HERCY, Sir Thomas (d.1424), of Grove, Notts.
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Family and Education
m. by Feb. 1397, Katherine, at least 1s. Kntd. by Nov. 1382.1
Collector of a tax, Notts. Nov. 1382.
Commr. of array, Notts. Oct. 1384,2 June, July 1386, Dec. 1399, Sept. 1403, Apr. 1418; oyer and terminer Nov. 1392 (buried treasure at Tuxford); inquiry Apr. 1396 (obstructions to the river Idle), Notts., Derbys. Aug. 1416 (estates of Thomas Annesley); to make an arrest, Notts. Feb. 1401.
J.p. Notts. 12 Nov. 1404-Feb. 1407, 26 Nov. 1416-d.
Although he is commonly said to have been the son and heir of William Hercy of Grove in Nottinghamshire, the parentage of this MP remains a matter of conjecture, especially in light of a settlement made by Sir Hugh Hercy in 1366 of the manors of Grove and Weston. Having secured a life interest in the properties for himself and his wife, Sir Hugh conveyed the reversion to Thomas, the son of his kinsman, Sir John Hercy, and his heirs male. It is unlikely, on chronological grounds, that this was the Thomas who later sat in Parliament, although a son of his may well have done so. Certainly, the subject of this biography was himself in possession of Grove by 1403; and it passed on his death to his own son, Hugh. All in all, his estates in Nottinghamshire were assessed for taxation purposes at £40 a year in 1412, so he clearly ranked among the wealthier members of the local gentry.3
Hercy’s involvement in local government began in 1382 with his appointment as a tax collector. He had already been knighted and was evidently building up an impressive circle of friends, for in the following year he witnessed a deed for the influential landowner, Robert Morton† of Bawtry. In July 1384 he arraigned one Roger Kirke of Weston on an assize of novel disseisin at Nottingham (probably in connexion with the above-mentioned settlement of the manor of Weston), but the case had still not come before a jury four years later, and he seems to have abandoned it soon afterwards. During this period Sir Thomas had custody of the estates of the late Thomas Lascelles, one of his feudal tenants, until in September 1391 the latter’s daughter came of age and he relinquished his wardship. During his visit to Westminster for the Parliament which met in the following November, he agreed to offer securities of £100 on behalf of his neighbour, Sir Hugh Hussey*, who had been bound over in the court of Chancery to keep the peace. A few months later he himself received a recognizance for 100 marks from a Nottinghamshire man, but the nature of the transaction remains obscure. Sir Thomas served on a number of royal commissions, one of which sat in 1396 to examine obstructions to the river Idle, and is of particular interest in view of a petition later addressed to the chancellor of England by the burgesses of East Retford. One of the several charges laid by them against Hercy was that in his capacity as lord of West Retford he had himself diverted the course of the Idle, causing damages in excess of £200. He was also accused of demanding extortionate sums for their use of common pasture, and of terrorizing anyone who attempted to fish in the river or otherwise exercise their customary rights. The outcome of this complaint is not recorded, but Hercy himself had cause to appeal to the court of Chancery about the occupation of his manor of Ordsall in Nottinghamshire by William Denman of Misterton, who not only confiscated large quantities of food and caused ‘horribles damages’ there, but also rode to Grove with the intent of murdering Hercy and destroying one of his mills.4
Perhaps as a result of their somewhat beleaguered existence, Sir Thomas and his wife obtained a papal indult, in February 1397, for the plenary remission of sins at the hour of death. But their fortunes improved dramatically two years later, when Henry of Bolingbroke returned to claim his inheritance, for Hercy was an enthusiastic supporter of the Lancastrian cause, and actually mobilized a private retinue at the time of the coup d’état. In November 1399 an allowance of £40 was made to him and his men for expenses sustained by them at the time of Bolingbroke’s arrival at Ravenspur and during the autumn Parliament, where they had formed part of the royal bodyguard. Needless to say, Hercy’s loyalty was further rewarded with an annuity of £13 6s.8d, charged upon the revenues of the duchy of Lancaster lordship of Pontefract. Over the next few years Sir Thomas began two lawsuits in the court of common pleas for the recovery of debts totalling £53, but neither proved successful. He may, indeed, have been engaged in commercial dealings of some kind, for in 1408 a member of the Florentine banking house of Albertini obtained a royal licence to draw up a letter of exchange for the payment to him of currency worth four marks. Another of Hercy’s associates was the Nottinghamshire knight, Sir George Monbourcher, who, in June 1409, made him a beneficiary of his will, and whose daughter, Elizabeth, appeared with him in the following year as a defendant at the Nottingham assizes. The case (which also concerned (Sir) Henry Pierrepont* and Sir Robert Strelley*) was probably collusive, and could well have involved a settlement of the Monbourcher estates.5
Although he continued to sit on the county bench from 1416 until his death, in 1424, Sir Thomas’s later years were not otherwise eventful. His son, Hugh, married Elizabeth, a daughter and coheir of Simon Leek* of Cotham, and died in about 1456. He may perhaps have had other issue, for in the 1420s a Thomas, son of Thomas Hercy, held a small estate at Eaton in Nottinghamshire.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Hersee, Hersy.
- 1. CFR, ix. 337. Hercy is said to have married Katherine, a daughter of Robert Cumberworth* of Somerby and Stain, Lincs., and widow of Sir Marmaduke Constable of Flamborough, Yorks. (J. Foster, Yorks. Ped. ii. sub Constable). Unless he married two wives named Katherine in succession, this cannot, however, have been the case, since Constable did not die until 1404, seven years after the award of a papal indult to Sir Thomas Hercy and Katherine, his wife. (CPL, v. 39; Test. Ebor. i. 200-1)
- 2. Rot. Scot. ed. Macpherson etc. ii. 68.
- 3. R. Thoroton, Notts. ed. Throsby, iii. 262; Vis. Notts. 14; CP25(1)185/34/403; E179/159/48; CPR, 1401-5, p. 336; Test. Ebor. ii. 200-1.
- 4. C1/7/302; JUST 1/1488 rot. 72, 1501 rot. 86; Procs. Chancery Eliz. I ed. Caley and Bayley, i. pp. ix-x; DKR, xxxvi. 280; CCR, 1381-5, p. 440; 1389-92, p. 508; 1392-6, p. 74.
- 5. DL28/27/3; DL42/15 f. 70v; JUST 1/1514 rot. 84, 85; CPL, v. 39; CPR, 1401-5, p. 336; 1405-8, p. 255; CCR, 1409-13, p. 443; Test. Ebor. i. 356.
- 6. Test. Ebor. ii. 200-1; Feudal Aids, iv. 138.