CHESENHALE, Robert (d.c.1402), of Guildford and Artington, Surr.
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Family and Education
Commr. to make an arrest July 1370.
Mayor, Guildford Mich. 1377-8.1
Constable of the bp. of Winchester’s castle of Farnham, Surr. 9 Jan. 1379-20 Oct. 1396; steward of his manor of Esher by 1387.2
Tax collector, Surr. Nov. 1386.
Judging by the size of his various holdings in and around Guildford, Chesenhale must have been one of the wealthiest men then living in the borough. Most of his land lay in, or near, the manor of Artington, and he first appears in December 1360 as a feoffee of William Wanting, the rector there. Two years later, Robert Wyvil, bishop of Salisbury, and John Wye, clerk, obtained from him a recognizance for £12 to be levied upon his goods in Surrey, so there is a possibility that he began his administrative career as a minor office-holder in the bishop’s service. His presence among the jurors summoned to attend the important inquisition held at Guildford in March 1366 on the exact nature of the issues and profits collected by the farmer of the borough suggests that he was already a man of considerable standing in the community; and it was at about this time that many influential landowners began to call upon his services as a witness and trustee, albeit often on a purely formal basis.3 There is certainly no reason to regard Chesenhale’s involvement in the local property transactions of, for example, Thomas Holand, earl of Kent, or Sir James Berners*, as evidence of some longstanding connexion, although the very fact of his inclusion among their feoffees is clearly a sign of his rising fortunes.4
Meanwhile, in October 1370, Chesenhale stood surety in the Exchequer for John Legge† on the latter’s appointment as farmer of the cloth subsidy in Surrey and Sussex. Seven years later he was elected mayor of Guildford, an event which coincided with his appearance at the sheriff’s tourn held in the hundred of Blackheath, Surrey, to answer charges that he had wilfully demolished a new bridge over the Wey at West Shalford. The bridge had been built by the villagers some months before; but because it had led to the redirection of traffic through meadowland belonging to both Chesenhale and the prior of Puttenham, the two men had taken the law into their own hands and pulled it down. The case was referred to the court of the King’s bench, and, after the inevitable delays and postponements, was eventually dismissed during the Hilary term of 1380 on the ground that there had never been any public right of way over the meadows. Chesenhale’s high-handed behaviour made him extremely unpopular among the local peasantry, who, in August 1385, set fire to his boundary fence in the manor of Artington. He had almost certainly been responsible for the illegal enclosure of valuable common land as grazing for his own animals, but since the manor belonged to the bishop of Winchester in whose service he then was, Chesenhale could be fairly sure of obtaining preferential treatment in his employer’s court. Bishop Wykeham evidently held him in high regard, not only making him constable of Farnham and steward of Esher, but also offering him hospitality in his own household on several occasions during the spring and summer of 1393.5
Although he is not known to have increased his estates by purchase, Chesenhale leased other holdings in Artington; and at some point before November 1391 he became the tenant of all the property in Artington, Guildford and the two hundreds of Woking and Godalming, Surrey, owned by Sir Bernard Brocas the younger for term of the latter’s life. He continued to farm this property at an annual rent of 16 marks after Brocas’s execution for treason in 1400, but was himself dead by 24 May 1403, when his widow, Alice, settled two acres of land upon the parson of St. Mary’s, Guildford, and his feoffees, probably as a gift.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Chisenhale, Chysenhale.
- 1. Guildford Mun. Room, BR/OC7/1, f. 139.