BLYTON, William, of Lincoln and Foxton and Shepreth, Cambs.
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Family and Education
Commr. of array, Lincoln Jan. 1400.
Mayor, Lincoln Sept. 1401-2, 1422-3.2
Members of the Blyton family had played a distinguished part in the affairs of Lincoln from the beginning of the 14th century, and William’s father actually died while in office as mayor. It was probably from him that William inherited the manor of Blyton together with other land in Nettleham and Ashby-cum-Fenby (all in Lincolnshire) which, in 1412, bore a valuation of £8 a year. He was, moreover, then sure of an additional income of £25 from holdings in Lincoln itself, and he consequently stands out as one of the richest men to represent the city during our period.3 Because of his wealth and position he was able to make an extremely advantageous marriage to Mary, the daughter of Sir John Dengaine of Teversham, and heir, through her mother, to half the de la Haye estates in Cambridgeshire. Her share comprised moieties of the three manors of Foxton, Shepreth and Papworth Everard, which came into Blyton’s hands after Sir John’s death in, or just before, 1395.4
Blyton is first mentioned in May 1383, when he was in possession of a tenement in St. Benedict’s parish, Lincoln, this being one of many properties held by him there. In 1388, however, the civic authorities were forced to demolish some of his buildings in order to enlarge the highway leading to the bridge, and he was duly compensated for his losses. Blyton was already a figure of some consequence in the local community, as can be seen from his inclusion on the list of people who, in March of that year, were to take the general oath in support of the Lords Appellant. Together with other leading citizens he also became involved in the protracted and increasingly bitter disputes over rival jurisdictions which poisoned relations between the city and the dean and chapter of Lincoln cathedral during the late 14th century. Matters had reached such a pass by March 1390 that the King himself was obliged to intervene and restore order. This was done in part by the exaction of heavy securities from the citizenry, Blyton being bound over to keep the peace on pain of 100 marks. The next few years proved almost as eventful, for in the autumn of 1393 one of his servants was brutally murdered at Lincoln; and in 1394 he was arraigned on an assize of novel disseisin by two of his neighbours. The outcome of the case is not now known, but it was probably settled out of court. Not long afterwards Blyton and Robert Peck I* acted together as the trustees of land in Nettleham; and in 1398 Blyton attested a deed for the mayor and corporation.5
Somewhat surprisingly, Blyton was not returned for Lincoln until the first Parliament of Henry IV’s reign in 1399, although he and his colleague, the more experienced Robert Sutton, then assumed the heavy responsibility of presenting a petition for the reduction of the fee farm of Lincoln. A similar appeal had previously been presented to the first Parliament of 1397 (again by Sutton), but, just as before, no positive steps were taken to ease the city’s financial burden. Blyton went on to serve on a royal commission of array, and was elected mayor in September 1402. It was during his mayoralty that his brother-in-law, Sir Baldwin St. George*, offered him a recognizance worth £100. The reason for this transaction is not recorded, but it almost certainly concerned the estates of their respective wives and may have followed upon the death of Sir John Dengaine’s widow, who held certain property in dower. In the following year a confrontation occurred between Blyton and the prior of St. Katherine’s, Lincoln, who was obliged to find securities for his future good behaviour towards the MP. Little is known of the latter’s activities over the next few years, although at some point before 1418 he began a lawsuit for the recovery of 20 marks against one Simon Brunne of Cambridgeshire. Understandably enough, Blyton was one of the more prominent citizens who witnessed the ratification of ordinances for the use of the common seal of Lincoln in November 1421; and a few months later he attended a ‘common congregation’ held at the guildhall. He was elected mayor for the second time in the following September, being then at least 60 years of age.6
Nothing more is definitely heard of Blyton after the spring of 1425, when he and his wife, Mary, settled the manor of Blyton upon trustees, including Hamon Sutton* and Robert Walsh*. It is possible that he was the William Blyton who joined with John Brockley* in taking sureties of £400 from a London fishmonger, in 1430, and who subsequently had to begin litigation to recover the money, although we cannot be certain if he survived for so long. Blyton had already divided his wife’s property between his two daughters, and presumably intended to leave his own estates to his elder son, John (who may have been the child of an earlier marriage). The latter appears to have pre-deceased him, however; and it was to his younger b