COVENTRE, John I (d.c.1430), of Devizes, Wilts.
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Family and Education
Mayor, Devizes 1414-16, 1419-20.2
Tax collector, Wilts. Dec. 1417.
Commr. to impress horses and carts for the repair of Devizes castle Feb. 1420.
One of the more important members of the prolific Coventre family of Devizes, this John Coventre first appears in the local records in October 1398, when, as one of the churchwardens of St. Mary’s, he made a lease of property in the town. A namesake (perhaps his uncle) was then mayor. Coventre went surety for the attendance of John Huwet at the Parliament of 1406, as burgess-elect for Devizes. In 1410 he paid £2 to Robert Tyndale*, parker of Devizes, for underbrush taken from the park.3
In matters relating to the representation of Devizes in Parliament, as well as in private business, John worked closely with other members of his family. In July 1414, for instance, he and William Coventre III were plaintiffs in an assize of novel disseisin concerning a house and two stalls in Devizes; and two years later the same two acted as sureties for the attendance of Richard Litelcote at the Parliament of March 1416. Then, in 1422 both men (along with Thomas Coventre II and John Coventre junior — probably this John’s son) attended the Wiltshire elections to the first Parliament of Henry VI’s reign, to which they themselves were returned for Devizes.4 They were again elected together to the Parliaments of 1423, 1426 and 1427. It is evident that John had some links with the Wiltshire gentry as well as with the burgesses of other local boroughs. In May 1427 he witnessed a grant of lands in Devizes, Calne and elsewhere in the county to Robert Long*, and in the following December he acted as a trustee for Nicholas Wotton† of lands in Kingston Lisle and Kingston Blount, Oxfordshire.5
Like his father and other members of the family, Coventre was a prosperous clothier, trading well beyond the confines of his native borough. In the first year of Henry V’s reign he paid alnage on 60 whole cloths offered for sale. He evidently had agents in London, including a freeman named William Waryn, who in 1427 was arraigned for ‘avowing’ £300 worth of woollen cloth called ‘westerns’ as his own, when in fact it belonged to Coventre, and for selling it to foreign merchants for the latter’s profit, thus avoiding payment of the custom due to the City from outsiders trading there.6
This John Coventre was the first of three members of the family to found chantries in St. Mary’s church, Devizes, his being endowed with an annual income of £6 17s.3d. derived from the rents of some 14 tenements in the New Port and land elsewhere. He probably died in about 1430, when distinction ceased to be made between him and his younger namesake.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: Charles Kightly
Not to be confused with John Coventre of Wanborough, Wilts. who d. bef. May 1414: Wilts. Feet of Fines (Wilts. Rec. Soc. xli), 197; CCR, 1413-19, p. 354.
- 1. Called ‘senior’ in the returns for 1422 and 1423.
- 2. Wilts. Arch. Mag. ii. 305; xlii. 101; l. 96.
- 3. Ibid. ii. 304; C219/10/3; SC6/1062/25 m. 4.
- 4. CCR, 1413-19, p. 135; C219/11/8, 13/1.
- 5. Tropenell Cart. ed. Davies, i. 101; CAD, vi. C4374.
- 6. E101/345/4; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, p. 213.
- 7. Wilts. Arch. Mag. ii. 250; VCH Wilts. x. 287. In his later years his activities are sometimes difficult to disentangle from those of John Coventre, junior, who was a churchwarden of St. Mary’s in 1414 and 1416, mayor in 1433 and 1436, and MP in 1435. He, too, was a prosperous clothier: he exported goods via Southampton, and between 1441 and 1443 he and his associates sold more than £2,000’s worth of cloth to Venetian merchants visiting London. Like his older namesake he founded a chantry at St. Mary’s — a comparatively wealthy one, endowed with 33 tenements and 37 acres of land. He died before 1475: Wilts. Arch. Mag. ii. 250, 254, 305; Add. Ch. 37517; Brokage Bk. 1443-4 (Soton Rec. Ser. iv), p. xxxv; E101/128/30 m. 10, 31 mm. 3, 12, 13, 51, 54.