HUNGERFORD, Sir Thomas (d.1397), of Farleigh Hungerford, Som. and Heytesbury, Wilts.

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



Jan. 1377
Jan. 1380
Nov. 1380
May 1382
Oct. 1383
Apr. 1384
Apr. 1384
Sept. 1388
Jan. 1390
Nov. 1390

Family and Education

b. bef. 1328, s. and h. of Walter Hungerford by Elizabeth, ?da. of Sir Adam Fitzjohn of Cherhill, Wilts. and nephew and h. of Sir Robert Hungerford of Rushall, Wilts. m. (1) by 1352, Eleanor, da. and h. of John Strug of Heytesbury, 3s. d.v.p.; (2) by 1376, Joan (d. 21 Mar. 1412), da. and coh. of Sir Edmund Hussey of Holbrook, Som., wid. of John Whiton of Bossington, Som., 2s. inc. Sir Walter* (1 d.v.p.). Kntd. Feb. 1375.

Offices Held

Commr. to enforce statutes against taking salmon, rivers Thames and Severn Mar. 1351; of oyer and terminer, Wilts. Feb. 1353, in Queen Philippa’s dower lands south of the Trent Feb. 1357, Devon May 1365, Hants Nov. 1366, Wilts. Feb. 1367, Hants July 1367, Wilts. Jan. 1374, Som. July 1374, Wilts. May 1378, Som. July 1380, Norf. May 1382, Cambs. May 1382, Suss. June 1384, Wilts. Jan. 1387, Som. July 1387, July 1388, an appeal against judgement in the admiral’s ct. Oct. 1391; to demolish certain houses at Norton Bavant, Wilts. July 1359; survey Dover castle May 1360; of inquiry, Wilts. May 1361 (title to property at Bedwyn), July 1361 (franchises at Norton Bavant), Oct. 1365 (lands of Thomas St. Omer), June 1371 (rights of John, Lord Montagu), Nov. 1373, Feb. 1374 (extortions), Glos. May 1375 (attacks on duchy of Lancaster tenants at Whittington), Som. July 1376 (damage to lands of the dean and chapter of Wells), Wilts. Sept. 1377 (confederations of tenants), Mar. 1381 (riots at Salisbury), Oct. 1382 (condition of Barton and royal mills at Marlborough), May 1385 (assessment of the bp. of Salisbury’s tenants at Burton), Apr. 1386, July 1390 (alienation of crown lands), Glos. Mar. 1387 (felonies), Wilts. Mar. 1387 (threats to a royal clerk), Dorset July 1387 (wastes at Stour Provost), Lincs. Mar. 1390 (encroachments on duchy of Lancaster lands), May 1390 (encroachments on the rights of the dean and chapter of Lincoln); array, Wilts. July 1370, Nov. 1371, Apr., July 1377, Mar. 1380, Apr. 1385; sewers, Holland, Lincs. Mar. 1377, Lindsey, Lincs. Feb. 1381, Isle of Ely, Cambs. Nov. 1382, Lincs. Apr. 1383, Suss. June 1385, between Eastbourne, Suss. and Appledore, Kent July 1389; to assess a tax, Wilts. Aug. 1379; suppress rebellions, Som., Wilts. Dec. 1381, Wilts. Mar., Dec. 1382; survey the river Avon between Bath and Bristol Mar. 1383; of gaol delivery, Old Sarum Mar. 1384, Bath Feb. 1386, May 1396, Ilchester Nov. 1387, Oct. 1389.

Sheriff, Wilts. 24 Nov. 1355-21 Nov. 1360.

Escheator, Wilts. 24 Nov. 1355-16 Oct. 1367.

Constable of Marlborough castle by Oct. 1359-aft. 8 Feb. 1360.

Under steward of the Black Prince’s honours of Wallingford and St. Valery c.1361-Apr. 1369; dep. constable of Wallingford castle bef. Apr. 1369.

J.p. Wilts. 20 Mar. 1361-May 1380, Feb. 1381-July 1389, June 1390-July 1391, June 1396-d., Hants 10 July 1368-Nov. 1370, Som. July 1374-Dec. 1375, July 1377-Mar. 1378, May 1380-July 1389, June 1390-d., Norf. Feb.-Nov. 1377, Feb. 1378-May 1380, Lincs. Mar. 1377-May 1380, Lancs Aug. 1379.

Chief steward, duchy of Lancaster estates Wales, Surr., Suss., Hants, Wilts., Berks., Dorset, Som., Glos., Devon, Cornw., Kent; steward of Kidwelly 13 Aug. 1372-18 Feb. 1375, Herefs. by May 1373; chief steward south of Trent 18 Feb. 1375-c.1393; steward of Monmouth and the Three Castles, 18 Feb. 1375-25 Nov. 1379.

Constable of Monmouth castle, 18 Feb. 1375-25 June 1382.

Speaker 1377 (Jan.).


Perhaps best known as the Speaker of the Bad Parliament of 1377, Hungerford was one of the most important figures to sit during our period. Largely because of his service as an administrator and estate manager for several lay and ecclesiastical magnates (and most notably for John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster), he was influential not only in his native county of Wiltshire, but also throughout the south of England. He was descended from a family which took its name from Hungerford in Berkshire, but was already well established in Wiltshire, and, indeed, his father and uncle had quite dominated the parliamentary representation of the shire between 1320 and 1340. The Hungerfords had a long tradition of service to the house of Lancaster, which Thomas and his son Walter were to perpetuate, and had already made a name for themselves as stewards of great estates, a professional expertise which was passed on to Thomas.

Although Thomas was heir to both his father and his uncle (who died childless in 1352), his inheritance was comparatively insignificant. It fell to him to establish the wealth of the family and build up their territorial strength. Small beginnings were made by marriage: his first wife brought him lands (probably forming the manor of South Court) in Heytesbury; and his second brought him as her inheritance and dower the manor and advowson of Teffont Evias, near Salisbury, and Holbrook in Somerset, as well as a third part of the manor of Bossington. The rest of Hungerford’s estates came to him by purchase. Thus, in 1355 he leased the manor of East Court in Heytesbury from Thomas, Lord Roos, only to buy it from him later; and after 1370 he leased a third manor in Heytesbury, called West Court, from the widow of Bartholomew, Lord Burghersh, within 12 years converting the lease into a tenure in tail-male, allegedly by employing a number of dubious devices in the process. Less controversial had been his acquisition in 1369 of the Somerset manors of Wellow and Farleigh Montfort (now Farleigh Hungerford), from Lord Burghersh for 1,100 marks. Farleigh became Hungerford’s chief residence, and in 1383 he obtained a royal licence to fortify its manor-house. He also purchased Down Ampney (Gloucestershire), and Ashley, Codford and Mildenhall (Wiltshire), all of which were within a radius of 20 miles of Devizes. From the Stourtons he acquired the wardenship of Selwood forest, which he was enabled by royal letters patent to make hereditary. In 1385 he received a royal grant of the right of free warren in all his most important demesnes. At his death Sir Thomas passed on to his heir at least nine manors together with a reversionary interest in Rushall (Wiltshire), once held by his uncle. These estates were then valued at about £128 a year, but this was clearly an underestimation, for he had only recently promised to settle on his heir and the latter’s bride lands worth 300 or 400 marks p.a. (£200 or £266 13s.4d.).

Hungerford became a wealthy man by capitalizing upon connexions formed with those in authority. From the beginning, he was associated with persons of more than merely local importance. Thus, on his first appearance in extant records in 1349, he acknowledged a debt of £100 to Henry Walton, archdeacon of Richmond, who (significantly enough for Thomas’s later career) was attorney-general and treasurer of the household to Henry, earl of Lancaster. By 1355 he was of sufficient standing to be appointed sheriff of Wiltshire, an office he was to discharge for five consecutive years, during the first two of which he also acted, concurrently, as county escheator. Twice during his shrievalty (in 1357 and 1360) he was able to return himself as knight of the shire. Meanwhile he had established links with several great magnates (including members of the royal family), for whom he acted as an administrator of their estates. As early as June 1354 he had been appointed bailiff of Bishop Wyvill of Salisbury’s manors of Potterne and Ramsbury, at an annual fee of 20 marks and a robe. He held this position until, on 4 Apr. 1370, he received a grant for life of the office of bishop’s bailiff of the city of Salisbury, and two other manors, with a fee of £10 p.a. and again a set of robes of the episcopal livery.2 Then, too, he had been made constable of Marlborough castle, which belonged to Edward III’s queen (Philippa of Hainault), by whom he was employed from 1357. At some time between June 1361 and May 1362 Hungerford was appointed under steward of the Black Prince’s honours of Wallingford and St. Valery (in the Thames valley), his superior in office being Bartholomew, Lord Burghersh, the prince’s close friend and companion-in-arms. In 1365 (described as ‘the prince’s yeoman’) he was confirmed in office during Burghersh’s tenure of the stewardship, and a few weeks before the latter’s death, in the spring of 1369, he was also serving as his deputy constable of Wallingford castle. He probably did not continue in these offices thereafter, and indeed it seems likely that he had no direct connexion with the prince’s household, owing his appointment purely to Lord Bartholomew’s influence.

When Hungerford had first entered Burghersh’s service is not precisely known, but by 1362 he was already a member of his council, and in receipt of a grant for life of land worth ‘26 13s.4d. to hold as his retaining fee. In 1364 he and Burghersh acted as attorneys during the absence abroad of Sir Walter Pavely KG, Burghersh’s cousin, and in the following year Pavely and Hungerford assisted Burghersh in similar circumstances. Hungerford was among his lord’s feoffees for the manor of Burwash, Sussex, and a trustee when Burghersh settled on his wife and heirs his castle and lands at Ewyas, Herefordshire, and his manors of Heytesbury, Stert and Colerne, in Wiltshire. When Lord Bartholomew went on a mission to Pope Urban V at Avignon in 1366, Thomas was again employed among his attorneys, and he was one of those on whose behalf Burghersh petitioned at the Curia for the privilege of plenary remission at the hour of death. His last services for his patron were as an executor.

In addition to his activities on behalf of the bishop of Salisbury and Lord Burghersh, by July 1365 Hungerford was also officiating as steward of the lands of William of Edington, bishop of Winchester, although how long he had previously occupied the post is unknown. He also had more personal connexions with Edington, in that he was his Coffee of the manor of Baddesley, Hampshire, and a moiety of Timsbury, Somerset, as well as of the manor of Coleshill and other estates in Berkshire (later granted to the priory of Augustinian ‘Bonshommes’ founded by the bishop in his native Edington). When the bishop died in October 1366, Hungerford took on the task of executorship, having received a bequest of 50 marks and a covered cup.3 He and his fellow executors were granted (for £200 a month) the temporalities of the see of Winchester for the duration of the vacancy, only for them to pass, two months later, to Edington’s successor, William of Wykeham. Some time previously Hungerford had obtained yet another administrative appointment, this time in the service of William Montagu, 2nd earl of Salisbury, who was married to Lord Burghersh’s niece. On 1 Jan. 1365 he had been made steward of all Salisbury’s lands, at an annual fee of 20 marks; furthermore, the fee was to be paid even if he proved unable to perform his duties as steward, provided that he continued to be the earl’s retainer and counsellor. The appointment and grant were for life, and the Montagu connexion certainly seems to have been maintained: in 1367 and 1371 Hungerford served on royal commissions directly relating to his stewardship, and in 1384 he was cited as an essential witness in a prosecution brought by Salisbury against his brother John, Lord Montagu.

Thus, by 1370 Hungerford must have been well known as a land agent and administrator, but by far his most important appointment was still to come. We have already seen that the Hungerford family had a longstanding association with the house of Lancaster; and during the earlier part of his career Thomas himself is known to have had occasional dealings with Lancastrian officials. Not until 1372, however, does he first appear in the records as a retainer of John of Gaunt, though he had no doubt already been one of his employees for some time. He was appointed chief steward of the duchy lands in Wales and II shires in southern England, an office which, in itself an administrative innovation, seems unlikely to have been given to a newcomer to the duke’s service. At the same time he was made steward of Kidwelly, where he was to draw his fee of £10 a year, over and above the 3s.4d. expenses allotted to him for each day of actual duty. In 1374 this daily allowance was increased to 4s., with effect from the original date of his appointment. Early in the following year, the scope of Hungerford’s jurisdiction was expanded, and he became chief steward of all the duchy lands south of the Trent, except those in Derbyshire and Staffordshire. His stipend was now to be £66 13s.4d. a year, and while engaged on duchy business outside London or the duke’s household he received 6s.8d. expenses per day. The prestigious office, held at Gaunt’s pleasure, Hungerford retained until about 1393. On the day of his appointment he was also formally made a member of Gaunt’s council, and, in view of the duke’s intention to ‘ly doner l’order de chivaler’, he was at the same time given a grant for life of the constableship of Monmouth castle and stewardships of Monmouth and the Three Castles. He was, in fact, knighted before 5 Mar. 1375, when he was about to leave England for Flanders with Lancaster, the latter being head of the English mission sent to negotiate for a peace treaty with France. From this time forward, Hungerford’s service to the Lancastrian administration must have monopolized most of his attention, and Gaunt’s surviving registers frequently refer to his travels all over Wales and the south of England on duchy business. Sir Thomas’s stewardship also involved him in sitting on royal commissions relating to Gaunt’s estates, and on several occasions he also acted as an ex officio j.p. in two of the counties in the area of his chief stewardship, Norfolk and Lincolnshire. For a time he was even, by the duke’s own warrant, a justice in Lancashire, which did not, of course, fall within his bailiwick.

Hungerford’s service to Gaunt was not, however, strictly confined to the supervision of his estates. In January 1377, when, for the first time in 14 years, he was returned to Parliament, he was elected Speaker. Thomas Walsingham reported ‘electus est igitur a majori parte, ad pronunciandum verba communia, dominus Thomas Hungerfordh, miles duci familiarissimus, utpote senescallus ejus; qui nil aliud voluit quod pronunciaret admittere, quam quod scivit oculis sui domini complacere’, and although the chronicler was hostile to Gaunt at this time, there is little reason to doubt that Hungerford’s Lancastrian connexion was a very influential factor in his election. Management of the Commons was of particular importance to Gaunt, for the main political object of the Parliament was to ratify his strenuous efforts to reverse the acts and impeachments of its predecessor (the Good Parliament of 1376), whose sessions had been so disagreeable to him and his party at Court. Gaunt’s interest, as well as Hungerford’s own prominent position as a duchy chief steward, may also account for his election to no less than 13 of the 21 Parliaments which sat between 1377 and 1393. His membership of the Lancastrian council must also have occupied a good deal of his time; and it frequently took him to the duke’s London palace at the Savoy. The closeness of Sir Thomas’s attachment to Gaunt is further underlined by the fact that by July 1378 he had been added to the number of the duke’s executors. Hungerford’s first-born son, another Sir Thomas, was also a member of Lancaster’s retinue. He himself occasionally stood surety for colleagues in the Lancastrian administration when they leased estates controlled by the royal exchequer.

Quite apart from the distinction lent him by his exalted place in the counsels of the King’s uncle, Hungerford was, in his own right, one of the foremost of the notables of Wiltshire and Somerset, where he served for many years as a j.p. and a member of numerous other royal commissions. During the Parliament of November 1381, however, a petition was presented which alleged that he sometimes unscrupulously exploited his considerable influence in Wiltshire for his own private ends. Margaret, widow of Lord Burghersh and now married to Sir William Burcester*, declared that he had used sharp practice (‘procurement, covyne et malyce’) to undo her life interest in the manor of West Court in Heytesbury, and subsequently to obtain it for himself. She and her husband further alleged that they were unable to recover their rights because of ‘la graunt maintenance de dit Thomas et autres de son affynyte’ in the county, and that Hungerford had abused his office as j.p. to prejudice their case. Sir Thomas, summoned before Parliament to answer the charges, ably defended himself and ‘soi metre en Dieu et tout son pays, qu’il n’est null meintenour n’embraceour de querelles’. He even went so far as to assert that he possessed no estate in the manor in question. He further denied perverting the law as a j.p., and declared that he had only spoken out against the petitioners after Burcester and his men had publicly slandered him in the county court at Wilton. The exact truth of the matter is not now known, but the petitioners did not recover their manor, and six months later officially acknowledged Hungerford’s right to it.

It is difficult to discover what role Hungerford played in the political upheavals of 1386-8, but it is on the whole likely that he supported the Lords Appellant in their proscription of Richard II’s favourites. John of Gaunt was abroad at this time, but Sir Thomas had close links with one of the younger Appellants, the duke’s heir, Henry of Bolingbroke, for whom in 1387-8 he acted as receiver of the Wiltshire manor of Upavon. He was also connected with another of their associates, Bishop Erghum, for whom he had been bailiff of Salisbury since 1375; moreover, the bishop was his fellow member of Gaunt’s council, his co-feoffee of the estates of William, Lord Botreaux, and Sir Thomas’s own trustee of his most profitable Somerset manors. In November 1387, when a crisis was threatening, Hungerford was among those who found surety in the large sum of 4,000 marks that Erghum would keep the peace toward Sir Ivo Fitzwaryn*: since Fitzwaryn’s sureties were members of the royal household, the feud may well have been a political one. Perhaps because of his advancing years, Hungerford’s own part in the dramatic events of 1388 was probably small, and he was not returned to the Merciless Parliament. His links with the Appellants may, however, have caused Richard II to view him as politically unreliable, and this may be the reason why, shortly after Richard’s assumption of power in May 1389, he was then dropped from the commission of the peace for both Wiltshire and Somerset. However, by the end of June 1390 (by which date Gaunt had returned from Spain), he had been re-instated.

By this time Sir Thomas must have been well stricken in age (he had been described as an ‘old man’ in 1384), and in 1391 he was appointed to his last royal commission. In 1393 he not only served in Parliament for the 16th and final time, but also resigned as chief steward of the duchy. In September 1397 he received letters patent promising him repayment by the following Easter of a loan of Ioo marks, presumably extracted from him by the Council as an indemnity for any disloyalty shown to King Richard ten years earlier. He did not, however, live to receive it, for he died on 3 Dec.4 He was buried in the chapel of St. Anne in the parish church of Farleigh Hungerford.

Sir Thomas’s second wife, Joan (who had a life interest in most of his estates), survived until 1412.5 She was one of the executors of his will, together with his kinsman, John Snagge DD, rector of Pewsey, Wiltshire, and an advocate in the court of Canterbury, but the will was not proved until 1403. Sir Thomas’s heir was his only surviving son, Walter, whose marriage to a wealthy heiress he had already arranged. Walter was to hold many great offices, including that of treasurer of England, and in 1426 was elevated to the peerage as Lord Hungerford. The aggrandisement of the family, none the less, rests squarely on the foundations of the acquisitions, connexions and dynastic planning of Sir Thomas Hungerford.

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Authors: J. S. Roskell / Charles Kightly


Except where otherwise noted, all information in this biography is derived from J.S. Roskell, ‘Three Wilts. Speakers’, Wilts. Arch. Mag. lvi. 274-300, and J.L. Kirby, ‘The Hungerfords’ (London Univ. M.A. thesis, 1939), 6-21, 71-74, 78-83, 124-6, 183.

  • 1. He was at first returned to this Parliament for both Som. and Wilts., but only sat for Wilts., his place for Som. being taken by Sir Stephen Derby: C219/9/7; CCR, 1389-92, p. 179.
  • 2. He was, however, already holding office as bailiff of Salisbury by 1368: Tropenell Cart. ed. Davies, i. 211.
  • 3. Reg. Langham (Canterbury and York Soc. liii), 321, 323; Huntingdon Lib. San Marino, Hastings mss, HAD 150/2403, 181/2962.
  • 4. C136/100/31.
  • 5. C137/87/33.