DEVEREUX, Sir John (c.1356-1419), of Staunton, Glos. and Winterborne Steepleton, Dorset.
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Family and Education
b.c.1356, s. and h. of John Devereux of Winterbourne Steepleton by Joan, sis. of Sir Thomas Fichet† (d.1367) of Spaxton, Som., wid. of Sir Thomas Gournay of East Harptree, Som. m. by 1385, Joan Hurst, wid. of Sir John Bitton of Oldland, Glos., 1s d.v.p. 2da. Kntd. bef. 1379.1
Commr. to make proclamation of the King’s right of presentation to a benefice, Dorset Mar. 1404; of array, Som. 1405.
At the time of his father’s death in May 1382 Devereux was aged 26 ‘and more’ and was already a knight. He may possibly have been, therefore, the Somerset knight who ten years earlier had been summoned before the Council for fraudulently receiving wages in the King’s service in John Minsterworth’s company, while failing to go abroad. When his father died he inherited land in Winterborne Steepleton. He also laid claim to the manor of East Harptree, which included knights’ fees worth £30 p.a. held previously by his mother as dower of her first marriage, but before February 1384 he was forced to yield to much stronger claimants: his half-sister, Joan Gournay, and her husband, Walter Catecote. Devereux was fortunate in receiving from the Catecotes an indemnity of £160, but he was now in financial difficulties and being sued for a debt of £40 by a London merchant. By 1385 Devereux had acquired landed interests in Gloucestershire, probably through marriage. In that year he and his wife, Joan, both described as ‘of Staunton’, acquired from Cecily, widow of Sir Nicholas Berkeley† of Dursley, the reversion of property in Oldland. In Joan’s right Sir John claimed possession of the Gloucestershire manors of Hanham, Churchley and Upton and a moiety of that of Bitton, but he had trouble in supporting his claim after his wife’s stepdaughter, Katherine Bitton, came of age and married Thomas Rygge. Lawsuits over the estates were still proceeding in 1406. Another part of the disputed Bitton inheritance was Norton Malreward (Somerset), although Devereux was holding this in 1392 when a complaint was made against him for assault. Frustrated thus far in his aspirations, he may now have pinned his hopes on acquisition of the extensive Fichet estates in Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Berkshire, to which, through his mother, he was a strong claimant. Furthermore, in 1397 the only person between him and the inheritance was Isabel Fichet (daughter of his cousin, Sir Thomas†, who had died in 1386), a weakling not expected to live. Unfortunately for Devereux he was ‘cast down with great poverty by ... Thomas Rygge ... who at that time recovered against him the greater part of the manors, lands and tenements which he had in the counties of Gloucestershire and Somerset together with unsupportable damages’, and he was unable to resist the offer of £50 made by Robert Hill* of Spaxton, Isabel’s husband, in return for his promise to relinquish all claim to the estate during the latter’s lifetime. (Hill also apparently made Devereux a loan of £1,000.) Sir John, however, never did inherit the Fichet estates, for Isabel recovered and produced a son. His fortunes changed for the better in 1400 when it was agreed that he and his wife might hold the Bitton manors of Norton Malreward and Charlcombe for term of his wife’s life, though they had to pay an annual rent of 24 marks. In 1412 Devereux’s annual income from land was said to be 66 marks, of which 26 came from Dorset and the rest from Somerset and Gloucestershire. He had recently settled his manor of Winterborne, worth about ten marks a year, on his son and heir, Richard, and the latter’s wife, Clemency.2
Little is known about other aspects of Devereux’s life. If correctly identified, he occasionally appeared in transactions of land, for example before 1389 as a feoffee of the estates of Cecily Turberville, sister and coheir of Lord Beauchamp of Hatch; and in February 1400 he stood surety in Chancery along with Thomas Beaupyne* of Bristol and Sir Thomas Arthur* for the abbot of Cirencester, who was at that time engaged in a dispute with the townspeople of Cirencester in connexion with their removal from sanctuary of the rebels against Henry IV. He was just possibly the Sir John Devereux who went abroad in the retinue of Edward, earl of Rutland, the lieutenant of Aquitaine, in the spring of 1401. More certainly, he attended the parliamentary elections held at Dorchester in 1407.3
Sir John’s will was dated 15 July 1419, he died on 25 Sept. and probate was granted on 21 Oct. A short document, the will consisted of directions for his burial at Winterbourne, a donation of 12 little bells to that church, a small gift to Salisbury cathedral and a few bequests of fabrics and furnishings. His executors received the residue of his personal estate. No mention was made of his wife and son, who were already dead, nor, more surprisingly, of his two daughters, both of whom were called Joan. His property in Gloucesters