BEWLEY, William (d.1433/4), of Thistlethwaite, Cumb.
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Family and Education
Collector of taxes, Cumb. May 1398.
Collector of customs, Cumb. 16 Mar. 1401-8 Aug. 1402.
Commr. of array, Cumb. Apr. 1418, Mar. 1430.
Escheator, Cumb. and Westmld. 4 Nov. 1418-23 Nov. 1419. Envoy to conserve the truce between England and Scotland 25 Oct. 1429.2
The Bewleys are said to have come to England from Hainault in the retinue of Edward III’s queen, Philippa. Both Gilbert Bewley and his son, Richard, certainly enjoyed several marks of royal favour, the latter being rewarded by King Edward with the wardship of estates in Cumberland and Westmorland. By about 1340, the family had settled at Thistlethwaite. They do not seem to have acquired large amounts of property, although Richard Bewley, our Member’s father, did obtain a licence from Richard II to clear woodland at Kirkthwaite for cultivation. Richard helped to guard Carlisle during the English invasion of Scotland in the summer of 1385, and was returned as a shire knight for Cumberland to the Parliament which met in the following October. We do not know when he became one of the verderers of Inglewood forest, but he was still in office at the time of his death, which occurred at some point before 1413.3
William Bewley, the eldest of his father’s three sons, is first mentioned in 1393, when one William Buticombe sued out a royal pardon for settling a reversionary interest in certain holdings in Skelton upon him without the necessary licence. Three years later, Roger Buticombe’s daughter, Elizabeth, was granted a similar pardon regarding land in Armathwaite and Wreay in Inglewood forest, so it looks as if the two families were closely related. William’s title to all this property was confirmed in August 1396 before an impressive group of witnesses, including Sir John Ireby*, Sir Peter Tilliol*, Robert Lowther*, John More I*, and his own father. By then Bewley had twice acted as a juror, once at an inquest at Carlisle regarding a burglary, and on the second occasion at an assize of novel disseisin in Penrith. In 1398 he and Richard Bewley were appointed together as royal tax collectors in Cumberland, this being his first experience of service in local government. He must have done well, because in 1401 he was promoted to the more prestigious (and more lucrative) post of collector of customs for the county, albeit for only a comparatively short period. He also offered bail at this time for John More, who had been bound over at the Carlisle assizes to keep the peace. The two men evidently kept up a friendship, because they were returned together to the October Parliament of 1404; but unlike More, Bewley spent the next nine years in virtual retirement. He attended the inquisition post mortem held on the estates of William Stapleton’s* mother, Mary, in March 1406; and a few months later he witnessed a deed for (Sir) John Skelton*, one of whose sons married his daughter and eventual coheir, Margaret. Otherwise, nothing is known of his activities until he once again represented Cumberland (along with Sir Peter Tilliol) in Henry V’s first Parliament, which met in May 1413.4 He may well have agreed to make the long and arduous journey to Westminster because he had other, more personal business in the courts there. His lawsuit against William Wigton, whom he accused of stealing cattle off his land at Wreay and damaging crops at Langrigg, was heard in the following June, but seems never to have reached a verdict. At all events, he now began to show more interest in local affairs; and although he did not sit again in the House of Commons, he was present at the county elections held at Carlisle to the Parliaments of 1416 (Mar.), 1421 (Dec.), 1422, 1423, 1425, 1427, 1429 and 1432. Meanwhile, in November 1418, Bewley was made escheator of Cumberland and Westmorland; and it may well have been as a result of these official duties that he became involved in a dispute with Ralph Greystoke (probably a kinsman of Ralph, Lord Greystoke, d.1418), who later sued him for failing to account for certain money paid into his hands.5
As late as 1429, Bewley was still active, serving as an envoy for the conservation of the truce between England and Scotland, and also sitting on a jury at Carlisle for the assessment of contributions towards the subsidy. He is last mentioned in 1433, the date of yet another round of litigation begun by him for the recovery of a debt of £10 from a yeoman in Langrigg. By February 1434, however, he was dead. His estates (which had all been settled on trustees) were divided between his three daughters, who had married locally into the Skelton, Wylstrop and Denton families.