HESKETH, Thomas (1548-1605), of Whitehill and Preston, Lancs. Heslington, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. 1548, 2nd s. of Gabriel Hesketh of Aughton, Lancs. by Jane, da. of Sir Henry Halsall of Halsall. educ. Hart Hall, Oxf. by 1568; Camb. univ.; G. Inn 1572, called 1580. m. Juliana, da. of Edward or Edmund Fusey of London, 1s. Kntd. 1603.2

Offices Held

Commr. recusants, Lancs. and Staffs. 1592; escheator, Lancs. 1588-97; duchy of Lancaster attorney 1591; Trinity reader, G. Inn 1595, Lent reader 1596; recorder, Lancaster 1597; attorney of ct. of wards from 1597; member, council in the north Oct. 1598-d.; counsel to Camb. univ. c.1600; j.p. Lancs. from 1577; j.p.q. Yorks. (East, West, North Ridings) 1601; jt. (with Ralph Barton) vice-chancellor of the duchy at Lancaster to 1592, sole from 1592.3


Hesketh was a lawyer who probably practised in the courts of the duchy of Lancaster. This, together with his local residence, would explain his being returned for Preston in 1586 and 1588. By 1597 he was recorder of Lancaster, and came in there, and next time he was eminent enough to take a turn as knight of the shire, in which capacity he was appointed to the main business committee (3 Nov. 1601) and to that considering monopolies (23 Nov.). As attorney of the court of wards Hesketh had already served on a number of committees in 1597-8: privileges and returns (5 Nov. 1597), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), continuation of statutes (11 Nov.), rogues and vagabonds (19 Nov.), relief of the poor (22 Nov.), lands of the bishopric of Norwich (5 Dec.), monopolies (8 Dec.), writs of error (11 Jan. 1598) and defence (23 Jan.). In 1601 he served on committees concerning privileges and returns (31 Oct.), Exchequer reform (21 Nov.), perjury (1 Dec.) and a private land settlement (3, 11 Dec.). On 7 Nov, 1601 he intervened in the debate on the subsidy.4

Unlike his brother Bartholomew (a ‘busy recusant’ in 1577) Hesketh was ‘sound in religion’, Sir Thomas Heneage telling Cecil in 1595 that no one had furthered her Majesty’s service in Lancashire so much as Hesketh. In August 1600 Hesketh wrote to Cecil with evident satisfaction about the execution of two Catholic priests. If only their ‘relievers and retainers’ could be dealt with, the county could be reformed.5

In 1595, the same year that Richard Hesketh was executed, Hesketh himself fell foul of the 5th Earl of Derby, who complained to Cecil that Hesketh had ‘crossed him’ in order to win credit to himself, and accused him of

going about in malice ... to draw the government from me to himself, who, though it be but a trifle, yet would I be loth to be thwarted by so mean a man.

Hesketh’s reply was sent to Cecil by Sir Thomas Heneage, who had

good experience of Mr. Hesketh in divers of her Majesty’s services, and have found him to deal ever as loyally, carefully and sufficiently as any man whatsoever. If my judgment be worth anything, I know not a more honest man, nor more sufficient.

Later Hesketh was accused of being ‘very partial’ in his conduct in the court of wards, and was alleged to have accepted gifts from the Countess of Rutland.6

Hesketh was recommended to Cecil for inclusion on the council in the north, and the Queen appointed him on account of his ‘wisdom and ability’, considering the council’s need for men of learning and judgment. He was one of those who, in 1599, reported on the powers of the lord president, which he thought should be increased, and, in 1602, on the office of vice president as it had been exercised for the past 30 years. His name was placed on the high commission list for York in 1599, but was subsequently struck out. He was granted lands in Essex and York in 1603, and the following year mills in Yorkshire worth £12 p.a. He bought Heslington about this time, where he resided towards the end of his life. He had made his will on 29 Sept. 1599, while still living in Preston, and afterwards added two codicils. He wished ‘so many poor men of Preston as I be years of age at my death’ to have a short gown of Yorkshire cloth worth one mark each. His wife was to have his house and lands there, and she and his brother Cuthbert were his executors. His son Thomas received all his books and £10 per annum for life. Sir Robert Cecil, ‘my most honourable patron’, was his supervisor, to whom he left his best basin of silver gilt. By one of the codicils, he left his lands in the city and county of York to his brother Cuthbert. Hesketh died on 15 Oct. 1605 and was buried in Westminster abbey. There is a monument to his memory on the north side of the choir in alabaster and coloured stone, ‘whereon is placed his image in a tufted gown’.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N.M.S.


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Vis. Lancs. 1613 (Chetham Soc. lxxxii), i. 22; Ath. Cant. ii. 412, 554.
  • 3. Cath. Rec. Soc. xviii. 161-4, 299; CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 390; 1598-1601, p. 272; Somerville, Duchy, i. 467, 481, 484; G. Inn Pension Bk. i. 99; Reid, Council of the North, 496; Ath. Cant. ii. 412.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 112; 1601-3, p. 156; D’Ewes, 552, 553, 555, 559, 561, 568, 570, 577, 586, 622, 624, 647, 649, 662, 665, 678; Townshend, Hist. Colls. 103, 104, 106; HMC Hatfield, viii. 341; ix. 258, 396; xi. 485.
  • 5. J. S. Leatherbarrow, Lancs. Eliz. Recusants (Chetham Soc. n.s. cx), 116; VCH Lancs. iii. 294; HMC Hatfield, v. 360, 369; x. 283-5.
  • 6. DNB (Hesketh, Richard); HMC Hatfield, iv. 411-12, 425; xi. 241-2; J. Hurstfield, Queen’s Wards, 194, 210.
  • 7. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 87; Lancs. and Cheshire Wills (Chetham Soc. n.s. xxviii), 165; Ath. Cant. ii. 412.