BLENKINSOP, Sir Thomas (c.1336-1388), of Hillbeck, Westmld.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b.c. 1336. m. by July 1369, Margaret (c.1354-aft. Nov. 1389), da. of Alan Strother† by his 1st w., sis. and coh. of Alan Strother (d.s.p. bef. Aug. 1380) of Crookdean in Kirkwhelpington and Sweethope, Northumb., at least 2s. Kntd. by Oct. 1386.1
Collector of taxes, Westmld. May 1379, Nov. 1382, Dec. 1384.
Constable, Brough castle, Westmld. for Roger, Ld. Clifford 25 July 1380-1 Feb. 1390.2
Commr. to raise money to compensate the earl of Northumb. for breaches of the truce with Scotland May 1381; of array, Cumb. Dec. 1383, Aug. 1384.3
Keeper of the royal castle of Roxburgh 17 Dec. 1381-24 June 1383; jt. keeper of Carlisle castle, Cumb. 1 Jan.-2 Feb. 1384.4
The Blenkinsops were of Westmorland stock, with property at Hillbeck near Brough, but thanks to an advantageous marriage, contracted in or before 1369, Thomas acquired a life interest in one-third of the manor of Moneylaws in Northumberland. The manor formed part of the extensive estates of the Strother family, to which his wife, Margaret, belonged, although it was not until the death of her childless brother, Alan, some 11 years later, that she was able to lay claim to her father’s two manors of Crookdean and Sweethope, which she shared with her surviving sister, Joan Hosley. (Another of the Strother girls, Mary, had been married to Sir Thomas Musgrave* when they were both children. Her early demise without issue had, however, deprived him of any personal title to this property.) Their half-brother, Thomas Strother, who was then a minor, was pronounced heir to the rest of the inheritance, but Margaret’s share still made an appreciable difference to the Blenkinsops. Our Member was already by then quite well known in the north-west, having, on his own testimony, taken up the profession of arms in 1356, when he was about 20 years old. Much of his time was spent campaigning against the Scots, either on large-scale expeditions across the border or ‘unofficial’ raiding parties, but sometimes he made his presence felt nearer home. In 1378, for example, the parson of Musgrave (near Brough) sued him and his kinsman by marriage, Thomas, Lord Musgrave†, for robbing him of goods worth 40 marks. Two years later, Roger, Lord Clifford, his feudal overlord at Hillbeck, made him and his heirs hereditary constables of the nearby castle of Brough; and in December 1381 he was singled out by the royal council for the far more prestigious (and demanding) post of keeper of Roxburgh, a border stronghold of great strategic importance for the English. He evidently performed his duties well, as in the following November his contract was renewed for another seven months.5
Meanwhile, in December 1381, Thomas assisted his widowed kinswoman, Margaret Strother, in negotiating with the earl of Northumberland, Sir Ralph Euer*, and Sir William Swinburne* (who had also married into the Strother family) for the restoration of a quantity of wool, guaranteed under heavy securities of £300. His relationship with the earl was clearly amicable, since he had but recently been appointed as a royal commissioner for the collection of compensation owing to Northumberland by local English landowners who had infringed the truce with Scotland; and the Strothers themselves, moreover, were leading members of the Percy retinue. Not surprisingly, Thomas was returned to Parliament in October 1383, although it was the electors of Cumberland rather than those of Westmorland or Northumberland, where he owned property, who chose him to represent them in the Commons. His appearance, in the following year, as joint commander of a greatly augmented garrison at Carlisle, along with Amand Monceaux*, his parliamentary colleague, does, however, reveal a strong connexion with the county, which then faced attack by the Scots. At about this time Thomas became embroiled in litigation with one Peter Nuthill of Northumberland, whom he sued, successfully, for a debt of £24. The case may have brought him back to Westminster, since he was available, in October 1386, to give evidence there on behalf of Richard, Lord Scrope, in his celebrated dispute with Sir Robert Grosvenor over the right to bear the same coat of arms. He had by then been knighted, and claimed to have seen many years of active service on the Scottish border. The circumstances of his death are of considerable interest, since he was evidently captured by the Scots while visiting the north during the recess of the Merciless Parliament, of which he was a Member. He was dead by 18 Apr. 1388, when a writ of diem clausit extremum was issued on his account; and an agreement made between his widow and Sir William Swinburne in the following year suggests that he died in enemy hands. Sir William was then empowered to receive from John Bulkane of Newcastle-upon-Tyne ‘all the treasures and jewels and all other goods’ which had been entrusted to him for the ransoming of Sir Thomas and other well-connected prisoners, but which were no longer needed for this purpose.