HOLT, Stephen (d.1398), of Lewes, Suss.

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



Feb. 1383
Feb. 1388

Family and Education

m. Alice, 2s.

Offices Held

Collector of wool customs, Chichester and Lewes 26 Feb. 1382-Dec. 1391, of tunnage and poundage 25 May 1382-Dec. 1391.

Commr. of sewers, rivers Arun and Ouse, Suss. Feb. 1391

Tax collector, Suss. May 1398.


In June 1373 Holt and Henry Werkman received a royal licence to ship 40 sacks of wool from Lewes. As resident in the town he paid 40d. to the poll tax of 1379. By then he had acquired property elsewhere, for in the previous year, on 12 Mar. 1378, Richard, earl of Arundel, the lord of Lewes, had granted him for life lands called ‘Eggely’ in Oving, which were worth as much as £5 a year. (Perhaps Holt’s connexion with the earl had come about through his dealings in wool.) Holt held office as customer in the ports of west Sussex (from Portsmouth to Winchelsea), for nearly ten years from 1382, in the course of which period he was twice returned to Parliament.1

In January 1386 Holt and his fellow customer, Richard Halle, undertook to farm the estates of the alien priory of Wilmington from Sir James Berners*, the knight of the King’s chamber to whom Richard II had recently granted the lease. They gave Berners a bond in £300 as guarantee that they would maintain the manors in good order, and following his condemnation for treason in the Merciless Parliament of 1388 (of which Holt was a Member), they succeeded in retaining the farm under the new lessee, the earl of Arundel’s henchman, Sir Edward Dallingridge*. Shortly after the dissolution of the Parliament, Holt stood surety at the Exchequer for John Bonet (Member for Guildford) and others, who had been granted the wardship and marriage of Thomas Charlton’s heir. He acted likewise in October 1389 for John Tauk, the earl of Arundel’s steward of the lordship of Lewes, when the latter undertook to farm the lands of the alien priory of ‘La Luzerne’. In May 1391 Holt and Halle handed over land and stock on the Wilmington priory estates to Dallingridge, but were charged at the Exchequer to answer for a chestful of documents which a monk, who had formerly farmed the estates, had removed and deposited in Lewes priory. Nor was this the end of their difficulties, for following Dallingridge’s death Bishop Rede of Chichester, wishing to succeed him as farmer, procured commissions in September and November 1393 to investigate alleged wastes made by Sir Edward on the properties concerned; and the jury which testified to these, in March 1394, went on to claim that the estates had suffered equally grave dilapidations while Holt and Halle had custody. They had failed to keep in good repair the manor-house at Wilmington and its barns, granges, windmill and other farm buildings, together with those at Poling. They had felled 200 oaks, and allowed walls and hedges to be broken down. They had not maintained churches at Westham and Eastdean as they ought. Neither had they contributed the ten marks due for the rebuilding of the chancel at Willingdon, nor accounted satisfactorily for stock they received on the manor worth £32. The jury estimated that the total damage they had caused came to £109 16s.4d. and that repairs could not be undertaken for less. Holt and Halle, making their defence in the Exchequer the following October, denied most of the damage, although admitted that building timbers had been too rotten to be repaired. They said, too, that there was no rebuilding going on at Willingdon church, while acknowledging their duty to maintain the fabric of its chancel. As for the stock, they had delivered it intact to the next farmers. The jury summoned to decide the case in June 1395, while confirming the fact of widely spread dilapidations at Wilmington, greatly reduced their cost, fixing it at £12 3s.4d, which sum Holt and Halle were ordered to pay to the bishop of Chichester, the new farmer, to help restock the manor.2

Holt and Halle also had trouble with the Exchequer over their duties as customers. In 1393 they were accused of not accounting for 300 ‘bord de knarrend’ (knotty wood) shipped from Chichester in 1389; and having no defence they had to submit and pay fines. Their long tenure of office made the Exchequer officials so used to regarding them as the customers of Chichester that they were even summoned in 1394 concerning a duty imposed after they had been removed. In October 1397, shortly after the earl of Arundel had been condemned to death for treason and his estates declared forfeit, Holt managed to secure royal letters patent confirming the earl’s grant to him, made nearly 20 years before, of his lands in Oving. Nevertheless, the same property was bestowed on two of the King’s servants just a few weeks later.3

Holt was appointed as a collector of parliamentary subsidies in Sussex in May 1398, but died before the following Michaelmas. He had placed his holdings in Sussex in the hands of trustees, including Andrew Blake* and John Bedford I*, who, however, now refused to convey them to his son, William. As executors of his will, his widow Alice and other son John, a clerk, procured in May 1400 a surcease of process at the Exchequer touching estreats of fines levied before the MP as a commissioner of sewers, John taking an oath that his late father had never received the commission.4

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: A. P.M. Wright


  • 1. CFR, viii. 234; E179/189/41 m. 23; CPR, 1396-9, p. 209; Two Fitzalan Surveys (Suss. Rec. Soc. lxvii), 147.
  • 2. CCR, 1385-9, p. 114; CPR, 1385-9, p. 484; 1391-6, pp. 357-8, 384, 556; E159/167 Hil. rot. 7, 170 Easter rot. 35.
  • 3. E159/169 Trin. rot. 23, 170 Hil. rot. 34.
  • 4. CPR, 1396-9, pp. 209, 270; C1/3/69; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 186.