BERKELEY, Thomas (1351-1405), of Coberley and Stoke Orchard, Glos., Chilcote, Derbys. and Eldersfield, Worcs.
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Family and Education
b. Coberley, 10 Oct. 1351, s. and h. of Sir Thomas Berkeley† (d.1365), by Joan, da. and h. of Geoffrey Archer of Stoke Orchard. m. (1) by 1364, Juliana; (2) by 1375, Margaret (d. 4 Apr. 1406), da. of Sir Thomas Chandos† of Snodhill, Herefs., 2 da.
Tax assessor, Glos. May 1379; collector Mar. 1381.
Commr. to put down rebellions, Glos. Mar., Dec. 1382; enforce the Statute of Northampton Mar. 1388.
Sheriff, Glos. 16 Dec. 1384-2 Dec. 1385, 18 Nov. 1387-1 Dec. 1388.
The line of the Berkeleys of Coberley had been separated from that of the Berkeleys of Berkeley as far back as the 11th century. Their tenure of Coberley, on the top of the Cotswolds some three miles from Cheltenham, dated from before the Domesday Book, while Eldersfield in Worcestershire and Chilcote, far away in Derbyshire, came into their possession over a century before the birth of Thomas Berkeley in 1351. Berkeley’s father, Sir Thomas, a veteran of Crecy, entailed Coberley and Eldersfield on young Thomas and his wife Juliana in 1364 (subject to the life-interest of himself and his wife), and, presumably as a marriage settlement, put them into immediate possession of Chilcote. After Sir Thomas’s death in the following year Berkeley’s mother married William Whittington† of Pauntley (the elder brother of Robert Whittington*, who was to become a prominent figure in Gloucestershire affairs, and of Richard Whittington*, the wealthy merchant of London), and following her own demise in 1369 the issues of her manor of Stoke Orchard (then called Stoke Archer after her family) were granted to Richard Ruyhale of Worcestershire for the duration of Berkeley’s minority. At the time of Berkeley’s own death 35 years later the estates thus inherited from his parents were said to have provided him with an annual income of some £89.2
Berkeley proved his age in 1372 and served on his first royal commission seven years later. His first election to Parliament, in 1380, took place when he was still under 30. Although he held Eldersfield of the Lords Despenser and other property of the earls of Stafford, and so might have been expected to form some attachment to one or other of these lords, in fact (probably because the heirs to both noble houses were then minors) he chose instead to enter the service of John, duke of Lancaster. On 5 May 1381 he was formally retained to serve the duke for life in peace and war, and it seems likely that he subsequently travelled overseas in Gaunt’s retinue.3 Berkeley’s connexions among the gentry of Herefordshire (for one of whom he stood surety at the Exchequer that same month), probably came about through his second marriage, to Margaret Chandos, a grand daughter of Roger, Lord Chandos, and sister to Sir John Chandos* of Snodhill, a prominent marcher knight. He himself, despite such associations and even though he held land in other counties, only ever served in an official capacity in Gloucestershire. He was twice appointed sheriff, as such officiating at three parliamentary elections (in 1385 and 1388), but following his own second Parliament — ten years after the first — he retired from the tasks of local administration.4
In a brief will, made on 29 Mar. 1405, Berkeley left small bequests to the clergy and church at Coberley (where he was to be buried), to Worcester cathedral and to hospitals in Gloucester and Cirencester. Among his executors were his widow and his brother Nicholas. He died on Palm Sunday (12 Apr.) and probate was granted in the prerogative court of Canterbury on 11 Sept. Coincidentally, Berkeley’s widow also died on a Palm Sunday — in the following year. Their heirs were their two daughters: Margaret, wife of Nicholas Mattesdon of Kingsholm near Gloucester, and Alice, then the wife of Thomas Bridges of Haresfield, and later to be the third wife of John Browning* of Leigh near Deerhurst. When Berkeley’s brother-in-law, the aged Sir John Chandos, died childless in 1428, Margaret Mattesdon and her nephew Giles Bridges† inherited his estates in Herefordshire, and 30 years later Bridges became de jure Lord Chandos.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. He was described as a knight on the writ for expenses (CCR , 1377-81, p. 497), but this was apparently an error, for he was never knighted. Care has been taken to distinguish him from (Sir) Thomas Berkeley, Lord Berkeley (d. 1417).