FREVILLE, William (c.1396-1460), of Little Shelford, Cambs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b.c.1396, s. of Thomas Freville (d.1400) of Little Shelford by his w. Margaret (d.1410). m. (1) prob. bef. Nov. 1417, Anne, da. and coh. of John Wolverstone by Elizabeth, da. and h. of Robert Fitzralph of Holbrook and Tattingstone, Suff., 1s. William; (2) Margaret.

Offices Held

Escheator, Cambs. and Hunts. 26 Nov. 1431-5 Nov. 1432.

Commr. of array, Cambs. Jan. 1436.


One branch of the Freville family, which had come to England shortly after the Conquest, settled at Tamworth in Warwickshire; another, to which this MP belonged, acquired in the 13th century, through marriage to the heiress of a moiety of the barony of Scalers, the valuable manors of Caxton and West Wratting in Cambridgeshire and Little Munden in Hertfordshire, to which it later added Little Shelford. But by the time William Freville came to inherit the family estates in the early 15th century, they were sadly depleted: Little Munden had been sold, and Caxton and West Wratting had been for over 30 years in the possession of a Freville widow, Agnes Shardelow, whose third husband, William Rees* of Tharston, had succeeded in securing for himself an interest for life. Rees even went so far as to direct his feoffees and executors to sell Caxton to fund the foundation of a chantry in Norwich, and to grant West Wratting to Ely priory; and it was not until after Rees’s death in 1410 that the interest of young Freville as the true heir to these manors was recalled. The alienation of his inheritance averted, the manors concerned were transferred to trustees to hold on his behalf until he should come of age. Financial difficulties in later life may have been the reason why he eventually sold Caxton to John Burgoyne*.1 Freville’s inheritance of Little Shelford was comparatively straightforward: following the death of his father in 1400, his widowed mother had retained the manor-house (where she had a private oratory) until she died in 1410. Two years later the Freville lands, left in the possession of feoffees for the time being, were estimated for the purposes of taxation to be worth £66 13s.4d. a year.2

At inquiries held in 1411 after his mother’s death Freville was said to be 12 years of age, but it seems likely that he was older than this and attained his majority before the autumn of 1417, when he provided securities in Chancery for a gentleman from Tattingstone in Suffolk. He had probably already married Anne Wolverstone, who, as a descendant of Sir John Holbrook, had an interest in the manors of Tattingstone and Holbrook as well as in land at Brantham in the same county. In 1433 the Frevilles and Anne’s sister, Beatrice, wife of Thomas Fulthorp, were to make various settlements of these properties, which appear to have left the Frevilles with but a small share. Certainly, despite his acquisition of other premises in Suffolk, the income Freville derived from land apparently fell during his lifetime, only partly because of his sale of Caxton, so that in 1436 it amounted to little more than £60 a year. Nevertheless, this was a handsome enough sum and one which should have placed Freville in the forefront of the gentry of Cambridgeshire; that he made no appreciable mark in either local or national affairs must be attributed to a certain weakness of character.3

Freville’s name was one of just 12 on the list sent by the j.p.s. for Cambridgeshire to the royal council in January 1420 in response to a request for information about those considered best able to perform military service in the defence of the realm; and immediately after the dissolution of his only known Parliament, that of May 1421, he enlisted in the army about to return to France with the King. Precisely how long he remained overseas is unclear, although ten years were to elapse before he was appointed to any office at home. Freville was among the gentry of Cambridgeshire required in 1434 to take the oath against maintenance of those who broke the peace. In the 1430s he established certain connexions worthy of mention: for instance, he was acquainted with Philip Morgan, bishop of Ely, whose will he witnessed at Bishops Hatfield in 1435, and about two years later he made a good match for his son, William (c.1420-1481), by reaching an agreement with (Sir) Thomas Charlton* of Hillingdon, Middlesex, for the young man to marry Charlton’s daughter. (Freville settled on the couple a third part of the manor and advowson of Little Shelford.)4

Freville lived on until 22 June 1460. He was buried with his two wives in Little Shelford church. Much building had been undertaken there by members of his family; his mother had probably been responsible for the chapel added in the early 15th century, and he himself may well have sponsored the more recent rebuilding of the nave and tower.5

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Cambridge Antiq. Soc. 4to. ser. xiv. 21-22, 23-27, 30-31; CIPM, xiii. 180; VCH Cambs. v. 27-28; vi. 192; viii. 221; CCR, 1422-9, p. 152.
  • 2. CFR, xii. 82; Feudal Aids, i. 175; vi. 409; Ely Diocesan Remembrancer, 1900, p. 178; C137/81/3.
  • 3. CCR, 1413-19, p. 451; 1435-41, p. 160; J. Copinger, Suff. Manors, vi. 64-65, 104; CP25(1)224/115/26, 27; EHR, xlix. 632.
  • 4. E28/97 m. 4; DKR, xliv. 626; CPR, 1429-36, p. 385; 1436-41, p. 95; Reg. Chichele, ii. 531.
  • 5. C139/176/24; Mon. Brasses ed. Mill Stephenson, 65; VCH Cambs. viii. 226.