BERKELEY, Sir Laurence (d.1458), of Coston and Wymondham, Leics.
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Family and Education
Commr. of arrest, Leics. May 1422; array Jan. 1436; to assess a tax Jan. 1436; raise royal loans Feb. 1436.
Sheriff, Warws. and Leics. 5 Nov. 1439-4 Nov. 1440.
In 1404 Berkeley’s father settled on him and his wife certain of the family lands at Barrow-upon-Soar, Quorndon and Burton Lazars. He was to inherit the principal Berkeley manors elsewhere in Leicestershire and in Huntingdonshire on Sir John’s death about 11 years later. To these holdings he added in the 1430s other property at Melton Mowbray, Welby and Scalford. Although his annual income may not now be estimated accurately, in 1445 the rent-roll of his Leicestershire lands alone apparently gave him £30 a year clear after all charges had been met.1
Berkeley was present at Leicester for the shire elections of April 1414. No evidence has been found to show that he joined Henry V’s first expedition to France in the following year, but he may well have done so, for before he was mustered in the retinue of Edmund, earl of March, as part of the second invasion force of July 1417, he had attained knighthood. It was not until after his return to Parliament in 1421 that he was appointed to royal commissions at home in Leicestershire, and then only in 1422 and 1436; he may have travelled overseas again in the meantime. Berkeley did not lack for influential connexions. In 1424 he stood surety under pain of 300 marks that Sir John Graa† would keep the peace towards his wife, the wealthy heiress Margaret Swillington, and four years later he was among those who witnessed a deed relating to the manor of Ashby de la Zouche on behalf of Joan, Lady Beauchamp of Abergavenny. He again attended the Leicestershire elections in 1429 and 1432, on the latter occasion heading the list of those who put their seals to the parliamentary indenture. It would seem that he owed his appointment as sheriff in 1439 to local standing as an affluent member of the gentry rather than to any personal achievements of note.2
Like his father had done before him, Sir Laurence acted as a trustee of the Seyton estates in Northamptonshire and Rutland. In 1443 Elizabeth, widow of Richard, Lord Grey of Codnor, asked him to witness settlements made for the performance of her will, and four years later he was present when certain transactions were completed at Ashby de la Zouche by Sir James Ormond (afterwards earl of Wiltshire), grandson and heir of Lady Abergavenny. He appears to have been on good terms with Bartholomew Brokesby*, that lady’s executor, for he attested other conveyances on Brokesby’s behalf and, furthermore, agreed to the marriage of his son Sir Thomas Berkeley to Brokesby’s niece. Nothing has emerged to Sir Laurence’s detriment, save an allegation of maintenance made in Chancery by a Lincolnshire man, and the assertion of Thomas Erdington* in 1433 that he had deliberately withheld rents.3
Berkeley died on 20 May 1458, according to the family biographer John Smyth ‘in the wars in France’, although this seems unlikely in view of the late date.4 His son and heir, Sir Thomas, who had already held office as sheriff of Rutland (1443-4) and of Warwickshire and Leicestershire (1454-5) was to be elected knight of the shire for the last-named county in 1472.