BLENKINSOP, William, of Hillbeck, Westmld.
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Family and Education
Commr. of array, Westmld. Apr. 1418.
William may still have been a minor when his grandfather, Sir Thomas Blenkinsop*, died in 1388, leaving an estate in Hillbeck to his father, Thomas. A William Blenkinsop appears at this time as a feoffee of land in Hartsop, Westmorland, for the Lancaster family, and was likewise employed by the northern landowner, John, Lord Roos (d.1393), but he was almost certainly an uncle or other kinsman of the young man. The latter did not marry until about 1396, when his father settled upon him and his wife, Maud Salkeld, a house, land and tenements at Orton (a few miles south west of Hillbeck), appointing William’s younger brother, Robert, as an attorney to deliver seisin. Not much else is known about William until 1400, when he acquired royal letters of protection for a year’s service at Berwick-upon-Tweed, under the command of Sir Henry Percy. His attachment to Percy stopped short at open rebellion, however, and unlike his uncle he played no part in the northern uprising of 1403. Shortly afterwards Walter Skirlaw, bishop of Durham, pardoned him for acquiring the manor of ‘Quetlaw’ without his permission as feudal overlord. About four years later, Skirlaw’s successor, Thomas Langley, permitted William and his associates to convey their title to John Harwick, who had presumably made them his trustees.2
Although he did not succeed his father until after 1412, when he still stood to inherit the land in Crookdean and Sweethope which had belonged to Sir Thomas Blenkinsop’s widow, William seems to have acted as head of the family from a fairly early date. He attended the elections for Westmorland to the Parliaments of 1407 and 1411, and evidently possessed a notable following in the county. Indeed, by 1415 he was in a position to defy John Lancaster of Brampton, an influential local landowner, although it is now impossible to discover who first began the quarrel. According to an appeal filed in the court of Chancery by Lancaster at this time, Blenkinsop attempted to evict him from one of his manors with a large force of soldiers who had marched from Carlisle ‘in manner of war, looking as if they intended to launch a border raid against the Scots’. Blenkinsop responded with a counter petition, accusing his adversary of marshalling a private army of 200 men, devastating his farm at Colby (near Appleby), attempting to murder him, and driving away a large herd of cattle. One of his mainpernors on this occasion was his friend, Robert Warcop*; and in January 1416 four other leading members of Westmorland society offered securities of £200 on his behalf in Chancery, undertaking that he would keep the peace towards Lancaster in future. (Interestingly enough, Lancaster was only bound over in half this sum.) The outcome of the feud is not recorded, but in 1418 Blenkinsop was appointed to a royal commission of array, and he was again present at the Westmorland parliamentary elections in the following year.3
A few months after serving as a juror at an inquisition post mortem held on Sir John Lumley at Kirkby in Kendale in the summer of 1421, Blenkinsop himself was chosen to represent Westmorland in the House of Commons. His colleague in the December Parliament of that year was (Sir) John Lancaster I, a distant kinsman of his former enemy, with whom he none the less appears to have remained on friendly terms. Blenkinsop’s own son, Thomas, was elected to the next Parliament, in 1422, and again in 1426, he himself being present on both occasions at Appleby to attest the returns, and, no doubt, to raise support for the young man’s candidature. Father and son may already by then have become embroiled in their quarrel with William Hoton, which resulted in yet another suit in Chancery. Hoton accused William Blenkinsop of inciting his son and Richard Wharton* to disrupt the county with ‘grandez assemblez, riottes et routez de gentz’, and, more specifically, of conspiring to dispossess him of his home at Brampton. We do not know if the Blenkinsops were ever called to account for their alleged misdeeds, but henceforward William lived quietly on his estates at Hillbeck, avoiding further trouble.4
According to the lay subsidy returns of 1436, Blenkinsop’s property in Westmorland was worth at least £26 p.a., while his son, Thomas, could rely on an independent annual landed income of £10. Given the relative poverty of the Westmorland gentry, the Blenkinsops must have seemed affluent to their friends and neighbours; and it is thus not surprising that Thomas, Lord Dacre, twice called upon William’s services as a witness to property transactions at this time. On the whole, however, William preferred to remain in retirement, and in 1446 he permitted his son to lease the family demesnes at Hillbeck for a rent of 10 marks p.a. He is last mentioned three years later, when a royal pardon was issued to him because he had been outlawed for refusing to appear in court when being sued for a debt of £5. By now an old man, he probably died quite soon after this date.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. J. Nicolson and R. Burn, Westmld. and Cumb. i. 583; CPR , 1408-13, pp. 369-70.
- 2. Nicolson and Burn, i. 583; Recs. Kendale ed. Farrer and Curwen, i. 234; Cal. Scots. Docs. (supp.) v. no. 4624; Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. n.s. x. 471; DKR, xxxiii. 74, 98.
- 3. CCR, 1409-13, p. 327; 1413-19, pp. 294, 298; C219/10/4, 6, 12/3; C1/6/213, 278.
- 4. Recs. Kendale, i. 148; C1/7/256; C219/13/1, 4; Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. n.s. viii. 308.
- 5. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. n.s. viii. 329; Nicolson and Burn, i. 583; CCR, 1435-41, p. 263; CPR, 1446-52, p. 291.