GERARD, Sir Thomas (d.1416), of Ashton-in-Makerfield, Lancs. and Kingsley, Cheshire.
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Family and Education
Sheriff, Lancs. 19 Nov. 1399-22 July 1401.2
Commr. of array, Lancs. Mar. 1400, Aug. 1402, May 1405; inquiry Jan. 1401 (seizure of property belonging to the Minorites of Lanvas), Aug. 1412 (dispute over the manor of Walton);3 to prevent the spread of treasonous rumours May 1402; assemble and lead men against the northern rebels July 1403; make an arrest July 1411.
J.p. Lancs. Feb. 1404, July 1413.4
On the death of Sir Peter Gerard in 1380, his elder son, Thomas, succeeded to an impressive inheritance which comprised both the Gerard and Brynn estates, the latter having been acquired by his family through his grandfather’s marriage to Joan, the daughter and in her issue sole heiress of Peter Brynn. These properties included the manors of Ashton-in-Makerfield, Brynn, Windle, Brindle, Anderton, Melling and Kirkby, together with land in Rainhill, Lancashire; while from the Gerards themselves came holdings in the Cheshire villages of Frodsham, Ledsham, Kingsley, Nether Bradley, Catenhall, Hawarden and Eton. Thomas also acquired the manor of Skelmersdale and other extensive possessions in Eccleston, Sutton, Grimshaw and Rainford, thus bringing the value of his Lancashire estates alone up to at least £148 p.a. by the time of his own death. Although he was still technically a minor when his father died, Thomas obtained permission from Joan, the widow of the Black Prince (his feudal overlord as earl of Chester), to take immediate control of his inheritance in Cheshire and also to arrange his own marriage. This concession caused some confusion, since orders had already been issued by the Crown for the seizure of Sir Peter’s estates; and it was not until 1393 that Thomas obtained an official pardon for contravening a government directive. He had, moreover, to pay almost £14 for the King’s goodwill, his fealty being taken by the chamberlain of Chester in the following year.5
By August 1383 Thomas had not only come of age but had also married, settling upon trustees the land in Windle and Rainhill which he presumably intended as a jointure for his wife. One of these men was John Fairfax, the rector of Prescot, who stood as godfather to Thomas’s son, and who later joined with him in acting as a feoffee of the manor of Middleton in Lancashire. Fairfax chose Thomas to supervise the execution of his will, which he made in June 1393, leaving him in return a silver ‘trussyng coppe’ and promising his wife, Maud, a gold ring and the brooch which he himself wore over his vestments. Meanwhile, in March 1384, Thomas served as a juror at the inquisition post mortem held on Sir Thomas Lathom of Knowsley. Although he still lacked administrative experience, his position as a landowner amply qualified him to represent Lancashire in Parliament, and a few weeks later he travelled to Salisbury to take his seat in the House of Commons for the first time. If a series of royal letters of protection accorded to him over the next five years is any guide, Thomas spent a good deal of this time defending the castles of Berwick-upon-Tweed and Roxburgh against enemy attack. We are told that he was knighted for his bravery in the wars against the Scots, and, whatever the truth of these assertions, he had definitely assumed the rank of knight by September 1386, when he was appointed to take the depositions of local gentlemen concerning the conflicting claims of Richard, Lord Scrope, and Sir Robert Grosvenor to bear the same coat of arms. Sir Thomas again sat on a jury in March 1387, this time during an investigation into the outlawry of Richard Atherton. He and the latter’s kinsman, Sir William Atherton, had recently joined with Alan Parr and several other local landowners in offering bonds to the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, perhaps on Richard’s behalf. Save for his return to the two Parliaments of February 1388 and 1394, Sir Thomas seems to have avoided any further official commitments, and comparatively little evidence has survived about him during the latter half of Richard II’s reign. In 1390 he settled the manor of Ledsham upon his younger brother, John (d.1433), for life, offsetting these lost revenues of about £4 p.a. through the purchase of land in Goldborne, Lancashire. Later in the decade he gave evidence at another inquisition, and also witnessed the settlement of a boundary dispute for the prior of Burscough; but his life was otherwise spent in virtual retirement, perhaps for political reasons.6
There can certainly be no doubt as to the sudden change in Sir Thomas’s circumstances which followed upon the Lancastrian coup d’état of 1399. He was, indeed, a protagonist in the dramatic events of that summer, being present at Ravenspur in July to welcome Henry of Bolingbroke on his return from exile, and supplying him with a personal retinue at the Parliament which met two months later to ratify his seizure of the throne. The expenses of £83 6s.8d. subsequently paid to Sir Thomas suggest that his following was quite large; and although there is no evidence of any previous connexion between him and Bolingbroke, the latter clearly had good reason to trust his loyalty. Sir Thomas’s appointment as sheriff of Lancashire within weeks of the coronation reflects the confidence felt by Henry IV in his new retainer, as does the award to him of £13 6s.8d. p.a. for life, payable from local revenues. During his term of office, Sir Thomas was excused almost half the farm of the county, this being a rather more generous allowance than usual. He also took the opportunity to settle old scores, demanding the payment of debts totalling £100 from Geoffrey Bulde, and also accusing a servant of theft. He was himself summoned as defendant in a lawsuit over the ownership of land in Wigan, but not surprisingly the Lancaster jury returned a verdict in his favour. While the court was in session, in August 1401, Sir Thomas offered bail for Sir William Atherton’s brother, Sir Nicholas*, who then stood charged with murder, and whom he probably helped to acquit. He and Sir William were then involved in financial transactions with Sir John Stanley, so the bond between their two families had evidently remained quite strong.7
Another of Sir Thomas’s intimates was Sir John Boteler* of Warrington, his feudal overlord at Windle and an associate on various juries and commissions. By April 1402 a marriage had been arranged between Sir Thomas’s son and heir, John, and Boteler’s daughter, Alice, whose jointure was to comprise the manor of Nether Bradley and other estates in Cheshire to the value of 20 marks a year. Boteler did not live to supervise these arrangements, which were probably finalized by his son and heir, Sir William*. Our Member certainly remained close to the young man, witnessing the settlement made on his second marriage one year later. As an active supporter of the new regime, Sir Thomas took to the field in both 1403 and 1405 against the Percys and the other northern rebel lords who sought to depose Henry IV, once again placing his own retinue at the King’s disposal. His life had resumed a more peaceful course by the spring of 1406, when he became a trustee of the Cheshire estates of his neighbour, Sir Thomas Ardern; and not long afterwards he sat on another jury at the Lancaster assizes. By March 1411, Sir Thomas had become embroiled in a dispute with Sir John Bulde (perhaps in consequence of his earlier brush with Geoffrey, now a convicted traitor), who then agreed to settle his differences at a ‘love-day’ at Maghull parish church. The event must have made a great impression on the local people, since it was still remembered two decades later. Although he did not apparently serve as a shire knight after 1394, Sir Thomas attended the elections for Lancashire to the Parliaments of 1411, 1413 (May) and 1414 (Nov.). The last of these took place at Lancaster on 15 Oct. 1414, and involved an unusually large number of prominent local gentry, who rode to Wigan on the following day for the public announcement of an agreement between Sir Thomas and Ralph Standish, another adversary of some years’ duration. The quarrel between them and their families over the advowson of Wigan church had reached such a pitch that Henry V himself had intervened (together with Thomas Langley, a Lancashire man by birth, then bishop of Durham) in the hope of reaching a settlement, taking securities of 1,000 marks from each of the parties as an earnest of their readiness to accept arbitration. During the meeting at Wigan precise arrangements were made with regard to the names of arbitrators, the release of legal actions and the exchange of further securities, although, in fact, no permanent settlement seems to have been made in Sir Thomas’s lifetime. Not until the marriage, many years later, of Standish’s son to Sir Thomas’s grand daughter was a lasting solution finally achieved.8
Sir Thomas Gerard died on 27 Mar. 1416, leaving all his estates to his son, John, who was then over 30 years old. The latter served in France during the reign of Henry VI, becoming captain of the ‘Lancastre tour’ in the port of Calais.9
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. J. Foster, Lancs. Peds. sub Gerard of Bryn; Chetham Soc. xcv. 123-4; Lancs. Feet of Fines, iii. 18; G. Ormerod, Palatine and City of Chester ed. Helsby, ii (1), 96, 131-2; Scrope v. Grosvenor, i. 288.
- 2. Somerville, Duchy, i. 461.
- 3. VCH Lancs. iii. 25.
- 4. DKR, xl. 532; Chetham Soc. n.s. xcvi. 70.