BETTESTHORNE, John (c.1329-1399), of Bisterne, Hants and Chaddenwick in Mere, Wilts.

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



Feb. 1388
Jan. 1390

Family and Education

b.c.1329, s. and h. of Roger Bettesthorne of Ashley, Hants, by his w. Margaret. m. by 1366, Gouda, da. and coh. of John Cormailles, 1da.

Offices Held

Commr. of inquiry, Som., Dorset June 1374 (forfeited goods), Hants July 1376 (extortions of Richard Lyons†), Oct. 1379 (trespasses of soldiers going to Brittany), Wilts. Aug. 1381 (removal of materials from Mere castle), Hants, Wilts. Oct. 1388 (Sir Simon Burley’s forfeited lands), Hants Sept. 1389 (wastes, Ellingham priory); array May 1375, Feb. 1379, Mar. 1380, Apr. 1385, Mar. 1392; to put down rebellions, Hants, Wilts. July 1381, Wilts. Dec. 1381, Mar., Dec. 1382; of arrest, Hants Aug. 1382.

Tax collector, Hants Nov. 1377.

Sheriff, Hants 25 Nov. 1378-5 Nov. 1379.

J.p. Wilts. 8 Mar. 1386-Oct. 1389.


Bettesthorne’s father held the manor of Ashley and the reversion of that of Chaddenwick, both of which properties later passed to him. His mother (possibly the heir of John Mere, whose lands Bettesthorne also later possessed) died in July 1349 when he was 20, and it was not until the following spring that he obtained seisin of her dower lands in Bisterne and Ashley (Hampshire) and in Shaftesbury (Dorset). He was active in local affairs, for example as a witness to deeds, from 1354.1

In April 1360 Edward III ordered the officials at the Exchequer to allow Bettesthorne, who had been accused there of refusing to take up knighthood, a respite until the following Michaelmas, on the grounds that he was abroad with the army and was about to be knighted by the King. However, three months later he was pardoned for not receiving the honour after all, ‘in consideration of manifold services done by him in the company of Henry, duke of Lancaster, in the King’s wars and in the siege of Rennes in Brittany, as well as in the King’s last progress in France’; and that October he was exempted for life from ever having to assume the higher rank or from serving in any official capacity against his will. This last patent was confirmed by Richard II, 20 years later.2

In the meantime Bettesthorne increased his landed holdings. In 1361 Richard Bettesthorne (possibly his uncle or elder half-brother) died leaving substantial estates in Hampshire to his daughters (Joan and Margaret) and his grandson John (the son of a third daughter), the latter being a minor. Bettesthorne obtained custody at the Exchequer of the young John’s third of the inheritance, and secured from Joan and Margaret a grant of the reversion of their shares, part of which came into his possession before 1379. Bettesthorne’s marriage was also profitable. His wife, Gouda, was a kinswoman of Edward III’s chancellor, Bishop Edington of Winchester, who in his will in 1366 not only exonerated the couple from a debt of £50 but also left to Gouda his best furred robe. Another of her kinsmen, John Edington, settled on them in reversion the manor of Pomeroy in Wingfield (Wiltshire) and other considerable holdings in the same area. Bettesthorne encountered some difficulty in obtaining possession of the manors of West Grimstead (Wiltshire) and Exbury (Hampshire) of which John Grimstead had granted him the reversion in 1361. And although Grimstead also placed other properties in Hampshire and Wiltshire in the hands of trustees with the intention that Bettesthorne should enter into them in due course, the vagaries of the settlement involved Bettesthorne in extensive litigation (including a petition to the Parliament of 1376). Some of the Grimstead properties were still in dispute within a few years of Bettesthorne’s death. Even so, Bettesthorne died a wealthy man with estates in Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire and Hampshire.3

There is little other information about this prosperous country gentleman who was so reluctant to become a knight. In 1380 he joined with Sir Ralph Norton† in alienating in mortmain part of the manor of Dulton to the Augustinian monastery of Bonhommes at Edington, founded by his wife’s kinsman, Bishop Edington. In September 1397 he made a loan of 100 marks to Richard II, perhaps unwillingly, for his exclusion from royal offices and commissions over the previous five years hardly suggests that he was regarded as a committed supporter of the court party. Indeed, he took out a royal pardon a few months later. In 1398 Bettesthorne applied for a royal licence to augment a chantry of one chaplain in the parish church at Mere with two more chaplains, who were to pray for him and for the souls of his ancestors, and to found another chantry at Gillingham (Dorset). This involved grants of property at Clopton (Somerset) as well as at Mere and Gillingham, and the foundations were not completed before Bettesthorne’s death; it fell to his daughter and heir, Elizabeth, and her husband Sir John Berkeley I* of Beverstone (a younger son of Thomas, Lord Berkeley) to bring his plans to fruition. Bettesthorne died on 6 Feb. 1399 and was buried at Mere. A monumental brass depicts him in full armour, and the inscription includes the verse

Tu qui transieris vidias sta perlege plora, Es quod eram et eris quod sum, pro me precor ora.4

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


Variants: Bidestone, Bitesthorne, Budesthorne, Bustern, Buttesthorne.

  • 1. Wilts. Feet of Fines (Wilts. Rec. Soc. xxix), 24; CIPM, ix. 255; CFR, vi. 229; VCH Hants, v. 114; CCR, 1349-54, p. 169; 1354-60, pp. 54, 79; Sel. Cases King’s Bench (Selden Soc. lxxxviii), 40.
  • 2. CCR, 1360-4, p. 107; CPR, 1358-61, pp. 446, 480; 1377-81, p. 449; E159/158 Rec. Mich. m. 21.
  • 3. CIPM, xi. 23; VCH Wilts. vi. 42; vii. 73; Wilts. Feet of Fines, 118-19; CFR, vii. 171; ix. 23; CPR, 1361-4, pp. 80, 84, 111; 1377-81, p. 598; RP, ii. 353-4; CIMisc. iv. 111; CCR, 1377-81, pp. 430, 454; 1389-92, pp. 202, 230-1, 431-3, 460; VCH Hants, iii. 291; iv. 543, 635-6, 638; Reg. Wykeham (Hants Rec. Soc. 1896-9), i. 104, 144, 177, 213, 215; C136/102/6; Reg. Langham (Canterbury and York Soc. liii), 319.
  • 4. CPR, 1377-81, pp. 486, 491, 508; 1381-5, p. 7; 1396-9, p. 181; CFR, xi. 273, 295; C136/102/6; C67/30 m. 28; CCR, 1396-9, pp. 461, 467; Wilts. Arch. Mag. l. 375; lv. 153-4; C143/395/20, 429/28.