LEWEN, Robert (by 1504-62 or later), of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumb., Hetton, co. Dur.

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 1504, 1st s. of William Lewen by Alice, da. of Lancelot Haselrigge of Swarland, Northumb. m. (1) Margaret, da. of Gilbert Middleton of Newcastle and Silksworth, co. Dur., 2s., (2) Jane, da. of Christopher Brigham of Newcastle, 5s. inc. Edward.1

Offices Held

Alderman, Newcastle by 1541, sheriff 1541-2, mayor 1544-5, 1552-3; keeper of royal ordnance in Newcastle by 1543; gov. merchant adventurers of Newcastle 1552-3; commr. musters, Newcastle 1559; j.p. Northumb. 1562.2


The family of Lewen appears to have originated in county Durham; Robert Lewen owned lands in that county by ‘ancient inheritance’ and others in Broomley in Northumberland, but his position in Newcastle he carved out for himself. Apprenticed there in 1519 to Gilbert Middleton, a prominent merchant and councillor, he became free of the Newcastle merchant adventurers in 1524-5. Marriage to his master’s daughter doubtless assisted his progress, which may be gauged by the number of apprentices he took in his turn. Within 20 years he was one of the small group of ruling merchants in the town.3

With the coming of war in 1543 Lewen was drawn into the service of the crown. He was made keeper of the royal ordnance at Newcastle and also kept account of ships impressed for naval duties. During his first mayoralty he was in frequent communication with the 5th Earl of Shrewsbury about equipping and victualling ships and supplying coal to Boulogne, Calais and Dover. He also had to meet the difficult situation created by the presence in the town of 1,300 Spanish troops. Unable through lack of wages to pay their own way, the Spaniards had to be maintained at public expense, to the anger of the townsmen: Lewen borrowed £300 but needed twice that sum, for which he appealed to Bishop Tunstall and (Sir) Ralph Sadler, with what result is not known.4

When the town’s merchant adventurers’ company was re-incorporated in 1547 Lewen was appointed one of the 12 assistants to the governor. Five years later his ascendancy in both trade and politics brought him the governorship and his second mayoralty, and with them his first election to Parliament. It was this Parliament that passed the Act annexing Gateshead to Newcastle (7 Edw. VI, c.10), but what part Lewen played in its passage is not known. Between this and his next appearance in the Commons he was more than once in London for the merchant adventurers: it was probably in 1555 that he was commissioned to go there with Cuthbert Blount, and in 1557 he and Bertram Anderson were paid £9 for business transacted there. It was therefore as one familiar with the capital that he returned in 1558 to his second Parliament, and when he was re-elected to its successor he ranked only below Bertram Anderson and Sir Robert Brandling in the number of times they had sat for their town.5

Lewen acquired considerable property in Newcastle, including some which had belonged to the Grey Friars, as well as adding to his inheritance in Durham. Styled gentleman in the election return of 1557, he achieved in 1562 a place on the Northumberland bench which, however, he was not to keep for long. He made his will on 26 Nov. 1562 and died soon afterwards.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. J. Taylor


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from admission to freedom of Newcastle merchant adventurers. Arch. Ael. (ser. 4), xiv. 59; Northumb. Co. Hist. vi. 148; Vis. of the North (Surtees Soc. cxxii), 164-5; Vis. Northumb. ed. Foster, 78.
  • 2. Arch. Ael. (ser. 4), xviii. 33-34, 36; LP Hen. VIII, xviii; J. Brand, Newcastle, ii. 240; R. Welford, Newcastle and Gateshead, ii. 339; CPR, 1560-3, p. 441.
  • 3. Northumb. Co. Hist. vi. 146-9; Surtees, Dur. i. 214; Wills and Inventories, ii (Surtees Soc. cxii), 24; Newcastle Merchant Adventurers, ii (ibid. ci), 186, 193, 199, 203, 205, 207.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, xviii-xx.
  • 5. Newcastle Merchant Adventurers, i (Surtees Soc. xciii), 87-88, 283-4; ii (ibid. ci), 167-9; Wills and Inventories, ii. 25-26.
  • 6. Northumberland Co. Hist. vi. 149-50; Arch. Ael. n.s. i. 133; (ser. 3), i. 68; Wills and Inventories, ii. 24-27.