HORNCASTLE, Nicholas (d.1419), of Northampton.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
m. (1) Joan (d. by 1411), da. and h. of Richard Stretford of Northampton; (2) Lucy.1
Although he does not appear to have held office in Northampton, Horncastle was one of the richest and most influential men to represent the borough during our period. That he was twice returned to Parliament at a time when very few people were elected more than once is in itself a mark of his stature in local society; and an examination of his activities during the late 14th and early 15th centuries reveals clearly enough that he belonged to the lower ranks of the Northamptonshire gentry rather than to the burgess or tradesman class, being quite possibly a lawyer. We know nothing of him before he first sat in Parliament, but in the following year he became a feoffee-to-uses of the manor of Drayton for John and Joan Albon. From then onwards he was involved in several other property transactions both there and in the manor of Culworth, where he and the draper, Thomas Overton*, were both busy as trustees for many years. Meanwhile, in February 1392, he acted as an attorney at the Northampton assizes for the abbot of the nearby house of St. James, who was then attempting to regain possession of a messuage in the town. He was again present at the assizes ten years later when he stood bail of £40 on behalf of a neighbour charged with disturbing the peace; and he performed a similar service for his friend, Laurence Quinton, a local landowner. In July 1406, the two men were arraigned together on an assize of novel disseisin over certain property in the village of Quinton, the ownership of which seems to have been the cause of a longstanding dispute between them and another Northamptonshire rentier named Laurence Dyne.2
Horncastle himself owned a considerable amount of property, although some of it, at least, came to him through his first wife, Joan, the daughter and heir of Richard Stretford. Her inheritance comprised land and tenements in Northampton worth an estimated £4 10s. a year, which passed when she died to her nephew, Thomas Watford. On the latter’s outlawry, in November 1411, Horncastle seised control of the revenues, which ought properly to have escheated to the Crown, and continued to enjoy them illegally until his own death eight years later. He had by then remarried, and it was thus that his second wife, Lucy, who was his executrix, and her colleague, John Colcombe of Alderton in Northamptonshire, became answerable to the King for the profits of the confiscated estate. In July 1424, Lucy and her new husband, Thomas Staines, a citizen and draper of London, conveyed the same property to feoffees, so their title had evidently been regularized by then. The MP does not appear to have left any children, although Nicholas Horncastle the younger, with whom he joined, in 1411, to offer sureties on behalf of a Northampton tradesman, may perhaps have been a son who predeceased him. He was probably also related to the William Horncastle who became bailiff of the town in 1429 and earned his living as a pardoner.3