Robert Holdsworth

Robert Holdsworth, of Ashday Hall, Southowram, was the son of wealthy Halifax merchant, John Holdsworth.

The name was also spelled Haldesworth or Holdesworth.

He went to Oxford university, then to Rome, where he gained the degree of doctor of theology and doctor of sacred decrees.

He returned to England and around 1507, he was appointed Chancellor of the Diocese of Worcester.

He was Vicar of Halifax from about 1525. He was the last Vicar to be appointed by the Prior of Lewes.

He took Sir Henry Savile's side in the Wakefield-Pontefract feud.

He was fined by Parliament for

uttering treasonable speech

about Henry VIII when he was reported to Thomas Cromwell as having said

If Harry reigns long, he will take from us of the church all that we have. I pray God send him a short reign

Holdsworth was not a popular man, and Sir Richard Tempest complained to Thomas Cromwell about his poor service record in the parish.

He expressed his fear of returning to his vicarage for fear of death by

some cruel and evil disposed persons

Thieves broke into the Vicarage on five occasions. On March 22nd 1536, Holdsworth was attacked and robbed by a group of Tempest's supporters – led by Thomas/John, son of John Lacey of Cromwellbottom. On that occasion, a sum of around £1,000 – which had been buried in Holdsworth's cellar – was stolen.

Further attacks came a week later, in 1537, and in 1548. On the last occasion at about 11 pm on 8th May 1556, he was murdered by 2 men who broke into the Vicarage. They also stole 3 silver goblets, 2 silver bowls, a black velvet girdle, studded and harnessed with silver, silver of the value of £20, besides £20 in money. The men were possibly part of a mob protesting the Pilgrimage of Grace and the Wakefield-Pontefract feud for remarks which he made about Henry VIII. The murderers were John Swifte, of Brighouse, clothier, and William Haworth of Halifax, cutler. They were tried at York and executed.

He built the Holdsworth Chapel at the south side of Halifax Parish Church as a memorial to his father, and was buried there on 10th May 1556

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 15:24 / 24th May 2021 / 4608

Page Ref: QQ_186

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