CORK, John, of Paderda in Menheniot, Cornw.
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Family and Education
Commr. of inquiry, Cornw. Nov. 1418 (treasons and felonies), Aug. 1426 (q.) (necromancy), Devon Feb. 1428 (q.) (wastes at the priory of St. James by Exeter), Devon, Cornw. July 1429 (restricted freedom of merchants), Aug. 1431 (q.) (wastes at Helston), Dec. 1431, Jan. 1432, May 1442, Sept. 1444 (piracy), Cornw. Nov. 1432, Oct. 1435, Dec. 1439 (q.) (suspected suicide of Edward Burnebury*), West Country July 1434 (concealed crown income), Cornw. Sept. 1434 (q.) (riots), Feb. 1435 (ownership of tin), Apr. 1440 (ownership of the manor of Bree); to lease estates of the duchy of Cornw. July 1427, and examine duchy accounts Feb. 1432; assess liability to contribute to a parliamentary grant, Cornw. Apr. 1431.
Steward of the temporalities of the bpric. of Exeter, Cornw. by 1421-aft. 1435.2
J.p. Cornw. 12 Feb. 1422-Nov. 1439, 20 May 1441-Feb. 1445
Escheator, Devon and Cornw. 17 Dec. 1426-29 Nov. 1427.
Cork, evidently a capable lawyer, was also a man of some influence in his native county of Cornwall. His substantial landed holdings were situated for the most part in the east of the shire, at Lanreath, Kylgad, Lansallos, Penpoll and Stratton, and were centred on the manor of Paderda near Liskeard (which, he said, was worth more than £20 a year), where he had his own oratory. This manor and other properties were held by Cork in right of his wife, one of whose sisters was married to Nicholas Aysshton* the future judge.3 Cork’s own career as a lawyer started off in a typical way, with him first handling briefs at the assizes at Launceston and then making appearances in the central courts. In 1414 he stood surety at the Exchequer for the prior of the alien house of Wootton (Warwickshire) when the latter was granted the farm of its estates, and in November 1420, little more than a week before Cork was first returned as parliamentary burgess for Liskeard, he acted in the same way when Arnulph Chagestey was granted a lease of the office of bailiff of the Cornish hundred of Lesnewth. In the meantime, in 1419, he had been present at the elections of the knights of the shire for Cornwall when he himself was returned as parliamentary burgess for Helston, and his name was again to appear on the Cornish electoral indentures in 1421, 1423, 1425, 1426, 1429, 1431, 1433, 1435 and 1437. Over the same period, and, in fact, almost without a break for 20 years, Cork served on the local bench. In 1426 he was appointed as escheator of Devon and Cornwall, and it was during his term of office that, in July 1427, he was put on a commission, headed by the chief baron of the Exchequer and (Sir) John Arundell I*, the steward of the duchy of Cornwall, which was to arrange leases of duchy estates. In August they held an assession court at Lostwithiel. On 9 Sept. and while still escheator, Cork was present at Exeter castle for the shire elections for Devon, and three days before he relinquished the escheatorship he and John Mayhew I* secured a six-year lease at the Exchequer of the manor of Bodannan and the office of bailiff of the hundred of Trigg. These, which had been held by John Chenduyt*, had come to Cork’s notice when, in the course of his duties, he had conducted a post mortem on Chenduyt’s estate.4
By virtue of his profession, Cork was often appointed to royal commissions as of the quorum. One of his more unusual tasks (given to him in 1432) was to examine the accounts of all officers of the duchy of Cornwall, a duty for which he was to have a special reward of five marks. Meanwhile, in 1429, he had acted as co-feoffee of Bishop Stafford of Bath and Wells when the reversion of the Wiltshire manor of Upton Scudamore was sold to the then treasurer of the Exchequer, Sir Walter (now Lord) Hungerford*. Cork later appeared as a feoffee for the son and heir of (Sir) John Colshull II*, in a final concord touching the latter’s Cornish estates, and it was also as a trustee that, in 1433 and 1435, he shared the patronage of the church of Week St. Mary, Devon.5
Yet in certain of his other transactions Cork’s conduct was far from exemplary. In 1427 John Fursdon, his fellow parliamentary burgess of 1420, had enfeoffed him of all his estates in Cornwall for the purpose of effecting an entail. However, after the formalities had been completed, Cork brought an assize of novel disseisin against his former colleague, thereby regaining possession of the property, and then, being bent (so it was alleged) on the ‘finall distruction’ of Fursdon and his wife, he sent a gang of armed men to their place at Fursdon, stole some 200 head of livestock and held their servants to ransom. In April 1434 Cork himself reputedly broke into Fursdon’s house, assaulted and bound him and his wife, broke open his coffers and stole jewels and cash to the value of £200; indeed, Fursdon complained that, not content with so doing he ‘umbesett al the countree aboute bothe by londe and by water for hym, for yt he myght not passe with his lyfe’. The wronged man was forced to seek redress in Chancery, ‘considerying yt the said John [Cork] is of grete porte and maytenaunce in his contree’ and so could not be brought to trial locally. Meanwhile Cork had also quarrelled with Thomas Carminowe† and his associates Nicholas Radford* of Upcott and John Palmer III* of Launceston. In the Hilary term of 1432, he had brought an action in the King’s bench, alleging that they had assaulted him in March 1431 at Lostwithiel, Paderda and Liskeard, so preventing him from going about his business. Carminowe asserted that Cork was a bondman from his manor of Tamerton, and, this being clearly not the case, Cork won his suit; but although he had claimed damages of £40, the court awarded him no more than £5, and in June 1432 he ceased his demands for payment and released to his opponents all personal actions.6 Neither quarrel was regarded as serious enough to warrant his removal from the local bench.
Since 1421, shortly after Bishop Lacy had been installed at Exeter, Cork had served him as steward of those estates belonging to the bishopric which were situated in Cornwall. The bishop granted him a licence to have an oratory in any suitable place in the diocese, and probably kept him in office until his death.7 Cork is not mentioned after July 1443 when he was for the last time re-appointed as a j.p. in Cornwall, and he may well have died before the next peace commissions were issued in February 1445.