HETHE, Thomas (1383-1439), of Little Saxham, Suff.
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Family and Education
b. 21 May 1383, s. and h. of Robert Hethe*. m. (1) Margaret, da. of John Reymes* of Overstrand, Norf., 1da.; (2) bef. May 1438, Anne (d.1481), da. of Sir Brian Stapleton of Ingham, Norf. by Cecily, da. of William, Lord Bardolf (d.1386).
Escheator, Norf. and Suff. 14 Dec. 1415-8 Dec. 1416.
Tax collector, Suff. Apr. 1428.
After the death of Thomas’s father Robert Hethe in 1396, the abbot of Bury St. Edmunds, as overlord of some of his property, granted Thomas’s wardship and marriage to his mother, Margery; but the Crown also had an interest in the Hethe estates and on 15 Nov. 1399 Henry IV gave custody of the inheritance to one of his retainers, John Reymes. Subsequently, young Thomas married one of his guardian’s daughters. In 1403 it was alleged that some land in Barway in Cambridgeshire which should have pertained to the Crown during Hethe’s minority had been illegally concealed. The bulk of his landed holdings were in Suffolk, however, and included manors at Little Saxham and Denham, as well as property at Risby, Mildenhall, Westley and Fornham All Saints.1After coming of age in 1404, Hethe set about the expansion of his territorial interests. In 1407 he took over the lease of ‘Leo’s Hall’ in Westley, a manor once tenanted by his grandfather, and three years later he purchased the reversion of this same property which was to fall in after the death of Sir Thomas Hengrave. He followed this in April 1420 with the even more important acquisition of the reversion of the valuable manor of Hengrave, which came into his possession a year later following the death of Sir Thomas’s widow. Hethe then made Hengrave his principal residence.2
Hethe evidently preferred the life of a country gentleman to the career of a busy lawyer which had occupied his father, and for the most part records of him are related to dealings with family or strictly local affairs. In 1405 he stood surety in Chancery for his uncle, Thomas Hethe of Mildenhall, who was then engaged in a lawsuit; and in 1414 he and the older Thomas both acted as trustees of property belonging to another uncle, Richard Hethe, and his wife Elizabeth.3 In 1415 the younger Thomas was appointed as escheator of Norfolk and Suffolk, and on 17 Feb. following, during his term of office, he attended the county court at Norwich for the parliamentary elections for Norfolk. Later that same year he was serving as a feoffee of the manor of Buxton on behalf of the recently deceased Thomas, Lord Morley, continuing to act in this capacity for a further ten years. Among the other trustees was Sir William Phelip* of Dennington, whose wife, Joan Bardolf, was a cousin of his own second wife, Anne Stapleton.4
When Hethe was elected to his only known Parliament in 1420, his uncle Richard stood surety for his attendance; and both uncle and nephew were mainpernors for William Rookwood on the occasion of his election for Suffolk to the next Parliament, that of 1421 (May). Nine years later Thomas Hethe was to be present when his uncle’s widow took the veil at a ceremony in which Abbot Curteys of Bury St. Edmunds officiated. His relations with Curteys’s predecessor, Abbot Excestre, had not been so cordial: in 1424 a quarrel had flared up between them, and the abbot had been required to enter into recognizances of £2,000 with the Crown as surety that he and the monks at Bury would do Hethe no harm. By contrast, Hethe was on good terms with several members of the gentry of East Anglia: for instance, in the 1430s he served as a feoffee of the manor of Little Dunham, Norfolk, on behalf of Sir Guy Corbet, and in 1435, at the Suffolk elections to Parliament, his name was put down as a mainpernor for Henry Drury†.5 His second marriage had linked him with the prominent family of Stapleton, and had evidently brought him a handsome dowry, for the will which his father-in-law, Sir Brian Stapleton, made in May 1438, referred to ‘sumes of mony wheche be to pay unto Thoms. Heth for the maryage sylver of Anne, my doghter, that now is hys wyff’.6
Hethe had also made a good match for his only daughter, Elizabeth (d.1464), who four or more years earlier had been wedded to William, grandson and heir of the wealthy soldier Sir William Bardwell*. Hethe died at the age of 56 on 7 Nov. 1439. By his will, dated the preceding day at Bardwell, where his daughter lived, he requested burial in the parish church at Hengrave and named Anne his wife as principal executor. The disposal of his estates had been arranged on 30 Oct., Hethe stipulating that Anne was to hold them for life, paying £10 a year out of Little Saxham to Elizabeth. Both women were ‘big with child’, and Hethe ordered that if a male heir should result from either pregnancy the son or grandson should eventually succeed to his estates. Should there be no such male issue, Elizabeth was to have the lands for life after Anne’s death, and then they were to be sold. In the event, neither produced a son, and following the death of William Bardwell in 1440 the reversion of the manor of Hengrave and other of Hethe’s properties was sold to Humphrey, duke of Buckingham, for 220 marks.7 Hethe’s daughter took as her second husband John Harleston† (d.1459) of Shimpling, Norfolk, and her daughter Margery Bardwell was married to Harleston’s son by a former wife. The MP’s widow survived him by more than 40 years. Having married Sir Walter Trumpington of Trumpington, Cambridgeshire, she eventually died in 1481, being then buried in Babwell friary at Bury St. Edmunds.8
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. C136/91/28; J. Gage, Hist. Thingoe Hundred, 126, 128-9; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 87; Vis. Norf. (Norf. Arch. Soc.), i. 290-1; CIMisc. vii. 208.