LAWLEY, Richard (by 1515-69), of Spoonhill and Much Wenlock, Salop.
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Family and Education
Bailiff, Much Wenlock 1550-1; commr. chantry lands 1554; escheator, Salop 1555-7.2
The brothers Richard and Thomas Lawley, were the nearest surviving kinsmen of Speaker Wenlock, who in 1468 had secured the enfranchisement of the borough of that name. The barony of Wenlock, which lapsed when its first holder was killed at Tewkesbury, was revived in the family of Lawley in the 18th century.3
Richard and Thomas Lawley’s father had been bailiff of Wenlock on three occasions, but the family achieved dominance there only in 1545, when Thomas Lawley bought the site of Wenlock priory. Richard Lawley was not involved in this transaction but he had acquired monastic lands of his own, and later in 1545 he joined his brother in buying, for £1,600, extensive lands in the marches and central midlands. Some of these were quickly resold, but Richard Lawley retained most of those in Shropshire until his death. It was while he was representing Wenlock in Parliament, along with the head of a leading county family, that these purchases were made: two years later he was re-elected, this time with his brother. Nothing is known of his part in the proceedings of the House on either occasion.4
The years when a Lawley was bailiff of Wenlock were prolific in new freemen, and the borough minute books record several new ordinances signed by Richard Lawley or made by agreement between him and the burgesses. The burgesses were apparently trying to restrict the bailiff’s powers, possibly because Lawley used them autocratically. In 1554 Lawley entertained Bishop Heath, president of the council in the marches, at the house in Wenlock for which he had forsaken the old family seat at Spoonhill. In 1558 he took the lead in proclaiming and celebrating the accession of Queen Elizabeth. His importance in the borough is reflected in the contemporary ‘parish register’, even when the author records something ill of him. Only twice is Lawley found playing a significant role in the shire: in 1547, when he was appointed to lead its levies to Scotland, and in 1550, when he was a member of the committee which drew up regulations for the marketing of corn during a dearth. In 1564 he was judged by the bishop of Hereford to be a ‘favourer’ of religion and meet for the county bench, but he did not achieve a place on it. He died intestate on 21 June 1569, leaving as heir his son Francis, aged 33, who had licence to enter on 30 Jan. 1571.5
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: Alan Harding
- 1. Date of birth estimated from marriage. Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxix), 313.
- 2. Much Wenlock min. bk. f. 190; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 3), ii. 303.
- 3. CP, xii(2), 479-88.
- 4. H. E. Forrest, Old Houses of Wenlock, app.; LP Hen. VIII, xvi-xvii, xx; C33/3/50.
- 5. Much Wenlock min. bk. ff. 79, 91-92, 160, 262; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. vi. 106, 109, 128; CPR, 1553-4, p. 453; 1569-72, p. 262; HMC 15th Rep. x. 49; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 15; C142/152/162; PCC Admins. ed. Glencross, i. 97.