BROWE, Sir Hugh (1346-1403), of Teigh and Woodhead, Rutland and Tushingham, Cheshire.
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Family and Education
b. 1346, s. of William Browe (d. by 1384) of Tushingham by his w. Alice, da. of Kenrick Rathbone of Tushingham. m. (1) by 1363, at least 1s. d.v.p.; (2) by Jan. 1390, Elizabeth, da. and h. of Sir Christopher Folville of Teigh by his w. Margaret, da. and coh. of Roger Cheyne of Salop, at least 2s. inc. Robert*; (3) by 1392, Blanche. Kntd. by Mar. 1376.1
J.p. Rutland 15 July 1389-Nov. 1397, 28 Nov. 1399-d.
Commr. of inquiry, Norf., Suff. Oct. 1390 (concealments), Rutland Aug. 1392 (value of the manor of Market Overton), Northants., Lincs. Mar. 1400 (allegations against John Pay), Rutland Feb. 1402 (countess of Oxford’s title to the manor of Market Overton); array Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399; to raise archers for Richard lI’s Irish expedition, Cheshire Apr. 1399; keep the peace in the hundred of Broxton Nov. 1399; value the Cheshire estates of the dowager countess of Salisbury and deliver them to her attorneys Dec. 1399; prevent the spread of treasonous rumours, Rutland May 1402.
The Browes appear to have settled in Tushingham towards the end of the 13th century, and soon established themselves as a family of some consequence in the palatinate of Chester. Our Member claimed kinship with the celebrated captain, Sir Robert Grosvenor, whom he supported, in 1386, during his dispute with Lord Scrope over their respective claims to the same coat of arms. On his own evidence, Sir Hugh had by then spent more than 20 years on active service, mostly in France, where he took part in several campaigns as well as being employed on garrison duty. In 1369, for example, he and Grosvenor fought together at the siege of La Roche-sur-Yon under the banner of James, Lord Audley. The two men also served in the army which Richard II took to Scotland much later, in 1385, but they were not otherwise thrown together by the fortunes of war. Browe’s connexion with the Cheshire knight, Sir Robert Knolles, who is variously described as either his cousin or his uncle, proved far more important during these early years, since it was through Knolles, one of the leading English commanders of the 14th century, that he became involved in the struggle of John Montfort, duke of Brittany, against the French. In his capacity as lieutenant of Brittany during Montfort’s temporary absence in England, Knolles entrusted Sir Hugh ‘et ses freres’ with the custody of Derval castle, which was besieged by an enemy force under the redoubtable Bertrand du Guesclin in the summer of 1373. Sir Hugh’s decision to give hostages for the surrender of the castle should no relief force appear within 40 days was repudiated by his ruthless kinsman, whose indefensible acts of cruelty in raising the siege more than justified his reputation as ‘an old brigand’ . Although he denied having taken part in any major continental expeditions, we know that Browe was in the retinue which Edmund, earl of March, planned to take to Brittany in 1374, and that he and Knolles once again joined forces four years later when, under the command of John of Gaunt, they plundered the countryside around St. Malo, which was then under siege. Shortly afterwards they both contracted to accompany Thomas of Woodstock on another venture in support of Breton independence, and on this occasion Browe took the precaution of suing out royal letters of protection, dated June 1380, to safeguard his interests at home.2
Not much is known about Browe’s more private affairs during this period, although it seems likely that some of the spoils which came his way were invested in land. In February 1376 he acquired the manor of Christleton in Cheshire from Robert Chalons, who offered other property in Halberton, Devon, as security for the transaction. He probably succeeded his father to the nearby family estates at about this time, being then involved in several conveyances of property in Bickley and Tushingham. By 1384 his widowed mother, Alice, had surrendered some of her own holdings in the area to his son, William, the child of an early and otherwise undocumented marriage, who evidently predeceased him. Two years later, Browe received letters patent exempting him from official duties in all parts of England, particularly Cheshire where he must still have been living.3 Browe again took up arms in March 1387 as a member of the highly successful naval expedition mounted by Richard, earl of Arundel, against the allied French, Spanish and Flemish fleets. (During his absence his manor house at Christleton was robbed of quantities of clothing and silver plate, perhaps brought back as booty from earlier ventures abroad.) This marks the beginning of a long association which proved to be of crucial importance in furthering his career, and it was quite possibly through Arundel’s influence that Sir Hugh first entered Parliament in the following year. As one of the leading Lords Appellant, the earl relied upon his adherents in the Commons to bring about the impeachment of King Richard’s chief ministers. That Browe played an active and willing part in this scheme is clear from the gift of the two Cheshire manors of Bridge Trafford and Dunham on the Hill made to him for life by Arundel on 16 Mar. 1388, four days before the end of the first session of the Merciless Parliament. He subsequently farmed out this property to Sir Ralph Vernon and several members of the Venables family at an annual rent of £51, which reflects the high value placed upon his services at this time. Together with other former retainers of the earl, Sir Hugh appeared in both February and March 1398 among the recipients of royal letters of pardon — letters for which he must have had to pay dearly in view of his past conduct. For his attachment to Arundel had remained strong until the latter’s execution for treason in 1397, at which time he himself was promptly removed from office as a j.p. He had called upon the earl to act as a mediator during the course of some unspecified (but evidently serious) dispute with the friends and kinsmen of one David Malpas; and in December 1390 a group of 11 mainpernors (including Sir Robert Grosvenor) had tendered securities of 2,000 marks in earnest of his willingness to accept Arundel’s award. Four years later he had offered his military services to the earl’s kinsman, Richard, Lord Talbot, whom he accompanied to Ireland as a member of the King’s expeditionary force.4
It should not, however, be assumed that Browe owed his return as a shire knight for the county of Rutland solely and simply to the intervention of a powerful patron. The exact date of his marriage to Elizabeth, the daughter and heir of Sir Christopher Folville of Teigh, is not recorded, but she had probably been his wife for some years when, during the Hilary term of 1390, their title to the manor and advowson of Teigh was confirmed by John and Mabel Woodford before the justices of the common pleas. Clearly, even if Browe was not by then the actual owner of property in Rutland, he could at least claim strong local connexions predating his return to the Merciless Parliament. These were reinforced by his kinship with Sir John Calveley, his colleague in the Parliament of November 1390, who, like him, came from a Cheshire family related in some way to Sir Robert Knolles. Their respective coats of arms were prominently displayed on the latter’s tomb, and it is possible that both saw action together during the Hundred Years’ War. Calveley’s marriage to Sir Hugh’s widowed mother-in-law, Margaret Folville, brought them even closer together, and certainly strengthened their mutual links with the county of Rutland. Browe’s appointment as a j.p. there in 1389, no less than his regular appearance on royal commissions in the area, serves to illustrate the speed with which he was absorbed into county society. Over the next few years he set out to consolidate his position as a landowner, paying 200 marks for the manor of Woodhead, which he and his trustee, Sir Robert Knolles, bought together with the advowson of Casterton in the autumn of 1392 from Joan de la Warre. Two years later he settled this purchase as a jointure upon his third wife, Blanche, with a remainder to Robert, the elder of his two sons by her predecessor, Elizabeth Folville.5 Although increasingly preoccupied with affairs in Rutland, Sir Hugh did not neglect his interests in Cheshire. On the contrary, Ormerod describes him as ‘a great purchaser and lessee of lands’ in Broxton hundred, where he steadily extended his patrimony. In August 1393 he offered sureties of £5 to the chamberlain of Chester, probably as part of a property transaction; and two years later he gave the King a recognizance worth 86 marks on becoming joint farmer of certain local tithes. Nor were his business dealings confined to these two counties alone. In July 1389, for instance, Sir Thomas West pledged his estates in Hampshire to Browe as security for the payment of a bond of £100, and at some point before 1399 our Member took one Matthew Alyard of Norfolk to court for the recovery of a debt of £18 together with damages of £10.6
In April 1399, Sir Hugh was instructed to raise a force of Cheshire archers for Richard II’s expedition to Ireland, and soon afterwards he obtained permission from the King to appoint three attorneys preparatory to his own departure with the royal army. His readiness to take part in this ultimately ill-fated venture did not, however, prevent him from showing every sympathy for Henry of Bolingbroke, who, as the only surviving Appellant of 1388, could draw upon his old reserves of loyalty to the earl of Arundel. Bolingbroke was certainly anxious to enlist such an experienced and able soldier to his cause, and having deployed Browe on various commissions during the months immediately following his coronation he rewarded him in February 1400 with an annuity of £40 payable for life. This fee seems never to have been paid on time, although Browe was partly compensated for the Exchequer’s inefficiency when, eight months later, he received an award of land in Cheshire, Shropshire and Flintshire, confiscated from the rebel, Robert Pulesdon, to hold to the value of £30 a year.7 At first he proved a firm supporter of the Lancastrian regime. On being re-appointed to the local bench, he resumed his administrative duties in Rutland, where his circle of friends included the King’s knights, Sir Thomas Burton* and Sir Oliver Mauleverer (his old parliamentary colleague of 1388). In August 1401, he was one of the three county representatives summoned to attend a great council at Westminster, his membership of which owed much to his reputation as a military commander. Sir Hugh had already become involved in the wars against the Welsh, and his association there with Sir Henry Percy (‘Hotspur’) probably led him to make the fatal mistake of throwing in his lot with the rebels of 1403. He and Percy had fought together at Cader Idrys in May 1401, and it was as a result of a petition by Hotspur and other members of his family (including the earls of Northumberland and Worcester) that Browe received a royal commission to investigate the dowager countess of Oxford’s claims to property in Rutland. We know too, that Sir Hugh’s son, Robert, was one of the Percys’ followers at the battle of Shrewsbury, which suggests that his own attachment to their house had by then grown very strong.8 Meanwhile, in June 1402, Browe acted as a trustee for the endowment of a chantry at Pontefract, Yorkshire, by Sir Robert Knolles and his wife, a native of the town. Exactly one year later he entered into a formal agreement with Sir John Waryn, whose daughter, Margaret, was then betrothed to the young Robert Browe, bringing with her the promise of a marriage settlement worth 300 marks. These arrangements were brought to a dramatic halt by the revolt of the Percys, which occurred at the beginning of July. Sir Hugh’s defection to their banner was both sudden and entirely unexpected, for he and a personal retinue of 119 men were then campaigning in North Wales with Prince Henry, whom they appear to have deserted on the 17th.9 We cannot be absolutely certain that Browe fell at Shrewsbury four days later, but he was dead by 16 Aug., when his estates and stock (including 76 head of cattle and 39 horses) were declared forfeit and awarded to John Mainwaring, a Lancastrian retainer. His widow, Blanche, married one of his oldest friends, William Venables of Kinderton, whose brother, Sir Richard, was another casualty of the rebellion. Browe had wisely settled most of his property on feoffees, so that, although the family fortunes were much reduced, his two surviving sons, John and Robert, at least managed to retain their inheritance in Rutland.10