BROWE, Robert (d.1451), of Teigh and Woodhead, Rutland.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
J.p. Rutland 28 Jan. 1412-Feb. 1422, 28 May 1435-Nov. 1437.
Tax collector, Rutland Dec. 1414, Jan. 1436.
Sheriff, Rutland 10 Nov. 1417-4 Nov. 1418.
Commr. to raise royal loans, Rutland Apr. 1421, Nov. 1440; distribute a tax allowance (as a recent shire knight) April 1440.
Browe’s career provides an admirable illustration of the capacity for survival shown by members of the English gentry during the early years of the 15th century. Despite his father’s death and forfeiture for treason as a rebel in 1403, he was soon able to restore the family to its former position in county society and assume a traditional role in the business of local government. He made the transition from insurgent to shire knight within a matter of four years, and from then onwards found it relatively easy to convince the authorities of his political acceptability. Browe was the elder son of his father’s second marriage, and as such was heir to a substantial part of the Folville estates in Rutland. In 1394 Sir Hugh settled the manor of Woodhead in Bridge Casterton upon himself and his third wife, with a remainder to Robert and his heirs. The young man also stood to inherit the manor of Teigh and other farmland in the surrounding area, although some of these holdings were shared with his younger brother, John, to whom he remained close for the rest of his life. A far older, and otherwise undocumented half-brother named William was still alive in 1384, but our Member had evidently succeeded him as heir apparent to his father’s extensive Cheshire estates by June 1403, when a lucrative marriage was arranged for him with Margaret, daughter of the Norfolk landowner, Sir John Waryn. An undertaking by the late Sir John’s trustees that they would settle 300 marks upon the couple in regular annual instalments had to be cancelled as a result of Sir Hugh’s rebellion in the following month and the subsequent award of his Cheshire estates to the Lancastrian retainer, John Mainwaring. Robert Browe’s stepmother, Blanche, and her new husband, William Venables of Kinderton, were thus obliged to accept and approve a far less attractive contract than had at first been planned.2 Nevertheless, in view of his own as well as his father’s attachment to the house of Percy, Browe probably counted himself lucky to escape with a mere loss of revenue. On 18 Aug. 1403, he received royal letters patent pardoning his ‘treason, rebellion and felony’ in the company of Sir Henry Percy and his uncle, Thomas, earl of Worcester, at the battle of Shrewsbury; and even though most of his patrimony in Cheshire was confiscated by the Crown we know that at some point before 1406 he successfully recovered part, if not all, of the ancestral manor of Tushingham.3
Comparatively little is known about Browe’s activities before January 1412, when the process of rehabilitation was fully sanctioned by his appointment as a j.p. in Rutland. This may, perhaps, have owed something to the influence of Edward, duke of York, whom he accompanied to France three years later. It was on 8 June 1415 that he obtained royal letters of protection pending his departure overseas with the duke; and further letters permitting him to appoint attorneys in England followed almost at once. Anxious to put his affairs in order before crossing the Channel with the royal army, Browe settled his Rutland estates in trust upon his brother, John, and another local man so as to entail them upon himself, his wife and their heirs male.4 He does not appear to have returned to France after the Agincourt campaign, and spent the next few years at home performing various administrative offices, including that of sheriff of Rutland. His name none the less appears among the four ‘lances’ chosen from the county gentry to attend upon the royal council at Westminster in January 1420, ready to defend the realm against attack. He was often present at the county elections, either as a parliamentary candidate himself, or else — as was the case in November 1421, 1427, 1432 and 1433 — to cast his vote for the other shire knights. His own son, John (who was also present at the elections of 1432 and 1433), first sat for Rutland in 1435, by which time he had taken over the running of the family estates at Teigh.5 Browe clearly retained a close interest in the management of his Cheshire properties, to which he added, in 1424, through purchases of land in Edge and Malpas. It was also during this period that he offered bail of £300 on the security of his holdings in both counties for his friend, David Huls, a litigant in the court of Chancery. Prominent among the members of his circle were Elizabeth, Lady Grey, and the local MPs Sir Thomas Burton*, John Burgh III* and John Culpepper*, in whose several transactions he played a significant part.6
In January 1432, Browe made a second, more sweeping enfeoffment of his estates, which by then included unspecified property in Lincolnshire, Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire and Warwickshire. The exact nature of his title to most of these holdings is now open to debate, although some probably came to him through his distinguished kinsman, the soldier, Sir Robert Knolles, who had died in 1407. Barely a few weeks after drawing up this deed, Browe recovered five Norfolk manors (including Sculthorpe and Burnham Overy) together with damages of £50 from the college of the Holy Trinity in Pontefract, Yorkshire — a foundation generously endowed by Sir Robert at the beginning of the century. His claim to have been disseised of his rightful inheritance while fighting overseas with Henry V was, however, countered by the master of the college in a petition to the 1447 Bury St. Edmunds Parliament, in which he accused Browe of using ‘grete might, mayntenaunce, and other undue meones’ to impoverish the house. Indeed, the matter was still being disputed as late as May 1451, and it seems that although Browe died in possession of some land in Norfolk he had still to recover the compensation awarded to him almost 20 years earlier. John Browe the elder, Robert’s brother, also possessed a reversionary title to some of Knolles’s property (which he relinquished in 1433), although he is not known actually to have inherited any of it.7
Meanwhile, in May 1434, Browe and his son were both required, as leading members of the Rutland gentry, to take the oath that they would not support persons disturbing the peace. Robert’s name appears on the pardon rolls of 1437 and 1446, although there is no reason to believe that he was then guilty of any serious offence. His last years did not, however, pass entirely without incident, for in addition to the dispute with the college of the Holy Trinity, he was involved in a lawsuit over a debt of £10 brought against him shortly before 1449 by a group of Middlesex men.8 He died during the summer or early autumn of 1451, by which time his son, John, had married Elizabeth, the twice-widowed daughter and heir of Sir John Tame; and his daughter, Anne, had become the wife of John Heliwell of Whissendine in Rutland. The fate of his illegitimate son, William, upon whom he settled an interest in land in Tushingham, in about 1429, is not known.9
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. VCH Rutland, ii. 153, 232-3; CFR, x. 185; DKR, xxxvi. 318; Trans. Leics. Arch. Soc. xi. 463-4; HP ed. Wedgwood 1439-1509, Biogs. 118-19; Cheshire RO, Cholmondeley of Cholmondeley ms, DCHC/884.
- 2. VCH Rutland, ii. 153, 232-3; DKR, xxxvi. 318; Feudal Aids, iv. 213.
- 3. CPR, 1401-5, p. 265; G. Ormerod, Palatine and City of Chester, ed. Helsby, ii (2), 656; Cholmondeley ms, DCHC/882.
- 4. Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 220, 221; DKR, xliv. 560, 564; VCH Rutland, ii. 232-3; N.H. Nicolas, Agincourt, 377.
- 5. C219/12/6, 13/5, 14/3, 4; HP, 118-19; E28/97/25.
- 6. CP25(1)192/9/4; T. Blore, Rutland, 216; CCR, 1422-9, p. 448; 1441-7, pp. 314, 467; Cholmondeley mss, DCHC/361, 387.
- 7. CCR, 1429-35, pp. 189, 291; CPR, 1446-52, p. 425; RP, v. 130; CFR, xviii. 231.
- 8. CPR, 1429-36, p. 370; 1446-52, p. 288; HP, 118-19.
- 9. VCH Rutland, ii. 153, 232-3; CFR, xviii. 231; HP, 118-19; Cholmondeley ms, DCHC/884.