ROLSTON, James (by 1501-54/55), of Mayfield, Staffs.

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 1501, 2nd s. of Thomas Rolston (d.1529) of Mayfield by Elizabeth, da. of John Turvill of New Hall, Leics. unm.2

Offices Held

Servant of Francis Talbot, 5th Earl of Shrewsbury by 1538-d.; commr. in local dispute, Staffs. 1551.3


Little is known of James Rolston. He came from a cadet branch of the gentle family which had lived at Rolleston in Staffordshire ‘time out of mind’. His father had entailed his lands before making his will on 13 Aug. 1528, which contains no indication of James Rolston’s inheritance, if any; but Rolston, described in his own will as of Mayfield, is known to have held property there, at nearby Ashbourne in Derbyshire and at Farley. The Mayfield property may have been that for which James had obtained a 40-year lease from the prior of Tutbury on 11 Sept. 1522: he shared the lease with his brother Christopher, who predeceased him, and it passed to his elder brother Francis. The prior of Tutbury had been one of the overseers of Thomas Rolston’s will.4

Rolston was of an age with the 5th Earl of Shrewsbury whose service he had entered by the end of 1538. He evidently helped to run the earl’s estates and towards the end of his life he loomed large in the earl’s financial transactions. Presumably it was to Shrewsbury that he owed his three appearances in the Commons, as he had no personal links with Newcastle-under-Lyme and the earl was steward of the manor there belonging to the duchy of Lancaster: a family connexion with the influential Peshalls was perhaps of assistance in commending him to the borough. The Journal throws no light upon his role in the Commons, but there is some reason to believe that he toed the same parliamentary line as his master: two days after his return in 1554 he acknowledged a letter from Shrewsbury asking him to wait upon the earl at Oxford while the Parliament was meeting there, Rolston being then unaware that several days before, on 15 Mar., the Parliament had been prorogued to Westminster. The making of his will on 2 Nov. 1553 during the preceding Parliament suggests that he took the opportunity of being in the capital to do this. The markedly Catholic tone of the will probably indicates Rolston’s attitude towards the overthrow of the Edwardian Reformation begun during his first Membership of the Commons, and this would accord with the absence of his name among those Members opposed to the reunion with Rome. After remembering his brother Francis (the supervisor), three godsons, servants and the poor, he left leases and money to ‘my priest’ Thomas Mansfield and to William Woodward and his wife for the upbringing of their children. He also bequeathed £20 to his nephew Thomas Peshall towards his education at Cambridge. The will was proved at Lichfield on 11 Sept. 1555 by Rolston’s executors Thomas Mansfield and William Woodward, who valued his estate at £301.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Bodl. e Museo 17.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. The Gen. n.s. viii. 74; J. C. Wedgwood, Staffs. Parl. Hist. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc.), i. 324-5; T. Pape, Newcastle-under-Lyme, 39-40.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xiii; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. (ser.3) 1912, p. 181.
  • 4. Erdeswick, Staffs. 537; Wedgwood, i. 325; PCC 14 Jankyn; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. (ser. 3) 1929, p. 165; Staffs. Rec. Soc. 1938, p. 165.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, xiii; HMC Shrewsbury and Talbot, i. 15; ii. 303; Somerville, Duchy, i. 543; Wedgwood, i. 325.