DARRAS, John (c.1355-1408), of Sidbury and Neenton, Salop.
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Family and Education
b.c.1355, s. and h. of Ralph Darras of Neenton by Joan, da. and coh. of Thomas Forcer and coh. gen. of Sir Henry Ribbesford of Ribbesford, Worcs. m. bef. June 1390, Joan, da. of Sir Robert Corbet† of Moreton Corbet, wid. of Sir Robert Harley (d. 1370) of Willey, Salop, ?1s.
Commr. of arrest, Salop July 1384, Salop, Staffs. Dec. 1400.
Steward, forests of Morfe and Shirlet, Salop 4 Nov. 1399-d. ; keeper by 27 Feb. 1407-d.
Sheriff, Salop 8 Nov. 1401-29 Nov. 1402.
From his father, who died in December 1361 when he was aged only about seven, Darras inherited the manors and advowsons of Neenton and Sidbury, held of the earls of March. Through his mother he was one of the heirs of Sir Henry Ribbesford, and in 1380, after he had come of age, he joined with two aunts in claiming title to the Worcestershire manors of Rock and Ribbesford, but although judgement was given in their favour, Ribbesford, at least, passed shortly afterwards into the possession of the earl of Warwick.1 Darras’s marriage brought him into close contact with his brother-in-law, Sir Roger Corbet* of Moreton Corbet, and other members of his family. In 1390 they were engaged in disputes with his wife’s niece, Elizabeth, wife of John Mawddwy, lord of Dinas Mawddwy, over the manors of Yockleton, Shelve and Wentnor and a fourth part of Caus forest, all in Shropshire. These, so they claimed, had been settled by Darras’s late father-in-law on his daughter Joan for life, and she had leased them to her brother Sir Fulk Corbet (Elizabeth’s father) for his lifetime, with remainder to Sir Roger. When violence broke out at the beginning of June all the participants were summoned before the King’s Council, Darras and Sir Roger having amassed an impressive array of supporters, including Sir Hugh Cheyne*, Sir Richard Ludlow* and Thomas Young I*. Nevertheless, when an agreement was finally reached in the following April, it would appear that the properties were awarded to the Mawddwys, although they were perhaps required to pay a rent to Joan Darras under the terms of the original lease. As dower from her previous marriage, Joan held parts of the manors of Harley, Gretton, Willey and Kenley, Shropshire, and Hampton Lovett, Worcestershire, although in 1400 some of these holdings were settled on Roger Willey, a kinsman of her first husband.2
Darras served on only one royal commission under Richard II. During the last 20 years of the century he established links with other gentry of Shropshire and Herefordshire, such as Thomas Whitton* and Malcolm de la Mare*, for whom he acted in business transactions relating to land. More significant was his enlistment in March 1387 as an esquire in the retinue of Richard, earl of Arundel (from whom he held a knight’s fee in Gretton), leading to service in the naval force commanded by the earl as admiral, which achieved victories against the French and their allies in the Channel. Two years later he was acting, in association with Fulk Sprenghose* and John Burley I*, as a trustee of estates in Shropshire belonging to Richard, Lord Talbot, who had married Arundel’s niece.3
It was quite likely his connexion with the Fitzalans which led to Darras’s increased importance in Shropshire under Henry IV. As early in the reign as 4 Nov. 1399 he was granted for life the steward-ship of Morfe and Shirlet, and two years later he was appointed sheriff. In April 1402, during his shrievalty, Darras stood surety in Chancery that his friend Sir John Cornwall* would keep the peace, but he evidently let the ties of friendship come before his duties as sheriff, for it was later alleged that he had arrayed a panel of jurors in Cornwall’s favour. As sheriff he held the elections at Shrewsbury later that same year, when Cornwall was one of those returned to Parliament. In 1406 Darras was pardoned for acquiring, without royal licence, a parcel of land in Worfield and a moiety of the forestership of Morfe, but, the lesson unlearned, he then sold the properties, again without licence, to Richard Parlour* of Bridgnorth. Darras was also occupied in the suppression of Glendower’s revolt in Wales, and it was in consideration of these services that in 1407, described as ‘King’s esquire’, he was granted for life the keeper-ship of Morfe and Shirlet, with permission to nominate a ranger to carry out his duties during further absence in the marches. That his association with the earls of Arundel had continued is clear from his participation, along with his wife’s nephews, Robert* and Roger Corbet* (both of whom were esquires in the earl’s service), and another Fitzalan retainer, William Ryman* of Sussex, in a grant made in 1407 to Shrewsbury abbey. That same year Darras was present at the shire elections at Shrewsbury castle when his friend Sir John Cornwall and David Holbache*, another one of Arundel’s affinity, were elected.4
The most unusual feature of Darras’s life was his way of ending it, for shortly before 30 Mar. 1408 he hanged himself at Neenton. A royal commission was set up to investigate the concealment of his goods, which should have pertained to the Crown, and that August John Talbot, Lord Furnival, was patron of the church at Sidbury in his stead. He may have left a son named Roger.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. CIPM, xi. 270; xiv. 355; Peds. Plea Rolls ed. Wrottesley, 134; VCH Worcs. iv. 307; Reg. Gilbert (Canterbury and York Soc. xviii), 125; Reg. Trefnant (ibid. xx), 176, 183.
- 2. CIPM, xv. 742-3; CCR, 1389-92, pp. 143, 199, 202, 256; CPR, 1388-92, p. 340; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. xlvii. 48; VCH Salop, viii. 88; VCH Worcs. iii. 154.
- 3. Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 4), ix. 50; Add. Chs. 41142, 41151; E101/40/33; CAD, iv. A8934; JUST 1/1504 m. 73; CIMisc. vi. 236.
- 4. CPR, 1399-1401, p. 64; 1405-8, pp. 271, 296, 339, 420; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 555; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xv. 103; C219/10/2, 4.
- 5. CPR, 1405-8, p. 485; CFR, xiii. 120; Reg. Mascall (Canterbury and York Soc. xxi), 173; Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxviii), 214.