LEYBURN, Sir James (by 1490-1548), of Cunswick, Westmld.

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 1490, 1st s. of Thomas Leyburn of Cunswick by Margaret, da. of Sir John Pennington of Muncaster, Cumb. m. (1) by 1516, Eleanor, da. of Sir Thomas Curwen of Workington, Cumb., 2s. 2da.; (2) Helen, da. of Thomas Preston of Preston Patrick, Westmld. 3da. suc. fa. 5 Aug. 1510. Kntd. by Apr. 1532.2

Offices Held

Escheator, Cumb. and Westmld. Feb. 1518-19, Feb.-Nov. 1522; j.p. Westmld. 1524, 1525, liberty of Furness Lancs. 1538, northern circuit 1540; dep. steward, Kendal, Westmld. by Apr. 1532; commr. for survey of monasteries, Lancs. 1536.3


Seemingly of Kentish origin, the Leyburn family had been settled since the 13th century in Westmorland, whence it had furnished a line of men prominent in the west march, a number of knights in medieval Parliaments, and in Roger Leyburn, bishop of Carlisle under Henry VII, an important figure in Church and State.4

Succeeding to his patrimony at about the same time as he came of age, James Leyburn made steady progress as a local administrator and, from 1526, fee’d servant of the crown. Although then styled knight, he was probably not knighted until after November 1529; the honour may have come to him at the time he was made deputy steward of the barony of Kendal, which he had become by April 1532. Described in a Star Chamber suit of 1534 as ‘of great power, blood and ally’, Leyburn was linked with leading families in neighbouring shires and beyond. His mother was a Pennington and his first wife a Curwen, and he was related to the Caruses of Lancashire and the Lees of Cumberland; he was godfather to Thomas Carus and Thomas Lee I. It was, however, his kinsmen the Parrs of Kendal who were to be his chief patrons. He was an executor of the will of Sir Thomas Parr’s widow Maud and his tenure of the deputy stewardship of Kendal brought him into close association with her son William Parr, the Parrs having held the stewardship for several generations. It also involved him in a clash with the 1st Earl of Cumberland who, as hereditary sheriff of Westmorland, claimed authority in the barony despite its status as a liberty and the King’s order to him not to interfere in its affairs.5

Leyburn was a regular correspondent of Cromwell. In 1536 he was appointed a commissioner for the survey of the monastic houses of Cartmel and Conishead and in October of that year his diligence in this service was noted by (Sir) Thomas Wharton I. By December, however, Leyburn had joined the northern rebels, albeit under duress—he may have been in particular danger through his connexion with the monastic visitor Thomas Lee. He was active in the re-ordering of affairs in Westmorland after the rebellion but was apparently still suspect at the end of 1537 when Lee wrote to Cromwell in his favour. Nevertheless, Leyburn remained a figure of importance in the north-west and in January 1542 he was returned as senior knight of the shire for Westmorland at a time when the Earl of Cumberland’s influence had been weakened by quarrels with his local tenants and three years after Leyburn’s kinsman had been created Baron Parr. In 1545 the senior seat went to Sir Ingram Clifford and Leyburn’s junior place may have been due less to his own standing, enhanced by the leading part he had played at the battle of Solway Moss in November 1542, and to the influence of Parr, then Earl of Essex, than to that of Parr’s sister Queen Catherine.6

Leyburn made his will on 4 July and died on 20 Aug. 1548. He had recently acquired a 44-year lease of the Lancashire manors of Ashton, Carnforth and Scotforth from William Parr and this he left to his wife for 18 years with remainder to his younger son James. His three surviving daughters were each to have 200 marks. His elder son Nicholas, rising 32 when Leyburn’s inquisition post mortem was taken in the following year, married a sister of Thomas Warcop and was the father of the James Leyburn who was executed as a Catholic traitor in 1583: Leyburn’s descendants also included two distinguished 17th-century priests, George Leyburn, president of Douai, and John Leyburn, vicar apostolic. Leyburn’s widow married Thomas, 2nd Lord Monteagle, whose son by a previous marriage, William Stanley, married Leyburn’s daughter Anne. Another daughter Elizabeth married first Thomas, 4th Lord Dacre and then Thomas, 4th Duke of Norfolk.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. J. Taylor


  • 1. The christian name is missing from the return (C219/18B/105) but there can be no doubt of the Member’s identity.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s. i.p.m., E150/116/1. Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. x. 124; LP Hen. VIII, v.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, iv, xiii, xv.
  • 4. Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. x. 124 et passim; Nicolson and Burn, Westmld. and Cumb. 144-5.
  • 5. Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. iii. 207; LP Hen. VIII, v-vii, ix, xii; Hamilton Pprs. ed. Bain, i. 308; M. E. James, Change and Continuity in Tudor North (Borthwick Pprs. xxvii), 10, 36-37; W. Farrer, Recs. Kendal, ed. Curwen, i. 58, 61-62, 75; ii. 63, 65-66, 232, 235, 257; iii. 42, 84; N. Country Wills, i (Surtees Soc. cxvi), 93; St.Ch.2/30/105; R. R. Reid, King’s Council in the North, 9, 11, 43, 45, 78, 96, 124.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, ix, xi-xv, xvii, xviii; Somerville, Duchy, i. 291; Hamilton Pprs. i. pp. lxxxi, lxxxviii.
  • 7. Richmondshire Wills (Surtees Soc. xxvi), 67-68; E150/140/1; Farrer, i. 75.