FITZNICHOL, Sir Thomas (c.1354-1418), of Hill, near Berkeley, Glos.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b.c.1354, s. of Reynold Fitznichol and gds. and h. of John Fitznichol of Hill. m. (1) bef. June 1380, Margery, coh. of Filton, Glos., 2da.; (2) between July 1396 and July 1397, Agnes (d. bef. June 1417), wid. of William Oliver of London, skinner. Kntd. by June 1380.
Commr. to put down rebellion, Glos. Mar., Dec. 1382; of inquiry, Bristol Feb. 1386 (concealments), Herefs., Worcs. Mar. 1387 (smuggling), Glos. Mar. 1387 (felonies), Glos., Worcs. Dec. 1391 (salmon poaching), Glos., Herefs., Wilts. Feb. 1405 (goods forfeited by James Clifford* and Anselm Guise), Glos. June 1406 (concealments); array Mar. 1392, Sept., Nov. 1403, May 1415; to recruit men to serve under Edmund, earl of Stafford Aug. 1402; raise royal loans, Glos., Herefs. June 1406; of oyer and terminer, Glos. June 1413.
Sheriff, Glos. 24 Nov. 1382-1 Dec. 1383.
Steward of the earl of Stafford’s estates, Glos. by 1388-9.1
Coroner, Glos. 1 Feb. 1392-5.2
Tax collector, Glos. Mar., Nov. 1404.
The Fitznichols were directly descended from Nicholas Fitzrobert, the second son of Robert, 1st Lord Berkeley (1115-70). Among the estates settled by Berkeley on Nicholas and his heirs were the manors of Hill and Nymphsfield in Gloucestershire and land at Tickenham, Somerset, and these duly passed to Thomas Fitznichol on the death of his grandfather in July 1375. His enjoyment of his inheritance was troubled only by a lawsuit brought in 1382 by a distant kinswoman, Joan, wife of Sir Edward Seymour, which resulted in the loss of the property at Tickenham.3 Through his first marriage Fitznichol acquired moieties of the manors of Filton and Harry Stoke, also in Gloucestershire, which he leased out for an annual rent of 18 marks. In 1383 he made an entail of Hill and Nymphsfield and the advowson of the chantry of Kynley, settling these properties on the issue of himself and his wife, with remainder to certain kinsmen, including Sir John Berkeley I* of Beverstone; but in 1397 after his second marriage this entail was altered so that Hill would fall after the deaths of himself and his new wife to any male issue they might have, with remainder to his daughters by his first marriage. As her dower, Fitznichol’s second wife (the widow of a London alderman) brought him property in the London parish of St. Stephen, Walbrook, and in Gracechurch Street, besides other holdings in Lewisham, Kent, but Fitznichol sold these soon after. In 1412 his estates in Gloucestershire had an estimated value of £60 a year.4
As a young man Fitznichol probably spent some time abroad on military service, one such journey taking him overseas in the summer of 1380 in the retinue of Sir Robert Knolles. He had already been knighted. Two years later, not yet 30, he served on his first royal commissions at home in Gloucestershire, and in the autumn of 1382 he was elected by his native county to the first of no fewer than 15 Parliaments. Appointed sheriff shortly after the dissolution of this Parliament, Fitznichol then had the temerity to return himself to both Parliaments summoned in 1383, thus contravening the statute which prohibited the election of sheriffs. It was perhaps his prominent position in Gloucestershire, where the earls of Stafford held substantial estates, which led to his connexion with the young Earl Thomas and his appointment as the latter’s steward in the county. He came into close contact with members of the earl’s staff: in January 1387 he stood surety at the Exchequer when the earl (still a minor) was granted with Sir Nicholas Stafford* and others custody of part of his inheritance; and four years later he provided similar securities on behalf of Nicholas Bradshawe, the receiver-general of the Stafford estates. A connexion of greater political implication was that which Fitznichol formed with Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel. In 1388, when Arundel and his fellow Lords Appellant were in control of the government, he named Fitznichol as one of the trustees of his reversionary interest in a manor in Norfolk, and seven years later, in February 1395 (during Fitznichol’s seventh Parliament), he appointed him as a feoffee of his lordships of Chirk and Chirksland in the marches of Wales, as well as of his principal London residence. In the following year Fitznichol was party to transactions in the capital whereby Arundel’s niece, Philippa, widow of Sir Richard Cergeaux*, made a quitclaim of most of the estates belonging to the earldom. The absence of Fitznichol’s name from royal commissions set up in Gloucestershire after 1391, and his removal from the coronership in 1395 on the unlikely pretext that ‘he has not his abode in Gloucestershire’, should perhaps be viewed in the context of this personal association with Arundel. Certainly, his links with the earl proved expensive: in 1397-8 Richard II exacted substantial payments in return for general pardons, some of these fines being clearly intended as punishment for support offered to the Appellants of 1387-8; and Fitznichol himself was required to pay £100 in November 1397 (after Arundel’s execution) and a further £50 in March 1398, expressly ‘pro mora sua penes Ricardum comitem Arundell’.5
It seems likely that Fitznichol lent Henry of Bolingbroke active military support on his ‘coming into England’ in the summer of 1399, for, as it transpired later, at that time he took out of the possession of Eleanor, Lady Welles, certain valuable ornaments (including a mirror set in a gold frame studded with jewels, two chaplets of red velvet adorned with pearls, and a golden collar of the livery of the duke of Norfolk—Lady Welles’s brother and at one time Bolingbroke’s enemy), all of which he had then handed over to Henry in person. Fitznichol was elected to the Parliament which confirmed Richard II’s deposition and acclaimed Henry’s accession. His movements in January 1400 at the time of the earls’ rebellion against the new King, are uncertain, but he cannot have been far from the scene, for at Cirencester on the 7th he personally removed from the body of the earl of Kent (who had just been lynched by the townspeople) his scarlet gown trimmed with miniver, five gold rings set with precious stones and worth 100 marks, and an unknown quantity of gold coins. Three weeks later he was also in possession of 48 swans which had belonged to the traitorous earl of Salisbury.6
Fitznichol’s activities in his remaining years were typical of a man of his standing in local society. He served on important commissions, though never as a j.p.; in 1413 he sat as a magistrate with Chief Justice Hankford, bringing to final judgement the protracted dispute between the abbot and the townspeople of Cirencester; and he witnessed important deeds—doing so, for example, on behalf of his distant kinsman, Thomas, Lord Berkeley. Fitznichol was accompanied to the Commons in 1401 and 1414 by one of his sons-in-law, John Browning, and in 1415 by the other, Robert Poyntz. Despite their differences over an Exchequer lease of property in Hill, Fitznichol’s relations with Poyntz were friendlier than those with Browning, and in 1414 he shared with the former the farm of the Gloucestershire manor of Elmore for which they undertook to pay £16 10s. a year to the Crown. Fitznichol’s last transactions of any importance concerned the sale in July 1418 of the late earl of Arundel’s lordships of Chirk and Chirksland to Henry V.7
Seven years previously Fitznichol had entailed Hill in favour of his elder daughter, Katherine, and her husband Robert Poyntz and their six children, in preference to his Browning grandchildren. Thus, after his death, which occurred on 16 Nov. 1418, John Browning junior (the son of his daughter Eleanor) received only a moiety of his other estates.8
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. N. Saul, Knights and Esquires, 65, 86.
- 2. C242/7/32.
- 3. J. Smyth, Lives of the Berkeleys ed. Maclean, i. 45-49; CFR, viii. 293; CIPM, xiv. 129; Peds. Plea Rolls ed. Wrottesley, 144.
- 4. CP25(1) 78/78/25; CIPM, xv. 303-4; CCR, 1381-5, p. 345; 1402-5, pp. 306-7; C143/402/20; CPR, 1396-9, p. 164; 1399-1401, p. 494; Corporation of London RO, hr 125/52, 128/58, 130/21, 145/22; C115/K2/6682 ff. 37d-39.
- 5. C76/64 m. 2; C219/8/8, 9; CFR, x. 167; xi. 20; CCR, 1392-6, pp. 72, 84, 333; 1422-9, p. 221; CPR, 1391-6, p. 548; Bull IHR, xli. 8; Corporation of London RO, hr 123/67.
- 6. CPR, 1405-8, p. 277; CIMisc. vii. 41, 107.
- 7. Cat. Muns. Berkeley Castle ed. Jeayes, 180, 182; Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. ix. 337; CPR, 1405-8, p. 246; 1416-22, p. 172; Kalendars and Inventories ed. Palgrave ii. 187-8; CFR, xiv. 65.
- 8. CPR, 1408-13, p. 271; C138/34/44; CCR, 1413-19, p. 493; 1419-22, p. 158; CFR, xiv. 269-70.