DERBY, Thomas, of Gaddesby, Leics.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
Keeper of the ‘Prince’s Court’, Leics. 28 Jan. 1387-17 July 1393.
Jt. surveyor of crown lands, Leics., Lincs., Notts., Derbys., Rutland, Warws. from 5 Feb. 1387.
Escheator, Warws. and Leics. 30 Nov. 1387-8.
Commr. of inquiry, Leics. June 1392 (murder), Warws., Leics. July 1393 (enforcement of statutes of weights and measures), Warws. Oct. 1401 (wastes on a Mowbray manor); to raise royal loans, Leics. Sept. 1405.
Steward and receiver of estates late of Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, in Derbys., Warws., Leics., Salop and Worcs. Mich. 1401-c.1405.
Tax collector, Leics. Mar. 1404.
Derby’s antecedents are obscure, nor is it known how he acquired the property at Gaddesby, where he made his home. Late in life he added to his landed holdings the former Burton estate at Foxton and Gumley, apparently through purchase. He may have been related to Adam Derby, whose annuity of £5 charged on the manor of Leicester by grant of Henry, 1st duke of Lancaster, was doubled by John of Gaunt in 1363 and confirmed by Richard II in 1399. Certainly, Thomas himself was closely connected with other Lancastrian retainers: for instance, he stood surety at the Exchequer in 1379 for Duke John’s cook, John Reynald, and did likewise in 1388 for his receiver-general, William Chiselden, when the latter secured custody of lands previously belonging to the duchy steward of Leicester, Simon Pakeman†. Furthermore, from 1396 he acted as a feoffee of the substantial estates in Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire held by Margaret (Bellers), widow of Lancaster’s chamberlain, Sir Robert Swillington.1
Derby’s frequent employment as a mainpernor from 1376 onwards, taken together with his evident skill as an administrator of large landed estates, would suggest that he was trained in the law. He came to the attention of the government early in 1387; within one week obtaining at the Exchequer the keepership of the ‘Prince’s Court’ for a ten-year term, and being made joint surveyor with a royal serjeant-at-arms of crown lands in six counties. His brief as surveyor was a wide one: he was to evaluate all propeties in the King’s wardship as well as the estates of alien priories, to make inquiries into wastes and concealments by royal officials, and to put leases out to tender to the highest bidder. How long he was engaged in this difficult task is unclear, although it seems likely that his appointment to the escheatorship of Warwickshire and Leicestershire was made that autumn in order to facilitate his work. It is hard to discover what, if any, significance should be attached to Derby’s removal from the keepership of the ‘Prince’s Court’ in July 1393, nearly four years before the end of the term; that he was either in disgrace or had proved unsatisfactory may be inferred from his failure to gain further employment from Richard II’s council. Like many others wary of Richard’s displeasure, he saw fit to obtain a royal pardon in June 1398.2 Yet the new regime, under Henry IV, overlooked him, too, until after his return to Parliament in 1401. Then, Derby was one of seven commoners summoned from Leicestershire to attend the great council held in August, and a few weeks later he secured appointment as steward and receiver of a large number of Mowbray manors in royal custody. He may have held this post for the rest of the minority of Thomas Mowbray, Earl Marshal.3
In June 1412 Derby joined with Thomas Ashby of Quenby, an associate of long standing, in purchasing a royal licence to grant the advowson of Twyford church to Kirby Bellars priory. It was probably on behalf of Bartholomew Brokesby* that he became involved in a conveyance of land at Frisby-on-the-Wreak in the following year and in other transactions relating to property in Grimston and Rotherby in 1419, on these last occasions being associated with Brokesby’s colleague, Philip Morgan, afterwards bishop of Worcester. He is not recorded alive thereafter, although as his son, another Thomas, continued to be described as ‘the younger’ until 1429, he may well have lived on until then.