BOTELER, Sir John (c.1328-1399/1400), of Warrington, Lancs.
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Family and Education
b.c.1328, 2nd s. and h. of Sir William Boteler (1309-80) of Warrington by his w. Elizabeth, prob. da. of John Argentine. m. c.1364, Alice (fl. 1408), da. of Sir William Plumpton (d.1362) of Plumpton, Yorks., wid. of Sir Richard Shirburne (d.1364) of Aighton, Lancs., 2s. inc. Sir William*, 2da. Kntd. by Mar. 1363.1
Commr. of oyer and terminer, Lancs. May 1365 (infringement of statutes), array Feb. 1367, Feb. 1388;2 to make arrests May 1372,3 Aug., Dec. 1393, Aug. 1396;4 mobilize the retinue of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster July 1372; prepare arms for Gaunt’s next foreign expedition Apr. 1373; survey Gaunt’s archers and men-at-arms on the Scottish border Oct. 1380;5 muster men going to Ireland June 1386.
Sheriff, Lancs. 25 Dec. 1371-19 Nov. 1374.6
Steward of the wapentakes of West Derby and Salfordshire, Lancs. for John of Gaunt 8 Jan. 1374- d. ; constable of Liverpool castle, warden of the parks of Toxteth, Croxteth and Simonswood and of the forest of West Derby 20 Dec. 1374-d.7
J.p. Lancs. Mar. 1388, July 1394.8
The Botelers, lords of Warrington, were a long-established and influential Lancashire family who claimed to trace their ancestry back to the Norman Conquest. The barony of Warrington was both extensive and valuable, comprising as it did appurtenances and franchises in over 20 manors and villages. With the passage of time, the Botelers also acquired the manors of Crophill in Nottinghamshire and Exhall in Warwickshire, so they were landowners on an impressive scale. Sir William Boteler played an active part in the wars of Edward III; and in about 1340, just before setting out on another campaign, he settled seven of his manors upon his eldest son, Richard, who had recently married. The latter’s death at some point over the next three years left his younger brother, John, heir apparent to the Boteler estates. New conveyances were entered on his behalf, although it was not until November 1356 that Sir William entailed most of the barony upon him, provision having been made for another brother named Norman and their widowed sister-in-law. John engaged in various property transactions on his own behalf over the next few years, leasing out his land in Warrington to neighbouring farmers. He and his father often acted together as witnesses to local deeds; and it appears from such sources that by March 1363 he had been knighted. Already a figure of some consequence, Sir John was made an executor of the will of Thomas Neville, archdeacon of Durham; and in 1364 he took in hand plans for building a new bridge over the river Mersey near Warrington. It was at about this time that Sir John married Alice, a daughter of the influential Yorkshireman, Sir William Plumpton, who was distantly related to the Botelers. As the widow of Sir Richard Shirburne she brought with her dower properties which probably lay in or near Aighton in Lancashire, although she later released some of them to her son-in-law, Richard Bailey (the father of Richard Shirburne*). Naturally enough, Sir John was soon called upon to shoulder the administrative responsibilities appropriate to his rank. In May 1365 he served on his first royal commission; and exactly one year later he was chosen to represent Lancashire in Parliament. The session began on 4 May, the date of a bond in 3,000 marks which King Edward took from him and several other prominent gentlemen, many of whom were currently sitting as shire knights. The sum probably constituted a government loan, and was to be paid off by the end of the year.9
During the late 1360s two royal commissions were set up to investigate complaints that Sir John and others had obstructed the highway near Winwick in Lancashire. Protests about his behaviour also came from John Haydock, the second husband of his widowed sister-in-law, who appealed to John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster (their feudal overlord), for a fairer assignment of dower. It is unlikely that Gaunt paid much attention to Haydock’s petition, since Sir John already stood high in his favour. We do not know precisely when he became a formal member of the ducal retinue, although he is known to have campaigned overseas with Gaunt on some five occasions between 1369 and 1378. Indeed, by November 1371 the duke was sufficiently well-disposed towards his ‘tres cher bacheler’ not only to send him the first of several recorded gifts of game, but also to make him sheriff of Lancashire. In the following summer Sir John accompanied the duke to France, where he incurred expenses of £56. 8s.6d. in wages due to him and his men. He again entered the House of Commons in November 1372, his popularity with the electors of Lancashire (who returned him no less than ten times in all) being greatly enhanced by his close connexion with the greatest landowner in the county. On this occasion he was, indeed, responsible as sheriff for holding the election, and thus ideally placed to exploit his patron’s generosity to the full by sending himself to Westminster. The following year saw his participation in Gaunt’s historic but unsuccessful march across France from Calais to Bordeaux, during which he and Richard Radcliffe shared command of a contingent of 200 Lancashire archers. The duke’s constable during this expedition was Edward, Lord Despenser, who recruited Sir John as one of an expeditionary force intended to help the duke of Brittany to resist the French. By then Sir John had been appointed to a number of lucrative posts in the duchy of Lancaster, also receiving from Gaunt the lease of property in West Derby where the centre of his influence as an official lay. Between them, he and his colleague, Sir Adam Hoghton†, took advantage of their position as senior employees of the duke’s to farm land worth about £120 a year, almost certainly on preferential terms. Although kept busy with an increasing burden of administrative tasks, Sir John lost none of his enthusiasm for warfare and in 1378 he participated in the siege of St. Malo — another venture in which Gaunt was doomed to failure and disappointment.10
After several years spent quietly in retirement, Sir William Boteler died in March 1380, leaving Sir John to inherit the family estates not already in his possession. This gave him a welcome opportunity to purchase from his late brother’s widow the not inconsiderable dower properties which she had occupied for almost four decades. For the sum of 500 marks he obtained entry to seven manors and extensive appurtenances in Lancashire, which he promptly entailed upon his own sons for further security of title.11 Sir John set out on his travels again in 1385, when he accompanied the master of the order of St. James of Portugal to Portugal on an embassy regarding Gaunt’s claim to the throne of Castile. Yet he did not join the duke’s second expedition to Spain in the following year, for in September 1386 we find him busy taking depositions from local gentry as to the respective entitlement of Sir Robert Grosvenor and Richard, Lord Scrope, to bear the same contested coat of arms. One of his fellow commissioners on this occasion was Sir Thomas Gerard*, a feudal tenant at Warrington, whose only son later married Boteler’s daughter, Alice. The two knights were, indeed, returned together to the Merciless Parliament of 1388, although Sir John alone stood bail for Sir John Drayton*, a victim of the Lords Appellant, on his release from the Tower of London just one year later. Boteler reputedly took part at this time in a venture mounted by the Genoese against pirates on the Barbary Coast, possibly falling into enemy hands during a somewhat hasty and disorganized retreat. By 1390 he was certainly paying off some kind of ransom, as King Richard then allowed him to put £20 from the manor of Bollin in Cheshire towards a larger sum of 80 marks which he still owed as a prisoner of war. This may be why, in 1393, a bond of his in £5 was handed to the King’s remembrancer, although the nature of the transaction is not made clear. Meanwhile, in January 1392, Sir John was present when his friend, Sir Robert Roos of Ingmanthorpe in Yorkshire, made his will, leaving him a personal bequest of a sword inlaid with silver. He was himself now quite advanced in years, and even though he served on a jury at Lancaster, in 1396, and continued to discharge his various administrative duties, his life seems to have become rather less active than before. He did, however, deem it expedient to sue out a royal pardon in June 1398, since his long-standing connexion with the house of Lancaster may have rendered him politically suspect to the Crown.