HOLYNGBROKE, alias HOLYNGBOURNE, William (d.c.1400), of New Romney, Kent.
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Commr. of inquiry, Cinque Ports Nov. 1387 (shipwreck).
Holyngbroke’s father, after whom he was named, was a vintner and prominent member of the commonalty of New Romney, which he had represented in Parliament in 1351, 1365, 1368 and 1371, as well as at great councils in 1354 and 1370.4 He himself paid maltolts in Holyngbroke ward (where the leading townsmen lived) from 1379 to 1400, but he was also a rentier, for he had inherited from his father land in the hundreds of Langport, St. Martin’s, Newchurch, Street and Worth, all in the same region of Kent, on which, as a Portsman, he claimed exemption from taxation. Indeed, an inquisition (held prior to the issue in July 1379 to William and his brother Stephen of a royal licence to grant in mortmain to the Maison Dieu at Dover 52 acres of land at Newchurch) showed that the brothers held property at Romney and Hope All Saints worth at least £10 a year.5
By the spring of 1381 Holyngbroke was already one of the leading barons of Romney (no doubt a jurat, although the evidence is lacking). He then made two journeys to Dover: first, to persuade the warden to release certain goods lately taken by a Cinque Ports’ barge, and afterwards to certify the indentures for exemption from the parliamentary fifteenths. When, during the Peasants’ Revolt in June that same year, two men arrived in Romney bearing the banner and letters patent which Richard II had lately conceded to the rebels, it was in Holyngbroke’s house that they were given hospitality, and besides what the town paid towards this, he spent some of his own money to conciliate them. On 7 July following, he went back to Dover, this time to excuse the commoners of Romney whom the men of Hythe had accused before the warden of running riot when on their way to join the muster of the Ports’ militia at Barham Down, as summoned by the warden a few days earlier. While attending the Parliament which assembled that autumn, both he and his companion, William Child*, left Westminster on 27 Nov., having been ordered to go to Dover to prepare shipping to bring Anne of Bohemia over to England for her marriage to Richard II; and in January following, during the parliamentary recess, they attended her coronation. Later in 1382 Holyngbroke several times went to the Weald to procure timber for the construction of Romney’s new sluice, and in April he received £12 for the board and wages of mariners engaged by the Cinque Ports to keep the sea—a matter which twice took him to Dover that summer.6
About this time a dispute broke out between Romney and its member-port of Lydd, over Romney’s demands of a fifth of Lydd’s revenues as contribution towards its expenses as a Cinque Port in providing shipping and otherwise. Holyngbroke, as one of those responsible for conducting the suit, travelled to Dover and Sandwich in the spring of 1382 for consultation with barons of the other Ports, and in August following he led a deputation to put Romney’s case before the warden himself, Sir Robert Assheton. Further hearings later in the year evidently had little effect, for in 1383-4 Lydd paid nothing at all. However, in April 1384 Romney procured orders from Dover castle to distrain upon the men of Lydd, and Holyngbroke’s subsequent meetings with the lieutenant warden, both at Dover and Canterbury, coupled with Romney’s lavish entertainment of the lieutenant when he visited the town and generous presents to the officials at Dover castle (amounting to more than £10 10s.), eventually ensured the Port’s success: Lydd was compelled to pay £38 19s.2d. as arrears of its contribution.7
Other business undertaken by Holyngbroke during the same period required him to spend two weeks in London in 1382 suing to the King’s Council to have the Cinque Ports’ customary exemption from parliamentary fifteenths applied to the grant made in the October Parliament; and in 1386-7 he attended a great council for as long as 23 days. He continued to visit Dover on his home town’s affairs, as when renewed trouble with the men of Lydd caused the jurats of Romney to arrest some of them. Holyngbroke had paid £15 8s.1d. for a share in the common barge of Romney, and another £6 15s.8d. for foreign currency which its shipmaster had obtained (perhaps by trade); and his journeys to Sandwich, London and Orwell undertaken in 1387-8 were concerned with litigation touching this vessel. In July 1388 he stood surety at the Exchequer on behalf of Hugh Fastolf* of Great Yarmouth and London, the former lieutenant warden of the Cinque Ports, whose superior, Sir Simon Burley, had recently been executed by order of the Merciless Parliament, of which Holyngbroke had been a Member. He and Fastolf had perhaps been brought together by shared interests in shipping.8
In the meantime, earlier in 1388, Holyngbroke had attended a meeting with Archbishop Courtenay, with whom Romney’s relations were approaching a crisis owing to the townspeople’s determination to reduce the archbishop’s bailiff to a cipher and to take the profits of the local courts for the commonalty, thus challenging the archiepiscopal rights of lordship. Courtenay, believing Holyngbroke and William Child to be the ringleaders, summoned them to his manor of Slindon in Sussex on 8 June, and confronted them with a series of charges. On the 25th, after extracting an admission of guilt, he ordered their excommunication and laid an interdict upon the town. Holyngbroke and Child, however, complained to the government, procured writs of prohibition and spent £16 15s. of Romney’s money on litigation; but Courtenay had then only to approach the royal court (‘consultacionem regiam obtinuit’) to thwart them, and, during the Cambridge Parliament (when Holyngbroke was once more sitting in the Commons) they offered through mediators to submit to his grace. Accordingly, on 14 Oct., the archbishop agreed to raise the interdict. This was not, of course, the end of the matter, and Holyngbroke and Child spent a further £6 10s. in the following year on the commonalty’s behalf, most likely in the same cause. Neither man bore a grudge against their fellow baron John Talbot*, whom Courtenay, perhaps in order to effect a reconciliation, subsequently appointed as bailiff of Romney, for in June 1393 they both stood surety for him in a Chancery suit.9
It may be indicative of Holyngbroke’s personal attitude to individual liberty that in 1389 he released from servitude a villein working on his land at Romney. At his death in about 1400 he left his many properties in Romney Marsh in trust for his son Hugh, but they became the subject of a lawsuit in Chancery between 1413 and 1417 following Hugh’s own death and the marriage of his widow, Margaret, to William Ickham* of Canterbury. Another William Holyngbroke, often a jurat of Romney between 1419 and 1440, was most likely the MP’s younger son.10
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: A. P.M. Wright
- 1. He and William Child were paid £7 18s. 6½d. between them, and he also received £2 6s.8d. for representing Dover for 28 days: Romney assmt. bk. 1, f. 12; Egerton 2091, f. 7.
- 2. He and his colleague were paid £3 16s.9d.: assmt. bk. 2, f. 5.
- 3. Reg. Daniel Rough (Kent Rec. Ser. xvi), pp. xliv, 194; assmt. bk. 1, ff. 4, 13; 2, ff. 35-58.
- 4. Reg. Daniel Rough, 49, 63, 166, 180.
- 5. Assmt. bk. 1, ff. 4-13; 2, f