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 1517, 1st s. of Sir James Worsley of Appuldurcombe by Anne, da. and h. of Sir John Leigh of More, Dorset. m. Ursula, da. of Henry St. Barbe of Som., 2s. suc. fa. 4 Sept. 1538.2

Offices Held

Capt. I.o.W. 1540-53, 1560-d., Carisbrooke castle 1544-53, 1560-d.; chamberlain or particular receiver, ct. gen. surveyors of the King’s lands by 1545; comptroller of customs, Southampton 1560; j.p. Hants 1547-54 or later, q. by 1558/59-d.; commr. benevolence 1544/45, chantries, Berks., Hants and I.o.W. 1546, relief, Hants and I.o.W. 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553; other commissions 1551-d.3


Richard Worsley’s father, who came of the Lancashire family and was a kinsman of Sir Robert Worsley, crowned a career in the royal household by becoming captain of the Isle of Wight, a position he was the better able to support by reason of his marriage to a local heiress. It was almost certainly the eldest of Sir James Worsley’s sons whom Cromwell took into service in 1531, for six years later Richard Worsley was entrusted with financial business with Gregory Cromwell and it was for him that in 1538 the minister asked the prior of Sheen, apparently without success, for the advowson of Godshill. This was shortly before Sir James Worsley’s death brought Worsley into his inheritance and Cromwell himself into the vacant captaincy of the island, with Worsley probably acting as his deputy. The King and Cromwell are said to have visited the family seat of Appuldurcombe in Godshill.4

It was as ‘Mr. Worsley’ that Cromwell recommended Worsley, then in his early twenties, as Thomas Wriothesley’s fellow-knight for Hampshire in the Parliament of 1539, when his first choice of John Kingsmill lapsed because Kingsmill was sheriff. Both were elected and so were destined to witness at close quarters the destruction of their patron in the following year. For Worsley, whose favour the town of Southampton engaged at this time with a gift of oranges and lemons, while the borough of Yarmouth sought his aid against customs evaders, the fall of Cromwell was followed by his own succession to the captaincy of Wight; he also became the particular receiver for the region, probably from the establishment of the court of general surveyors in 1542. His military competence was put to the test with the French landing on the island in 1545; he seems to have emerged with credit and he was much involved with the construction of Yarmouth castle and other defences built shortly afterwards. He had not been re-elected with Wriothesley to the Parliament of 1542 and is unlikely to have been to its successor of 1545, for which the Hampshire names are lost; to the memory of his precocious appearance in 1539 would doubtless have been added the argument that his place was on the island.5

Worsley’s replacement as captain in the autumn of 1553 need not imply that the Marian government lacked confidence in him—he was retained on the commission of the peace—and it was his successor William Girling who was to come under suspicion at the time of the Dudley conspiracy. The next captain, William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester, resigned the office in 1560, whereupon Worsley was reappointed for life, being at the same time relieved of his obligation to reside at Southampton as customs comptroller since he was ‘now to serve the Queen elsewhere’; he was indeed engaged during these years in surveying the defences of Portsmouth and the Channel Islands. By his will of 28 Dec. 1564 he asked to be buried at Godshill, near his grandfather, left the manor of Appuldurcombe to his wife during her widowhood and provided for his two infant sons. His numerous minor bequests included a piece of unicorn’s horn to Sir William Pickering and a gelding to John Astley. Worsley died on 12 May 1565 and a monument to him was erected at Godshill by his brother. Both his sons were killed on 6 Sept. 1567 in an explosion at the gatehouse at Appuldurcombe. Their mother married as her second husband Sir Francis Walsingham, who fought and won a law suit with Worsley’s brother and executor about the inheritance. The family was to produce several later Members, including Sir Richard Worsley, the historian of the Isle of Wight.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Patricia Hyde


  • 1. LP Hen. VIII, xiv(1), 662 citing SP1/146, pp. 237-40; E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/83/179. Vis. Hants (Harl. Soc. lxiv), 23.
  • 3. Worsley, I.o.W. app. no. xxxvii; LP Hen. VIII, xix-xxi; CPR, 1547-8, p. 84; 1548-9, p. 57; 1550-3, p. 142; 1553, pp. 358, 362, 415, 417; 1553-4, pp. 19, 286; 1558-60, pp. 291, 461; 1560-3, passim; APC, i. 86, 87; Stowe 571, ff. 45, 56.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, iii, v, xii, xiii; Worsley, 92.
  • 5. M. L. Robertson, ‘Cromwell’s servants’ (Univ. California Los Angeles, Ph.D. thesis, 1975), 589-90; LP Hen. VIII, xiv; Soton RO, stewards’ bk. 1539-40; VCH Hants, v. 287n, 289.
  • 6. CPR, 1553-4, p. 286; 1558-60, pp. 291, 461; 1563-6, pp. 435-7; PCC 23 Morrison; C142/124/156, 141/21; VCH Hants, v. 171; Oglander Mems. ed. Long, 155; C. Read, Walsingham, i. 29, 229; Pevsner and Lloyd, Hants and I.o.W. 747.