GERBERGE, Sir Thomas (c.1342-c.1413), of Marlingford, Norf.
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Family and Education
b.c.1342. m. (1) ?Mary, da. of Jordan Maxfield, 1da.; (2) bef. Apr. 1383, Elizabeth (d.1402), da. and coh. of Sir Robert Wachesham† of Wortham, Suff. and Marlingford by Joan, da. of Simon Hethersett of Hethersett, Norf., wid. of John Berry of ‘Orwellbury’, Hefts.; (3) bef. Feb. 1412, Cecily (d.1419), da. and coh. of John Bretoun of Witchingham, Norf. by Mary, da. of Sir Hamon Felton† of Litcham, wid. of Thomas Gardener, junior (d.1391), of Gissing, and of Sir Thomas Genney (d.c.1403) of Brandiston. Kntd. bef. Oct. 1381.
Commr. to put down rebellion, Mar., Dec. 1382; of inquiry, Suff. May 1401 (sedition); array, Norf. Nov. 1403.
Steward of the household and estates of Edmund of Langley, duke of York, by Nov. 1386-Aug. 1402.
Tax collector, Norf. Mar. 1404.
Members of the Gerberge family, who owned a manor at Thorley in Hertfordshire, had represented that county in Parliament earlier in the 14th century. In Norfolk they held two manors in Wood Norton and another in Yaxham, all of which came into the possession of the Sir Thomas Gerberge who died in 1374 and were then, for the following 15 years or longer, held by his widow Alice. That our Sir Thomas was closely related to his older namesake is clear from his involvement in 1389 in transactions relating to these family properties, when the heir, William, son of Sir Roger Gerberge† and probably nephew of the older Sir Thomas, entered into recognizances in 2,000 marks payable to him, and he himself was bound in 1,000 marks to Alice’s second husband, Stephen Wyvele. But there is no evidence that our Member came into any part of the family estates through inheritance. True, in later years he did secure possession of one of the Gerberge manors in Wood Norton, but this was as a consequence of his marriage to the widow of Sir Thomas Genney, who had purchased it in 1394 and settled it on his wife as jointure.1 Indeed, it would appear that nearly all of Gerberge’s landed holdings were acquired through marriage. His second wife, Elizabeth Wachesham, brought him her inheritance: manors at Marlingford (Norfolk), Wortham and Stanstead (Suffolk), which he seems to have retained after her death in 1402.2 His third wife, Cecily Bretoun, was descended on her mother’s side from the old and worthy Norfolk family of Felton; and although she had sold the Felton manor of Litcham before her marriage to Gerberge, she still brought him, as Genney’s widow, her jointure in manors at Guton, Guist, Swannington and Wood Norton as well as a number of other properties, all of which she and Gerberge put into the hands of trustees in 1412 in return for an annual rent of £41 6s.8d.3
Gerberge’s career as a soldier had begun by June 1380 when he took out royal letters of protection as about to join the earl of Buckingham’s forces embarking for Brittany, and it was presumably while there, as a member of the retinue of Thomas, Lord Morley, that he was knighted. In March 1383 he was appointed as one of the harbingers to provide quarters for the men serving in Bishop Despenser’s army on its passage through Kent for the invasion of Flanders, and he himself may well have taken part in that disastrous ‘crusade’. Certainly, a year later he was recorded in association with William Elmham*, one of the leaders of the expedition. It was again while following the banner of Lord Morley that Gerberge joined the army which Richard II led into Scotland in 1385. However, some of his military service may have been undertaken in the retinue of Edmund of Langley, duke of York, by whom he was employed for some 16 years as steward of his household and estates, having been promoted to these posts some time after the death of the former steward, Sir Roger Welesham†, in 1383, and before November 1386 when he received money at the Exchequer on his lord’s behalf. As a Member of the Commons in the Parliament then in session, Gerberge may have supported the attacks on the faction close to the King, for Edmund of Langley was at that time in sympathy with his younger brother, the duke of Gloucester. On 9 May 1388 York formally confirmed that Gerberge had been retained by him for life to serve as steward, receiving as his fee 40 marks a year from the issues of Somerford Keynes (Wiltshire) and 4s. daily when he was working on his lord’s business, as well as ‘bouche de court’ for himself, an esquire and two yeomen and provender for four horses. It was understood that Gerberge would go overseas in the duke’s retinue if required to do so. He was to remain steward of York’s estates until the duke’s death in 1402, but at some unknown date before then the post of steward of the ducal household was assigned to Piers de Mavav. Before he died York also granted Gergerbe an annuity of £20 charged on Anstey castle (Hertfordshire).4
The position which Gerberge held in the counsels of the King’s uncle encouraged many of the gentry of East Anglia to seek him out for service as a trustee of estates or, as happened very frequently, as a mainpernor. Among those for whom he acted in the former capacity were Sir Thomas Genney (another of Edmund of Langley’s retainers, whose widow he was later to marry) and Sir William Wingfield’s* stepson, Ellis Francis of London. He made appearances at the Exchequer for various custodians of alien priories as well as for the guardian of the estates of William Hanningfield* of Essex, while in Chancery he provided securities on different occasions for Thomas Peverel, bishop of Llandaff, Thomas, Lord Morley, Sir Thomas Hengrave of Suffolk and Sir John Colville* of Cambridgeshire. Then, too, he stood surety for Rustin Villeneuve*, another retainer of the duke of York, in connexion with the action for divorce Villeneuve was made to bring against his wife.5 Certain of Gerberge’s recorded transactions were evidently undertaken in his capacity as the duke of York’s steward: for instance, in the 1390s he was party to recognizances in sums amounting to nearly £1,900 with York’s elder brother, the duke of Lancaster, and in May 1397 he assisted Duke Edmund and his son Edward, earl of Rutland, to make grants in mortmain to the new chapel of St. Mary at Wakefield (Yorkshire). Gerberge’s purchase of a royal pardon in June 1398 possibly had little to do with the current political situation; at that time he was facing personal actions for debt brought by Robert Ashcombe*, the London embroiderer, and two London drapers, one of whom was Walter Gawtron*; and a pardon would have proved useful in halting the proceedings. It may be presumed that he gave active assistance to the duke of York in his duties as Warden of the realm during Richard II’s absence in Ireland in the spring and summer of 1399, but no record of his movements at that time has been found.6
Gerberge was among the knights summoned from Norfolk to attend great councils convened by Henry IV in 1401 and 1403. He had been named as an executor in the duke of York’s will made on 25 Nov. 1400, and it was no doubt on his behalf that he joined with Archbishop Arundel and the earl of Rutland in November and December 1401 as a recipient of recognizances in large sums of money from certain men of Huntingdonshire. Then, in February 1402, he was party to an agreement for the surrender of the castle of Fronsac to Rutland, the latter then officiating as the King’s lieutenant in Aquitaine. There is, however, no evidence that after Duke Edmund’s death six months later Gerberge offered his services to the heir, although in April 1405, following Duke Edward’s arrest for involvement in the plot to kidnap the young Mortimers, he prudently obtained royal confirmation of the annuities he had continued to receive from the ducal estates.7
The executorship of Edmund of Langley’s will caused Gerberge so much trouble that he and his fellow executors petitioned the Parliament of 1406 for protection against the duke’s creditors, complaining that many of their difficulties arose from the Crown’s indebtedness to the duke and from bad assignments issued at the Exchequer. On 3 Apr. they were granted this protection for a period of three years. But Gerberge was unable to escape from actions for debt brought against him as an individual: a year later, in March 1407, he was outlawed at the suit of a Northampton draper, and goods to the value of £200 were confiscated from him; and on 13 July 1409 he obtained pardon for his failure to appear in court to answer a number of creditors, including the abbot of Croyland and a skinner, a jeweller and a draper from London, to whom he owed a total of £189. It is unclear whether these debts had been run up on Gerberge’s own account or were for items purchased for the household of the late duke of York, but in either case they are clear signs of financial mismanagement on his part. As York’s executor, Sir Thomas obtained further protection from prosecution on 5 May 1410, to last another three years.8
Gerberge attended the Norfolk elections to the Parliaments of 1411 and 1413 (May), on both occasions heading the list of witnesses to the indentures. He probably died shortly after the latter date, and was buried next to his second wife, Elizabeth, in the Carmelite priory at Norwich.9 His widow made her will on 28 Feb. 1419 and died before 10 May following. Gerberge’s only daughter, Alice, the child of his first marriage, had been wedded to (Sir) Edmund Berry (d.1433), the son of his second wife by a previous husband. Their daughter, Agnes Berry, was to become well known to posterity as t