IRBY, Leonard (by 1522-71), of Sutterton and Boston, Lincs. and London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1553
Apr. 1554
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1522, 2nd s. of Anthony Irby (d. 21 June 1548) of Gosberton by Alice, da. of John Bountayne or Bunting of Evedon. educ. ?Camb. m. (1) by 1544, Anne 1s.; (2) 20 July 1562, Anne, da. of Charles Knyvet of Princethorp, Warws., wid. of Nicholas Robinson of Boston; 1da.2

Offices Held

Clerk of the peace and crown, Lincs. (Holland, Kesteven) 1543-d.; surveyor to Edward Fiennes, 9th Lord Clinton prob. by 1552; escheator, Lincs. 1552-3, Jan.-Dec. 1561; commr. goods of churches and fraternities, Lincs. (Holland) 1553, subsidy 1563; j.p. Lincs. (Holland) 1558/59, q. 1564-d., (Kesteven) q. 1562-d., (Lindsey) q. 1569; alderman (?dep. recorder) Boston 1560-d.; dep. steward, duchy of Lancaster manor of Long Sutton, Lincs. in 1561; collector for loan, Lincs. (Holland) 1562; muster master against northern rebels 1569.3


The Irby family had come to Lincolnshire from Cumberland about the beginning of the 14th century, and by the 16th was prominent in the administration of the parts of Holland and Kesteven. Anthony Irby was clerk of the peace for Kesteven and active for the crown during the rebellion of 1536. Leonard Irby’s education is to be glimpsed only from his uncle Ambrose’s bequest in 1530 of 100s. for his ‘exhibition’ at Cambridge, and his father’s in 1548 of law books. Cambridge and an inn of court may not only have qualified him to succeed his father as clerk of the peace in 1543, but by associating him with a fellow student, William Cecil, may have contributed to his entry to the House of Commons two years later, for the Cecils were entrenched at Stamford; while if he had already attached himself to Lord Clinton, that could have clinched the matter, Clinton having recently succeeded Sir John Russell, Lord Russell, as steward of the manor. In the first Edwardian Parliament Cecil himself sat for Stamford with a townsman, but the second saw Irby returned on the first of eight all-but-consecutive occasions for Boston. Here his obligation to Clinton, the high steward, is hardly in doubt: in the six months before the election he acted for Clinton in the purchase or sale of lands, probably as Clinton’s surveyor in Lincolnshire, whereas Cecil as the town’s recorder may have had a rival candidate, Thomas Ogle, whom the common council judged ‘too young and not meet’ for the seat.4

Clinton’s support of the Duke of Northumberland involved Irby in the succession crisis of July 1553. In a letter to Lincolnshire written from the Tower after Jane Grey’s accession, Cecil informed his neighbours and countrymen that ‘the Lord Admiral [Clinton] is purposed to come down into those parts by order from hence for the good order of that country and other service there and for the more expedition of the same his Lordship sendeth down Mr. Carr [Robert Carr of Sleaford who was to marry Irby’s widow] and Mr. Irby before him with speed’. The letter is studiously obscure but the object of the mission can hardly have been other than the mobilizing of support for Queen Jane. It is not surprising that, although neither Clinton nor Irby was punished for their misconduct, the election to Mary’s first Parliament saw Irby replaced at Boston by Stephen Gardiner’s secretary. He was elected to the following Parliament and to every succeeding one until his death, being unaffected by his vote against one of the government’s bills in 1555. It is also clear that his standing at Boston improved steadily with the lengthening of his service as one of its Members. When he first appears in the corporation minutes it is as a stranger promising not to claim any wages if elected, but in 1560 the council elected him a freeman, alderman and, possibly, Cecil’s deputy as recorder, and by 1571 he was treated as a townsman by being paid for attending Parliament. He died in the autumn of that year.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. M. Hofmann


  • 1. Boston corp. min. bk. 1545-1607, f. 13v.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first office. Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. li), 542-3; PCC 11 Populwell; Boston Par. Reg. (Lincoln Rec. Soc. par. reg. ser. i), 2; P. A. Irby, Irbys of Lincs. and Irebys of Cumb. i. 8, 17-18; CP40/1140, r. 448.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xviii; CPR, 1553, p. 414; 1554-5, p. 109; 1560-3, p. 439; 1563-6, pp. 23, 24, 40; 1569-72, pp. 225-6; CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, pp. 152, 210; Lansd. 8, f. 79; 13, f. 48; Boston corp. min. bk. 1545-1607, f. 39; E. Stephens, Clerks of the Counties, 117, 119; Somerville, Duchy, i. 584; Osborn coll. Yale Univ. Lib. 71.6.41; Lincoln Rec. Soc. liv. pp. lxvii-lxviii.
  • 4. Irby, i. p. xvii; PCC 1 Thower, 11 Populwell; CPR, 1550-3, pp. 271, 330; 1553, pp. 120, 266: Neale, Commons, 199n; St.Ch.4/1/52; Stamford hall bk. 1461-1657, f. 140.
  • 5. Lansd. 103, ff. 1 seq., printed in C. Read, Cecil, i. 95 with ‘Irby’ misread as ‘Forby’; Guildford mus. Loseley 1331/2; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 27; CPR, 1553-4, p. 356; 1555-7, p. 534; 1563-6, pp. 413, 418, 449, 518, 519; 1566-9, p. 303; Boston corp. min. bk. 1545-1607, ff. 13v, 18v, 28, 29, 39, 102v; PCC 42 Holney.