COVENTRE, William III (d.c.1445), of Devizes, Wilts.
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Family and Education
In July 1414 William and John Coventre I, probably his brother, were plaintiffs in an assize of novel disseisin concerning a house and two stalls in Devizes. It was in November that year that William was elected to Parliament for the first time, Simon Skinner* and Richard Litelcote* being his sureties for attendance. He subsequently reciprocated on Litelcote’s behalf, when the latter was returned to the first Parliament of 1416. In October 1422, and along with some of his relations ( John Coventre I, John† junior and Thomas II) he was present at the elections of the Wiltshire knights of the shire to the first Parliament of Henry VI’s reign, to which he too was elected — for the fifth time — for Devizes. His fellow MP on this occasion, as subsequently in 1423, 1426 and 1427, was John I. In May 1434 he and John junior, probably his nephew, were certified in Chancery as being among the Wiltshire notables required to take the oath not to maintain breakers of the peace; and in the following year both were present at the election of the Wiltshire knights of the shire to the Parliament of 1435, to which John was returned for Devizes.3
It was probably this William Coventre who bought a small estate at East Coulston, a few miles south of Devizes, early in 1428, being assisted in the transaction by John Bird*, Queen Joan’s bailiff in Wiltshire, and John Rous III*. Certainly it was he who in 1430 conveyed a burgage in the town itself to William Smith†, the man who rebuilt St. Mary’s church. Some of his property in Devizes was placed in the hands of feoffees with the intention that a settlement should be made on his son Robert, on the occasion of the latter’s marriage.4
Like other members of his family, William was a prosperous clothier. In the first year of Henry V’s reign he paid alnage on 35 whole cloths, and over the years 1441 and 1442, in partnership with John Coventre junior, he sold 488 lengths of fabric, worth as much as £985 8s., to Venetian merchants visiting London.5 Success in the cloth trade enabled him to be — as were other members of his family — a benefactor of St. Mary’s church, Devizes. At some time before his death, which probably occurred in about 1445, he founded a chantry there, endowing it with an annual rent of £8 17s.10d. derived from numerous properties in the town. In his will (which has not survived) he also left an annuity of £1 13s.4d. to support four poor women dwelling in the almshouse founded by Thomas Coventre II.