ASTON (ESTON), John I.
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Family and Education
m. by 1395, Joan, ?1da.
Commr. of inquiry, Devon July 1365, May 1383, June, Nov. 1386, Feb. 1391, Cornw. Dec. 1377, Dec. 1382, Oct. 1385, June 1388.
Under escheator, Devon by Oct. 1365; escheator, Devon and Cornw. 12 Dec. 1382-8 June 1383, 11 Nov. 1384-3 Dec. 1386, 30 Nov. 1387-8.
Feodary of the duchy of Lancaster estates in Devon by Nov. 1371-2 July 1373;1 of Trematon castle by June 1386.
Aston probably came from north Devon: in 1379 Bishop Brantingham of Exeter granted him licence to have mass celebrated in the chapels of ‘Yowe’ and ‘Berkedowne’ (perhaps situated on the river Yeo), and in 1381 Aston was patron of the church at Goodleigh, near Barnstaple. Later on, however, he owned property in south Devon, at Sutton Priour and Sutton Vautort (Plymouth).2 He is not known to have had any connexion with either Great Torrington or Dartmouth, the boroughs which he represented in Parliament early in his career, but he may well have been elected because of his growing reputation as a lawyer and administrator. Soon after the dissolution of the Parliament of 1365 he was appointed to a royal commission to make inquiries in Devon about the possessions of an outlaw, and it seems likely that he was already serving as the escheator’s deputy, a post he was certainly occupying by that October, when he was instructed to sell the movables confiscated from another felon. Similarly, the precise term of his service as feodary in Devon for John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, is not known; but he certainly held the post for nearly two years before being required to hand over the rolls and muniments to his successor, Stephen Durneford of Plymouth. One of Aston’s closest associates was John Grey I* of Exeter, with whom he shared the marriage of an heiress of property at Wonford and, from 1367 to 1390, acted as co-feoffee of property at Totnes.3 Aston stood surety at the Exchequer for both Durneford and Grey in 1379, and for Grey again in the following year. In the course of the next few years he provided securities in the same court for a number of royal lessees of West Country estates, including John Pasford*, Henry Thorne, Sir John Dynham (d.1383), the prior of Totnes, and one of the King’s esquires, John Rose; and he made similar, although less frequent, appearances in Chancery in connexion with local lawsuits.4
Aston’s appointment as escheator of Devon and Cornwall (in which office he served for four annual terms), led to his involvement in the administration of the duchy of Cornwall, then in the possession of the King, Richard II. In 1382 he was instructed to make inquiries into the running of the duchy castle of Trematon, and by June 1385 he was acting as bailiff of the fees of the castle, his immediate task being to compel such tenants as were required by the terms of their tenure to provide men-at-arms, archers or victuals in time of war to perform these obligatory services in view of a threatened invasion from France. At the same time he was also preparing for the defence of Launceston castle, and in 1386 and again in 1388 he was busy at Trematon assembling men and arms. In these activities he was closely associated with the steward of the Cornish estates of the duchy, Sir John Kentwood*, so it is not surprising to find him acting as surety for Kentwood when, in 1385, the latter was granted a lease of the duchy borough of Lostwithiel. Aston’s last escheatorship ended in a lawsuit with the parson of Shobrooke church, over lands in West Raddon (Devon); and in November 1390, despite his defence that he had confiscated the property in the course of his duties as escheator, the justices of assize were ordered to proceed to a judgement.5
Aston died at an unknown date between 1395 and 1402. His widow held lands in ‘Westwode’ which were to pass after her death to Alice, wife of John Crukerne, who may have been Aston’s daughter.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. Reg. Gaunt 1371-5, nos. 83, 319, 995.
- 2. Reg. Brantingham ed. Hingeston-Randolph, i. 73, 391; CPR, 1391-6, p. 635.
- 3. CPR, 1370-4, p. 372; H.R. Watkin, Totnes Priory, 277, 299.
- 4. CFR, ix. 168, 183, 195, 200, 364; x. 127, 179, 242; CCR, 1389-92, p. 275.
- 5. CPR, 1385-9, pp. 160, 174, 456; CFR, x. 126; CCR, 1389-92, pp. 228-9.
- 6. CP25(1) 45/71/36.