BRANDLING, Robert (1575-1634), of Felling, co. Dur. and Alnwick Abbey, Northumb.

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



Family and Education

bap. 23 Jan. 1575, 1st s. of William Brandling of Felling, co. Dur. and North Gosforth, Northumb. and Anne Helye. m. (1) by 1594, Jane (bur. 17 Jan. 1606/7), da. of Francis Wortley of Wortley, Yorks., 6s. (2 d.v.p.), 2da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) Mary, da. of Thomas Hilton of Hilton, co. Dur. 2s.; 1ch. illegit with Jane Shaw; 1-2ch. illegit. with Jane Kirsopp. suc. fa. 1575.1 d. 29 June 1634.2

Offices Held

Freeman, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumb. 1600;3 member, Hostmen’s Co., Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1601-?d.;4 j.p. co. Dur. by 1602-?d.;5 sheriff, Northumb. 1617-18, 1630-1;6 surveyor, Crown mines, co. Dur. and Northumb. 1620;7 commr. inquiry, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1618-20, survey Crown manors, Northumb. and co. Dur. 1621, sewers, co. Dur. 1630.8


Brandling’s great-grandfather, a Northumberland man, made his fortune as a merchant adventurer at Newcastle at the end of the fifteenth century. His eldest son, Sir Robert Brandling, represented the borough five times in Parliament; his business and lands in Jesmond and North Gosforth, Northumberland were inherited by his nephew William, who also acquired the manor of Felling, co. Durham, a mining area which yielded huge profits as the Tyneside coal trade boomed over the next generation.9 William died in 1575, when his son, the future MP, was only an infant; the family was therefore not involved in two key developments of the late Elizabethan period, the acquisition of the Grand Lease of Durham coalmines in 1583, and the foundation of the Newcastle Hostmen’s Company in 1600.10

Several of Brandling’s Newcastle cousins shared his first name, but it was probably the future MP who became a freeman of Newcastle in 1600 and paid £10 to join the Hostmen in the following year. Though not a member of the cartels which took control of coal shipments from 1603, he clearly profited hugely from the trade, claiming to be worth £2,000 a year towards the end of his life. He invested heavily in land, paying £1,001 for the site of Newminster Priory, Northumberland in 1609, and later acquiring a larger property at Alnwick Abbey, Northumberland; he also bought up leases of Crown mines with the assistance of Sir William Smith of London, although the two men eventually fell out over the spoils of a particularly lucrative deal.11 Clearly a volatile individual, Brandling constantly picked quarrels with rivals, neighbours and even his own family. In 1610 Alderman William Jenison*, who had questioned Brandling’s title to the manor of North Gosforth, was so offended by Brandling’s ‘uncivil and unreasonable speeches’ at a legal hearing that he challenged him to a duel, a gesture which cost him a fine of 1,000 marks. In 1627 Brandling was arrested by his eldest son Sir Francis*, then sheriff of Northumberland, in a dispute over the portions he had provided for his younger children.12

In August 1620 Brandling protested to the king about the activities of Sir Peter Riddell*, then mayor of Newcastle, and his brother Sir Thomas*. The grievances he cited included the levying of primage, a duty collected by the Newcastle Trinity House, and the corporation’s ban on the construction of coal wharves along the Tyne by private landowners, who were forbidden to ship coal by the Hostmen’s monopoly. Brandling also observed that the Riddells made a fortune from leasing Crown mines at rents which were only a fraction of their true worth, and suggested that this also applied to the mines comprised in the Grand Lease. These claims were true - many mine owners (including Brandling himself) benefited from such leases - but calling attention to this fact constituted extreme provocation; the corporation’s initial reaction to these complaints was to accuse Brandling of failure to repair his wharf at Felling.13

Brandling widened his assault on the inner circle of the Hostmen’s Company following his return as Member for Morpeth at the general election of December 1620. Presumably the sponsor of a bill to overturn the Hostmen’s monopoly of the shipment of coal, which was rejected by the Commons at its first reading on 27 Feb. 1621, he returned to the attack on the afternoon of 26 Mar., the day before the Easter recess, moving ‘that the [Hostmen’s] patent for Newcastle coals may be brought in’. He criticized the duty of 12d. per chaldron the Hostmen had conceded to the Crown in return for their monopoly, but solicitor general Sir Robert Heath warned that the Crown would not tolerate an attack upon its revenues, while Christopher Brooke of York, noting that the Newcastle MPs had already left town, moved to postpone the investigation until the session resumed. In the face of such powerful opposition, it is hardly surprising that nothing more was heard of this complaint.14 After Easter, the Northumberland MPs lobbied hard to have Berwick exempted from the bill to bar the export of woolfells, but Brandling was conspicuously absent from this caucus; he was, however, named to the committee for the Durham enfranchisement bill (6 Mar.), and another to confirm the 1610 Act regulating moor-burning in the north (26 May). He left no trace upon the records of the autumn sitting.15

The fuss Brandling caused in the Commons in 1621 apparently persuaded the Hostmen to cut a deal. He retired from business and by April 1622 his eldest son had joined one of the Hostmen’s cartels for the shipment of coal. A year later Sir Francis took control of the family estates.16 Despite his retirement, in 1629 Brandling was apparently chosen for a second term as sheriff of Northumberland; he refused and sought refuge across the border in Scotland, but eventually served in the following year. Before he took up this office he was arrested by the Privy Council for ‘insolent and scornful behaviour’ towards the Newcastle corporation in a dispute over his construction of a coal wharf on the banks of the Tyne.17 This matter had no sooner been resolved than fresh complaints were received from his neighbours at Alnwick; he was summoned before the Council again, notwithstanding his service as sheriff, but after two weeks the cause was referred to the Council in the North. The dispute was eventually tried before the Durham High Commission, which recorded a succession of outrages against local ministers and the diocesan authorities. On 14 May 1634 Brandling was fined £3,000 and ordered to be imprisoned at royal pleasure; he may still have been in gaol when he died only six weeks later, on 29 June.18 No will or administration has been found.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. Surtees, Hist. co. Palatine Dur. ii. 90; Durham Vis. Peds. ed. Foster, 47; C2/Jas.I/B9/23; Durham High Commission Acts ed. W.H.D. Longstaffe (Surtees Soc. xxxiv), 55, 62.
  • 2. C142/753/5.
  • 3. Newcastle Freemen ed. M.H. Dodds (Newcastle-upon-Tyne Recs. Cttee. iii), 6.
  • 4. Recs. Co. Hostmen ed. F.W. Dendy (Surtees Soc. cv), 267.
  • 5. C181/1, f. 25; 181/2, f. 81v.
  • 6. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 99.
  • 7. SP14/116/74.
  • 8. C181/2, ff. 310v, 340; 181/3, ff. 14, 38; 181/4, f. 58.
  • 9. HP Commons, 1509-58, i. 486-8; H.H.E. Craster, Hist. Northumb. xiii. 349; Surtees, ii. 90.
  • 10. C142/152/116; J.U. Nef, Rise of Brit. Coal Industry, ii. 119-26; J. Hatcher, Brit. Coal Industry, 512-16.
  • 11. Newcastle Freemen, 6; Recs. Co. Hostmen, 267; E401/2412; C2/Jas.I/B13/15. Smith was not the 1604 MP of that name.
  • 12. STAC 8/62/21; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1603-25, p. 589; C2/Jas.I/B9/23; C2/Chas.I/B111/33.
  • 13. CD 1621, vii. 87-9; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 245.
  • 14. CD 1621, iv. 196; CJ, i. 529a, 575a; Nef, ii. 128-9.
  • 15. BERWICK-UPON-TWEED; CJ, i. 539b, 627b.
  • 16. Recs. Co. Hostmen, 69-70; C2/Chas.I/B111/33; APC, 1621-3, pp. 437-8.
  • 17. APC, 1629-30, pp. 20-1, 202, 351; 1630-1, pp. 8, 11-13, 23; CSP Dom. 1633-4, p. 385.
  • 18. APC, 1630-1, pp. 148, 218, 232; CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 482; 1634-5, p. 39; Durham High Commission Acts, 53-68; PC2/43, f. 302; C142/753/5.