GODSTONE (GOTHESTON), Thomas (d.1432), of Colchester, Essex.
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Family and Education
High bailiff, Guînes (marches of Picardy) 1 Feb. 1397-d.; victualler of Guînes castle 1 Feb. 1397-Nov. 1413.1
Collector of customs and subsidies, Ipswich 17 Feb. 1397-Oct. 1399, 24 Mar. 1400-Oct. 1401.
Commr. to levy a fine of £2,000, Essex and Herts. Dec. 1397; of inquiry, Picardy bef. Jan. 1399 (property of Marck hospital), Essex Aug. 1417 (Fitzwalter estates); array Mar. 1419; gaol delivery, Colchester June 1423; to recruit mariners, Essex Feb. 1430; assess subsidies Apr. 1431.
Bailiff, Colchester Sept. 1398-9, 1401-2, 1404-5, 1406-7, 1411-12, 1413-14, 1415-16, 1417-18, 1419-20, 1421-2, 1423-4, 1425-6, 1429-30; alderman 1399-1401, 1405-6.2
Alnager, Essex and Herts. 5 May-Oct. 1399, Essex 17 Oct. 1399-July 1400.
Godstone came from Surrey, where his family owned a manor at Chelsham and other properties near Godstone at Bletchingley and Caterham, all of which Thomas was holding at the time of his death.3In November 1396 he obtained with John Bernard, clerk (shortly to be made treasurer of Calais), the farm of the alien priory of Greenwich and Lewisham, sequestered during the war with France, for which they agreed to pay 85 marks a year. Three months later, in February 1397, he was appointed by Richard II as high bailiff of Guînes for life and victualler of the castle there, at the same time being made collector of customs at Ipswich. It was this last office which brought him into contact with the merchants of Colchester, and in October he became a freeman of their borough. His admission coincided with his marriage to a woman with substantial properties in the town, and in April 1398 he and his wife received a papal indult for plenary remission whenever they wished. In the previous January, after the King had claimed the full fee farm from Colchester, Godstone had been one of those chosen to represent the commonalty at the Exchequer, and the first of his 13 terms as bailiff began later that same year. Godstone’s service to the Crown continued: in July 1398 when his farm of Greenwich priory was confirmed it was ‘for long service rendered to the King on this side and beyond the seas’. Earlier he had stood surety at the Exchequer for John Arnold I*, his fellow customer at Ipswich, on his appointment as alnager of Suffolk, and in 1399 he obtained for himself the alnagership of Essex and Hertfordshire. He procured a general pardon in October 1398, and retained his offices right up to the deposition of Richard II. Indeed, Henry IV confirmed him in his Guînes bailivy, and while attending the first Parliament of the reign Godstone obtained renewal of his alnager’s office, at least as regards Essex. His only loss of any importance was that of the farm of Greenwich priory. On 24 Nov., in the week following the dissolution, he was surety at the Exchequer with the Essex shire knight, Thomas Coggeshall, for the latter’s colleague, the Speaker John Doreward. Both Coggeshall and Doreward had just been made members of the new King’s Council.4
In 1401 it was discovered that during the period 1397-9 Godstone, Arnold and John Bernard III* had conspired to defraud the Exchequer of £525 revenue from the customs collected at Ipswich by forging identically their separate accounts as collectors and controller. Arnold informed on his accomplices and the case was heard at the Exchequer in August. Godstone, whose share came to £250, was fined £20 and apparently repaid the whole of the sum embezzled within ten weeks, but he was removed from his collectorship in October and was never re-appointed as a customs official.5 In October 1402, while attending Parliament again, Godstone was granted an Exchequer lease of six acres of land in Colchester. Despite Henry IV’s confirmation of his office at Guînes, Godstone failed to remain aloof from the movements of disaffection which subsequently disturbed the eastern parts of Essex. Along with the abbots of Colchester and St. Osyth, he and other Colchester men were arrested in May 1404 for immediate appearance before the King to answer for conspiracies and treason. But Godstone, unlike the others, was never brought to trial and he retained his royal office at Guînes. During his third term as bailiff of Colchester, which began that autumn, he and his fellow bailiff received instructions from the archbishop of Canterbury to seek out and confiscate all books written in English, this being part of a move to unearth heretical writings by the lollards. Godstone’s arrest was again ordered in February 1407, in connexion with a local dispute over a tenement, and later that year he was being sued for debt in the central courts by Mark le Faire*, the prominent merchant of Winchester.6During the Parliament of 1407 Godstone was one of the recipients of a royal licence to re-establish the guild of St. Helen in St. Cross’s chapel, Colchester. He had been a co-patron of the chapel with fellow burgesses for several years, and some time between 1425 and his death he was to endow a chantry there on behalf of the guild. On the accession of Henry V, his bailiffship at Guînes was confirmed, though later in 1413 he ceased to act as victualler of the castle. In February 1415, with Thomas Francis*, he was bound in a recognizance for £200, guaranteeing that the bailiffs and commonalty of Colchester would abide by arbitration in their disputes with the abbot of St. John’s, Colchester.7
Godstone’s standing in the community led to his frequent employment as a witness, feoffee, surety and executor. At the parliamentary elections of 1406 he had been mainpernor for Henry Boss of Colchester; his wife Christine was asked to be godmother to the elder daughter of John Sumpter* in 1411; and in 1412 he witnessed a conveyance made by Richard, earl of Oxford, to Robert Tey*, esquire and other mortgagees. Godstone had long been on good terms with Tey, and was later to act with him as a co-feoffee of the manor of East Walton, Norfolk (probably on behalf of Sir John Howard*), and for him both as a trustee of the manor of Layer de la Haye, and as an executor of his will. In 1431 he witnessed an enfeoffment made by Anne, countess of Stafford, of lands in Essex. He had attended the shire elections to Parliament held at Chelmsford in 1414 (Nov.) and 1422.8
In his later years Godstone developed his interest in trade. In 1427 and 1428 he obtained royal licences to export grain, and in November 1427 he was engaged in shipping 6,000 fleeces from Faversham (Kent) to Colchester. Another royal licence permitted him to carry pilgrims to St. James of Compostella in his own vessels. Then, in 1430, he was chosen for the royal commission to impress mariners for the manning of ships to help in the safeguarding of the Channel prior to the King’s crossing to France.9
Godstone’s propertied interests in Colchester and elsewhere in Essex were considerable. He held Lexden mill and a tenement called ‘le Bereshall’ near Botolph’s Gate, and from 1402 he had enjoyed a 50-year lease of a derelict water-mill on the river Colne which he rebuilt, paying to the constable of Colchester castle (at that time his friend Robert Tey) an annual rent of one mark. Altogether his estates in Colchester and the vill of St. Lawrence were worth £40 a year, according to the 1412 assessment for the special parliamentary subsidy. But this was by no means the full extent of his holdings in Essex. With his wife he had earlier held the manor of Newhall in Peldon, which they conveyed to a group of men including Sir Gerard Braybrooke II* and John Wakering, clerk, the future bishop of Norwich. Godstone’s wife, who owned much property in Colchester, was dead by September 1425 when her will, dated 11 Dec. 1424, was registered in the borough court. She left Godstone the house where they lived in East Stockwell Street, various other tenements including that in St. Nicholas’s parish in which the town clerk lived, 32 acres at New Hythe and the manor of East Newland. Their son John received the manor of Ramsey, except for 16 acres of land there which went to Christine’s kinsman John Ford III*, and on Godstone’s death all the property was to descend to his two children.10 But both predeceased their father, and after Godstone’s death, which occurred shortly before 7 May 1432, his brother John inherited all his landed possessions in Essex and Surrey. To do so he had to bring an action in Chancery against certain of his late brother’s feoffees, who had included such eminent figures as Lewis Robessart, Lord Bourgchier, and Richard Baynard, the Speaker of 1421 (Dec.).11 John Godstone was subsequently admitted as a freeman of Colchester, although it was probably he (rather than Thomas’s son young John) who had sat for the borough in 1425.
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Authors: K.N. Houghton / L. S. Woodger
- 1. CPR, 1399-1401, p. 62; DKR, xliv. 547, 549; xlviii. 285.
- 2. Cal. Colchester Ct. Rolls ed. Harrod, 1-2; Colchester Moot Hall ct. rolls 31-32, 35.
- 3. VCH Surr. iv. 271; C1/11/67.
- 4. CFR, xi. 197, 255, 275; xii. 22, 28; Colchester Oath Bk. ed. Benham, 17, 85; CPL, v. 127; C67/31 m. 9.
- 5. Speculum, xxx. 230-1.
- 6. CFR, xii. 179-80; CPR, 1401-5, p. 432; EHR, xxix. 101-4; Colchester ct. rolls 35 m. 33, 36 m. 17v; CCR, 1405-9, p. 295.
- 7. CPR, 1405-8, p. 392; HMC Verulam, 2; P. Morant, Essex (Colchester), ii. 50; CCR, 1413-19, p. 201.
- 8. C219/10/3, 11/3, 13/1; CCR, 1409-13, p. 347; 1422-9, pp. 120, 196, 408; 1429-35, p. 162; CPR, 1429-36, p. 64; C139/31/72.
- 9. DKR, xlviii. 244, 255, 259; CPR, 1422-9, p. 457.
- 10. CAD, iii. D552; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 236; Colchester ct. rolls 30 m. 8v, 33 m. 14v, 36 m. 2, 45 m. 39; CPR, 1401-5, p. 189; 1429-36, pp. 205, 333; Colchester Oath Bk. 204, 207; Feudal Aids, vi. 446.
- 11. DKR, xlviii. 285; C1/11/67, 75/38.