DANVERS, John (d.1449), of Calthorpe in Banbury and Prescote in Cropredy, Oxon.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
s. and h. of Richard Danvers of Epwell by Agnes, da. and h. of John Brancaster of Banbury. m. (1) bef. Mich. 1399, Alice, da. and h. of William Verney of Byfield, Northants., 3s. inc. Robert† and Richard†, 1da.; (2) c.1420, Joan, da. and h. of John Bruley (d.v.p. s. of William Bruley*) of Waterstock, Oxon., by Maud, da. of Thomas Quatermayn of Rycote, 5s. inc. Thomas† and William†, 4da.1
Tax collector, Oxon. Dec. 1407, Northants. June 1410.
Escheator, Oxon. and Berks. 6 Nov. 1424-24 Jan. 1426.
Commr. to assess a tax, Oxon. Apr. 1431; of inquiry June 1435 (escapes of felons); to distribute tax rebate Jan. 1436; of array Jan. 1436.
John Danvers’s inheritance from his father, who died in or after 1409, was of small worth, comprising as it did not much more than the manor of Little Bourton in Cropredy and a few acres of land nearby. The manor of Epwell, which had been in the family since the 12th century, had fallen quite recently into the hands of William Wilcotes*, a leading Oxfordshire lawyer. However, through his mother he inherited the Brancaster property in Calthorpe and Wickham, and these holdings formed the basis for a notable expansion of territory, which proved to be Danvers’s principal achievement.2 Indeed, he devoted much of his energy to extending his landed interests in the area around his home at Banbury, in some cases by buying back property that his family had owned previously. How he acquired the means to do so is uncertain, but there can be little doubt of his success. Beginning in 1403 with purchases of land in Banbury, he went on to buy up a number of properties from John Raleigh of Wardington, including the manors of Tusmore and (in 1417) Prescote. Chief among his later dealings was his procurement in 1435 from the bishop of Lincoln of a 20-year lease of the manor of Easington in Banbury, complete with a fishery in the river Cherwell and a warren; and the purchase from his neighbour, (Sir) Thomas Wykeham*, of the reversion of two manors in Adderbury. Indeed, he succeeded in building up a large estate in north Oxfordshire. In apparently only one matter were his ambitions thwarted: his attempt to oust the Wilcotes family from Epwell (by then, in the 1430s, held by Elizabeth, widow of Sir John Wilcotes, and her second husband (Sir) Thomas Blount II*) ended with defeat in the lawcourts.3 Both of Danvers’s marriages proved advantageous: his first wife brought him land in Northamptonshire, and his second the manor of Waterstock, of which he had possession by 1423 under a settlement made by his wife’s grandfather William Bruley, the former shire knight.4
A few months after he represented Oxfordshire for the first time in 1420, Danvers attended the county elections to the Parliament of 1421 (May), then attesting the return of Thomas Chaucer of Ewelme, whom the Commons elected Speaker. Although there is no evidence of a particularly close association between him and Chaucer, in July 1426 he and his eldest son, Robert, both shared with him in a grant at the Exchequer of the wardship and marriage of (Sir) William Birmingham’s* heir, only for their colleague to withdraw from the arrangement six months later. Danvers was again present at the parliamentary elections of 1427 and 1431, on both of which occasions Chaucer was returned along with his former ward, Thomas Stonor*. During the 1430s, Danvers acted as a trustee of the estates of (Sir) Thomas Wykeham; and together with him he became involved in private transactions with (Sir) Thomas Strange*, after whose death in 1436 he, his son Robert and Wykeham all took on the executorship of his will. Danvers and two of his sons were among those gentry of Oxfordshire required in 1434 to take the generally administered oath not to maintain malefactors.5
Danvers used some of his wealth to help found a chantry of two chaplains in St. Mary’s church, Banbury, for which a royal licence had been procured as early as 1413; and, towards the end of his life, he joined in 1448 in establishing a guild in the same church for the performance of religious services and the maintenance of eight poor men, securing official permission for the guild to hold land worth as much as 100 marks a year. In the meantime, together with his second wife, he had obtained papal indults of plenary indulgence (in 1429) and for a portable altar (1441). He was apparently a benefactor of the building of All Souls college, Oxford, founded by Archbishop Henry Chichele, no doubt being stimulated in this interest by his son Robert, who as a trustee of Chichele’s estates and executor of his will, besides being the new college’s official attorney, was closely involved in the project.6
Danvers is last recorded in February 1449, as completing financial arrangements for the marriage of one of his daughters, but he died shortly afterwards, for the abbot of Eynsham later gave a receipt to his executors, regarding his farm of the abbey’s demesnes in Calthorpe, for the period beginning that Lady Day. His widow married Sir Walter Mauntell.7 Over the years Danvers had done much to promote the interests of his many children. Agnes, his daughter by his first wife, had been married to John Fray*, the chief baron of the Exchequer, and at least four of his sons — (Sir) Robert (d. 1467) Richard (d.1489) and their half-brothers (Sir) Thomas (d.1502) and (Sir) William (d.1504) — had been encouraged to enter the legal profession. Indeed, Robert, who had been recorder of London since 1442, was to be made a j.c.p. in 1450 (the year after his father’s death), and William was to be promoted j.KB under Henry VII. The estates John Danvers had accumulated were divided between his sons.8