Sir Robert Onley
Sir Robert Onley was a prosperous wool merchant at Coventry, Warwickshire, England. He became the mayor of Coventry in about 1480 and one of its Members in 1485. On 22 August 1485, King Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field and Henry VII, the first Tudor king, was crowned. Two days after the battle, Henry VII arrived at Coventry and stayed at Robert's lodgings at the Bull Inn, where there was a feast. The king returned two years later and knighted Robert for his hospitality.
Robert is said to have been a descendant of John Onley, the Mayor of Coventry in the late 1300s (see below for more information).
Sir Robert’s child is:
- John Onley, of Shropshire and of Catesby, Northamptonshire, England, married Jane Pontesbury (of Albrighton, Shropshire, England, dau. of Thomas and Elizabeth (Grafton) Pontesbury, m. 2) Robert Pigot) buried at Withington, Shropshire, England.
- Richard Onley, younger brother of John, plaintiff in a court case concerning land and tenements in Coventry in 1493-1500.
Information about John Onley, Ancestor of Sir Robert
John Onley was said to have been born in Calais, Pas-de-Calais, France (the first Englishman to be born there after it became an English possession in 1347), the son of the standard bearer of Edward III. He was Mayor of Coventry in 1396 and was said to have been mayor twice of both Calais and Coventry.
The names of John's father and any additional generations between John and Sir Robert are not known.
- Stephenson, Mill, Monumental brasses in Shropshire, London: Harrison, 1895, pgs. 99-101 (with image insert between pgs. 98 and 99), found online at: https://archive.org/stream/brassesinshropsh00step#page/n155/mode/2up (retrieved 10 June 2017).
- Harris, Mary Dormer, The Story of Coventry, J.M. Dent, 1911, p. 256.
- Whitley, T.W., The Parliamentary Representation of the City of Coventry from the Earliest Times to Present Date, Curtis and Beamish, 1894, p. 32.
- Mullen, Enda, "Coventry's strange street names explained - part one," Coventry Telegraph, 9 Feb 2017, http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventrys-strange-street-names-explained-12574659, retrieved 10 June 2017.
- Walters, Peter, Story of Coventry, Stroud, UK: The History Press, 2013.
Records related to John and Jane (Pontesbury) Onley but not copied below due to copyright considerations:
- Entry for ONLEY, John (by 1498-1537), of London and Catesby, Northants, The History of Parliament, http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/onley-john-1498-1537, retrieved 8 Jun 2017, originally published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982.
- Ball, Richard, "The First Tudor Feast," Historic Coventry Articles, http://www.historiccoventry.co.uk/articles/content.php?pg=tudor-history-r-ball, retrieved 10 June 2017.
- Robert v Cokes. Plaintiffs: Richard, son of Sir Robert Onley, knight. Defendants: Richard Cokes, clerk, and Thomas Chircheman, of Coventry, feoffees to uses, and John Onley, complainant's elder brother. Subject: Lands and tenements in Coventry. Warwickshire. Dates: 1493-1500. Public Record(s), The National Archives of the UK: C 1/217/7.
Histories and Articles Related to Robert Onley and Henry VII
Henry VII., after a triumphal entry into Leicester on his way from Bosworth field, came to Coventry, and took up his lodging in the house of Robert Onley, the mayor, at the Bull, in Smithfield Street, a visit he repeated in two years' time, when he conferred on his host the honour of knighthood.
Source: Harris, Mary Dormer, The Story of Coventry, J.M. Dent, 1911, p. 256.
The new Monarch, after his victory at Bosworth, proceeded to Coventry, where Robert Onley, the Mayor, and citizens were as favourable to his cause as they had been adverse to Richard's. The King and his friends were entertained and feasted, whilst the former was presented with a cup and £100. Henry knighted the Mayor, and stayed at his house adjoining the Bull Inn, Smithford Street. At a later date the King granted confirmatory Letters Patent to the City. The returns of the Commons for the Parliaments of this reign are missing, but a less authentic authority records that Sir Robert Onley was sent in 1485, and from his Civic position it is probably correct. He was a merchant; whose ancestor, John Onley, Mayor in 1396, was the first Englishman born in Calais after its occupation by the English, and whose father had been standard-bearer to Edward III. Coventry returned members in Henry the Seventh's reign, but the other names are unknown .
Source: Whitley, T.W., The Parliamentary Representation of the City of Coventry from the Earliest Times to Present Date, Curtis and Beamish, 1894, p. 32.
The Bull, variously known as the Bull Inn or Black Bull Inn was located where the Upper Precinct is now, opposite Marks & Spencer and a little up towards Broadgate.
It was probably Coventry’s most famous medieval inn and its demise can be indirectly attributed to Napoleon.
Inns were originally salubrious establishments which provided food, alcohol and accommodation for well-to-do travellers.
How far it dates back no one really knows but its biggest claim to fame was in 1485 when Henry VII stayed there after defeating Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth.
At the time the Bull was the home of the Mayor Robert Onley, who treated the new king to a feast that included 20 sheep, two oxen, 240 gallons of wine and hundreds of gallons of ale.
Source: Mullen, Enda, "Coventry's strange street names explained - part one," Coventry Telegraph, 9 Feb 2017, http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventrys-strange-street-names-explained-12574659, retrieved 10 June 2017.
John Onley, Mayor of Coventry in 1396, was said to have been the first Englishman born in Calais after it was seized as an English possession by Edward III. Onley, the son of the king's standard-bearer, went on the mayor twice of both Coventry and Calais.
Henry [VII] was in Coventry just two days after the battle [Bosworth Field], staying at the house of the mayor, Robert Onley, in Smithford Street and receiving, of course, a gold cup and £100 in readies from a city desperate for his favor. Onley was later knighted for his hospitality.
Source: Walters, Peter, Story of Coventry, Stroud, UK: The History Press, 2013.
Click here to view an article with source documents about the feast: http://www.historiccoventry.co.uk/articles/content.php?pg=tudor-history-r-ball
John Onley, 1512, and wife Joan.
John Onley, son and heir of Sir Robert Onley, of the town of Coventry, is represented bare-headed with long hair, his armour consists of a plate gorget, a breast-plate strengthened with demi-placcates, pauldrons of a curious shape, small coutes, gauntlets with shell backs and peaked
cuffs, short skirt of taces with mail fringe, over which are strapped the tuiles, large knee pieces with plates behind, jambs and round-toed sabbatons with rowel spurs. The sword is suspended diagonally in front of the body from a narrow belt once inlaid with colour. There is no misericorde. The left arm of the figure is broken away.
His wife Joan is represented slightly turned to the right, she wears the kennel-shaped head-dress with plain lappets, a close-fitting overgown cut square at the neck, showing the finely plaited partlet and undergown below, the cuffs are large and edged with fur, whilst the long skirt is gathered up under the left arm.
Below the figures is a three-line black letter inscription :
Hic iacet Johes onley filius et heres dni roberti onley
milit civitat covente qui obiit XIXmo die mens Junii Ao dni
millmo CCCCCXII et iohna ux ei quor aiab ppicie de ae
Below the inscription there were on the original slab a group of seven sons in civil dress under the father (these still remain); and under the mother the indent of a group of three or four daughters (the latter were lost before 1795).
At the four corners of the slab were originally shields of arms (the upper dexter was lost before 1795); the upper sinister (now placed under the brass of Adam Graffton) bears —
Quarterly I. and IV. or, three piles gu., on a canton of the second a pierced mullet of the first. ONLEY. II and III. . . . three stirrups 2 and 1. . . The lower dexter bears the arms of the TOWN OF COVENTRY — Per pale gu. and vert an elephant, on his hack a tower triple towered or. The lower sinister (now lost) bore — . . . a bend between six birds.
In the British Museum (Add. MSS. 21, 23G, fol. 109) is a sketch of this brass taken June 6, 1794, showing it in its original slab then in the nave. Some years ago the church was rebuilt, the brass taken from its slab; this disappeared and the brass itself was for some time in the custody of a neighbouring rector. It is now nailed on the north wall of the tower in a somewhat irregular fashion.
The figures are 22½ inches in height.
This brass possesses considerable interest in that it is the work of a "local" or Warwickshire school of engravers, most probably settled in the town of Coventry. Compare the figure at Harley.
Source: Stephenson, Mill, Monumental brasses in Shropshire, London: Harrison, 1895, pgs. 99-101 (with image insert between pgs. 98 and 99), found online at: https://archive.org/stream/brassesinshropsh00step#page/n155/mode/2up (retrieved 10 June 2017).
For a drawing showing the brass as originally arranged (including the place where the daughters were), see: http://search.shropshirehistory.org.uk/collections/getrecord/CCA_X7381_254_1582/?allowcookies=1