BROWN, Richard (d.1443), of Repton, Derbys.
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Family and Education
Clerk of the peace, Derbys. 1416-19.1
Coroner, Derbys. bef. June 1443.
A lawyer, Brown resided at Repton, some five miles from the borough he represented in Parliament. He is first heard of in 1410, when a feoffee to the use of a Repton barker, and soon after this he numbered among his associates several of the local gentry. In April 1412, at Findern, he witnessed conveyances of estates in three counties belonging to William Lichfield†, and four years later he attested another completed by Sir Robert Francis*.2 As clerk of the peace for the three years preceding his election to Parliament, Brown naturally became more concerned with affairs of the shire at large. He attended the county elections at Derby in 1419, 1423, 1425 (then standing surety for Henry Booth*), 1427, 1431, 1437 and 1442.3 In the meantime, at the Derby assizes of 1427, he and his son had been accused of unlawfully acquiring lands at Stapenhill, near Burton-upon-Trent, but Brown’s activities continued to centre on Repton where, described as a gentleman, in March 1429 he made a quitclaim of all the property in the town formerly held by William Butler. Four years later he acquired more land in the vicinty. He witnessed deeds there and at nearby Willington in the 1430s, one such being a licence for the prior of Repton to build a weir.4
During this period of his career, Brown attracted a number of important clients: he accepted fees and livery (illegally it was alleged) from Sir Richard Vernon* of Haddon in 1430, from Ralph, Lord Cromwell, a prominent member of the Council of Henry VI’s minority, in 1431, and from Joan, Lady Beauchamp of Abergavenny, in 1433. In addition, as a reward for good service, he was made custodian of Bretby park for life in 1432, by John Mowbray, 2nd duke of Norfolk. Clearly, these influential figures were all looking for support in their manoeuverings for political power in Derbyshire, but Brown was merely their pawn. Having been drawn into the feud between Sir Henry Pierrepont* and the Foljambes which reached its climax on 1 Jan. 1434 in a brawl at Chesterfield parish church (where two men were murdered and Pierrepont himself maimed), Brown allegedly tried by trickery to get the principal perpetrator of the crimes, Thomas Foljambe, acquitted on the charges of felony brought against him at a session of the peace held at Derby three weeks after the event. Furthermore, grand juries at special sessions of oyer and terminer presided over by the duke of Bedford in April following asserted that the lawyer was no less than a common embracer and procurer of juries, besides being guilty of maintenance. It is clear that Brown was backed throughout by Vernon, who, when process reached the King’s bench, stood bail for him. Doubtless this, taken together with the defendant’s connexions with Lord Cromwell, ensured his eventual acquittal. Brown continued to associate with Vernon: in 1436 he was Sir Richard’s co-feoffee of lands at Willington, and four years later he provided securities at the Exchequer for his patron’s lease of part of the manor of Repton. Earlier in 1440 Brown had appeared as guarantor for the good behaviour of certain defendants facing trial before the j.p.s at Bakewell.5 He was probably already holding office as a coroner of Derbyshire, a post he was occupying at the time of his death. This occurred at an unknown date shortly before June 1443.6