GODARD, Sir John (c.1346-1392), of Bransholme, Yorks.
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Family and Education
b.c.1346. m. by Dec. 1384, Constance (d. June 1401), e. da. and coh. of Thomas, 3rd Lord Sutton of Holderness (d.c.1384) by his w. Agnes (d. Mar. 1395), da. of Sir John Hothom of Scorborough; wid. of Peter, 4th Lord Mauley (c.1331-Mar. 1383), 2s. 3da. Kntd. by Dec. 1384.1
J.p. Yorks. (E. Riding) 16 Feb. 1386-d.
Escheator, Yorks. 30 Nov. 1387-8.
Commr. to restore clergy of Beverley, Yorks. to their livings Mar. 1388; suppress the writings of John Wycliffe, Yorks. Apr. 1388; make arrests Oct. 1389, Feb. 1392; of inquiry, Yorks. (E. Riding) Feb. 1389 (assault), Feb. 1389 (extortions and oppressions), May 1389 (lands of John Lokton), Aug. 1389 (wastes on the same), Nov. 1389 (claims of Michael de la Pole to inherit his late father’s estates), May 1390 (trespasses), Yorks., Northumb., Westmld., Cumb. Dec. 1390 (extortion); oyer and terminer, Yorks. Mar., Dec. 1390 (enforce Statute of Weirs); array (E. Riding) Mar. 1392.
Sheriff, Yorks. 1 Dec. 1388-15 Nov. 1389.
The Godards were fairly modest landowners with property in the Yorkshire village of Orton in Ribblesdale, and it may well be that John was a younger son with few prospects of inheritance. He was certainly attracted by the opportunities of military service, first bearing arms in 1367, when he was about 21, in the expedition which Edward, the Black Prince, and John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, led to Spain in support of Peter I of Castile (Pedro the Cruel). He was present at the celebrated battle of Najera in April of that year, and from then onwards he became involved in various foreign expeditions, travelling as far afield as Prussia and the Holy Land, and also fighting ‘en les guerrez en la compaigne del duk de Duras outre Venize’. Not all his time was spent abroad, however, and by September 1379 he had become friendly with Peter, 4th Lord Mauley, one of the wardens of the east march, for whom he then offered securities as the farmer of certain estates held by the Crown. Mauley died in March 1383, not long before Godard set out for Scotland in the retinue of John of Gaunt, from whom he probably received his knighthood. On his return he was fortunate enough to secure the hand of Mauley’s widow, Constance, whose share of her husband’s estates, together with her own impressive patrimony, brought him considerable wealth and influence. A royal pardon excusing the couple from marrying without first being granted the necessary licence was entered on the patent rolls in December 1384, from which date Sir John’s finances began rapidly and dramatically to improve. It was, indeed, through his wife and her family, the Suttons, that he established himself in a prominent position among the Yorkshire gentry, and was thus able to embark upon a career in local administration.2
On the death, without issue, of his elder brother, John, Lord Sutton of Holderness, in 1356, Sir Thomas Sutton had not only succeeded to the family title, but had also gained control of extensive estates centred upon the manors of Atwick, Bransholme, Sutton and Southcotes to the north-east of Kingston-upon-Hull. He died in about 1384, leaving three daughters, who divided the inheritance between them. Not long after her marriage to Sir John Godard, Constance, the eldest, received her purparty, which, at a conservative estimate, produced approximately £88 a year, and also provided her with an impressive residence at Bransholme castle, the ancestral seat of the Suttons. The value of other holdings at Barrow-on-Humber in Lincolnshire, likewise assigned to her at this time, is not now known, although they were clearly worth a good deal. Constance’s former husband, Lord Mauley, had, moreover, settled upon her a substantial part of his own estates by way of jointure, thus more than doubling the size of her landed income. At her death, in 1401, she held the East Riding manors of Bainton and Bergh, with lucrative appurtenances extending as far up the Yorkshire coast as Hinderwell near Whitby, as well as the manor of Seaton in Cleveland and other properties around Reeth and Grinton, further to the north. All in all, these were worth at least £125 p.a., thus giving Sir John and his wife a bare minimum of £213 a year in net revenues. Unfortunately for Godard and his children, however, both the Mauley and the Sutton estates were already entailed upon the heirs male of the late Lord Mauley, and it was, no doubt, to provide his own issue with a competent livelihood that Sir John used some of his wife’s income to buy land and rents in Lund (near Beverley in Yorkshire) and Cockerington and Conisholme (near Louth in Lincolnshire). As early as 1386 he leased the manor of Lund from William, Lord Botreaux, for a term of four years, and his purchases there probably took place during, or just after, the tenancy. In the event, the Mauley line died out in 1415, so Sir John’s elder son came into a far larger inheritance than expected, although he had previously been dependent upon his father’s shrewd investments.3
Meanwhile, in the summer of 1385, Sir John took part in Richard II’s own expedition against the Scots. The venture proved something of a fiasco, although Godard himself established a useful connexion with the Court which was to stand him in good stead later. Recognition of his new-found wealth and status came in the following February, with his appointment to the bench in the East Riding, and not long afterwards he was returned to Parliament. It was early in the session, on 12 Oct. 1386, that he gave evidence at St. Margaret’s church, Westminster, on behalf of Richard, Lord Scrope, who was then involved in a dispute with Sir Robert Grosvenor over the right to bear the same coat of arms. Sir John’s appointment as sheriff of Yorkshire in December 1388, just one day after surrendering the escheatorship, suggests that he may have sided with the Lords Appellant, who, in the Merciless Parliament earlier that year had secured control of the King’s government and were still in power. Even so, when Richard II eventually reasserted himself, Sir John supported him; and in February 1392 he became a King’s knight. He had just repr