GREENHAM, Thomas (b.1399), of Ketton, Rutland and Maid's Moreton, Bucks.
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Family and Education
Commr. to distribute a tax allowance, Rutland Dec. 1433, Feb. 1434, May 1437; compile a list of gentry liable to take the oath not to support persons breaking the peace Jan., May 1434; raise royal loans Feb. 1436.
Tax collector, Rutland Jan. 1436.
J.p. Rutland 20 Nov. 1436-7.
The date of Greenham’s birth is given variously as either October or December 1399, although all the sources agree that he was born and christened at South Luffenham. One of his godparents, Nicholas Greenham, parson of Seaton in Rutland, was probably a kinsman, while another, Elizabeth Oudeby, belonged to an influential county family which provided Rutland with two parliamentary representatives during our period alone. As a younger son with no inheritance of his own, Greenham’s father had few prospects at this time, although the sudden death, in November 1408, of his young nephew, John, who was heir to the family estates, led to a dramatic improvement in his position. The manors of Ketton and Maid’s Moreton then reverted to him, and it was no doubt because of his new status as a landowner that he became sheriff of Rutland in November 1410. His death in office, while still a comparatively young man, led the Crown to assert its right to the wardship of the Greenham estates for the second time in less than four years: Thomas was at first entrusted to the custody of Joan, Henry IV’s queen, but in April 1413 she either sold or gave her interest in him and his inheritance to Nicholas Bubwith, bishop of Bath and Wells. The death of Margery Burton, the elderly daughter of Thomas Greenham† (d.1376) of Ketton, one year later further increased the boy’s value as a ward, since he immediately succeeded to her three manors of Upton, Sibthorpe and Denton in Huntingdonshire. Bubwith presented to the last of these livings in 1421, thus deriving some personal benefit from his ward’s good fortune.2
Greenham had barely reached the age of 21 when he was first returned to Parliament, perhaps through the influence of his former guardian. He did not take formal seisin of his inheritance until June 1423, by which date all the necessary official documents, including an inquisition post mortem on his father’s estates and a proof of his own age, had been completed. He clearly remained on friendly terms with Bubwith, being present as a witness at the manor of Wookey in Somerset when, in October 1424, the bishop drew up his will.3 Not much else is known about him at this time, since it was not until much later that he began to play any significant part in local government. In May 1430 he settled all his estates upon a group of feoffees, who confirmed him in possession some three years later. Having by then decided to dispose of some of his property outside Rutland, he immediately sold the manor of Maid’s Moreton, and at a rather late date put Denton on the market. It has been suggested that by 1438 Greenham and his wife were faced with serious financial problems, yet no real evidence has survived to substantiate this view, and we are left with little more than a few hints at possible indebtedness. Between May 1432 and December 1433, for example, he entered three separate bonds worth £5 payable to members of the Wymbush family and others, perhaps as security for money which he had borrowed from them. A royal pardon for outlawry awarded to Greenham in January 1436 reveals that he had been sued for a further debt of £20 at some earlier date: this may in part account for his anxiety to raise money, but it is unlikely to have prompted him to sell an entire manor.4
Although he served on a number of important royal commissions, Greenham spent only one year on the local bench; and it is interesting to note that in February 1438, shortly after he ceased to be a j.p., he and some of his neighbours were accused of poaching on Ralph, Lord Cromwell’s estates near Ketton. He at first refused to appear before the crown commissioners appointed to investigate the charge, but he eventually surrendered himself to one of their number at Northampton castle, where he underwent a brief period of imprisonment. The sentence of outlawry passed against him once again proved short lived, for in the following October he managed to secure another royal pardon. He is last mentioned in 1439, by which time he a