DURHAM, John (d.1420), of London and South Mimms, Mdx.
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Family and Education
s. of John Durham (d.1368) of London and South Mimms by his w. Joan. m. (1) Joan, 1da.; (2) by Feb. 1389, Agnes (d. aft. May 1415), da. and event. h. of Richard Hall (d. by 1369) of London and Hoddesdon, Herts., wid. of Sir Thomas Boys (d. aft. 1385); (3) Margery or Margaret, da. of Sir John Lee (d.1370) of Albury, steward of the household of Ed. III, and sis. and coh. of Sir Walter Lee*, wid. of Robert Newport* (d.1416/17) of Brent Pelham, Herts.1
Commr. to make proclamations for the arrest of the rebels, Mdx. July 1381; make an arrest July 1381; of oyer and terminer July 1381 (treasons and felonies); to suppress the rebels, Dec. 1381, Mar., Dec. 1382; of inquiry, Herts. June 1397, May 1402 (into treasonous rumours), Mdx. Jan. 1412 (persons liable for taxation); array, Herts., Mdx. Dec. 1399, Sept., Nov. 1403; to raise a royal loan, Herts. Nov. 1419.
Tax collector, Mdx. Dec. 1384, Mar. 1404; collector of a royal loan, Herts. Jan. 1420.
J.p. Mdx. 20 Dec. 1397-Nov. 1399.
John Durham came from an affluent mercantile family, two members of which rose during the late 13th and early 14th centuries to become aldermen of the City of London. Thanks to the financial success of his ancestors, Durham’s father was able to live the life of a country gentleman at his manor of South Mimms on the Hertfordshire-Middlesex border, although he retained property in the city parishes of Holy Trinity the Less and St. Mary Aldermary. He died in 1368, leaving his widow in possession of his estates until John, their only son, should come of age.2 The latter appeared before the court of the mayor of London in November 1375, charged with having broken a sequestration order (perhaps for his father’s goods) and threatening a civic officer; his fine was, however, suspended, and he was merely bound over to keep the peace. Over the next few years he built up a number of connexions in Middlesex, where his kinsmen, the Frowyks, already exercised considerable influence. In January 1379, for example, he joined with his nephew, Henry Frowyk†, in witnessing a deed at Acton; and by the summer of 1381 he was sufficiently well established in the county to play a prominent part in the suppression of those involved locally in the Peasants’ Revolt. He stood surety for John Shorditch I* on his election as a shire knight in the following September, being himself chosen to represent Middlesex for the first time in the Parliament of February 1383.3 Comparatively little is known about Durham’s activities during the mid 1380s. In December 1386 and again in March 1387 he acted as a mainpernor for two Londoners, but he does not generally appear to have involved himself much in the affairs of others at this time.4 His marriage to his second wife, the wealthy Agnes Hall, proved a major turning point in his career, since it gave him control not only of the estate which she had inherited from her brother, Stephen, but also of the dower settled on her by her first husband, Sir Thomas Boys. On the death of Stephen Hall, a minor whose wardship had been unsuccessfully contested by the mayor of London, Agnes had acquired a title to several messuages in the parish of St. Mary Woolchurch worth £12 a year, as well as land in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire.5 Sir Thomas, a far more affluent landowner, then died leaving her a life interest in his manor of Great Munden, with its extensive appurtenances in the same county, although for reasons now unknown she and Durham agreed, in February 1389, to release their title to Sir Thomas’s kinswoman, Margaret Boys, who was then married to Robert Digswell*. Both parties bound themselves in heavy securities to perform the terms of an agreement whereby Digswell’s feoffees were to collect rents of £24 p.a. on his behalf while Agnes lived. The rest of her dower comprised the advowson of the local parish church, in addition to both the advowson and manor of Little Munden, which she immediately conveyed to feoffees. It may conceivably have been as a result of other transactions effected with Margaret Boys and her husband at this time that the manor of Diggeswell came into Durham’s hands.It was certainly in his possession well before 1412; and both he and Agnes chose to be buried there rather than in any other part of their Hertfordshire estates.6 From 1384 onwards, Durham’s own patrimony was subject to a series of enfeoffments-to-uses, many of which involved his close friend, John Ludwick*, and the Bedfordshire lawyer, John Hervy*. Not all these conveyances are easy to distinguish from genuine sales of property, but there can be little doubt that John and Agnes Durham together derived at least £44 a year, and probably more, from their respective holdings. It is a mark of their wealth and status that twice, in 1397 and 1406, the couple were accorded licences from the bishop of Lincoln to celebrate mass privately in their own home.7 Towards the end of his life Durham more than doubled his landed income by marrying Margery, the widow of another Hertfordshire landowner, Robert Newport. As the daughter and eventual coheir of Sir John Lee, sometime steward of Edward III’s household, she had inherited an extensive estate in Essex and Hertfordshire worth over £70 a year. This, together with her dower lands, made her an extremely valuable prize, although Durham died soon after the marriage took place. The Essex properties for which he owed homage in 1418 almost certainly belonged to Margery, who also brought him the manor of Furneux Pelham in Hertfordshire, where he spent his last days.8
Durham obtained a royal pardon in May 1398, but there is nothing to suggest that this was any more than a formality. Even so, he and John Ludwick, who sat with him in the Parliament of 1399, had particular reason to welcome the Lancastrian usurpation. Less than a month after coming to the throne, Henry IV made the two men farmers of the manor of Weston in Hertfordshire at an annual rent of £41 payable during the minority of Thomas, earl of Nottingham. Their mainpernors at the Exchequer were Sir Philip Thornbury* — Durham’s son-in-law — and Nicholas Carew* (whose first wife was Ludwick’s stepdaughter), for whom they in turn acted as sureties at this time.9 Ludwick and Durham may already have been members of the royal household, but the first reference to them as esquires of the body occurs in the following February, when they were each awarded annuities of £20 from the revenues of Essex and Hertfordshire. Durham’s fee was confirmed to him by Henry V at the beginning of his reign. Meanwhile, in July 1401, he and Ludwick were among the leading members of the Hertfordshire gentry to be summoned to a session of the great council at Westminster. They were again called as from the same county to attend another such meeting two years later, although when, in October 1402, Henry IV approached certain prominent members of the country gentry for loans, Durham was associated with Thomas Charlton† and Sir Adam Francis* of Middlesex.10 Sir Adam was one of the many local landowners to include Durham among his feoffees-to-uses, so that by 1412 he figured as a party to property transactions throughout London and the home counties.11
Although he never became a sheriff and only sat briefly on the Middlesex bench, Durham played an active part in local government. Besides serving on a number of royal commissions and collecting taxes at various times in his life, he attended the Middlesex county elections to the Parliament of 1406 (when he stood surety for the shire knight, Sir John Wroth), and was also present in April 1413 when the Hertfordshire electors met to choose their parliamentary representatives. During this period he began two lawsuits — one concerning the theft of grain from his granges at Great Munden, and the other an act of trespass at some unknown place in Surrey — but in both cases the defendants were pardoned their outlawry for not appearing in court.12
Durham died between 22 Sept. and 15 Oct. 1420, leaving a substantial estate, part of which was set aside to finance pious works in memory of his first two wives, Joan and Agnes, and his great friend, John Ludwick. To his kinsman, Thomas Frowyk*, a devotee of the chase, he left his best hunter, but the bulk of his possessions was shared between his widow and his only daughter, Margaret, the wife of Sir Philip Thornbury. The couple were subsequently obliged to bring an action in Chancery for the recovery of part of Margaret’s inheritance, since one of Durham’s feoffees refused to relinquish his hold on the property.13
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: (de) Derham, Dunelm, Duram, Duresme and Durum.
- 1. Corporation of London RO, hr 97/3, 144/42; PCC 49 Marche; London Rec. Soc. i. no. 266; Cal. Letter Bk. London, G, 239; Cal. P. and M. London, 1364-81, pp. 170-1; CCR, 1385-9, p. 652; CCR, 1385-9, p. 67; VCH Herts. iv. 101.
- 2. S.L. Thrupp, Merchant Class Med. London, 338; Corporation of London RO, hr 97/3; VCH Mdx. v. 283.
- 3. Cal. P. and M. London, 1364-81, p. 206; CCR, 1377-81, pp. 467-8; C219/8/5.
- 4. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 293; CCR, 1385-9, p