ROBERTS, John (1531-73), of Cranbrook, Kent and Ticehurst, Suss.

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



Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. 6 Aug. 1531, 3rd s. of Thomas Roberts of Glassenbury, nr. Cranbrook by Elizabeth, da. of Sir James Framingham of (?Debenham), Suff. m. Elizabeth, da. of Robert Pigott of Colwick in Waddesdon, Bucks., at least 3s. 1da.2

Offices Held


The identity of the senior Member for Steyning in the third Marian Parliament has not been established beyond question. If his election conformed with the Queen’s request for the return of townsmen, as his fellow-Member William Pellatt’s clearly did, he could scarcely have been other than the John Roberts of Steyning who had inherited his father Henry Roberts’s lands there in 1544, was a lessee of chantry property called Woslands in Steyning in 1548 and at his death in January 1556 was holding about 200 acres in Steyning, including a house called ‘The Nashe’, as well as lands in neighbouring Ashurst and West Grinstead; some of these Roberts leased from Francis Shirley, in whose favour he had deposed during Shirley’s dispute with the 9th Lord la Warr in 1552. Of sufficient local standing to have been elected with Pellatt (although not to have taken precedence over him on the return), this John Roberts could nevertheless hardly have been the target of the legal proceedings aimed at the Member for Steyning, along with many other Members, Pellatt included, after the Parliament was over, in particular the outlawry pronounced in 1558, nearly three years after the Steyning man’s death. It seems to follow that the borough conformed with the Queen’s request only in respect of Pellatt, and that his fellow-Member was not John Roberts of Steyning but a namesake from Kent.3

This John Roberts, a younger son in a family settled near Cranbrook, owed his advancement to a connexion with his eminent neighbour (Sir) Walter Hendley. It was probably his father whom Hendley named overseer of his will and his elder brother Thomas was to become the fourth husband of Hendley’s widow. She had been born Margery Pigott, and in her will of 1587 she was to call John Roberts’s widow her niece; the two were living together when Roberts made his own will in August 1573. It is Roberts’s kinship with Margery Hendley which furnishes the most likely explanation of his election for Steyning, for her stepdaughter Anne married, not long before his death in 1547, Richard Covert of Slaugham and thus became the daughter-in-law of John Covert. As one of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk’s servants in Sussex, and a man of independent standing there, John Covert sat in several Parliaments, including that of November 1554, and could well have been instrumental in procuring his kinsman’s return on that occasion, as he probably was to be when Walter Hendley’s servant Robert Byng came in for Steyning a year later.4

The case for regarding this John Roberts as the Member is strengthened by the course of events which arose out of this Parliament. Both Members for Steyning were prosecuted in the King’s bench for quitting it without leave before its dissolution, but the proceedings against them differed in significant ways. Whereas Pellatt, described in the information laid by the attorney-general as ‘of Steyning, in the county of Sussex, gentleman’, was first distrained for non-appearance and then made his fine in Easter term 1556, Roberts is described in the information merely as of Sussex, gentleman, the blank left for his domicile remaining unfilled, and after neither appearing nor being distrained he was eventually outlawed on 13 Oct. 1558. Not only is it hard to believe that he and Pellatt would have been handled so differently if both had belonged to Steyning, but Roberts’s treatment by process leading to outlawry instead of by distraint—in this respect he was unique among all the defendants—implies that he either had, or was represented as having, no property in Sussex on which distraint could be levied. By what looks like more than a coincidence the sheriff who was first called upon to serve the writ of venire facias upon the defaulting Sussex Members was John Covert. If Covert had endorsed the writ for Roberts non inventus, thus professing himself unable to find Roberts within his area of jurisdiction, he could have spared his kinsman the burden of distraint at the deferred cost of setting in motion the process which issued, 13 law-terms and three-and-a-half years later, in the outlawry; and this ultimate retribution, exacted five weeks before the Queen’s death, brought to an end all the cases still outstanding, Roberts could have evaded either by suing out a pardon (of which no record has been found) or by simply ignoring it.5

Roberts’s settlement at Ticehurst, where his brother Thomas and Margery Hendley also established themselves, may have followed his marriage ‘on St. Andrew’s day’ in a year unknown. It was probably he who in February 1568 was granted a 21-year lease of the manor of Snave, near New Romney, and adjacent lands at a rent of £76 a year; as the manor itself had been one of those bought from the crown in 1539 by Walter Hendley. By his will of 11 Aug. 1573 Roberts left his lands in Hawkhurst and Ticehurst to his wife so long as she and Margery Hendley lived together, but stipulated that part of the income should be used to maintain his son Thomas; after Lady Hendley’s death this son was to receive other benefits and his mother to occupy the house at Boarzell in Ticehurst. Roberts also provided for his daughter Marjorie, gave to Walter Hendley, Sir Walter’s nephew, an annuity of £10, and named his wife and her brother Francis Pigott executors. He died in 1573, was buried at Ticehurst and the will was proved in November 1576.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: R. J.W. Swales


  • 1. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 2. Date of birth given in W. Suss. RO, Comber pprs. 23, pp. 71-72. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. lxxv), 24-25; Vis. Beds. (Harl. Soc. xix), 46.
  • 3. PCC 7 Pynnyng; CPR, 1547-8, p. 282; C142/110/145; Suss. Rec. Soc. liv. 191; SP10/14/62(i).
  • 4. Comber pprs. loc. cit.; PCC 10, 30 Coode, 37 Carew.
  • 5. KB29/188 rot. 48.
  • 6. Comber pprs. loc. cit.; CPR, 1566-9, p. 193; LP Hen. VIII, xiv; PCC 37 Carew.