WOLVERSTON (WOLFERSTON, WOLFRESTON), Robert (1572/3-1624), of Gray's Inn, London

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. 1572/3, 1st s. of Robert Wolverston of Culpho, Suff. and Mary, da. of Edmund Withypoll† of London and Ipswich, Suff.1 educ. G. Inn 1587.2 m. 15 Dec. 1600 (with £1,000), Dorothy, da. of Anthony Browne of Battle Abbey and Cowdray Park, Suss., wid. of Edmund Lee (d.1599) of London and Stauntonbury, Bucks., at least 2s.3 suc. fa. 1606/8.4 d. Nov. 1624.5

Offices Held

Gent. pens. 1603-10.6


Heir to a minor Suffolk gentry family, Wolverston was educated at Gray’s Inn, and may have been called to the bar; he and his brother Edmund certainly retained chambers at the beginning of James’s reign; the latter should not be confused with a Merchant Taylor who ran afoul of the London Skinners’ Company in 1602 for setting up in trade as a skinner without permission.7 In 1600 Wolverston married a Buckinghamshire widow, but fears that he might ‘shortly run into prodigal and unthrifty courses’ encouraged lord treasurer Buckhurst (Thomas Sackville†), who was related to the bride by marriage, to establish a trust to provide Wolverston’s wife with a life annuity of £100. This arrangement suggests that the bride’s family held little hope of Wolverston redeeming promises to settle a jointure of £100 a year upon his wife, and after his death his widow revealed that she had forborne to sue her first husband’s family for dower rights, fearing that Wolverston ‘would have sued for and recovered the same, then prodigally have spent and wasted the revenues’.8

In 1603 Wolverston secured a place as a gentleman pensioner, presumably with Buckhurst’s backing.9 Wolverston’s father died in around 1606, after which he and his brothers sold their inheritance and divided the cash. Robert seems to have planned to use his share to marry his son to one of his Staffordshire cousins, a scheme which was abandoned in 1609,10 when he began lending money to John Skillicorne. This gullible individual quickly ran into debt and agreed to allow Wolverston to buy out his manor of Prees, Lancashire for one-quarter of the £6,000 the land was worth, albeit charged with a life annuity of £200 to Skillicorne and his wife. Wolverston’s brother Edmund drafted the deed of sale so loosely as to ensure that Skillicorne would never be able to sue for payment of his annuity, the discovery of which deceit led to a lawsuit in 1612.11

Chancery detected foul play in Wolverston’s actions, and in December 1613 he was ordered to surrender the manor to Skillicorne in return for repayment of his money. Wolverston employed a range of schemes to retain possession, including the seizure of the manor by one of his associates upon forfeiture of a bond and endless disputation about the compensation Skillicorne was to pay; it seems likely that his election to Parliament in 1614 formed part of these delaying tactics, as proceedings were necessarily suspended under parliamentary privilege. Wolverston’s return for Cardigan Boroughs was presumably arranged through Court connections, for while he had given up his position as a gentleman pensioner in 1610, he still claimed to be in royal service. He made only one recorded speech, on 7 June, the final day of the session, when he seconded Sir Herbert Croft’s motion for a grant of one subsidy and two tenths and fifteenths in a vain attempt to avert a dissolution. His intervention earned him a royal letter to lord chancellor Ellesmere (Thomas Egerton†) two months later, which secured a stay of the proceedings in Skillicorne’s case on the grounds that Wolverton ‘had in the Parliament House showed himself forward in our service’.12

The Chancery order against Wolverston was confirmed on 17 Nov. 1614, but further protests delayed the awarding of a commission to decide the level of compensation he should receive for another four months. Skillicorne sold his interest to Sir Cuthbert Halsall* in May 1615, but the latter’s finances proved unequal to the task of buying out Wolverston’s interest, and the money Wolverston was to have received in lieu of his investment never paid. It was presumably during the final decade of Wolverston’s life that his wife was obliged ‘to live in want and apart from him and to seek her friends for maintenance’.13 In the 1621 Parliament he petitioned the Commons’ committee for grievances, and a bill to restore his title to Prees manor received a single hearing on 7 May. The same bill was revived in 1624, but it only emerged from committee on 26 May, and was lost at the prorogation three days later.14

Wolverston died in November 1624, leaving no will or administration. The only legacy he bequeathed his family and creditors was the compensation due for his interest in Prees manor, and after a dozen years of litigation his heirs and Halsall’s agreed to partition the estate.15 None of Wolverston’s descendants sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. Wolverston’s parents were married on 27 Aug. 1571: G.C. Moore Smith, Fam. of Withypoll (Walthamstow Antiq. Soc. xxxiv), 63.
  • 2. GI Admiss.
  • 3. Moore Smith, 63; C142/262/114; C2/Chas.I/W93/21.
  • 4. C54/1872; C2/Chas.I/W60/30.
  • 5. C2/Chas.I/T30/59.
  • 6. E407/1/36-8, 40.
  • 7. GL, ms 30708/2, ff. 323-80.
  • 8. C54/1897; 54/2054; PROB 11/113, ff. 16-17; C2/Chas.I/T30/59; 2/Chas.I/W93/21; 2/Chas.I/W97/53.
  • 9. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1580-1625, p. 451; E407/1/36.
  • 10. C2/Chas.I/W12/30; 2/Chas.I/W78/54; C54/1995; 54/2054.
  • 11. C33/124, ff. 252v-3, 887; 33/125, ff. 263v-4, 416-19.
  • 12. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 438; Egerton Pprs. ed. J.P. Collier (Cam. Soc. xii), 464; HEHL, EL5962-3; C33/125, ff. 1151v-2.
  • 13. C33/127, ff. 98, 165, 728; HEHL, EL5964-9; C2/Jas.I/J9/64; 2/Jas.I/S32/15; C2/Chas.I/T30/59; 2/Chas.I/W14/61.
  • 14. CJ, i. 610b, 758a, 766a, 795b; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 206-7; Som. RO, DD/PH/216/75.
  • 15. C2/Chas.I/F34/60; 2/Chas.I/W14/61; 2/Chas.I/W60/30; 2/Chas.I/W119/87.