DARELL, John (d.1438), of Calehill in Little Chart Scotney castle in Lamberhurst, Kent.
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Family and Education
2nd s. of William Darell of Sessay, Yorks. and er. bro. of William Darell† of Littlecote, Wilts. m. (1) 1400, Thomasina (b.c.1388), da. and h. of Valentine Baret of Perry Court near Faversham, Kent by his w. Joan, 2s.; (2) c.1418, Florence, da. of William Chichele*, ?wid. of Nicholas Pecche and John Burton, 1s. 2da.
Collector of customs and subsidies, Sandwich 16 Oct. 1402-22 Oct. 1403.
Under treasurer of the Exchequer 14 Dec. 1404-3 Apr. 1407, 28 Feb. 1432-18 July 1433.1
Dep. butler Sandwich, Faversham and Dover 20 Feb. 1405-16 Dec. 1407.
Commr. to purvey wheat to victual St. Sever (France), Kent July 1405; assess a tax on land Jan. 1412; of inquiry Jan. 1414 (lollards), Mar. 1414 (theft), Feb. 1419 (treasons and concealments), Feb. 1421 (ownership of manor of Capel), Suss. Feb. 1424 (concealments), Kent Oct. 1435 (treasons and felonies), Feb. 1436 (concealments); array May 1415, Mar. 1419, June 1421, Dec. 1435; sewers Oct. 1415, Suss. Feb., Oct. 1422, Nov. 1433; to supervise musters, Kent May 1416, Feb. 1419, Mar., May 1421, Aug. 1426, June 1429, Apr. 1430, July 1432, Feb. 1434; of arrest Apr. 1419; to raise royal loans Nov. 1419, Jan. 1420, Mar. 1430, Mar. 1431, Feb. 1434, Feb. 1436; of oyer and terminer Feb. 1433, Feb. 1434, June 1438; to assess a tax Jan. 1436.
Sheriff, Kent 29 Nov. 1410-10 Dec. 1411, 10 Nov. 1417-4 Nov. 1418, 1 May 1422-13 Nov. 1423.
J.p. Kent 20 Nov. 1411-July 1423, 20 July 1424-d.
Escheator, Kent and Mdx. 10 Nov. 1413-12 Nov. 1414.
Steward of the lands of Abp. Chichele of Canterbury by 1423-d.2
Darell, like his contemporaries Richard Clitheroe I* and Geoffrey Lowther†, was of north-country origin, yet like them he managed to establish himself among the landowning gentry of Kent and within very few years of settling there became not only a leading figure in local administration, but also a representative of the county in seven Parliaments. The Darell family had been seated at Sessay in Yorkshire since the 12th century, but when John’s elder brother, Marmaduke, inherited the paternal lands, John and a younger sibling, William, went south, the former to found a cadet branch of the family in Kent, and William, through his marriage to the only daughter and heir of Thomas Calston*, to establish an equally important line in Wiltshire. John’s estates were acquired by a combination of astute marriage alliances and successful purchases. His first marriage, to the heiress of Perry Court, who at the time (in 1400) was a mere girl of 12 years of age, brought him property in Faversham (perhaps including the quay mentioned in his will), Luddenham and elsewhere.3 To this he added substantially in 1410 by spending £500 in buying from Thomas Brockhill* the manors of Calehill, Little Chart and Etchden. Two years later his holdings in Kent were estimated for the purposes of taxation as worth £50 a year; and at the same time he had lands valued at £8 p.a. in Sussex, although these last pertained to the Septvance family and were held only in wardship. In later years Darell also possessed the manor of Mardale in Rainham (although there was some uncertainty as to his title), an inn in Rochester and property in the London parish of St. John Walbrook.4 Darell’s second marriage, to Archbishop Chichele’s niece, brought him by her uncle’s settlement in 1418 the archbishop’s occasional residence at Scotney castle, together with a later grant to him and Florence of a 99-year lease on a mill in Northfleet and another tenancy of land in Charing.5
It is possible that this John Darell was the same person as he who in February 1398, described as an unmarried layman of the diocese of York, received appointment as a papal notary. But if so the course of his career was altered within the year as an outcome of his connexion with Ralph Neville, earl of Westmorland, to whom he was to remain closely attached until the earl’s death in 1425. In 1398 he was employed as a member of two different groups of trustees for the settlement in tail of the manor of Clavering, Essex, and of the castle of Sheriff Hutton, Yorkshire, on Neville and his wife, Joan Beaufort; and that same autumn he is known to have been engaged on other business for the earl at the Neville stronghold of Middleham. Links with the Nevilles were in no way weakened by Darell’s move to Kent, for in March 1402 he received at the Exchequer the sum of £3 6s.8d. as payment to Earl Ralph, then marshal of England, for organizing the lists at Smithfield; and when the earl’s brother Thomas, Lord Furnival, was made treasurer of the Exchequer in 1404, Darell was appointed his deputy at the Receipt. Most likely the first lay clerk ever to hold the office of under treasurer, he retained it until shortly after Furnival’s death in 1407. During his time at the Exchequer he became a trustee of property in London granted by Henry IV to Earl Ralph and the Countess Joan (the King’s half-sister), and it may well have been through the countess that he came to the attention of her cousin, Thomas Chaucer*, the royal chief butler, who in the same year (1405) named him as his deputy in three Kentish ports. Also in 1405 he was associated with Earl Ralph in a number of financial obligations, and his position as the earl’s retainer was further recognized when the King made him a gift of 24 oaks from Cheshunt park, belonging to the lordship of Richmond, which Neville held for life. Later, in 1410, Darell joined Westmorland in entering into recognizances with Hugh Mortimer*, chamberlain to the prince of Wales, in separate sums of £800, £200 and 200 marks. Such was the earl’s regard for Darell that in 1424 he named him among the executors of his will — a confidence that Darell was to acknowledge in his own last testament by directing that masses be celebrated for the repose of his late patron’s soul.6
In the 36 years from 1402 until his death Darell was kept constantly busy with official duties in Kent, including numerous royal commissions, three terms as sheriff, and 26 years as a j.p. Among his tasks as sheriff was the conduct of the parliamentary elections of 1411, 1422 and 1423, but he was sufficiently interested in the outcome of other hustings to attend those held in 1414 (Nov.), 1416 (Mar.), 1429 (when he himself was elected) and 1432. He acted as an arbitrator in local disputes in 1412 and 1429. During his term as escheator in 1414 he had the difficult task of seizing the lands and goods of the traitor Sir John Oldcastle* in the aftermath of the lollard uprising; and he was later rewarded with £6 13s.4d. for his expenses in riding with an escort of 20 or 30 horsemen, for fear of the soldiers and malefactors adhering to Sir John. Darell did not cross the Channel with Henry V’s army in 1415, although he did make the Crown a loan of £40 that June towards the war-effort.7 His appointment in the same month by Archbishop Chichele as ‘domicellus nostre diocesis’ to array the clergy in defence of the kingdom, marks the beginning of his long and close connexion with the archbishop, which was to be strengthened by his subsequent marriage to Chichele’s niece. It may well be that he had already been made steward of the archiespiscopal estates — an office he is known to have held for at least 15 years before his death. Certainly, he is recorded in November 1416 as present in Chichele’s principal chamber of his London residence near St. Paul’s when the archbishop was conducting important business. It is not surprising to encounter him as a feoffee of property which was ultimately to become part of the endowment of All Souls college, Oxford, of Chichele’s foundation, nor acting in 1429 as a trustee for Chichele’s acquisition of two manors in Kent. In October 1429, during Darell’s last Parliament, the archbishop named his trusted steward among those deputed to hear and terminate the final account of John Leventhorpe* as sole surviving executor of Henry IV.8
Although Darell apparently took no personal part in the war in France, he proved of great worth as a supervisor of musters of men waiting to embark. During his second shrievalty in the autumn of 1418 the King’s Council ordered him to cross to Calais with Geoffrey Lowther, lieutenant warden of the Cinque Ports, to commune with the lieutenant of the town and captains of the castles in the march regarding their governance, at the same time bearing a brief to negotiate the prorogation of the truce with John, duke of Burgundy. By that date he and Lowther had become highly important figures in Kent, the influence of the one boosted by his position as the archbishop’s steward, the other’s by his place as the duke of Gloucester’s deputy warden. The two had in common, besides their northern origins, an early attachment to the Nevilles. Not surprisingly, they were frequently associated as trustees of land in the county and, along with their friend Richard Clitheroe, the former admiral and victualler of Calais, they engaged in business dealings with the merchant community of London. Darell and Lowther were both made executors of Clitheroe’s will in 1420, as such taking on the responsibility of paying 500 marks to the children of Thomas Knolles, junior, and of presenting at the Exchequer the final accounts for Clitheroe’s victuallership. Through his wife’s kinsfolk, Darell was already well acquainted with the great London family of Knolles, and other Londoners, such as William Estfield†, the prominent mercer, also sought his assistance for landed transactions. Together with Lowther, early in 1427 he obtained an Exchequer lease of the manor of Uppercourt in the Isle of Thanet.9 This may have been secured with the help of Darell’s brother William, who was then occupying the post of under treasurer at the Exchequer as clerk to Sir Walter (now Lord) Hungerford*. John succeeded William in 1432 (returning to the office after an absence of 25 years), this time as deputy to John, 4th Lord Scrope of Masham, whom he served for the duration of his brief treasurership. Together with Scrope, in November that year, he made a loan of 300 marks to Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury (the son of his first patron, the earl of Westmorland), which Salisbury agreed to pay back with interest in instalments over seven years. After Westmorland’s death in October 1425, Darell and his fellow executors of the earl’s will (who included Salisbury) had petitioned the next Parliament (1426) complaining that the will’s administration was being delayed because of processes in the Exchequer; and, evidently, despite Darell’s office there, such difficulties so continued as to require a second parliamentary petition in 1433, shortly after his dismissal. It would appear that he had ended his term as deputy treasurer under a cloud, for a year later, in July 1434, he was summoned before the King’s Council to be examined regarding a certain sum of 500 marks which, allegedly delivered to the treasurer of the Household, had gone missing. There is, however, nothing to suggest that he was himself suspected of fraud. Earlier that year Darell had been among the gentry of Kent required to take the generally administered oath not to maintain those who broke the peace. In 1436 he and his brother William were each asked to contribute a loan of £40 towards the cost of fitting out the duke of York’s army for France.10
By his will, made at Scotney on 24 Oct. 1438, Darell bequeathed to his lord, Archbishop Chichele, his best silver-gilt cup, making a fervent request that he might, of the archbishop’s special grace and favour, be charitably forgiven for all his shortcomings and trespasses, excessive expenses, intemperate speech and superfluous labours, whether or not in his official capacity. Among his other gifts were sums of £10 to Combwell priory and £11 6s.8d. to Newnham church, though the largest amount, 100 marks, was to go to chaplains at Little Chart, Godmersham and Northfleet to pay for masses for his soul and the souls of members of his family, Henry V, Ralph, earl of Westmorland, and Richard Clitheroe. He contributed the sum of £20 and ten years’ profits from his mill at Northfleet to works on Rochester bridge, and he gave his tenants living near the warren at Calehill £5 in recompense for damage caused by the rabbits. Having made ample provision for his widow and three sons in a careful distribution of his estates, he authorized the sale of some other property and of two ships moored at Northfleet. He died the next day and, as he had wished, was buried in St. Mary’s church at Little Chart. A monumental brass there recorded his tenure of office as Archbishop Chichele’s steward.11 Darell’s heir was his eldest son, William, to whom, in the following year, his brother and executor, William Darell of Wiltshire, conveyed part of the young man’s maternal (Baret) inheritance, and with whom his widow Florence exchanged her life estate in Calehill and Little Chart for an interest in other premises.12