BOYS, Sir John (d.1447), of London, Harrow, Mdx. and Farley Chamberlayne, Hants.
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Family and Education
J.p. Mdx. 14 Nov. 1418-Nov. 1439.
Sheriff, Hants 6 Nov. 1424-15 Jan. 1426
Assessor of a tax, Mdx. Jan. 1436.
Commr. of array, Surr. Mar. 1443.
At least two other prominent landowners named John Boys were active in the south-east during the early 15th century, and it is not always possible to distinguish either of them from the subject of this biography, whose early life, before he was knighted, remains somewhat obscure. That John Boys (d.1419) the elder, of Tolleshunt D’Arcy in Essex, and his son, John (d. by 1427), were related to the shire knight seems almost certain, especially as the latter too owned property in Essex.2 He could probably also claim kinship with the Hampshire branch of the Boys family, having strong personal connexions with this part of the country. The first piece of evidence which can be attributed to him with any degree of certainty is that of his marriage, between February 1410 and January 1411, to Thomasina, the widow of John Hadley, one of the richest and most influential London merchants of his day. The match proved a particularly lucrative one, for in addition to holding an impressive dower of land and tenements in London and Middlesex left to her by her first husband, Thomasina was coheiress to the estates of her father, Thomas Goodlake, and her mother, one of the three daughters of the wealthy vintner, John Stodeye. Inevitably, where such a large inheritance was concerned, Thomasina experienced considerable difficulty in establishing her various titles. In January 1411 she and Boys (who was not then a knight) lodged a plea of dower in the husting court of London against the daughter of Hadley’s first marriage and her various relatives, although no more is heard of the case, which may have been collusive, after this date.3 Some years later, in February 1421, Thomasina joined with her aunt, Lady Margaret Philipot, and the other coheirs of Joan Fastolf in bringing a successful suit in the court of Chancery against John Worstede, for possession of 22 messuages in London.4 The same parties subsequently engaged in protracted and no doubt very costly litigation against the tailor, Thomas Thirlewynd, over the ownership of some of these properties. In July 1422 Thirlewynd promised to accept the judgement of the royal council in the matter, although another year passed before he was required to do so, and even then no final settlement was reached. Thirlewynd and Boys were still at odds in May 1425 when the dispute went to arbitration in the City. A compromise was evidently reached the following winter, but since neither Boys nor the other plaintiffs affixed their seals to the relevant deeds, the quarrel may have dragged on for years.5
Despite these problems, Boys and his wife enjoyed a substantial joint income from the time of their marriage. As early as 1412 their tenements in London were said to be worth £15 5s.4d. a year; their manor of Well and land in Farley Chamberlayne, Hampshire, produced a further £20; and they were sure of at least £5 in profits from Boys’s estate in Harrow and Kingsbury, Middlesex. On the death of Thomasina’s father, the couple inherited his manor of Uxendon, in the same county; and at some unknown date they acquired premises known as Le Belle in Southwark. By 1436, Boys’s annual revenues from land in Middlesex, Surrey (the manor of Farnham), Hampshire, Essex (the manor of Boyton Hall) and London were assessed for taxation purposes at £59 and may well have been considerably higher.6 In view of his mercantile connexions, it is possible that Boys derived some of his income, in early life at least, from trade. In December 1417, John Chichele of London appealed against a decision made in the court of admiralty whereby custody of a ship called The Holygost was awarded to one John Boys, esquire, but again the latter cannot be identified with complete certainty.7
Boys was knighted before November 1418, when he also began an unbroken term of 21 years on the Middlesex bench. Having been returned to the Commons for that county in 1420 he went on to attend the parliamentary elections held there in 1421 (in both April and November) and 1423; but he then became more fully involved in local government in Hampshire, which he represented in the Parliament of 1426, barely a month after relinquishing office as sheriff. A connexion with Bishop Beaufort of Winchester may perhaps explain his return for the latter county, since the bishop was then embroiled in a serious quarrel with Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, and badly needed support in the Commons. Sitting ex officio as a j.p., Boys had already served on a commission of oyer and terminer set up to examine certain affrays between the rival factions, and no doubt used his position to help the bishop. He probably continued to spend most of his time in Middlesex, however, for in September 1426 large quantities of silver plate and other valuables were stolen from his house in Harrow. He appears among the leading residents of that county who, in May 1434, were instructed to take an oath not to maintain persons breaking the peace, and ten years later he held his last public office as a commissioner of array in Middlesex.8 He died at the end of March 1447, probably at Harrow, where he wished to be buried. His son, Henry, who was by then himself the father of seven sons, inherited most of the family estates, but had already relinquished his title to part of his mother’s London property.9
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: (de) Bois, Bosco, Boyce.
- 1. Corporation of London RO, hr 135/108, 147/43; hcp 135 m. 1d; CPR, 1416-22, p. 455; C1/4/162; Lambeth Pal. Lib. Reg. Stafford, f. 163d.
- 2. Many references survive to these two men, the elder of whom was probably escheator of Beds. and Bucks. in 1405 and of Mdx. in 1406 (CFR, xiii. 19, 41). There is no means of telling which John Boys was involved in 1403 in the setting up of a chantry at St. Paul’s by Robert Braybrooke, bishop of London, and his kinsmen, but it may have been the subject of this biography (CPR, 1401-5, p. 239).
- 3. Corporation of London RO, hcp 135 m. 1d.
- 4. C1/4/162; CCR, 1419-22, p. 97.
- 5. Corporation of London RO, hr 157/59-60; PPC, iii. 112, 333, 335; CPR, 1416-22, p. 364; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, p. 177.
- 6. Reg. Stafford, f. 163d; Arch. Jnl. xliv. 63; Feudal Aids, vi. 452; VCH Hants, iv. 443; VCH Mdx. iv. 207; EHR, xlix. 638; Westminster Abbey mun. 4858.