BOSOM, John I (d.1440), of Bosomzeal, Dittisham, Devon

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Jan. 1397

Family and Education

s. and h. Edmund Bosom (d.1407/8), of Bosomzeal by Mabel, prob. da. of John Falewell. m. (1) by 1408, Eleanor; (2) by 1420, Joan. 1s. 2da.1

Offices Held

Commr. of inquiry, Devon Nov. 1400 (concealment of subsidies), Devon, Cornw. Feb., July 1419 (treasons and felonies), July 1423 (breaches of the truce with Brittany); to hold inquisitions post mortem, Devon Nov. 1406, Feb. 1418, Feb. 1420; of oyer and terminer Apr., Oct. 1410, Feb. 1421, July 1422, Cornw. Feb. 1422, May 1426; array, Devon Mar. 1419; to raise crown loans Nov. 1419, Jan. 1420, Devon, Cornw. Apr. 1421; of arrest, Devon Dec. 1428.

Justice of assize, July 1411.

Steward of the Devonshire estates of Thomas, earl of Salisbury, by Apr. 1413.2

J.p. Devon 1 Oct. 1415-July 1423, Oct. 1427-c.1430.

Sheriff, Devon 5 Nov. 1430-26 Nov. 1431.


In the mid 13th century Dittisham, a manor situated near the River Dart between Totnes and Dartmouth, had been divided into three parts between the daughters of Henry St. George, one of whom, Joan, was married to Sir Robert Bosom. John was a direct descendant of Sir Robert and, on the death of his father he did fealty for his share, Bosomzeal, to the then overlord of the manor, Robert Hill* of Spaxton. As early as September 1408 he obtained a licence from Bishop Stafford of Exeter for himself, his wife and Joan Falewell (probably his maternal aunt) to have mass celebrated in the chapel at Bosomzeal.3

The Bosoms were well-connected: John’s aunt, Isabel, married William Fortescue of Whympstone; his sister, Joan, married Henry Fortescue* of Wood Barton, the elder brother of the future chief justice and himself c.j.KB in Ireland; and one of his daughters, Elizabeth or Jennet, was to make two important marriages, first to Sir Baldwin Fulford and then, after Fulford’s execution in 1461, to Edward IV’s attorney-general, Sir William Huddesfield† of Shillingford. A kinsman, Robert Bosom, was chancellor of Exeter cathedral in the later years of the 14th century. John Bosom’s estates in Devon, which were said to be worth £20 a year in 1412 and £23 13s.4d. at the time of his death, included lands in Jacobstowe, Crimstone and Curtis Knowle in Diptford, but were otherwise situated in the southern part of the shire. In Cornwall he held lands in ‘Kylkhampton’ Whitestone, Otterham and elsewhere. Over the years Bosom acted as patron of the chantry at Moreleigh, near Totnes, and the churches of Ashprington, Zeal Monachorum and Honeychurch. To the last he presented, in 1437, as guardian of Andrew Hillersdon, but in 1440 he was censured by Bishop Lacy when it was alleged that the rector of Ashprington, Robert Gode, had paid him £200 to have the benefice for himself. Besides these estates, acquired by marriage as well as inheritance, Bosom held for term of his life the manor and advowson of Clovelly by virtue of a grant made by a member of the Cary family, probably his contemporary, Robert Cary*, esquire.4

Bosom’s first recorded appearance, in 1393, was as a mainpernor in Chancery for his kinsman John Falewell. His two elections to Parliament for Dartmouth followed soon afterwards, while he was still establishing a practice as a lawyer, and in 1395 and 1397, the years when he represented the borough at Westminster, he also acted for the commonalty at the assizes held at Exeter. Over the next few years he made further appearances in the central courts on behalf of landowners from Devon, and he occasionally provided securities at the Exchequer for the lessees of estates in the shire. In February 1401 he secured from the prince of Wales the wardship of the Cornish property of his kinsman Thomas Archdeacon*. From the beginning of Henry IV’s reign he served on royal commissions of a judicial nature; and on at least one occasion, in July 1411, he is known to have been appointed to hold an assize of novel disseisin, only for the plaintiffs to protest against his elevation to the bench on the ground that he had been retained as counsel for the defence. However, it is not surprising to find the burgesses of Totnes electing Bosom to Parliament that year, for his family had long been influential in the town and he himself was to witness an indenture on behalf of the prior of Totnes a few months later. It is not known precisely when Bosom became steward of the earl of Salisbury’s estates in Devon, or for how long he occupied the position, but he was certainly in Thomas Montagu’s service by April 1413.5 Although in the following year a royal commission was set up to investigate Bosom’s alleged misprisions and conspiracies, in particular his obstruction of a commission of oyer and terminer, certain prominent landowners of the shire sitting on a jury at Exeter declared him innocent. The indictment cannot have harmed his career, for in 1415 he was appointed as a j.p. and in the following year the Exchequer allowed him a joint lease of the manor of Berry Pomeroy.6

It is perhaps indicative of Bosom’s standing in Devon that he had been one of only four men party to the indenture of return drawn up at Exeter castle following the elections for the shire to the Parliament of 1410, and that he attended such elections with unusual regularity thereafter, doing so on no fewer than 14 occasions before 1432. On 26 Dec. 1430 it was he himself who, as sheriff, was responsible for making the return. Over the years Bosom was naturally asked to assist in various property transactions: he was a feoffee, for instance, of the manors of Cobham Week, Halberton and ‘Bukyngton Loges’ and he was also requested to arbitrate in local disputes, notably that between Sir John Dynham and the abbot of Hartland over the patronage of the abbey.7

Bosom died on 8 Aug. 1440, leaving as his heir his 19-year-old son, Martin.8

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


Variants: Bosoun, Bozon.

  • 1. H.R. Watkin (Hist. Totnes, 757-68) noted that in the Heralds’ Visitations two other women are named as wives of Bosom: Joan, da. of — Fortescue of Wood, and Rosamond, da. and h. of John St. George of Lapford. More reliable contemporary records provide the names given.
  • 2. C219/11/1.
  • 3. Hylle Cart. (Som. Rec. Soc. lxviii), 96-99; Reg. Stafford ed. Hingeston-Randolph, 271.
  • 4. Cornw. Feet of Fines (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. 1950), 98; Feudal Aids, i. 237, 239, 241, 445, 457, 493; vi. 419; CCR, 1435-41, p. 421; CP25(1)45/74/104, 122, 77/32, 46/81/73, 84/140; Reg. Lacy ed. Hingeston-Randolph, i. 19, 78, 125, 223; ibid. (Canterbury and York Soc. lx), 288; ibid. (lxi), 121, 208.
  • 5. CCR, 1392-6, p. 142; 1396-9, pp. 117, 222; CFR, xii. 98, 280; JUST 1/1502 mm. 217, 219d; SC6/819/10.
  • 6. Watkin, 315; CPR, 1413-16, p. 264; KB9/205 m. 91; CFR, xiv. 168.
  • 7. C219/10/5, 6, 11/1, 2, 12/2-6, 13/1, 2, 5, 14/1-3; CP25(1)45/77/42; CCR, 1409-13, p. 336; 1419-22, p. 135; Reg. Lacy (Canterbury and York Soc. lxii), 371.
  • 8. C139/103/38. In 1449 his widow was described as ‘late the wife of John Hill and executrix of the will of John Bosom’ (CPR, 1446-52, p. 200), but in which order her marriages took place is unclear, and Hill’s identity is uncertain.