BERKELEY (BARKELEY, BARTLETT), Roland (c.1548-1611), of Worcester and Spetchley, Worcs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



10 Jan. 1605

Family and Education

b. c.1548, s. of William Berkeley and ?Elizabeth, da. of William Burghill of Cowarne, Herefs. educ. ?Oxf.; ?appr. clothier, Worcester. m. 15 Apr. 1574, Katherine (27 Dec. 1629), da. of Thomas Heywood of Gloucester, Glos., 7s. (1 d.v.p.) 9da. suc. fa. 1583. d. 1 June 1611.1

Offices Held

Auditor, Worcester 1581-2, member of the Twenty-Four 1583, high chamberlain 1583-4, low bailiff 1585-6, low alderman 1586-7, high alderman and judge of the Orphans Court 1587-8, high alderman 1588-9;2 gov. of the g.s. and almshouse, Worcester, by 1606-d., treas. 1606-7, 1609-10.3

Master, Weavers, Walkers and Clothiers’ Co., Worcester 1590.4

Commr. subsidy, Worcester 1598, 1599, 1603, 1608,5 gaol delivery by 1603-at least 1610;6 j.p. Worcs. c.1609-10.7


Berkeley’s son Robert claimed descent from the noble family of the same name through a branch that had settled at Dursley in Gloucestershire, but the 1569 visitation for Worcestershire fails to mention any aristocratic ancestry. Berkeley’s father has been commonly identified as the MP for Hereford in 1547 but this seems to be a mistake, and the identification of his mother may be equally erroneous. A document among the papers of the Worcestershire antiquarian Thomas Habington, but not in his handwriting, states that Berkeley himself was the eighth son, but he was recorded as being the first of eight sons in the 1634 herald’s visitation. Habington claims that Berkeley was educated at Oxford, but this cannot be confirmed and it has been suggested that he was instead apprenticed to a Worcester clothier early in Elizabeth’s reign. Certainly, by the 1590s he was well established among the ruling mercantile families of Worcester, for his eldest son, William, married the daughter of another of the city’s MPs, Thomas Chettle*.8 Berkeley also lent money to impecunious members of the Worcestershire gentry, including (Sir) William Ligon* and Edmund Harewell, and purchased their land.9 In 1606 Berkeley bought the manor of Spetchley, three miles from Worcester, which became his principal residence.10 At his death he also owned property in Herefordshire and elsewhere in Worcestershire, and leased land belonging to the bishop of Worcester.11

Following the death of the sitting MP, Christopher Dighton, Berkeley was re-elected to Parliament by the corporation of Worcester on the last day of 1604, although the return is dated ten days later.12 During the second session (1605-6) he was probably the ‘Sir Rowland Barkley’, appointed on 5 Feb. 1606 to consider the bill to repeal an Elizabethan statute concerning the length of kerseys, a matter of undoubted interest to him, although Worcester did not specialize in that type of cloth.13 Berkeley was certainly appointed to consider two private estate bills (21 Feb.), and measures concerning extortion (28 Feb.), charitable uses (19 Mar.) and the dairy industry (4 April).14 Berkeley appears only once in the records of the third session (1606-7), when he was appointed to the committee for the restitution of the children of Edward Windsor (16 May).15 There is no trace of him in the surviving records of the fourth or fifth sessions. Behind the scenes, however, he may have been lobbying to elevate Worcester to county status for in March 1604 this matter had been ‘wholly referred’ to him by his fellow councillors.16

Berkeley drew up his will on 15 Aug. 1610 in which he bequeathed more than £4,000 in cash. He provided for money to be distributed to the poor of Worcester on the day of his burial, on Ash Wednesday and ‘on the third day of May commonly called holy rood day’. He also gave £100 each to the Worcester Clothiers’ Company and the corporation of Hereford for the benefit of young clothworkers. The same amount was left each to eight of his daughters ‘hereby named and to none other’, suggesting that the ninth had been disowned. In a codicil to his will, added on 28 Sept., Berkeley removed the promise of 10s. a year to the churchwardens of Spetchley, but did not alter his wish to be buried in the parish church.17 Berkeley died at his house in Spetchley on 1 June 1611. In accordance with his father’s wishes, Robert Berkeley*, the next MP in the family, erected a monument in his honour.18

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Glyn Redworth / Ben Coates


  • 1. Survey of Worcs. by Thomas Habington ed. J. Amphlett (Worcs. Hist Soc. 1893-5, 1896-9), i. 370, ii. 281; Vis. Worcs. (Harl. Soc. xc), 11; Vis. Worcs. (Harl. Soc. xxvii), 12 ; IGI; A.D. Dyer, City of Worcester in Sixteenth Cent. 186-7.
  • 2. Worcs. RO, BA9360, shelf 644/1, ff. 149v, 160, 161, 163v, 166, 169; Dyer, 187.
  • 3. Worcs. RO, BA/3617/7, ff. 55, 56, 59, 60.
  • 4. V. Green, Hist. and Antiqs. of City and Suburbs of Worcester, ii. p. lxxii.
  • 5. E179/201/245; 179/201/246; 179/260/1; SP14/31/1, f. 46v.
  • 6. C181/1, f. 46v; 181/2, f. 122v.
  • 7. C66/1822, mm.23d-4d; Cal. Q.S. Pprs. ed. J.W. Willis Bund (Worcs. Hist. Soc. 1900), ii. 142, 147.
  • 8. Survey of Worcs. by Thomas Habington, ii. 281-2; HP Commons, 1509-58 (Berkeley, William); Vis. Worcs. (Harl. Soc. xc), 11-12; Dyer, 187; Vis. Worcs. (Harl. Soc. xxvii), 12.
  • 9. VCH Worcs. iv. 21; Worcs. RO, BA892/2, pp. 369-70.
  • 10. VCH Worcs. iii. 525, 552; iv. 140, 225.
  • 11. C142/325/181; PROB 11/117, ff. 435-6v.
  • 12. Worcester Chamber Order Bk. 1602-50 ed. S. Bond (Worcs. Hist. Soc. n.s. viii), 88; OR.
  • 13. CJ, i. 264a.
  • 14. Ibid. 271a, 272a, 275b, 287a, 293b.
  • 15. Ibid. 374b
  • 16. Worcester Chamber Order Bk. 1602-50, 87.
  • 17. PROB 11/117, ff. 435-7.
  • 18. Survey of Worcs. by Thomas Habington, i. 370.