HANNINGFIELD, William (1370-1426), of East Hanningfield, Essex and Chadacre in Shimpling, Suff.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. 24 June 1370, s. of William Hanningfield (d.1388), of East Hanningfield ?by his w. Margaret. m. (1) Agnes, 2 ch. d.v.p.; (2) Joan, 3ch. d.v.p.; (3) bef. 1417, Cecily (d.1426), da. and coh. of Roger Welsham (d.1401) of Willisham, Suff. by Margaret, afterwards w. of Sir Robert Berney*, 1s. d.v.p. 6da. (3 d.v.p.).

Offices Held

Commr. of inquiry, Suff. Oct. 1398 (post mortem), Essex, Suff. June 1422 (lands late of John Rookwood); sewers, Thames estuary Nov. 1402; to assess contributions to a subsidy, Essex Jan. 1412; of array, Suff. Apr. 1418, Mar. 1419, June 1421; to raise royal loans Nov. 1419.

J.p. Essex 28 Dec. 1411-May 1412, Suff. 14 Dec. 1417-July 1423.


The Hanningfields lived in Essex, and a namesake and ancestor of our MP was knight of the shire for that county in 1309 and 1313. Our William Hanningfield’s father died in April 1388 when William was still a minor, and the young man’s wardship and marriage were sold by the Crown to John Mandeville. He came of age in 1391, in December receiving livery of his father’s few properties situated in and near Bicknacre in Woodham Ferrers and concentrated at the villages of East, West and South Hanningfield. It is uncertain what lands he inherited in Suffolk, although his father had at one time owned premises in Long Melford, Alpheton and Shimpling. Hanningfield’s inheritance was small; furthermore, the family house was in ruins, and it was estimated that repairs would cost more than £10.1 Yet he soon overcame such early difficulties; and, through income derived from a clearly successful career as a lawyer, he was enabled to improve his property and to add substantially to his landed holdings, eventually becoming an affluent country esquire. Over the years he purchased several properties in Essex: at Bradwell (1399), Mayland, Southminster and Clacton (1402), a manor called ‘Scottys’ in Canewdon and land in West Thurrock (bought in 1403 from a Yorkshireman called Sir John Scot, to whom he paid an annual rent of £40 for the rest of his life), messuages at Wickford, Downham and Runwell (acquired after a lawsuit in 1404), and at Woodham Mortimer (bought in 1413). Before 1418 he also acquired the manors of Stanley Hall in Pebmarsh and ‘Perie’ in Tillingham. In Suffolk Hanningfield held manors in Shimpling and Lawshall, and his third marriage brought him moieties of those of ‘Welshames’ and Brettenham, to which he added the other moieties in 1421 after a financial arrangement had been made with his wife’s sister, Katherine Sampson. Contemporary estimates of the value of his holdings are not reliable, but it may be safely assumed that they were worth more than the £80 or so a year suggested by the jurors at his post mortem.2

Hanningfield had finished his training in the law by 1393. During the early years of his career he made several appearances in Chancery and at the Exchequer, acting as attorney for litigants from East Anglia or as a mainpernor for lessees of crown property. To judge from the professional status of those with whom he came to be associated, much of his business was in the court of common pleas. In 1397 he had dealings with Sir Thomas Swinburne*, captain of Hammes and a knight of the King’s chamber in the last year of Richard II’s reign.3 Then, in October 1399, he was one of those who offered bail of £1,000 for the release from Chester castle of William Bateman, former sheriff of Essex and a staunch partisan of Richard II, guaranteeing that he would appear before the new King and his council. But it should not be assumed that Hanningfield shared Bateman’s political attitude; others with whom he was closely connected sympathized with the new regime. By February 1400 he had formed what was to be a lifelong friendship with Richard Baynard* of Messing, a lawyer in the employ of Lord Fitzwalter, from whom Hanningfield held some of his lands. He was named as a feoffee of Baynard’s estates and that summer, in the first of a number of wills which Baynard made before his death in 1434, he was appointed as his executor. Hanningfield was to be party to various enfeoffments of Baynard’s properties, in transactions completed over the years. Among his co-feoffees were Sir William Marney* and Robert Tey*, both of whom were connected with Joan de Bohun, countess of Hereford, and the coupling of his name with theirs on several different occasions, taken together with his association with other men known to have been the countess’s retainers, suggests that he himself was employed by Joan as legal counsel. In 1401 when Tey set up a trust regarding his estates, the group of feoffees was headed by the countess and included Hanningfield; in the following year Hanningfield twice stood surety at the Exchequer for Sir Gerard Braybrooke II*, a member of Countess Joan’s council; and on other occasions he had dealings with John Doreward*, who had long been part of her circle. But Hanningfield’s business was by no means restricted to transactions on behalf of a limited number of the Essex gentry: he also acted for Sir John Strange*, the chief usher of the King’s hall; and his friendship with Baynard led to involvement in the affairs of the latter’s stepfather, John Hende, the wealthy London draper and financier.4

Conveyances of land, completed in 1406-7, brought Hanningfield also into contact with Robert Darcy*, another lawyer forging a career in the common pleas, and with John Wakering, then keeper of the rolls of Chancery, who was to be elected bishop of Norwich in 1415. Sometimes Hanningfield was chosen as an arbiter in disputes where settlement was sought out of court: for example, in 1411 Robert Ashcombe*, the London embroiderer, nominated him as one of four auditors who were to settle his protracted lawsuit with Richard Clitheroe I*.5 Perhaps the most important of Hanningfield’s trusteeships was that of the property of Richard de Vere, earl of Oxford, former ward to the countess of Hereford: in 1412, when the earl mortgaged two manors in Essex in order to raise 500 marks, he was one of the mortgagees.6 On occasion Hanningfield took on an executorship: in 1415 his neighbour John Rookwood of Stanningfield left him an annuity of 20s. in return for his service as ‘good and faithful helper’ to the other executors of his will, no doubt as advisor on any legal matters arising. His connexion with Sir Gerard Braybrooke had brought him to the attention of Richard, Lord Grey of Wilton, for whom he acted as a trustee of estates and a witness to important deeds. Evidently considered to be a trustworthy and reliable feoffee, in the years before his only known Parliament in 1419, Hanningfield acted in this capacity for Sir Andrew Cavendish’s† widow in lands in Essex and Suffolk, for members of the Norton family in manors in Hampshire, and for the Batemans in property in Cambridgeshire.7 By the time he entered the Commons Hanningfield had clearly established a flourishing legal practice, which attracted clients of some standing. He had served as a j.p., firstly in Essex though more recently in Suffolk and, indeed, he was still a member of the Suffolk bench. In his later years he took on legal business for the prominent local family of Waldegrave, and he became even more closely involved in the affairs of his friend Robert Tey, whom he chose as an executor of his will.8

The feoffees of Hanningfield’s lands, named before he sat in Parliament, included such important figures in East Anglia as Sir John Howard*, Sir Andrew Butler* and John Tyrell*, as well as colleagues from the legal fraternity like Robert Darcy. He was of sufficient standing in his profession to be also able to call on the services of Robert Norton, Henry V’s c.j.c.p. Realizing that he had not long to live, he made his will at London on 1 Sept. 1426, adding a codicil three days later. He asked to be buried in the chapel of St. Nicholas in Bicknacre priory church, to which he left 100 marks. And he gave precise instructions about his tomb: it was to be a copy of that of Thomas More (d.1421), the former dean of St. Paul’s, with a broad stone and four pillars; 50 marks were set aside for a monumental brass depicting his wife Agnes with their two children, his wife Joan with three children, and his wife Cecily, who must have died in childbirth only recently, with seven children. Forty pounds was given to the priest at Lawshall for prayers for Hanningfield’s ancestors. He ordered much of his property to be sold, the profits to be used for the sake of his soul and in works of charity. He was anxious that two priests should sing two masses daily for 40 winters in the chapel where he was interred, and that his obit should be kept at the churches of Bicknacre, Bradwell and Canewdon. Four poor lepers were each to receive four marks a year for ten years; and the poor of the hundreds of Rochford and Dengie were to be provided with bread and herring to the value of 20 marks distributed over a ten-year period. The most impressive of Hanningfield’s bequests were donations of 600 marks to replace a wooden bridge at ‘Laffare’ with one of stone, and 500 marks to repair Kelvedon bridge on the great London road. Generous gifts to his executors amounted to £80, and he left William Babington c.j.c.p. 20 marks if he offered them legal counsel. Three other lawyers, including Baynard and Darcy, were each given £2. The sums of money mentioned in the will amounted to over £1,220. Hanningfield died on 5 Sept., and his will was proved on the 22nd.9

Hanningfield’s heirs were his three surviving daughters, who had been left £100 and placed in the wardship of his executors: Elizabeth, aged four, who later married the younger John Basset of Chishill (the son of one of the executors); Katherine, aged two, who subsequently married Thomas Cotton of Cambridgeshire; and Agnes, aged 30 weeks, who eventually married Roger, son of Nicholas Drury of Suffolk. In 1431 Hanningfield’s executors petitioned the Pope, saying that as they doubted whether they would live long enough to supervise masses at Bicknacre for the 40 years stipulated in Hanningfield’s will, they requested a licence to have the masses sung in other churches and by several priests over a shorter period of time.10

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. CIPM, xvi. 590; CPR, 1385-9, p. 453; CCR, 1389-92, p. 417; P. Morant, Essex, ii. 36; Harl. Ch. 51 D 12.
  • 2. C139/29/51; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 240; CCR, 1402-5, pp. 280-1; Morant, i. 315, 371; ii. 262; E326/8160; J. Copinger, Suff. Manors, iii. 145; CP25(1)224/113/53; Feudal Aids, vi. 441.
  • 3. CCR, 1392-6, p. 238; 1396-9, pp. 11, 236, 390; 1399-1402, p. 472; CFR, xi. 177-8; xii. 11.
  • 4. CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 24, 396; 1402-5, pp. 160, 295; 1405-9, p. 276; 1409-13, p. 221; Essex RO, Verulam D/DH VB 45, 45a; CFR, xii. 163, 165; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 233, 241; CPR, 1401-5, p. 104.
  • 5. Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 246-7; CCR, 1405-9, pp. 371, 374, 376; 1409-13, pp. 57, 61, 187, 310.
  • 6. CCR, 1409-13, p. 347; CPR, 1408-13, p. 426.
  • 7. Reg. Chichele, ii. 272-4; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 276-7; 1419-22, pp. 131-2; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 265; CPR, 1416-22, p. 10.
  • 8. CCR, 1419-22, p. 223; 1422-9, pp. 291-3; Essex Feet of Fines, iv. 6; Reg. Chichele, i. 204; Yr. Bk. 1 Hen. VI (Selden Soc. l), 85; CPR, 1422-9, p. 39.
  • 9. PCC 6 Luffenham; C139/29/51.
  • 10. CCR, 1435-41, p. 185; 1441-7, pp. 290, 492; CPL, viii. 346.