BARDWELL (BERDEWELL), Sir William (c.1361-1434), of Bardwell, Suff. and West Harling and Gasthorpe, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Sept. 1397

Family and Education

b.c.1361, ?s. of William Bardwell. m. bef. 1387, Margaret, da. and h. of John Pakenham of Belaugh, Norf. 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 1 da. Kntd. bef. May 1380.

Offices Held

Tax collector, Suff. Nov. 1382.

J.p. Suff. 16 May 1401-Mar. 1417.

Commr. of array, Suff. July 1402, Aug. 1403, May 1406, Apr. 1418; to raise royal loans Nov. 1419.


The Bardwell family took its name from the township lying eight miles to the north east of Bury St. Edmunds, holding some of its property as tenants of the great abbey there. Sir William, a member of a cadet branch of the family, apparently acquired the manors of Bardwell, West Harling and Gasthorpe after the failure of the male line at some unknown date before 1390. He consolidated his holdings by purchasing East Hall or ‘Garlecks’ in Gasthorpe in about 1398, exchanging his manor at Snetterton (Norfolk) for ‘Bokenhams’ in West Harling some two years later,1 and acquiring Norton and Wyken in Bardwell. His marriage brought him Belaugh and ‘Pakenham Hall’ in Dersingham, Norfolk, and Ampton and Ixworth Thorpe as well as many other smaller properties in Suffolk. A dispute in 1407 with the prior of Ixworth over certain of his lands was evidently resolved in Bardwell’s favour, and thereafter he remained untroubled in his tenure. At the time of his death he was holding at least ten manors, which had provided him with an annual income exceeding £90.2

The expansion of Bardwell’s landed interests may point to the investment of profits made as a mercenary captain in the French wars. His career fell into two parts: when a young and probably landless soldier seeking his fortune, he served several lords; when older and risen to be a landowner of consequence, he held a respected place in the community of East Anglia and, so far as we know, was retained by just one member of the nobility. According to the depositions he made in the court of chivalry, first in 1386 in the dispute between John, Lord Lovell, and Thomas, Lord Morley, and later in 1408 in the confrontation between Sir Edward Hastings, de jure Lord Hastings, and Reynold, Lord Grey of Ruthin, he served under Lord Willoughby in John of Gaunt’s forces at the siege of St. Malo in 1378, and in the following year he took part in the ill-fated expedition to Brittany led by John, Lord Arundel. Other evidence confirms that Bardwell was knighted before May 1380 when he enlisted for the army commanded by Thomas of Woodstock, earl of Buckingham, which was to spend the following winter in France. Then, in April 1383 he was retained by John, Lord Clifton of Buckenham castle, Norfolk, to supply seven men-at-arms and six archers for service in the ‘crusade’ into Flanders led by Bishop Despenser of Norwich, Clifton promising to pay him 100 marks for himself and 392 marks for his men. Bardwell later claimed to have marched to Scotland with Richard II’s army in 1385, and to have sailed with Gaunt to Spain a year later. In 1387 he contracted to serve with two esquires and three archers under Thomas, Lord Camoys, in the fleet commanded by the earl of Arundel as admiral of England.3

In view of his frequent absences abroad it is not surprising that Bardwell took little part in East Anglian affairs before his first return to Parliament in 1391. Yet, on occasion he did witness local deeds, doing so, for example, in 1388 and 1390 on behalf of Margaret Marshal, the dowager countess of Norfolk; and early in 1390 he became involved in a major dispute which concerned many leading figures from among the gentry of Suffolk. The quarrel, in which Bardwell sided with the Cloptons, Sir Thomas Genney and Sir Thomas Hengrave against the Hethe family and their supporters, may have been connected with the Hethes’ feud with the abbot of Bury St. Edmunds, and it was serious enough for all the parties concerned to be made to enter into recognizances in huge sums of money as guarantee for their appearance before the King’s Council. Bardwell seems to have resolved his personal differences with the Hethes when, in 1398, he and his wife made a quitclaim to Thomas Hethe of Mildenhall of property in Ampton, Ingham and Great and Little Livermere (Suffolk). It was much later, however, though within Bardwell’s lifetime, that the two families were joined in friendship by the marriage of Bardwell’s grandson William to Elizabeth Hethe, great-niece of his onetime opponent and only daughter of Thomas Hethe* of Little Saxham.4 Bardwell’s amicable relations with the Cloptons, and in particular with Sir William Clopton, long continued: he acted as a feoffee of their estates, and his elder son John apparently married into their family. There is, however, no evidence that he was personally acquainted with their kinsman Sir Walter Clopton c.j.KB.5

Bardwell’s companion as knight of the shire in 1391 was Sir Roger Drury, with whom he subsequently remained on good terms. To his second Parliament, that of 1397 (Sept.), he was accompanied by Robert Bukton, an esquire of Sir Thomas Percy, who as reward for his active promotion of Richard II’s autocratic policies in the course of the first parliamentary session was created earl of Worcester. Of Bardwell’s sympathies we have no certain knowledge, although it seems very likely that he was already connected with Sir Michael de la Pole, son and heir of Richard’s former chancellor, the first earl of Suffolk, who had died in exile in 1389 after his attainder in the Merciless Parliament. Now, following upon this Parliament’s annulment of the acts of 1388 in its second session at Shrewsbury in January 1398, the King, anxious to retain Michael’s support, restored to him the earldom and his father’s forfeited estates. Bardwell may well have been returned in de la Pole’s interest: in 1400 the earl granted him a life-annuity of £20 from the honour of Eye ‘in recompense for good and agreeable service done him in the past’, and retaining him in peacetime and war; and shortly afterwards, in February 1401, he gave him, in addition, a yearly rent of £5.6 Despite the fact that he owed his rehabilitation to Richard II, the earl had shown himself eager to welcome the accession of Henry IV, and the more prominent part that his supporter Bardwell took in local government after 1399 may have been a consequence of this. In 1401 Bardwell was appointed as a j.p. in Suffolk, and he was to remain a member of the bench for 16 years. Furthermore, he was among the few East Anglian knights who received personal summonses to attend great councils in 1401 and 1403.7

Bardwell was well connected in the community of East Anglia. His position as a retainer of the earl of Suffolk and a tenant on the earl’s estates led to his association in 1401 with Sir John and Sir Richard de la Pole in transactions concerning certain properties held for life by Isabel, widow of William de Ufford, earl of Suffolk, which were to revert to the de la Poles after her death; and he later witnessed deeds for other members of Earl Michael’s family.8 Bardwell was among the prominent local figures who in 1401 were enfeoffed by Sir Andrew Butler* of two manors in Bulmer (Essex), and when, ten years later, he and his sons were required to make assurances in Chancery that they would keep the peace and do no harm to one Edmund Thelnetham, they could call on the likes of Sir Roger Drury, John Lancaster II* and John Spencer* to provide securities on their behalf. Among the feoffees of the Bardwell estates was Sir Thomas Genney, for whom Bardwell in his turn acted as a trustee. Indeed, the two families were probably linked by marriage, for the wife of Bardwell’s younger son is said to have been one of Genney’s daughters. Another of the Genney womenfolk, Margery, widow of the wealthy Sir John Tuddenham† of Eriswell, named Sir William as an executor of her will in 1411. Earlier, Bardwell had acted on behalf of Tuddenham’s son Robert in a settlement of land in Northamptonshire.9

Bardwell survived to ripe old age, outliving his elder son, John. In July 1434 he made a settlement of his five manors in West Harling and Gasthorpe on his younger son, Robert, and then, on 1 Oct., he made his will. He wished to be buried in Bardwell church, leaving for repairs there a bequest of £2. This was a relatively small amount, but, seemingly, it came after years of benefaction to the church, for Bardwell is thought to have been responsible for the building of the porch, roof, most of the windows and part of the steeple, and as a token of his standing in the parish his picture in stained glass was set into the north wall. Bardwell also put aside 20s. for repairs to roads in the immediate vicinity. Family bequests included the sum of £20 to his daughter Isabel. And to his son Robert went mementoes of his military career: his basilard and all his gilt armour, as well as his best girdle, with a loose gown furred with beaver. His sword hung for centuries on the north wall of Bardwell church. Sir William died on 27 Oct. and was succeeded by his grandson, John’s son William (b.c. 1410), who himself died childless only six years later, in 1440.10

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. F. Blomefield, Norf. i. 253, 298-9, 300-2, 427; J. Copinger, Suff. Manors, i. 262-4; Norf. Feet of Fines ed. Rye, 389; Add. 7096, ff. 7-9, 14848, f. 69.
  • 2. Peds. Plea Rolls ed. Wrottesley, 235; Norf. Feet of Fines, 381, 403; CP25(1)223/109/11, 12; 111/29, 34; Add. Ch. 15537; JUST 1/1516 m. 3d.
  • 3. Blomefield, i. 301; Grey v. Hastings, 25; C47/6/1 m. 19; Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 132; HMC Var. ii. 342; E101/40/33 m. 11.
  • 4. CCR, 1389-92, pp. 91, 101, 107, 283, 316; CP25(1)223/109/12.
  • 5. CP25(1)223/107/25; CCR, 1396-9, p. 241; 1405-9, pp. 506, 518; 1409-13, pp. 56-57, 115.
  • 6. Blomefield, i. 301; Suff. RO (Ipswich), Eye honour deed 1.
  • 7. PPC, i. 164; ii. 86.
  • 8. CFR, xiv. 313; Harl. Ch. 53E 31; Cott. Ch. xxviii. 87.
  • 9. Blomefield, i. 253; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 392; 1405-9, pp. 218, 317; 1409-13, pp. 230, 331; Norf. and Norwich RO, Reg. Hyrning, f. 1.
  • 10. Suff. RO (Bury St. Edmunds), Reg. Osbern, ff. 211-12; CCR, 1429-35, p. 325; Add. 14848, ff. 154-6; CFR, xvi. 231-2; C139/70/31; Procs. Suff. Inst. Arch. ii. 46-47.