CROKE, William (d.c.1401), of Gloucester.
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m. Maud, 1s.
Commr. of array, Gloucester June 1385; gaol delivery Feb. 1399.
The Crokes were a Gloucester family with ties in the town dating from the 13th century, and William was possibly a kinsman of the Gloucestershire MP of 1355, Peter Croke. He was frequently chosen to act as a bailiff of Gloucester, a position for which his profession as a lawyer undoubtedly fitted him. His first term in office, in association with William Heyberer*, was extended for a further year at Michaelmas 1362, and in the March following his withdrawal from office in September 1363 he was granted by Heyberer, still a bailiff and acting on behalf of the commonalty, a 90-year lease of a plot of land near the castle and adjacent to property formerly belonging to Thomas Croke, at an annual rent of ten silver pence, this being perhaps a reward for his services. From 1372 to 1400 Croke was a regular witness to local deeds, both while in and out of office, and he occasionally provided securities for strangers seeking licence to trade in Gloucester.3 Shortly after the beginning of his fourth term as bailiff in 1378, Parliament assembled at Gloucester itself. It was while the session was still in progress (between 20 Oct. and 16 Nov.) that a murder occurred, as a result of which the bailiffs were called to Llanthony priory with their coroner to view the body and hold an inquest on the death, following which the homicide was hanged. Croke attended the elections at the shire court at Gloucester for the Parliament of November 1384, then standing surety for William Heyberer, his former co-bailiff, who had been elected for the county for the third time. When holding office as bailiff in 1385-6, Croke himself represented Gloucester in the Parliament which met at Westminster in October 1385, and immediately after relinquishing office he was re-elected to the Parliament of October 1386. A year later, he procured a royal pardon for any escapes of felons or other prisoners from his custody when bailiff previous to the Statute of Northampton (1380).4
From early on in his career Croke had been regularly appointed attorney by the sheriffs of Gloucestershire present their Easter and Michaelmas accounts at the Exchequer, acting in this capacity no fewer than seven times between 1364 and 1377. However, difficulties arose when he represented the executors of William Ledene, a sheriff who had died in office in 1355. The executors later rendered account for the first half of that year, but before their statement had been fully recorded on the Exchequer rolls Croke, unaware of this, took away certain writs and indentures for the payment of wages, and these, together with property of his own, were stolen on his journey home to Gloucester. However, he was eventually exonerated from being charged for the missing items.5 In October 1374 Croke stood surety for William Archebaud, the Exchequer lessee of the alien priory of Andover, but a more important connexion was that which he formed with the Berkeleys of Dursley. Three years after the death of Sir Nicholas Berkeley† in 1382, his widow Cecily conveyed her share in the manor of Bitton, Gloucestershire, called the ‘Oldeland’, to Croke and Matthew Waleys in trust for resettlement, first on herself and then on Sir John Devereux* of Staunton and his wife Joan and their heirs. When an inquest at Dursley in 1385 revealed that no royal licence had been acquired for this transaction, the property was seized by the escheator, but Cecily then purchased a pardon and re-acquired the manor, which, following her death in 1393, was transferred to Devereux in accordance with her wishes.6
In August 1395 securities were found for John Kybeaux of Netherwent that he would not hurt or harm Croke, but the cause of their quarrel is not revealed. By his will composed on 20 Dec. 1401 Croke requested burial in St. Peter’s abbey. He left most of his Gloucester property (in the Butchery, the Mercery and ‘Lychelone’) to his wife for term of her life, and afterwards to his son Thomas. In 1413 the prior of Llanthony leased to Maud Croke for 40 years a house that her late husband had built on a vacant plot belonging to the priory in ‘Ebruggestret’. Some of Croke’s property was later, in 1445, in the keeping of the proctor of St. Nicholas’s church in accordance with a provision in the will.