BARTON, John II (d.1434), of Thornton, Bucks.
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Family and Education
Commr. of inquiry, Wilts. May 1403 (claim to certain estates made by Henry IV’s sister, Elizabeth, countess of Huntingdon), Northants. Mar. 1404 (descent of manor of Radstone), Oxon. July 1412 (wastes in Queen Joan’s forest of Wychwood), Derbys., Lincs., Notts. May 1414 (rebellions, insurrections and felonies), Northants. Mar. 1416 (estates late of Edmund, earl of Stafford), Mar. 1418 (treasons, insurrections), Oxon. Mar. 1418 (concealments);2 oyer and terminer, Herts. Nov. 1409; to survey the liberties of the abbey of St. Albans May 1413; of array, Bucks. May 1418; to raise royal loans Nov. 1419, Apr. 1421; assess liability to contribute to a tax Apr. 1431; of arrest June 1431.
Steward of St. Albans abbey by Jan. 1408-aft. 1429.3
J.p. Bucks. 18 Feb. 1412-d., Northants. 9 July 1419-Feb. 1422.
Escheator, Beds. and Bucks. 30 Nov. 1417-4 Nov. 1418.
Like his elder brother and namesake, with whom he was always close, John Barton the younger made a successful career in the law. Indeed, he possibly outshone the other John, undertaking as he did an immense amount of private legal work, mainly in the south Midlands, and forging a number of important connexions. Together, the Bartons became members of Lincoln’s Inn, and on many occasions they acted for the same clients. For example, in July 1402, they both provided securities in Chancery on behalf of Master Henry Chichele (the future archbishop) — a service John junior was to perform again that October, thus helping Chichele to defend himself against prosecution by the Crown for contempt. For a while, the younger Barton was employed by Thomas Mowbray, the Earl Marshal: in 1403 or 1404, he crossed over to Calais as Mowbray’s attorney with a brief regarding property there, only for the association to end prematurely, on the earl’s execution for treason in 1405. Then, certainly by 1408, he secured appointment as steward of St. Albans abbey, an office he most likely continued to hold until his death. This was no sinecure, for it involved pleading on the abbey’s behalf in the court of common pleas, sharing responsibility for the administration of its estates during Abbot Whethampstead’s absence at the Council of Pavia (1423), and serving ex officio as a member of the abbey’s council. Barton’s practice as an apprentice-at-law must also have been considerable, and his legal competence was attested in February 1412 by the official demand that he assume the degree of serjeant during the next Easter term. Although fully aware that his neglect to do so might involve him in forfeiture and suspension from pleading in the royal courts, Barton refused to take the coif, and on 25 Oct. he was committed to the Tower, there to remain for nine days. No further action is known to have been taken against him, but in February 1415 he received a new writ of summons, under pain of 500 marks, which, as he disregarded this too, was repeated in July (when his brother was also called) under the increased penalty of £1,000. However, in the Michaelmas term, when nine men were supposed to receive the degree of serjeant, none of them appeared. Surprisingly, nothing more is heard of Barton’s contempt until June 1417, when he procured a royal patent of exemption for life from being made serjeant-at-law. His resistance had continued despite the ‘great complaint’ being currently voiced about the untoward inconvenience and judicial delays caused by the dearth of serjeants — a complaint which, moreover, was to be given full vent in the Parliament which met later that year (Barton’s second). Barton’s reluctance to take the coif is difficult to explain, save by concluding that he considered the promotion might prove detrimental to his earnings from private practice.4
Barton included among his many clients several members of the nobility. In December 1414, for example, he had acted as a feoffee of the lordship of Oakham (Rutland) on behalf of Sir William Bourgchier* and his wife Anne, dowager countess of Stafford, and he continued to be employed by them for at least eight years longer, during which period he served on a royal commission of inquiry into the late earl of Stafford’s estates, and took on also the trusteeship of some of Bourgchier’s property in Essex. Richard, Lord Grey of Wilton, named him as his attorney in England during his absence with Henry V’s army in France in 1415, requiring him also to witness a settlement of his estates made shortly before his departure. Other legal business came his way as an outcome of his marriage to a daughter of William Wilcotes, a prominent Oxfordshire lawyer and sometime chief steward of the estates of Richard II’s queen, Anne. One of his sisters-in-law was married to (Sir) Thomas Wykeham*, a great-nephew and heir of William of Wykeham, so it is neither surprising to find him acting, between 1415 and 1431, as a trustee of the Wykeham estates in Hampshire, Oxfordshire and Somerset, nor to find Sir Thomas reciprocating in like fashion. Together with his mother-in-law and her second husband, (Sir) John Blaket*, Barton took on the executorship of the will of his brother-in-law, Sir John Wilcotes, a duty which was to lead to his involvement in a suit in Chancery over a royal wardship once granted to the testator.5
Probably the most important of those retaining Barton as a legal adviser was Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, whose service he had evidently joined before July 1417, when he and two others obtained custody from the Crown of the estates of Warwick’s recently deceased father-in-law, Thomas, Lord Berkeley. The grant had no doubt been procured by the earl and his countess as a preliminary move in their bid to contest the claims of James Berkeley, the late lord’s nephew and collateral male heir. The accounts of the receiver-general of Warwick’s estates for the period beginning Michaelmas 1417 record payments to Barton not only as one of the earl’s legal advisers in this matter, but also as serving regularly on his council. This connexion was to lead before long to Barton being retained for similar purposes by Joan, Lady Abergavenny, the widow of the earl’s uncle. In the spring of 1418 he was bound in £200 on this lady’s behalf (as well as providing securities for Bartholomew Brokesby*, one of her retainers) after she and her followers had caused major civil disturbances in Warwickshire. (Lady Abergavenny herself was required to keep the peace under pain of £1,200.) Subsequently, she granted him an annual fee of £2 for his legal counsel, and he also acted as a trustee of her property at Newport Pagnell. At a meeting of the King’s Council held in July 1421, he accompanied the lady to attest to the legitimacy of the grievances preferred by the countess of Warwick against her cousin, James, Lord Berkeley, which turned on the interpretation of the terms of a concord drawn up between the parties; for both Barton and Lady Joan had been present (at the Beauchamps’ request) when that agreement had been signed. Barton continued to serve as the earl’s councillor, at least until 1423.6
In the meantime, in March 1418, Barton had shared with Thomas Wydeville* (and others) the wardship of the estates of the late Sir Thomas Green, the Northamptonshire landowner. By then he was Wydeville’s feoffee in the Bedfordshire manor of Salford, and they were also connected as trustees of a number of properties for Elizabeth, Lady Clinton. The performance of duties of this kind could often result in litigation, and so it was in this instance: their title to the manor of Fisherwick in Staffordshire was challenged in the summer of 1419 by John Mynors* (who was nothing if not aggressive), and it was only after both the court of Chancery and the royal council had found in their favour that, in May 1421, Mynors agreed to confirm them in possession. A year later, Barton was named as one of Lady Clinton’s executors (and given a legacy of £20), only to become embroiled in further litigation as a consequence. In addition, he had agreed to assist Maud, widow of John, Lord Lovell, in implementing her plan to convert the hospital at Brackley (Northamptonshire) into a house for Dominican friars. Barton was much sought after as an executor; besides those already mentioned, he also took on this task for Edmund Hampden* (d.1419/20) and Thomas Pever† (d.1429).7
No ready explanation has been found for the complete absence of the Barton brothers from royal commissions, including those of the peace, for a number of years following the accession of Henry VI. Service overseas was not the answer; and in other respects they were as active as ever. In 1424 Barton junior contracted with the Exchequer to farm property in Farthinghoe, Northamptonshire, on a ten-year lease, and in 1426 he purchased the wardship and marriage of Thomas Caldecote of Caldecote. He had retained contact with Henry Chichele, so much so that in 1427 he was associated with the archbishop and his brother Robert*, as joint owners of the manor of Chesterton, Huntingdonshire. Although the Barton brothers’ parliamentary service had ended, they both attended the Buckinghamshire elections in 1427 and 1429 (having apparently not done so since 1413),and the younger John went on to witness parliamentary indentures again in 1431, 1432 and 1433. During these years his name was once more linked with that of Joan, Lady Abergavenny, whose abetment of civil disturbances at Birmingham had led to her being sentenced in the King’s bench to forfeiture of £1,200 under the terms of the recognizances of 1418, and the enforcement of the bonds which Barton and others had entered into on her behalf. They presented a petition to the Parliament of 1432 appealing against the judgement, but it was not until the next Parliament met in 1433 that Lady Joan succeeded in obtaining a reduction of the sum forfeited (albeit only to £1,000) and a royal pardon for her mainpernors.8
In the course of his career Barton had built up substantial landed holdings in Buckinghamshire, at first doing so in association with his brother (as in their early acquisition of property consolidating their late father’s possessions in Buckingham, Bourton and Moreton). Later, however, it was on his own account, so that by the time of his death he owned no fewer than six manors in the county and another (Bainton) in Oxfordshire. Of these, his most important purchase was Dinton, which, worth at least £40 a year, Walter, 5th Lord Fitzwalter, was forced to sell in order to raise money for his ransom from the French. The death of John Barton senior in 1432 brought the younger John (who acted as his executor) tenure of certain of his estates, too.9
Barton survived his brother by less than two years. In June 1432 he was granted custody at the Exchequer of such of the late Sir William Moleyns’s* lands as John senior had held for life, but his own death on 31 Jan. 1434 meant that his executors had to render account for the issues. In several respects his will, made on 20 Jan., was similar in content to his brother’s, the works of piety for which he made provision being, however, almost entirely confined to their home county. John junior asked to be buried in Thornton church, in the chapel of the Annunciation, which was to be rebuilt at his expense. His executors included his mother-in-law, Elizabeth Blaket (who was to be allowed access to a corner chamber in the manor-house at Thornton for the rest of her life), and his wife Isabel, who, in a codicil, was provided with a life interest in the manor of Bainton and certain specified lands. However, Barton’s other manors were all to be sold to pay his debts, and otherwise perform his will. This was proved on 14 Feb.10
Isabel Barton spent several years engaged in litigation over her late husband’s estate. Although she paid her fellow executors 700 marks in order to acquire four of his manors (Long Crendon, Stone, Foscott and Moreton) one executor had to be taken to court for refusing to relinquish his interest; and her title to Foscott was long to be challenged by the heirs of its former owner, Alan Ayot*. It was Isabel’s intention to grant these particular manors to All Souls college, Oxford, in return for masses for herself and her late husband, and to keep up their obits; and, between 1440 and 1442, she completed such arrangements with the college as permitted her to retain either a life interest in the properties or a pension in lieu. Meanwhile, she had quarrelled with Barton’s nephew, William Fowler†, who under the terms of the will of John Barton I stood to inherit various lands in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire; and in 1437, when Isabel refused to carry out an award made by independent arbitrators, Fowler was forced to appeal to the chancellor. In the same year Isabel arranged to sell the reversion of Dinton to Robert Whittingham*, but Whittingham later alleged that although he had gone on to pay her 860 marks to have the manor outright, she had refused to complete the necessary formalities. Making a counter-claim, Isabel and her second husband, Sir Robert Shotesbrooke†, insisted that Whittingham was obliged to pay them an annual pension on £20 from the manor of Stone, by virtue of a contract made between Whittingham and the late Andrew Sperlyng*, the apprentice-at-law previously engaged as Isabel’s counsel. Eventually in 1448, Whittingham gave the Shotesbrookes 200 marks in return for their agreement to release him from this obligation.
Isabel died in 1456 and was buried at Thornton next to her first husband, and beneath an elegant monument with two fine alabaster effigies. Yet it was not until 1467, more than 30 years after Barton’s death, that the chantry there was refounded in accordance with his will; and certain of Isabel’s bequests had still to be carried out when Barton’s great-nephew, Richard Fowler†, then chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, made his last testament in 1477.11