BIRMINGHAM, William (d.1426), of Birmingham, Warws. and Shutford, Oxon.
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Family and Education
s. of William Birmingham. m. by 1408, Joan (c.1391-bef. 1458), e. da. and coh. of Sir Adam Peshale* by his 3rd w. Joyce, 2s. Kntd. bef. Nov. 1420.
The Birmingham family had lived in Warwickshire since the early 13th century, taking its name from its principal manor there, and several of its members had sat in Parliament for that shire or for Buckinghamshire, including Sir Fulk Birmingham† (d.c.1375), William’s great-uncle, and his sons Sir John† (d.c.1380) and Sir Thomas† (d.c.1386). In 1324 the manor of Birmingham had been entailed on the male line, and when Sir John and Sir Thomas died without male issue William became the heir. In 1397 he acknowledged to Sir John’s widow, Elizabeth, Lady Clinton (afterwards wife of Sir John Russell* of Strensham), her right to hold the manor for life, but they seem to have agreed between them subsequently that William could have possession, for by 1400 he was calling himself ‘lord of the vill of Birmingham’, claiming tolls for merchandise sold at weekly markets and holding the two annual fairs. It is clear from litigation pursued in the court of common pleas and in Chancery that Birmingham was determined to enjoy his rights as lord of the manor.1 He had inherited without difficulty the family manors of Hoggeston (Buckinghamshire) and Shutford (Oxfordshire). In addition, he acquired property in Staffordshire at Barr, and his marriage to one of the daughters of Sir Adam Peshale was eventually, in 1420, to bring him Tamhorn and Rugeley in the same county.2
At least ten years before his only return to Parliament, Birmingham became a retainer of Richard, earl of Warwick. In October 1403 he was in the earl’s company ordered to garrison Brecon castle, and it is likely that he had already seen military action at the battle of Shrewsbury against the Percys and in skirmishes with Welsh rebels. Subsequently, he was associated with Thomas Crewe*, chief steward of the earl’s estates, as a co-feoffee of lands in Warwickshire. It is quite feasible that he owed his election to Henry V’s first Parliament to this connexion with the King’s friend Warwick. In 1414 Birmingham was indicted before the King’s bench sitting at Lichfield for having at Easter 1413 given liveries of green and white cloth to six men who were neither his servants nor his household officers, thus being in breach of the Statute of Livery, but when brought for trial at Westminster in the following year he was able to produce a royal pardon. He may have served with Warwick in the expedition to Normandy of 1415, and certainly did so on the second of Henry V’s campaigns, two years afterwards. In March 1420 he was mustered as one of the garrison of Falaise, under the command of Henry, Lord Fitzhugh, and by November following he had been knighted.3
The years after Birmingham’s return from France were marred by protracted litigation. First, in 1421, he and his wife Joan failed in their suit against Joan, Lady Beauchamp of Abergavenny, for a third share of the Botetourt estates in Buckinghamshire and elsewhere (which Lady Joan had purchased from Joan Birmingham’s parents).4 Then, when Lady Clinton died in September 1423 the heirs-general to the Birmingham property — Ellen, wife of Edmund, Lord Ferrers of Chartley, and Elizabeth, wife of George Longville* (grand daughters of Sir Thomas Birmingham) — claimed the manor of Birmingham. Within days of Lady Clinton’s death, Lord Ferrers at the head of some 200 armed men raised an insurr