BAGOT, Sir John (c.1358-c.1437), of Blithfield and Bagots Bromley, Staffs.
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Family and Education
b.c.1358, s. and h. of Sir Ralph Bagot (d. by 1376) of Blithfield and Bagots Bromley by Elizabeth Blithfield; prob. half-bro. of Sir William Bagot*. m. by c.1388, Beatrice, da. of Sir Anketin Mallory (d.1393) of Kirkby Mallory, Leics. by Alice (d.1412), da. of John Dryby of Breedon and wid. of Ralph, Lord Basset of Sapcote (d.1378), 1s. Kntd. by Mich. 1379.1
Commr. of inquiry, Staffs. July, Nov. 1384, Derbys., Leics., Staffs. July 1394, Staffs. July 1394, Suss. Dec. 1413 (theft of merchandise bound for Calais), Staffs. July 1419 (concealments); array Dec. 1399, Sept. 1403, Mar. 1419; to suppress treasonous rumours May 1402; of arrest, Staffs., Salop May 1407; to raise a royal loan, Staffs. Nov. 1409, Jan. 1420, Mar. 1430, Mar. 1431.
Controller of a tax, Staffs. Mar. 1404.
J.p. Staffs. 8 Feb. 1406-Feb. 1407, 4 Dec. 1417-d.
Escheator, Staffs. 9 Nov. 1406-2 Nov. 1407.
Dep. capt. of Calais for Sir Thomas Beaufort, 20 June 1408-9.2
Ambassador to treat for a truce with the duke of Burgundy 30 May 1409, 29 Nov. 1410.3
Sheriff, Staffs. 6 Nov. 1413-10 Nov. 1414, 15 Jan.-12 Dec. 1426.
One of the most distinguished shire knights to represent Staffordshire during our period, Bagot came of a family which had consolidated its position in the country through a combination of loyal service to the Crown and lucrative marriages. His mother was heiress to the manors of Blithfield, Colton and Newton, while from his father he inherited a substantial estate centred upon Blymhill, Bramshall and Bagots Bromley. He further extended his patrimony by purchasing land in Tunstall, Field, Heatley and other more scattered parts of Staffordshire, so that by 1402 he enjoyed a landed income of about £93 a year. He continued to acquire property throughout his life: in August 1429, for example, he became owner of land in Smerrill, Derbyshire, and he also made piecemeal additions to the farms and manors already in his custody. It seems likely, therefore, that by the time of his death Bagot’s estates were producing at least £100 in annual profits.4 He none the less faced considerable problems on first entering his inheritance, for it had been badly exploited by two of the farmers who had been given custody of it during his minority. Bagot was still under age at Easter 1376, when his guardian began an action for waste against the archdeacon of Coventry. He did not himself attempt to gain redress from Sir John Gresley, the other farmer, until 1385; and his lack of success at law may well explain the evident animosity which existed between him and the Gresleys at the turn of the century. From his first coming of age at, or shortly before, Michaelmas 1379, Bagot evinced a positive compulsion for litigation: he was at various times the plaintiff in at least 11 lawsuits brought for alleged debt, trespass, abduction, negligence and theft on the part of his servants and neighbours, even though he spent a number of years on military service abroad.5
Bagot’s first known journey overseas occurred in 1386, when he took part in John of Gaunt’s expedition to Portugal, naming John Delves* as an attorney to supervise his affairs in his absence. In the following year Gaunt retained him formally at a fee of 40 marks p.a., which added considerably to his already growing prestige in local society. His marriage to Sir Anketin Mallory’s daughter, Beatrice, must also have helped him in this respect, since her half-sister, Elizabeth (whose father was Ralph, Lord Basset of Sapcote) was the wife of the influential Derbyshire landowner, Richard, Lord Grey of Codnor. How far Bagot benefited from the successful career of his kinsman, the celebrated courtier, Sir William Bagot, cannot now be established, but the two men seem to have been quite close. There is strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that they were either half-brothers or cousins, since on Sir William’s death in 1407, Bagot became heir under the terms of his will to the reversion of the manor of Baginton, Warwickshire, should the deceased’s daughter, Isabel Stafford, die without issue. Further proof of consanguinity may perhaps be found in the similarity of their coats of arms, and in the fact that on leaving for Portugal Bagot chose Sir William as one of his attorneys. Moreover, when making a settlement of his estates, in December 1391, Reynold, Lord Grey of Ruthin, selected both men to be his feoffees-to-uses.6 A shared political interest could well have brought the two Bagots together in the Commons of 1391, and, more significantly, in the two Parliaments of 1397, where Sir William, as a royal councillor and placeman, was active in securing the downfall of King Richard’s enemies. Bagot himself received a royal pardon in June 1398, presumably on formal grounds, since despite his Lancastrian connexions his loyalty was in no way suspect. Letters of protection were issued to him by Richard II in January 1399 preparatory to a year’s service in Ireland, so it may well be that he was actually with the King when Bolingbroke landed in England. Whatever the circumstances, he made a rapid and entirely convincing change of allegiance, being appointed to a commission of array in Staffordshire only two months after Henry IV’s coronation. Even Sir William, with his long and damning history of involvement in the abuses perpetrated by Richard II, managed eventually to win favour with the new regime. A Commons petition of February 1401, begging for the restitution of his lands and possessions, received the royal assent, and as Sir John Bagot was then sitting in Parliament there is every reason to suppose that he had a hand in its success.7
The Lancastrian usurpation marks the beginning of Bagot’s career as a crown official. During Henry IV’s reign alone he sat on numerous commissions, served on the local bench and occupied the escheatorship of Staffordshire. Moreover, in July 1401 he was summoned to attend a meeting of the King’s Council as one of the four leading residents of the county. Three years later he again returned to Ireland, although his service in the retinue of Thomas of Lancaster was cut short by Owen Glendower’s rebellion: indeed, as a commissioner of array for Staffordshire, there is a strong possibility that Bagot fought at the battle of Shrewsbury. During this period much of his time was taken up with the pursuit of private quarrels, which seem usually to have degenerated into violent brawls. In February 1401, for instance, he was personally bound over in sums totalling £400 to keep the peace towards Sir Thomas Gresley and his mother, while his mainpernors (among whom were his parliamentary colleagues Sir Robert Francis, William Walsall and Sir William Newport*) offered a further £200 on his behalf. For almost the whole of his adult life Bagot was involved in another dispute with successive abbots of Burton-upon-Trent. This originated as a disagreement over property in Abbot’s Bromley, but by the beginning of the 15th century allegations of poaching, theft, violence and the extortion of money with menaces were being levelled against Bagot. Not until 1430 did the shire knight finally admit defeat and relinquish his right to common pasture within the abbot’s demesne.8
The exact chronology of Bagot’s protracted and bitter feud with the Erdeswyk family is far more difficult to determine, although it appears to have begun during his term as escheator of Staffordshire, and may have resulted from some disagreement over official matters concerning the truculent Hugh Erdeswyk*. In June 1407, the latter arrived at Mauvesyn Ridware with an armed following, intent, as it was subsequently claimed, on murdering his adversary. Since Bagot had already fled, the company pursued him to his home at Blithfield and was said to have caused a considerable amount of damage there. The vendetta was still in progress two years later, when Erdeswyk allegedly gathered together a sizeable retinue with the express purpose of removing any opposition once and for all. The situation was made all the more difficult by the fact that Bagot was also at odds with his neighbour, Joan Mauvesyn, who made common cause with the Erdeswyks. Perhaps in self-defence, Bagot allied himself with Edmund, Lord Ferrers, one of their most implacable enemies, and it was thus that a so-called love-day, which had probably been arranged to settle a property dispute between Sir John and Joan Mauvesyn, became the occasion of an unsuccessful attempt by Ferrers on Hugh Erdeswyk’s life. Efforts to reconcile the chief protagonists by private arbitration (with Bagot as one of the spokesmen chosen by Lord Edmund) were doomed from the start, and in the end both parties submitted appeals to the Parliament of April 1414. As sheriff of Staffordshire, Bagot must have played a major part in drawing up the long list of indictments heard against Hugh Erdeswyk at the Lichfield assizes during the spring and early summer of that year. Indeed, the number of charges concerning assaults upon his own person, committed as long as seven years before, clearly shows that Bagot was out for revenge. His satisfaction in bringing an old enemy to justice was no doubt greatly enhanced by the presence of the King, who was then touring the north Midlands, although the Erdeswyks and their followers soon reconciled themselves with the authorities and obtained royal letters of pardon.9 Even Bagot eventually came to terms with his enemies, a rapprochement clearly having been effected by May 1421, when the Erdeswyks and their supporters helped return him to Parliament for Staffordshire. He, in turn, was present to see Hugh Erdeswyk made a shire knight in the following November, and he also attended the county elections in 1432. The breach had, indeed, healed sufficiently by March 1423 for him to witness a deed for Erdeswyk and his associates, but their relationship did not develop further.10
The years 1406 to 1415 witnessed a period of intense activity on Bagot’s part, for besides shouldering the burdens of local office and engaging in the above-mentioned disputes, he was also called overseas again in the service of the Crown. In June 1408, he indented to spend a year as lieutenant to Sir Thomas Beaufort (later earl of Dorset and duke of Exeter), the then captain of Calais. He was joined in Calais by his wife and household, but although he went on the second of his embassies to Flanders as late as November 1410, he is not known to have extended his term as Beaufort’s deputy. In July 1413 Henry V confirmed Bagot in an annuity of 40 marks a year, which Henry IV had initially awarded to him in July 1400 from the manor of Uttoxeter, no doubt as compensation for his earlier fee from John of Gaunt. Bagot’s military and administrative experience made him a particularly welcome member of Henry V’s first French expedition, during which he fought with a retinue of three men-at-arms and nine archers. He appears on the list of knights left under the command of his former captain, the earl of Dorset, to garrison Harfleur after it fell in September 1415, and so is unlikely to have fought in the battle of Agincourt, one month later. This was the last occasion on which he bore arms, yet despite his advancing years he continued to lead an active life, serving on royal commissions and sitting as a j.p. During the spring of 1420 he and other prominent Staffordshire landowners contributed towards a loan of £2,873 raised to finance the war effort, although we do not know how much he personally subscribed. Bagot must have been about 76 when, in May 1434, he was listed, together with his son, among the notables of Staffordshire who were to take oaths not to maintain persons disturbing the peace. He died at some point within the next three years, and is said to have been buried at the Augustinian priory in Stafford. His son, Richard, a man of at least 50, succeeded him.11
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xiii, 130, 155; Lincoln Rec. Soc. lviii. 275; J. Nichols, Leics. iv. 761-2; CP, ii. 7-8. The date of Bagot’s marriage is not known, but his son, Richard, was of age by 1409, when a settlement of property was made upon him (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. n.s. xi. 43, 54, 117).
- 2. W. Bagot, Mems. Bagot Fam. app. E, p. viii.
- 3. PPC, ii. 5, 353. Bagot was also commissioned to plead the case of the bishop of Rochester, who, in March 1410, was suing the duke of Burgundy for wrongful arrest (Wm. Salt. Arch. Soc. n.s. xi. 38).
- 4. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xi. 210; xvii. 131; xv. 90, 113; xvii. 52; n.s. xi. 30-33, 42-45, 200-15, 220; CIPM, xv. no. 453; Feudal Aids, i. 294; v. 23; Belvoir Castle deeds, 2521, 2822, 2823, 2825, 2827.
- 5. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xiii. 130, 155. 194; xv. 7, 8, 82; xvii. 50, 60, 61; CPR, 1422-9, p. 309; JUST 1/1515 m. 5d.
- 6. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xiv. 244-5; n.s. xi. 45; CP, ii. 7-8; Lincoln Rec. Soc. lviii. 275; Nichols, iv. 761-2; Bagot, app. D, p. vii; CPR, 1388-92, p. 514; S. K. Walker, ‘John of Gaunt and his retainers, 1361-99’ (Oxf. Univ. D.Phil. thesis, 1986), 266.
- 7. C67/30 m. 11; CPR, 1396-9, p. 462; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. n.s. xi. 51; RP, iii. 458.
- 8. PPC, i. 163; CPR, 1401-5, p. 281; CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 319, 324; C1/6/80; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. 1937, nos. 566, 620, 621, 648-50, 654, 659.
- 9. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xvii. 3, 10, 21, 22, 51; JUST 1/1515 m. 10.
- 10. C219/12/5, 6, 14/3; Huntington Lib. San Marino, Hastings ms HAD 174/2832.
- 11. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. n.s. xi. 42, 54; CCR , 1405-9, p. 437; DKR, xliv. 564; N.H. Nicholas, Agincourt, 375; CPR, 1429-36, p. 399; DL29/402/6451, 6452, 738/12100; DL42/16, f. 3v; E101/47/39; E403/645; E404/31/318.