CARENT, William (d.1476), of Toomer in Henstridge, Som.
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Family and Education
s. and h. of William Carent by Alice, da. and event. h. of Sir John Toomer of Toomer. m. (1) bef. 1418, Margaret (d.1463), da. of William Stourton*, 1s. John†, 1da., (2) bef. Nov. 1468, Katherine (d. 20 Mar. 1473), da. of Thomas Payne of ‘Paynshay’, Devon by Margery, da. and h. of Peter Yeovilton of Speckington, Som., wid. of John Stourton I* of Preston Plucknett, Som., Sir John Beynton† of Hampreston, Dorset and William Wadham.2
Escheator, Som. and Dorset 16 Nov. 1420-3 May 1423.
Commr. of inquiry, Som., Dorset Feb. 1421 (concealments), Som. Nov. 1421 (wastes), Dorset Feb. 1423 (Gorges estates), Aug. 1426 (necromancy), Devon, Cornw. Jan. 1436 (Herle estates), Dorset July 1439, Som. July 1440 (concealments), Dorset Jan. 1444 (title to estates), Sept. 1444 (rights at Gillingham), Bristol, Som., Dorset Feb. 1448, s. of Eng. July 1448, Som. Aug. 1449 (concealments), Dorset Oct. 1470 (felonies), Aug. 1473 (concealments), Dorset, Wilts. Dec. 1475 (treason and lollardy); to raise royal loans, Som., Dorset Mar. 1431, Feb. 1436, Dorset Mar. 1439, Mar. 1442, Som., Dorset June 1446, Dorset Sept. 1449, Som., Dorset, Wilts. Jan. 1453, Som., Dorset Apr. 1454; of oyer and terminer, Som., Mar. 1431, June 1436; to assess a tax Apr. 1431, Som., Dorset Jan. 1436, Dorset Aug. 1450; of array May 1435, Jan. 1436, Som., Dorset Mar. 1443, Dorset Aug. 1461, June 1470; to take musters, Poole Dec. 1439, Feb. 1440; distribute tax allowances, Som. June 1445, July 1446; of arrest Sept. 1459, July 1463; gaol delivery, Dorchester Nov. 1467, Feb. 1468.
Sheriff, Som. and Dorset 7 Nov. 1427-4 Nov. 1428, 3 Nov. 1434-7 Nov. 1435, 4 Nov. 1440-1, 4 Nov. 1446-9 Nov. 1447, 3 Dec. 1450-Nov. 1451.
J.p. Dorset 2 Dec. 1430-d.
The Carent family, said to derive their name from Caerwent, had established themselves in the Isle of Purbeck and on the border of Somerset and Dorset long before the birth of this shire knight. Carent’s grandfather, another William Carent, died in 1406 leaving the residue of his personal estate to his grandson and the latter’s mother Alice. His father was still alive, however, and according to the 1412 assessment held lands at Swanage, Marnhull, Plush and Winterborne St. Martin, Dorset (valued at over £27 p.a.), and the manor of Marsh near Yeovil and land in Milborne Port, Toomer and Kingston Pitney in Somerset (valued at £25 p.a.) The date of the father’s death is not known, but Carent was no longer called ‘junior’ after October 1422. By the time of his own death his landed holdings had not increased much, though he had enjoyed other properties in his lifetime, through both royal grants and marriage. Where he did make permanent additions to the family estates it was always in the same areas: at Nash, Okeford Fitzpaine, Wyke and Yeovil. His second wife, whom he married without royal licence (escaping lightly with a fine of only five marks), was possessed of 11 manors in Somerset (nearly all in the south of the county, near the Dorset border), which were mostly her dower from her first husband, John Stourton I, and lands in Wiltshire and Derbyshire, left her by another husband, Sir John Beynton.3
But if Carent’s lands — at least of his own inheritance — were not particularly substantial, his public service reveals him to have been influential in county affairs, both in Dorset and Somerset. Although clearly an able administrator, he probably owed his prominent position also to his close connexions with the Stourtons, especially when his brother-in-law (Sir) John Stourton II* came to enjoy a position of trust in the household of Henry VI and was raised to the peerage. Carent’s close relationship with his first wife’s family lasted from 1416 for upwards of 50 years. He acted as a feoffee of the estates and as executor of the will of his wife’s uncle, John Stourton of Preston Plucknett (whose widow he later married), receiving from him bequests of a black horse and £10 ‘for his labour and friendship’, and by 1431 he was also acting as feoffee for his brother-in-law the younger John, with whom he came to be associated not only in local affairs but also in matters of more general concern. Both Carent and Stourton appear in a list drawn up in the office of the privy seal in about June 1435 for Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, possibly for the purpose of raising loans, and in 1436 both men advanced £40 to the Crown to help equip an expedition to France. It was through Stourton that Carent became known to John Beaufort, duke of Somerset, whose wife was Stourton’s cousin. Carent was associated with Somerset at the latest by December 1439 when he was commissioned to take the muster of the duke’s retinue at Poole; and in July 1443 Somerset named him and Stourton among the trustees of some 13 manors in various counties, ‘to execute his will’. But although Stourton was a member of the King’s Council, Carent himself had little to do with government at the centre, apart from being summoned along with Stourton’s son, Sir William†, to represent Dorset in the great council called for 21 May 1455. Another contact in court circles was his own brother Nicholas, dean of Wells 1446-67, who was secretary to Queen Margaret by 1448 and remained in her employment until 1458. Yet during the crises of 1459-61 Carent seems to have followed the lead of his brother-in-law Lord Stourton, adopting an impartial stance as far as possible. He retained his place on the Dorset bench throughout, and showed himself ready to offer his services to the Yorkist regime when the time came.4
Carent’s relations with his brother Nicholas were close and they are frequently found transacting business together. Others in his immediate circle included the Hody brothers: (Sir) John*, the chief justice, who named him as a feoffee of his estates and executor of his will, and Alexander, who was his fellow shire knight in the Parliament of 1450. Their uncle John had been precentor and later chancellor of Wells between 1410 and 1440, and it was no doubt through him and through his own brother, the dean, that Carent became acquainted with another Wells cleric, William Byconnell. The latter, who was owed £140 by Carent’s brother, bequeathed to ‘my most illustrious William Carent a standing cup that he may regard the poverty of my brother John† and take him into favour in acquiring lands and possessions’. Another close associate of the Carents was Sir Richard Chokke, j.c.p., for whom they acted as feoffees of the manor of Long Ashton by Bristol. Indeed, they were evidently related to Chokke for in the latter’s will, made in 1483, he mentioned 100 marks given to his son Richard by ‘my cosyn William Carent’. In view of Carent’s connexions with the judges Hody and Chokke, and bearing in mind the large number of people who sought his services as a trustee or executor, it may be conjectured that he, too, had been trained as a lawyer. The landowners for whom he acted included Ralph Bush* and his stepson, Sir John Chideock, a connexion strengthened when his own son, John, married the widow of Bush’s son William (Joan, daughter of (Sir) Thomas Brooke* and sister of Edward Brooke†, Lord Cobham).5
A legal training would also explain Carent’s employment in the administration of three local religious houses. He was a member of the council of Bruton priory by March 1428; and is said to have been steward of Shaftesbury abbey, which is not unlikely for Margaret Stourton, his first wife’s aunt, was abbess there from 1423 to 1441, and on her death he was commissioned to take the fealty of her successor. He was also closely associated with Sherborne abbey: he acted as an arbitrator in a dispute in which the abbot was involved in 1440, and in 1459 he was instructed to receive on the King’s behalf the oath of fealty from the new abbot. Carent’s services as sheriff, escheator and commissioner won him rewards from the Crown, usually in the form of temporary grants of land. These were substantial, including two manors in Somerset late of Sir Richard Montagu (held for eight years from 1429 for a payment of £60 a year), the wardship and marriage of the heir to estates in Dorset, and, from July 1437, a lease, which he shared with John Hody, of the manor of Gillingham (Dorset) which had been previously held by Queen Joan, Henry IV’s relict. A further indication of royal regard came in August 1448 when he was granted a licence to impark 80 acres of wood and 300 acres of farmland in Toomer and Henstridge and to enjoy rights of free warren there. It may be conjectured that Lord Stourton, then treasurer of the Household, prompted the ‘special grace’ shown here. In 1450 Carent was granted the wardship and marriage of the heir of William Westbury j.KB (the child was apparently his own grandson), and in 1467 he shared with his son John and his brother of the same name the wardship and marriage of William Filoll, his great-nephew.6
Carent’s interest in parliamentary affairs is clear from his attendance at the elections held at Ilchester in 1421, 1425, 1437 and 1442, and at Dorchester in 1422, 1431 and 1442. As sheriff he himself conducted the elections in both places in 1435 and 1447. As befitted the brother of a dean, Carent seems to have been a religious man. In 1445 he obtained a papal indult to choose a confessor, to be given absolution ‘as often as opportune’, and to have a portable altar. On the death of his first wife in 1463 he prepared a tomb for them both in Henstridge church, and in March 1464 Bishop Bekynton of Bath and Wells issued an indulgence to all those who would pray there for Carent’s welfare, the health of his brethren and their relations, and for the soul of his late wife.7 Carent himself went on to outlive his second wife too, and died in ripe old age on 8 Apr. 1476, leaving as his heir his son John who was himself nearly 60.8