HODY, John (d.1441), of Stowell, Som. and Pilsdon, Dorset.

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



Dec. 1421

Family and Education

s. of Thomas Hody, esquire (d.1442), of Kington Magna, Dorset; er. bro. of Alexander. m. by 1430, Elizabeth (d. 3 Aug. 1473), da. and h. of John Jewe (d.1415/16), of Whitfield in Wiveliscombe, Som. and Pilsdon,2 5s. inc. Sir William, 3da. Kntd. bef. June 1440.

Offices Held

Commr. of inquiry, Som. May 1428 (concealed crown income), Devon, Som. June 1432 (q. piracy), West Country Aug. 1433 (crimes committed since 1413), Dorset, Devon, Som., Cornw. Feb. 1434 (q. escapes of prisoners), Hants, Wilts., Som., Dorset, Devon, Cornw. July 1434 (concealed crown income), Som. Feb. 1435 (breach of statutes relating to exports), Devon, Cornw. July 1435 (estates of John, earl of Arundel), Som. Jan. 1438 (insurrections and felonies), Bristol Nov. 1438 (charges against Thomas Stevens*), Salop Feb. 1439 (death of Thomas Dyer of Ludlow); gaol delivery (q.), Ilchester May 1430, Dec. 1433, Aug. 1434, Sept. 1434, May 1435, Feb., Mar. 1438, May 1440, Old Sarum Dec. 1440; oyer and terminer, Som. June 1432, Salop, Worcs. Jan. 1439, Devon Sept. 1439, Northants. Oct. 1439, Cornw. July 1440, Devon Sept. 1440, Oxon., Berks. June 1441, London, Mdx., Essex, Kent, Surrey Oct. 1441; to raise a loan, Som., Dorset Mar. 1439.

J.p. Som. 2 Dec. 1430-d., Berks. 12 Feb. 1439-d., Salop 13 Feb. 1439-June 1440, Glos. 18 May 1439-Apr. 1440, Suss. 8 July 1440-d., Kent 24 July 1440-d., Surr. 16 Oct. 1440-d., Essex 17 Feb. 1441-d.

Escheator, Som. and Dorset 26 Nov. 1431-5 Nov. 1432.

Distributor of a tax allowance, Som. Dec. 1433, Jan. 1436, May 1437.

Recorder, Bristol c.1438-d.3

Justice of assize, western circuit 24 Jan. 1439, eastern circuit 10 June 1440.

C.j.KB 13 Apr. 1440-d.


According to a possibly prejudiced account dating from the 1470s the chief justice’s grandfather, Adam Hody, was a ‘bondeman to my lorde of Awdely and heywarde of Wollavyngton’ (Somerset), whose sons Thomas and John were born before his marriage to Isabel Gilbarde. If this was true then the success of both of Adam’s sons in surmounting such overwhelming disadvantages was quite remarkable. John was educated at Oxford and rose to be precentor of Wells from 1410 to 1426 and thereafter chancellor of the diocese until his death in 1440, having in the meantime served as chancellor and executor to Bishop Polton of Worcester. Thomas (our John’s father) entered the service of Sir Hugh Luttrell* of Dunster, for whom he acted as receiver-general from 1406 to 1419; and, forging a place for himself among the landed gentry of Dorset and Somerset, he was appointed in 1418 as royal escheator of the joint bailiwick of the two counties. Such a rise, from servile status to occupation of the headship of the judiciary in just two generations, would be an outstanding achievement.4

Thomas Hody acquired the manor of Kington Magna (Dorset), but this never passed to John, for his father was still living at the time of his own death. Both he and his brother, Alexander (who was to sit in nine Parliaments between 1429 and 1455, for either Shaftesbury, Bridgwater or Somerset), entered the legal profession. It was early success as an apprentice-at-law which enabled John to purchase two parts of the manor of Wydecombe and the whole of the manor of Stowell (Somerset) in the 1420s, and those of Wootton Glanville and Long Critchell (Dorset) in 1435 and 1439, respectively. He also acquired property in Shaftesbury and a small estate not far away at Fonthill (Wiltshire), but his manors of Pilsdon, West Chickerell and Putton (Dorset), and East and West Whitefield (Somerset), together with property in Dorchester and a moiety of Bere Hall (Devon), all came to him through his marriage to Elizabeth Jewe in about 1430. At the time of Elizabeth’s father’s death 15 years previously her three brothers and a sister were still living, but all four died before her marriage to Hody, thus leaving her as sole heir to the estate.5 Hody also took care to augment his lands and local influence by obtaining royal grants: in 1428 he was awarded a joint lease of lands lately belonging to Sir Thomas Pomeroy*, during the minority of his heir; in 1431 he obtained an Exchequer lease of the manor of Whitewell in Colyton, part of the inheritance of the earl of Devon; in 1434 he shared with John Stourton I* of Preston Plucknett the marriage of a royal ward, Stourton’s grandson John Hill; and in 1437 with a close friend, William Carent* of Toomer, he took custody of the royal manor of Gillingham.6

It was, quite clearly, Hody’s legal expertise which prompted the burgesses of Shaftesbury to seek his services in five Parliaments and the gentry of two shires to have him represent them in four more. His rapid rise suggests that he showed himself to be a competent commissioner and an able j.p. Yet his many tasks in the sphere of local government did not result in a half-hearted interest in the proceedings of the Parliaments which he attended as a Member of the Commons. On 2 Dec. 1435 he, William Tresham† and John Vampage†, the King’s attorney-general, were each paid £6 13s.4d. for ‘labouring’ in the present Parliament ‘circa diversa negocia et materias necessarias ipsius Regis ibidem expedienda pro commodo Regis’, and a fortnight later Hody received an additional £3 as a reward for ‘engrossing’ various grants made by the Lords and Commons. Obviously, he had been deeply involved in the negotiations leading to the grant of taxes. In the next Parliament, when again knight of the shire for Somerset, he headed the deputation from the Commons to the King, which, on 19 Mar. 1437, announced the election of a second Speaker (William Burley*) to replace (Sir) John Tyrell*, who had been taken ill. Hody was probably by then already recorder of Bristol, and in July 1438 he assumed the dignity of a serjeant-at-law. As such he was subsequently engaged as counsel to the duchy of Lancaster. In July 1439 he and another serjeant, John Fortescue*, were chosen to arbitrate in a dispute regarding the church of St. Dunstan in the West in Fleet Street. This and the many other occasions on which Hody was asked to settle points of law indicate the respect he enjoyed.7

As an eminent lawyer it was only natural that Hody should have frequently acted as a feoffee-to-uses, and his clients in this regard included such important people as Thomas Courtenay, earl of Devon, Elizabeth, Lady Botreaux, William, Lord Clinton, and John, earl of Arundel.8 The last, who died in 1435, Hody also served as executor, and after the third marriage of the earl’s mother, Eleanor, countess of Arundel, he became trustee of the estates of her husband, Sir Walter (now Lord) Hungerford*.9 Among the many country gentlemen for whom Hody acted in settlements of their estates were (Sir) Thomas Brooke* of Holditch, Sir John Chideok, (Sir) John Stourton II* and Ralph Bush*, esquire.10 Sir John Latimer of Duntish (Dorset) sought the hand of Hody’s daughter Joan for his heir, Nicholas†. But perhaps his career was best furthered by his friendship with Sir Humphrey Stafford II* of Hooke and the latter’s half-brother John, bishop of Bath and Wells and chancellor of England from 1432 to 1450, a connexion which may well have been fostered by our MP’s uncle, Master John Hody, who in 1424 and 1425 had been appointed by Bishop Stafford as his vicar-general during his absence from the see. From 1429 Hody was involved in numerous legal transactions on the Staffords’ behalf: he was a feoffee of Sir Humphrey’s estates, party to the arrangements made for the second marriage of his daughter, Alice, and assisted him in the foundation of St. Anne’s chapel in the conventual church at Abbotsbury. Then, in 1437, he was retained as a councillor to the Staffords’ kinsman, Humphrey, earl of Stafford, who paid him an annuity of £2 charged on his property at Wexcombe, Wiltshire.11

From 1438 Hody received a salary of £20 a year as a justice of assize, and for his services in the King’s bench from Michaelmas 1439 to April 1440 he was awarded an additional £20. On 13 Apr., following the death of Sir John Juyn, he was appointed as chief justice, with a fee of £120 p.a., having on the previous day already received a grant of 40 marks a year charged on the petty custom of Bristol and of an annual tun of wine from the royal prisage there. He was probably knighted at the time of this surprisingly rapid elevation, but first notice of his promotion dates from June. Later in the year, on 18 Aug., he was ordered by Henry VI to present himself immediately at Sheen, where his advice was needed with regard to threatened riots and touching the legality of a postponement of an assize of novel disseisin brought against James, Lord Berkeley, by the heirs-general to the Berkeley estates, two of whom (Edmund Beaufort, earl of Dorset, and John, Lord Talbot) were then investing Harfleur but reported to be in danger of raising the siege on account of the assize. But this was no doubt only one of many occasions when his counsel was sought by the King and his ministers.12

On 3 Dec. 1441 as chief justice Hody was personally summoned to attend the Parliament which was to meet on the following 25 Jan. However, he fell ill and died before New Year’s Day. By his will, made on 17 Dec., he left £200 in gold to his widow, and among his bequests was much silver plate, including a charger bought from the executors of Elizabeth Lovell of Rampisham (widow of Robert Lovell*), to whose number he had himself belonged. His wish was to be buried in the new chapel in Woolavington church built by his uncle, who had died in the previous year. The judge’s executors were his wife, his father (who, however, himself died less than four months later), his brother Alexander and William Carent.13 Hody mentioned four sons in his will, of whom the eldest, John, was then only six or seven. It was his second son, William, who was to follow him in the legal profession and, since he become attorney-general on Henry VII’s accession and served as chief baron of the Exchequer from 1486 to 1512, evidently with some considerable degree of success. The chief justice’s widow, who was pregnant at the time of his death, later gave birth to a fifth son. Within seven years she married Robert Cappes, esquire (sheriff of Somerset and Dorset in 1444-5), and survived until 1473.14

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. CFR, xvi. 187.
  • 2. J. Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 227-33; Coll. Top. et Gen. vii. 22-31. His mother is generally held to have been Margaret, da. and h. of John Cole of Nethway, Devon, a contention supported by his ownership of property in Nethway, as mentioned in his will. However, she cannot, on chronological grounds, have been a da. of John Cole IV*.
  • 3. Little Red Bk. Bristol ed. Bickley, ii. 161.
  • 4. Som. and Dorset N. and Q, xviii.127-8; xxiv. 22-25; Collectanea (Som. Rec. Soc. lvii), 48; Honour of Dunster (ibid. xxxiii), 126, 166; Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. ed. Emden, ii. 941-2.
  • 5. Som. Feet of Fines (Som. Rec. Soc. xxii), 63, 68, 69, 81; Feudal Aids, iv. 375; Dorset Feet of Fines, ii. 345, 355; Reg. Chichele, ii. 89-91; Shaftesbury Recs. ed. Mayo, 79.
  • 6. CFR, xv. 248; xvi. 38, 226, 338.
  • 7. E403/721, 2 and 16 Dec.; RP, iv. 502; Somerville, Duchy, i. 451; Harl. Ch. 44F 46; CCR, 1422-9, p. 410; 1435-41, pp. 47, 122, 281; Collectanea (Wilts. Rec. Soc. xii), 169; Order of Serjeants at Law (Selden Soc. supp. ser. v), 162.
  • 8. HMC Hastings, i. 283; CPR, 1422-9, p. 462; 1429-36, p. 602; 1436-41, p. 23; CCR, 1429-35, p. 125; 1435-41, p. 80.
  • 9. Reg. Chichele, ii. 542-3; CCR, 1447-54, pp. 147-8; CPR, 1436-41, pp. 152, 300.
  • 10. CFR, xv. 170; Som. Feet of Fines, 78, 85, 191, 194-5; CCR, 1435-41, p. 397; CPR, 1429-36, pp. 112, 119; 1441-6, p. 34; Dorset Feet of Fines, ii. 317-19.
  • 11. Dorset Feet of Fines, ii. 342, 361; CPR, 1422-9, p. 541; 1429-36, p. 63; 1436-41, pp. 255, 540; Som. Feet of Fines, 82-83; CCR, 1429-35, p. 223; Staffs. RO, D641/1/2/167 m. 8v.
  • 12. E404/56/100, 136, 244-5; CPR, 1436-41, pp. 390, 443; CCR, 1435-41, p. 325.
  • 13. CCR, 1441-7, p. 42; CFR, xvii. 210; Reg. Chichele, ii. 605-6; PCC 22 Luffenham.
  • 14. Som. Feet of Fines, 200; C140/47/60.