BIRD, John (d.c.1445), of Marlborough, Wilts.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
Bailiff, Marlborough by Aug. 1399.
Steward, receiver and bailiff of the estates of Queen Joan in Wilts. and of her manors of Gillingham, Dorset and Hampstead Marshall, Berks. by Mich. 1405-aft. Feb. 1433.3
Commr. of inquiry, Wilts. May 1409 (estates of William Worfton*), Glos. July 1412 (concealments), Wilts. June 1416 (wastes, alien priory of Clatford), Dec. 1419 (detention of rents from Ivychurch priory), Nov. 1421 (escapes of felons), Feb. 1422 (falsifiers of weights and measures), Sept. 1440 (arson); to repair the queen’s castle of Devizes Apr. 1410; of gaol delivery, Old Sarum Dec. 1440.
Escheator, Hants and Wilts. 10 Dec. 1411-3 Nov. 1412, 4 Sept. 1417-4 Nov. 1418.
Tax collector, Wilts. Apr. 1428.
Steward of estates of Humphrey, earl of Stafford, in Wilts. by Mich. 1441-?d. 4
Verderer, Savernake forest, Wilts.-d.
This John Bird was probably a relation, if not a son, of John Bird†, the tanner who had represented Marlborough in the Parliament of February 1383.5 He is first heard of in August 1399 when, as bailiff of Marlborough, he was ordered to keep safe certain monies formerly belonging to William Scrope, earl of Wiltshire and constable of Marlborough castle, who had recently been executed during the rebellion which brought Henry of Bolingbroke to the throne. Two years later he was employed as a summoner by the sheriff of Wiltshire. Returned for the first time to Parliament in 1402, he was to act in 1407 as surety for the attendance in the Parliament of that year of one of the Marlborough burgesses-elect (both of whose names, however, are now lost). By then, Bird was serving as steward, bailiff and receiver of all Queen Joan’s extensive lands in Wiltshire, which at this time included the liberties of Marlborough, Malmesbury and Devizes, and the borough of Ludgershall, receiving for his services fees amounting to £10 a year. Towards the end of 1409 he was engaged, as clerk of the works, in supervising repairs to the queen’s castle at Devizes, and early in the following year he sat on a royal commission set up to recruit masons and other labourers for these operations. Confirmed in his offices in May 1411 for the queen’s lifetime, he was certainly still holding them in 1433, and probably did so until her death in July 1437.6
Bird served as royal escheator in Hampshire and Wiltshire in 1411-12, and was returned to Parliament again in May 1413. During the Parliament which opened at Leicester in April 1414, though not himself a Member of the Commons, he acted as a mainpernor at the Exchequer for Thomas Hathaway, then sitting for Marlborough. He attended the county election at Wilton for the Parliament of November that year, he himself being then again returned for the same borough. In 1415, a year in which he was once more elected, he received 66s.8d. expenses for riding to Bristol in Queen Joan’s service and in repayment of money spent on preparations for receiving her and her household at Devizes and Corsham. Probably early in 1416 he attended an inquisition post mortem held on William, 4th Lord Zouche; and, acting on behalf of the queen’s council, which wished to obtain custody of the manors of Calston and Calne during the minority of Zouche’s heir, he spent nearly £8 on ‘courtesies’ to officials involved in the inquiry, including £2 to the escheator, four marks to the jurors, and two marks for food and drink, thus securing a satisfactory outcome for his royal mistress, who promptly leased the manors to him and Robert Salman*, at an annual rent of £13 6s.8d. In partnership with Robert Okebourne, Bird was already farming the Wiltshire lands of the alien priory of Mortaine, which were in the queen’s hands because of the war with France. As a member of a royal commission set up in 1416 to inquire into wastes within the alien priory of Clatford, he was probably also acting in the queen’s interests, as this house, too, was temporarily in her possession. In 1417-18 Bird served a second term as escheator.7
It is hardly surprising that Bird should have been closely connected with Sir William Sturmy* of Wolf Hall, who, as chief steward of Queen Joan’s lands from before 1406 until his death in 1427, was his administrative superior. He was frequently recorded both with Sturmy and with members of the Sturmy circle in transactions of a private as well as of a public nature. His fellow MP in 1415 had been Thomas Newman, a lawyer closely associated with Sturmy, and when Newman was re-elected to the Parliament of March 1416, Bird stood as surety for his attendance. From 1418 to 1425 Bird acted as a feoffee of certain of Sturmy’s manors in Hampshire and Wiltshire and, in 1420, when Sir William obtained custody at the Exchequer of the manors of Corsham and Ludgershall and the alien priory of Clatford (all temporarily confiscated by the Crown when Queen Joan was accused of witchcraft), Bird was one of his guarantors. In 1425 Bird was surety for the attendance in Parliament of Robert Erle†, Sturmy’s kinsman and later executor.8 Following Sir William’s death, Bird disputed with the deceased’s feoffees possession of the Wiltshire manor of Huish, of which he himself had earlier been a trustee. Rival presentations to the church at Huish were made by the feoffees (headed by John Stafford, bishop of Bath and Wells) and Bird, but the latter apparently established a superior claim, presumably based on a grant made by Sturmy, and he continued to hold the manor until his death; indeed, he even left an interest for life to his widow. Before he died he apparently sold Huish in reversion to Sir John Seymour†, Sturmy’s grandson and heir, and his wife Isabel, the sister or half-sister of his own wife. Bird’s connexion with the Seymours went back at least to 1425, for he had then provided securities for Isabel Seymour’s father, Mark William, the Bristol merchant, and throughout the 20 or so years since then he and Seymour had been on amicable terms. In January 1428 the two men both acted as mainpernors for Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, the Protector, when the duke obtained a lease of herbage in the royal forest of Chute, the two doubtless having come to Gloucester’s notice through Seymour’s hereditary wardenship of Savernake forest (held in succession to Sturmy), which forest the duke held in fee. Bird himself was a verderer of Savernake, a post he no doubt owed to either Sturmy or Seymour. In 1435, when Bird was returned for Marlborough for the seventh time, he went surety at the county elections for Seymour, then elected knight of the shire.9
Bird’s professional activities and links with Sturmy and Seymour aside, he was frequently in demand as a mainpernor or as a witness to deeds on behalf of other members of the local gentry. Thus, in 1418 he had offered sureties at the Exchequer for John Wilcotes* and Robert Andrew II*, and in 1420 he was John Fruysthorp’s* guarantor when he was given a royal wardship. In 1428 he assisted William Coventre III* to acquire property at East Coulston. By 1431 he was associated with Sir William Beauchamp† as co-feoffee of the manor of Westrop by Highworth and, two years later, he acted on behalf of Beauchamp and his wife Elizabeth, Lady St. Amand, for estates in Wiltshire and Berkshire. Meanwhile, besides the parliamentary elections for Wiltshire already mentioned, he had also attended those held at Wilton in 1426 (then standing surety for John Wyke, burgess-elect for Malmesbury), and 1432. Finally, at an unknown date before Michaelmas 1441, Humphrey, earl of Stafford, appointed him as steward of his estates in the county.10
Throughout his career Bird had been steadily accumulating property in Wiltshire on his own account. In 1419, in partnership with Richard Harden†, he had bought land in Knook, Manningford Bohun, and elsewhere; by 1428 he had holdings in the north-west of the county at Kington Langley and other places near his manor of Huish; and in the north-east he and his wife had interests at Chisledon. Bird’s properties in his home town of Marlborough were also considerable, including, in addition to his own house, several other tenements, ten market stalls and several fields and meadows, as well as holdings in the neighbouring parishes of Preshute and Ogbourne St. George.11
Bird died at Martinmas, probably in 1445, having presented to the living at Huish for the last time in the preceding year. In February 1446 his widow received a royal licence to found in his name a chantry at St. Katherine’s altar in St. Peter’s church, Marlborough, and to endow it with lands worth 12 marks a year. Chief among those for whose good estate prayers were to be offered was Humphrey, duke of Gloucester. Isabel obtained a further licence, in 1449, to alienate to this chantry certain specified properties in Marlborough and Ogbourne St. George; but it was not until 1474 that the statutes for Bird’s chantry were established, and a year after that before the bishop of Salisbury confirmed them. This was shortly before Bird’s widow died, aged about 74.12
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Authors: Charles Kightly / L. S. Woodger
Variants: Bridde, Bryd, Byrd.
- 1. OR, i. 264 gives John Wryd, but the return itself (C219/10/2) clearly shows the name to be Bryd. A John Bird ‘junior’ of Marlborough is recorded in 1414 and 1416 as a trustee of land in Wilts., but there is no sound reason to suppose that the parliamentary career of one John Bird ended in 1415 and that of this younger John began in 1426 (as is suggested by J.T. Driver in ‘Burgess Repn. Wilts. 1422-37’ (Oxf. Univ. B. Litt. thesis, 1951), p. 85): Wilts. Feet of Fines (Wilts. Rec. Soc. xli), 344, 356.
- 2. Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxxix. 156, taken from C1/42/32-35, in which Isabel calls herself ‘sister’ of Isabel, by then (1471) widow of Sir John Seymour. Isabel Seymour was da. and h. of Mark William: Genealogist, xii. 73-75.
- 3. SC6/1051/16-18, 1054/25, 1062/25-27, 1093/2, 4; E368/184 rot. 95d.
- 4. C. Rawcliffe, Staffords, 210.
- 5. J. Waylen, Marlborough, 101-2; E179/196/44.
- 6. CCR, 1396-9, p. 512; CPR, 1401-5, p. 4; C219/10/4; SC6/1051/16-18, 1062/25, 1295/1, 2.
- 7. CFR, xiv. 66; C219/11/5; SC6/1062/26, 27, 1295/1, 2, 7; CIMisc. vii. 531.
- 8. C219/11/8, 13/3; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 457-8; CFR, xiv. 321-2; CAD, i. B394.
- 9. VCH Wilts. x. 78-80; CCR, 1422-9, p. 204; CFR, xv. 209; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxxix. 98-99, 156-62; C219/14/5.
- 10. CFR, xiv. 234, 278-9, 343; CCR, 1422-9, pp. 131, 409; Wilts. Feet of Fines, 425, 476; CPR, 1429-36, p. 118; C219/13/4, 14/3.
- 11. Wilts. Feet of Fines, 371, 516, 540; Feudal Aids, v. 253, 271; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxxvi. 559-60.
- 12. CPR, 1441-6, p. 416; 1446-52, p. 301; VCH Wilts. xii. 144, 154, 223; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxxvi. 558-66; xxxix. 97.