CHEYNE, William (d.1441), of Shurland in Eastchurch, Isle of Sheppey, Kent.
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Family and Education
s. and h. of Richard Cheyne of Shurland by Margery, da. and event. coh. of Robert Cralle of Cralle, Suss. m.1 bef. Feb. 1405, Eleanor, da. and coh. of John Salerne I* of Iden, Suss. by his w. Agnes, 1s. John†.
Commr. of oyer and terminer, Kent Feb. 1412; arrest Oct. 1413; inquiry June 1414 (lands of Boxley abbey), Feb., July 1418 (estates of Sir John Oldcastle* and his wid. Lady Cobham), Dec. 1418 (wastes, Ospringe hospital), Apr. 1421 (shipwreck), July, Nov. 1422 (patronage and endowment of Boxley abbey); array Mar. 1419, June 1421, Dec. 1435; to raise royal loans Nov. 1419; sewers July 1428.
Sheriff, Kent 3 Nov. 1412-6 Nov. 1413, 13 Nov. 1423-6 Nov. 1424.
J.p. Kent 3 Feb. 1416-July 1420, 12 Feb. 1422-July 1423.
By the end of the 13th century the Cheynes were well established both in Kent, at Patrixbourne and Keston, and in east Sussex, at Street. Shurland in Sheppey, which became their principal residence, was added to their possessions through the marriage of William’s great-grandfather Sir William Cheyne (d.1323), and the alliance of his father with Margery Cralle led to the start of a new branch of the family in Sussex, founded by William’s younger brother Simon. Although William received no part of the Cralle estates, he did inherit the paternal manors of Patrixbourne and Shurland and was clearly well-to-do.2 His lands in Sheppey, although never quite free from the danger of incursions by the sea — they were, in fact, flooded in the autumn of 1404 — were productive enough to allow him to export grain; and his estates on the mainland of Kent had an annual value put at £60 by the assessors of the subsidy levied in 1412.3 Cheyne’s marriage was made in the expectation that he would thereby obtain landed interests in the southwest of the county and in Sussex. By a settlement made in 1405 his wife’s parents promised him and Eleanor tenure for life of lands and rents at Stone cum Ebony and Wittersham, beginning after their own deaths; and in 1420 the Cheynes were recorded as having a reversionary interest in the manor of Norwood in Sheppey in the event of failure of the line of Eleanor’s half-sister. But there is no evidence that their hopes materialized in either case. Furthermore, when Eleanor and her sister Anne did inherit certain property in Hastings after their mother’s death, they were evicted from it and had to petition Chancery for redress. Together with his wife and their son John, Cheyne was admitted to the fraternity of Christ Church priory, Canterbury, in July 1428.4
Cheyne is first recorded in 1398, as a witness to deeds of his neighbour, Sir Roger Northwood, at Norwood, and in later years he was party to transactions involving the sale of certain of the Northwood estates. It may have been he who in June 1408 took out royal letters of protection, valid until November, for service at sea with Edmund, earl of Kent, then admiral of England. About two years later he was made a feoffee for the performance of the will of John Freningham* of Loose, and in this capacity in 1411 he obtained a royal licence to grant in mortmain to the wardens of Rochester bridge certain premises in Dartford, and also made a settlement on John, son of Reynold Pympe*, of a major part of Freningham’s estate. About four years later he himself was one of the benefactors of Rochester bridge, with the grant of a rent called ‘Poytevyns’ in Leysdown, Sheppey, worth £2 a year. In 1411 he had also begun to act as a trustee of the estates of (Sir) Roger Fiennes* of Herstmonceux, to whom he was related on his mother’s side, and he continued to provide this service for Fiennes until after 1425 (in which year he was joined in the distinguished group of feoffees by his namesake the judge).5
When entering the Commons apparently for the only time in 1416, Cheyne may have found reassurance in the presence of his kinsman, Fiennes, then representing Sussex, and in that of a more experienced parliamentarian, elected as his companion from Kent, namely, John Wilcotes, receiver-general of the duchy of Cornwall, who had quite recently married his sister. It was on Wilcotes’s behalf (and for young John Pympe’s widow) that Cheyne acted as a surety at the Exchequer in December 1421. He attested the Kent electoral indenture for the Parliament of 1429. In November 1430 he obtained a royal licence to provide a new site on which to rebuild the parish church at Eastchurch which had collapsed, apparently through subsidence, and his further benefaction to the new church was to be a bequest of ten marks towards painting the rood and constructing pews. Not surprisingly, his name is to be found in the Kent list of those who in May 1434 were ordered to take an oath not to maintain malefactors. The King’s Council considered him prosperous enough to be asked for a loan towards the cost of raising and equipping an army to be sent to France in 1436, and put him down for a contribution of £40.