DERBY, Sir Stephen, of Langton Long Blandford, Dorset.
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Family and Education
yr. s. of Hugh Derby of Stanstead Mountfichet, Essex. m. c.1361, Avice (c.1348-18 Apr. 1420), da. and h. of Sir Alan Gulden of Langton Long Blandford, 2s. ?2da. Kntd. by Jan. 1380.1
Receiver of the Clare estates, Wales and the marches by 21 Nov. 1360-c.1368.
Steward of the estates of Lionel, duke of Clarence, by Mich. 1365-1368.
Commr. of inquiry, Dorset Oct. 1375 (dues to Frampton priory), July 1376 ( Richard Lyons’s† crimes), May 1384 (poaching), Som., Dorset Apr. 1385 (forfeited goods), July 1386 (Scrope v. Grosvenor controversy);2 array, Dorset Mar. 1380, Apr. 1385; to put down unlawful assemblies Dec. 1381, Mar., Dec. 1382; take custody of a royal ward June 1384.
J.p. Dorset 13 May 1376-Apr. 1385, Feb. 1386-July 1389.
Tax collector, Dorset Dec. 1384.
Derby came from an Essex family of no particular note, which held a small amount of land in Stanstead, Birchanger and Farnham as well as in Stortford, Hertfordshire, but he made a career for himself outside his native county and in 1376, when he inherited the family property after the deaths of his father and elder brother, he immediately sold it. Derby’s earliest known connexions were with Edward III’s son Lionel, later duke of Clarence. In November 1360 he was made receiver by royal appointment of the Clare inheritance of the prince’s wife in Wales and the marches, and he remained in Lionel’s service for the rest of his patron’s life. In 1362 he was among the yeomen who accompanied Clarence on his expedition to Ireland; in September 1364 he was named as an attorney for one of the men joining the duke’s retinue in the province, and in July 1365 he took out royal letters of protection to go there once again in his service. He may have already been promoted as the duke’s steward, and was certainly holding that position by September following. The assaults made on his person in Dorset that December, in which he was robbed of a satchel containing two robes and other goods, and the injury of his servant on another occasion in mistake for him, may have had no connexion with his office, although Clarence did hold estates in the county. Evidently Derby’s association with Clarence’s family continued for several years after the duke’s death in Italy in 1368, for in 1376 he witnessed a deed granting lands to Edmund Mortimer, earl of March, and Philippa his wife, who was the duke’s daughter and sole heir, and it is quite possible that he continued to discharge some kind of office on the Clare estates in Dorset.3
Derby’s connexion with Clarence led to his marriage to the daughter of the duke’s tenant on the manors of Langton ‘Latile’ and Rollington in Purbeck, Sir Alan Gulden. An inquiry into concealed wardships held in Dorset in 1366 found that five years before, on Gulden’s death, Derby had illegally entered his manors of Langton Long Blandford and Langton ‘Latile’, together valued at 46 marks a year, the heir, Gulden’s daughter, Avice, being at that time still a minor; but since, in the meantime, he had married Avice, he was allowed to retain the property. Avice’s inheritance included, besides the Langtons and Rollington, other holdings concentrated around Blandford at Littleton and Blandford St. Mary, three other manors and an advowson in Dorset, and the manor of Buckshaw (then in Somerset). Threats of invasion in June 1383 and April 1385 were the signal for his departure to his properties nearest the coast in Purbeck to prepare the defences. In 1394 he was found to have illegally occupied a close known as ‘le Estbreche’ in the King’s lordship of Corfe castle for the previous 20 years. In 1412, after Derby’s death, his estates were estimated to have a total value of nearly £60, of which about half came from Somerset and half from Dorset.4
Although Derby’s activities centred on Dorset, they were not confined to this county. On 1 Oct. 1367 he had been appointed by the prior of Goldcliffe to be steward of the manor of Membury in Devon, for which he was to receive an annual rent of £3 and a robe trimmed with fur of the kind usually worn by the esquires retained by the priory, and this grant was confirmed in Chancery in May 1379 (when Derby was up at Westminster for his second Parliament), after the priory had been taken into the King’s hands. He was knighted shortly afterwards and went on the royal expedition to Scotland in 1385, performing the service due from the abbot of Cerne. Derby’s discharge from the commission of the peace in Dorset in that year must have been as a consequence of his absence in the north, for he was re-appointed to the bench in February 1386, after his return. He was involved in serious disturbances in 1388 in the West Country when Sir William Bryan was put under sureties of 1,000 marks not to harm him. Derby’s parliamentary service for Dorset was impressive, since he was returned for every Parliament between 1379 and 1386, and was to represent the county 15 times in all. On the other hand, his single return for Somerset, in 1390, came about only after the withdrawal of the elected Member, Sir Thomas Hungerford*.5
In 1391 Derby and his wife obtained a royal licence to grant rents of £2 a year to support a chantry in the parish church of Long Blandford, of which they were patrons, where masses were to be said for their souls and those of Avice’s relations. (Avice was later buried there.) Three years later they obtained five papal indults from Boniface IX, allowing masses to be said privately for them before daybreak and in places under interdict, granting them licence for a portable altar, for the choice of a confessor and for plenary remission of sins.6 Derby was still living in the autumn of 1396 but died at some unknown date before 1403. He left two sons, Robert and Walter, and a daughter, Margaret, who married Morgan Gough. Alice, wife of Richard Toomer, probably another daughter of his, died before him. Following the death of Derby’s widow, in 1420, her estates passed to Robert their son, who himself died before the end of the year.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
CPR, 1377-81, p. 96.