HUNT, Roger, of Chawston, Beds. and Molesworth, Hunts.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
m. by 1419, Margery, at least 1s.1
King’s attorney in the ct. of common pleas 17 Aug. 1408-18 Feb. 1410.
J.p. Hunts. 8 Feb. 1409-11, 14 Apr. 1416-May 1437, 4 Mar. 1441-Feb. 1455, Northants. 30 Oct. 1409-July 1411, Beds. 12 Feb. 1422-July 1423, 12 Mar. 1439-June 1455.
Commr. to examine an indictment of the abbot of Peterborough, Northants. Nov. 1409 (bis); of oyer and terminer, Lincs. May 1415 (poaching on the estates of Croyland abbey), Beds. Aug. 1416 (treason), Hunts. Jan. 1420 (withdrawal of labour services on John Styuecle’s* manor of Woolley), Northants. Feb. 1438 (poaching on Ralph, Lord Cromwell’s estates at Collyweston), London, Mdx., Essex, Kent, Surr. Oct. 1441 (treasons and insurrections); inquiry, Cambs. Feb. 1417 (murder at Cambridge), Oxf., Bucks., Beds., Hunts., Notts., Lincs., Leics., Rutland July 1425 (wastes on the estates of the bp. of Lincoln), Lincs., Cambs., Hunts., Norf., Suff. July 1439 (evasions and concealments), Cornw. May 1440 (concealments), Som., Devon July 1440 (concealments); array, Hunts. May 1418, Beds. Mar. 1419; to raise royal loans, Hunts. Nov. 1419, Jan. 1420, Mar. 1422, July 1426, May 1428, Cambs., Hunts. Mar. 1430, Mar. 1431, Beds. Mar. 1439, Nov. 1440, Mar. 1442, Beds., Bucks. June 1446; of gaol delivery, Bedford May 1420; to take the oath from local gentry against supporting lawbreakers, Hunts. May 1434; treat for payment of subsidy Feb. 1441.
Steward of Reynold, Lord Grey of Ruthin’s manor of Hemingford Grey, Hunts. by Mar. 1413.
Dep. steward of the duchy of Lancaster south parts 28 June 1415-2 June 1416.2
Steward of John, earl of Norfolk’s manor of Fenstanton, Hunts. by Mich. 1420-aft. Mich. 1423.3
Speaker 1420, 1433.4
Sheriff, Cambs. and Hunts. 5 Nov. 1433-7 Nov. 1435.
Distributor of a tax rebate, Hunts. Dec. 1433, Feb. 1434; assessor of a tax Jan. 1436.
Second baron of the Exchequer 3 Nov. 1439-aft. 1448.6
Ambassador to negotiate a truce with Holland, Zeeland and Friesland 14 July 1441.7
A celebrated parliamentarian and lawyer, who twice served as Speaker of the Commons, Roger Hunt appears to have risen from relative obscurity. Lack of evidence about his early life and background certainly suggests that he owed his rapid advance to talent rather than family influence, although, as we shall see, he soon acquired a circle of important friends, among whom Sir John (later Lord) Tiptoft* and John, earl (and from 1425 duke) of Norfolk, were the most prominent. The first known piece of evidence about him occurs in February 1402, by which date he was leasing a tenement in Foster Lane, London, from the prior of the Hospital of the Blessed Virgin without Bishopsgate. Since a man called Hunt figures on the list of surnames of members admitted to Lincoln’s Inn before (but still surviving in) 1420, we may reasonably assume that he obtained his legal training in London and probably spent part of his early life practising there. It is now impossible to tell how he acquired his estates in Huntingdonshire, which lay in and around the manor of Molesworth. Although he did not gain possession of the whole manor much before 1428, he clearly held part of it from 1407 onwards, as this marks the beginning of his involvement in county society.8 In April of that year he joined with Sir John Tiptoft and his father, Sir Payn*, in taking securities of 1,000 marks from Sir John’s uncle, the Middlesex landowner, Sir John Wroth*, and at about the same time we find him acting as a feoffee-to-uses of property in Huntingdon. Election to the House of Commons followed not long after, and in October 1407 Hunt sat in the first of a total of at least 18 Parliaments, spread over a period of 26 years. Whether or not he owed his return to the support of Sir John Tiptoft remains a matter of speculation, but there seems little doubt that his appointment in August 1408 as the King’s attorney in the court of common pleas was brought about through Tiptoft’s influence. The latter’s promotion in the previous month to the office of treasurer of England placed impressive reserves of patronage at his disposal, and it is interesting to note that when Henry of Monmouth came to power at the end of 1409 both Tiptoft and Hunt were among the first to be replaced by the prince’s nominees. According to the letters patent which awarded him the post of attorney, Hunt had originally been assured of promotion by Archbishop Arundel (the then chancellor of England), Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester, ‘and others then about the King’. Notwithstanding Beaufort’s attachment to the prince of Wales, it seems more than likely that Hunt, like Tiptoft, was politically sympathetic towards the court party, as opposed to the rival group then forming itself about the future Henry V. The personal connexion between the two men was further strengthened in November 1408, when Hunt became a trustee of land and manors in six English counties held to the use of Sir John and his wife: further enfeoffments followed, and as late as 1431 Tiptoft was still settling property in trust upon the MP, who by then enjoyed such a title to most of his estates.9
Nor was this the only way in which Hunt made himself useful to his patron. In September 1417, for example, he was a mainpernor for the farmers of the inheritance of Tiptoft’s wife, Philippa; and in 1419, 1422 and 1431 he offered sureties on behalf of Sir John himself as the custodian of the property of three royal wards. His most valuable function was, however, as financial agent for Tiptoft during his years as seneschal of Aquitaine. On 8 May 1415, the day of Sir John’s appointment, Hunt was party with him to a recognizance of 500 marks, payable to the bishop of Durham and the earl of Westmorland, which probably served as a guarantee of his good behaviour in office. Only ten days later he went to Plymouth with the sum of £1,883 assigned to the new seneschal by the Exchequer, receiving an award of £10 to cover his own costs. There is a strong possibility that Hunt was officially employed by Sir John as his receiver, for when the latter was sent on an embassy to the Emperor Sigismund his expenses of £60 were collected by the lawyer in person, as were further sums of £300 (1419), £80 (1420) and £20 (1422), intended to meet Tiptoft’s wages, and a cash payment of £2,541 (1420) which Hunt delivered himself at Southampton. Meanwhile, in July 1417, Hunt, John Tyrell* and Tiptoft offered a joint obligation of £2,000 to a group of London merchants, who had evidently lent their money for the defence of Aquitaine. The loan was underwritten by certain leading government employees, so Hunt’s part in the transaction seems to have been little more than a formality. Although less well documented after Tiptoft’s return to England, their relationship remained close. In July 1431, for example, Hunt made an oath in Chancery concerning Tiptoft’s entitlement to exemption from certain customs on wine; and two years later he obtained the farm of the manor of Kersey in Suffolk, the reversion of which belonged, in part, to Tiptoft’s second wife, Joyce. The continuing importance of this connexion is, moreover, instanced by the fact that within a week of Tiptoft’s death, in late January 1443, Hunt delivered into the lower Exchequer sealed charters concerning the estates which his patron had held for life, and of which he had long been a feoffee.10
Although by far the most influential, Tiptoft was not the only Huntingdonshire landowner in Hunt’s immediate circle. Chief among his other associates were Thomas Waweton, John Botiller, Robert Scott and Nicholas Styuecle, all of whom represented the county during our period and became closely involved in each other’s affairs. Hunt and Botiller were both trustees of the late John Herlyngton’s* manor of Orton Waterville, which was settled upon them by his widow in 1409, and which still remained in Hunt’s hands almost 20 years later. They appeared together frequently as feoffees, most notably of the property in London owned by Scott’s second wife; and they were often prepared to tender joint securities on behalf of friends, as well as providing financial guarantees for each other. In December 1409, for instance, they were mainpernors at the Exchequer for Reynold, Lord Grey of Ruthin, as farmer of the estates of the late Sir John Bernak; and two years later they and Robert Scott stood bail for Thomas Waweton, who had then fallen foul of the law. Hunt was one of the chief witnesses at Botiller’s marriage to Joan Mepersale, and he became a trustee of the property which his friend bought as a jointure for her. According to a petition later submitted by Joan in the court of Chancery, he was also present when Botiller made his will, although he allegedly refused to implement its terms and retained an annuity of £20 which should have been hers.11 Whatever the truth of these charges, he was in continuous demand as a mainpernor and feoffee, being regularly associated in both capacities not only with his four friends, but also with Sir John Tiptoft, who had connexions of one kind or another with almost every leading member of the local gentry.12
Hunt was still an attorney of the Crown when he was appointed first to the Huntingdonshire bench, and then, a few months later, to that of Northamptonshire. He may perhaps already have acquired the joint ownership of the land and rents in Barnwell, Northamptonshire, from which he later claimed to have been wrongfully evicted by the local escheator. His fortunes were clearly on the ascendant during this period, for at some point before 1412 he also bought the manor of Chawston across the county border in Bedfordshire. This property was then assessed for taxation purposes at 24 marks p.a. although it probably produced rather more. Many years afterwards, in the course of litigation begun by him against his own feoffees for refusing to surrender the manor, he said that it had cost him 600 marks, a sum which he was evidently able to raise without too much difficulty. Even though it enabled him to extend his sphere of influence into Bedfordshire, which he represented in three Parliaments, his ownership of the manor proved something of a mixed blessing. In addition to the problem of fraudulent trustees, he was also faced with at least one outbreak of violence at Chawston, probably as a result of his unpopularity among the local people. In August 1416 a commission of oyer and terminer was set up to investigate his complaint that ‘evildoers to the number of 60 men’ had not only caused great damage to his estates, but had also launched a murderous attack upon his own person. Hunt may have come into more land through marriage, but very little is known about his wife, Margery, whom he married in, or before, 1419, the date of a conveyance of land in St. Neot’s (Huntingdonshire) made jointly by them and John and Katherine Bullock. John Bullock was probably Hunt’s brother-in-law: he was later implicated with him in the murder of a Bedfordshire man, and also acted as his mainpernor and feoffee, being named among the defendants in the suit over the manor of Chawston. The only other reference to Margery occurs in March 1415, when she and Hunt obtained a papal indult for the use of their own portable altar. It is now, therefore, impossible to tell how great a contribution she made to the estates in Huntingdonshire and Bedfordshire which, by 1436, brought her husband an annual income of at least £68.13
Hunt served in only one of Henry IV’s Parliaments, although he was present at the Huntingdonshire elections of 1411, when his two friends, Scott and Styuecle, were returned. After the accession of Henry V, however, he began to sit almost continuously as representative for either Bedfordshire or Huntingdonshire, being sent to every Parliament for which returns are extant (with the exception of the relatively unimportant session of December 1421) up to and including that of 1433. In other words, he is definitely known to have attended 17 out of the 20 Parliaments which met during these two decades. Like many of his contemporaries, Hunt had few scruples about infringing the statute concerning the residential qualifications of both elected and electors. Thus, in 1414 (Nov.) and 1420, when he was returned for Bedfordshire, he attended the elections at the county court in Huntingdon; and, similarly, at the time of his election as a Huntingdonshire MP in 1419 and 1425 he was himself helping to choose the representatives for Bedfordshire. It was in 1420 that Hunt first became Speaker of the Lower House, after the only known contest for the office to occur during the Middle Ages. His rival, John Russell III* commanded sufficient support for a scrutiny (examinacio) of votes to be taken, in which Hunt carried the day.14 His legal training and somewhat greater experience of Commons’ procedure must have played a considerable part in his success, but the most crucial factor in determining his election was almost certainly the wide range of influential connexions established by him over the years, not only with Tiptoft, but also through his association with many other prominent figures. Sir Walter Hungerford*, the chief steward of the duchy of Lancaster south of the Trent, had, for example, thought well enough of him to make him his deputy when absent on Henry V’s first invasion of Normandy, by which date Hunt was also acting as an estate-steward for Reynold, Lord Grey of Ruthin. The latter’s kinsman, Richard, Lord Grey of Wilton, called upon the lawyer to witness certain property transactions for him; and in 1417 we find Hunt among the feoffees of the wealthy landowner, Sir Adam Francis*.15
The exact date of Hunt’s recruitment into the service of John Mowbray, the then earl of Norfolk, cannot be precisely established, but he had already been sitting on his council for at least ten years (at a fee of 20s. p.a.) and acting as steward of his manor of Fenstanton for five when, in the Parliament of 1425, he presented Mowbray’s claim to precedence over Richard, earl of Warwick. In the course of a series of replications and rejoinders he informed the two houses ‘howe that he hade of long tyme beon of counseill with his seid Lord Erl Mareschall, and by him commaunded to have ye utteryng of his matier at yat time’; and it was no doubt in some part due to his skill that the controversy was settled in favour of Mowbray, whose right to the title of duke of Norfolk was admitted at the express instance of the Commons. At the time of Norfolk’s death, seven years later, Hunt was in receipt of a sizeable annuity of £10, which may, perhaps, have been awarded to him as a mark of gratitude at this time. His subsequent involvement in the Huntingdon riots of 1426 and 1427 (for which he was indicted before the earl of Huntingdon and other of his own colleagues on the county bench on four charges, including that of ‘terrorizing the townspeople’) has been seen as a consequence of his partisan support of the duke in a rapidly escalating quarrel with Huntingdon over the exercise of local hegemony. But recent research is dismissive of the idea that a (possible) conflict between the two peers lay behind either of these disturbances or the even more dramatic events surrounding the Huntingdonshire parliamentary elections of August 1429. Whatever the underlying cause of the last of these affrays, it is highly unlikely that Norfolk, with only two manors in the county, had any real interest in the return of Members. A more plausible explanation lies in the outbreak of an entirely independent feud or disagreement among the local gentry: there was certainly a temporary rift in the friendship between Hunt and (Sir) Thomas Waweton, who was determined to obtain a seat in the Commons for one of his own kinsmen. Waweton’s attempt to invade the county court with a body of ‘outsiders’ from Bedfordshire and thus force the sheriff to return his own nominees was, however, doomed to failure, for on 17 Sept., just five days before the Parliament was due to meet, (Sir) Nicholas Styuecle and several other prominent local figures obliged the sheriff to hold a free election, at which Styuecle himself and Hunt were duly chosen. Whether or not he was directly involved in the matter (which now seems unlikely), the duke continued to rely heavily upon his councillor, making him a trustee of his estates in Norfolk, and, in May 1429, appointing him as one of the executors of his will. As one of Norfolk’s leading advisors, Hunt was called upon to act as an arbitrator in the bitter dispute between Ralph, Lord Cromwell, and Sir John Graa† over the Heriz inheritance—an invidious task made worse by Cromwell’s characteristic duplicity with regard to the implementation of the award.16
Over the years, Hunt made other friends in high places, notably the abbot of Ramsey for whom he acted as a proxy in the Parliaments of 1426 and 1439; and William, Lord Bardolph, from whom he received an unspecified annuity as well as the keepership of Dennington park. Hunt also numbered John Cornwall, Lord Fanhope, among his growing list of acquaintances, although his trusteeship of Fanhope’s Bedfordshire estates brought him into personal conflict with the imperious Lord Cromwell, who wished to purchase the property after the owner’s death.17 Hunt’s debt to Henry, bishop of Winchester, who helped him to obtain preferment in 1408, has already been noted, and it is interesting to discover the same hand in his appointment, in 1439, as second baron of the Exchequer. Yet his relations with this powerful ecclesiastic cannot always have been so cordial, especially as he was indirectly to blame for Beaufort’s humiliation before the Parliament of 1426. The Speaker had evidently not yet been chosen when Hunt led a deputation from the Commons urging John, duke of Bedford, and other lords to effect an arbitration between Beaufort and his arch-enemy, the duke of Gloucester. Although the mediators were careful to protest their impartiality, their award proved a bitter blow to Beaufort’s pride, and was followed by his resignation of the chancellorship. It is now impossible to tell if Hunt was simply acting as a mouthpiece for the Commons—whose concern at the growing violence of the quarrel between Beaufort and Gloucester was real enough—or if he had received instructions from some noble patron. Whatever his motives, this particular incident may well have affected his conduct as Speaker of the 1433 Parliament, during which he made a telling speech on the subject of the duke of Bedford’s ‘tranquilizing influence on affairs at home in England’.18
Hunt’s dominant position in both Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire society is reflected in his frequent appearances as a feoffee, mainpernor and arbitrator there. In 1412, for instance, he was chosen to settle a dispute between the prior of St. Neot’s and a local clergyman. The two MPs, Henry Hethe* and Robert Stonham* likewise turned to him as their first choice of mediator in a quarrel over the ownership of the manor of Grafham, although more pressing legal business prevented him from attending to the matter. Hunt’s reputation and expertise as a lawyer did not, however, prevent him from taking the law into his own hands when the occasion arose; and in 1429, while Parliament was still in session, he was indicted before the King’s bench on a charge of aiding and abetting the murder of one John Abbott of Eton. He himself went bail for the murderers, naming his fellow Member, (Sir) Nicholas Styuecle, among his own mainpernors. He and John Bullock, who was accused with him, were later acquitted, but only after they had persistently failed to appear in court. Hunt himself narrowly escaped with his life as a result of an assault made upon him at some point after 1425 by a group of malefactors at St. Neot’s, prompted, according to his own testimony, by a desire to avenge a sentence passed by him while serving on the local bench.19 Experiences of this kind, which were certainly not infrequent, led the Commons of 1433 to protest about the disorder then rampant in certain parts of England; and Hunt, as their Speaker, not only gave expression to this state of concern, but also managed to obtain the Lords’ consent to the taking of a general oath ‘in eschuyng of Riotes, Excesses, mysgovernances and disobeissances ayenst the Kynges astate’. His practical efforts to maintain law and order (at least where his own interests were at stake) did not cease at the end of the session, for in May of the following year he was made, as recently knight of the shire, a royal commissioner for the administration of such oaths among the Huntingdonshire gentry. Hunt’s election to the Speakership may, as before, have owed something to his longstanding association with Lord Tiptoft, who had just been dismissed from the stewardship of the royal household. This would in turn suggest that the Commons were less than favourably disposed towards the duke of Gloucester (who was behind Tiptoft’s dismissal), and could also account for Hunt’s evident rapprochement with Cardinal Beaufort. At all events, his tenure of the Speakership was beset with problems, most of which arose as a result of the government’s acute shortage of money. Whatever reasons may have been given for public consumption, Parliament was adjourned in August 1433 so that Treasurer Cromwell could examine the state of the royal finances. Cromwell’s interim report, delivered after the two houses re-assembled in the following October, showed the Crown to be £168,000 in debt, but despite the gravity of the situation, the Commons proved unresponsive, and Hunt could only announce a meagre grant of less than one whole subsidy, spread over a period of two years. He was, on the other hand, successful in persuading the Lords to support a fulsome request that John, duke of Bedford, should leave France and remain in England, ‘to ye wellfare of ye Kynges noble persone, and also to the good and restfull governaile and kepyng, as well of this lande inward, as of ye Kynges landes outward’. Hunt’s undoubted eloquence and skill in debate served him to less advantage in a personal matter, arising from his appointment, during the second session, as sheriff of Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire. The prospect of heavy financial loss as much as the onerous burden of administrative duties involved led him to petition for exemption: and we are told that ‘atte the especiall prayer and instance of the saide Roger diversez notablez and worshipfull persones of the saide commones to the nombre of xxxvi persones at diversez tymes besoughten ... (to) have hym of the saide office excused ... be the consideracion of the longe labour coost and travaill that the saide Roger hadde in the saide Parlement’. Notwithstanding the efforts of his friends, chief among whom was John Tyrell, he obtained nothing more than a promise of re-imbursement, which was then ignored for another ten years. Despite repeated complaints on his part, it was not until February 1443 that he recovered the £200 lost by him during two consecutive terms as sheriff. The post of second baron of the Exchequer, which he obtained in 1439, and the award of the keepership of the earl of Pembroke’s castle and manor of Huntingdon made to him three years later, may in part have offset these expenses, but on the whole he had every reason to complain of unfair treatment. This was particularly the case after 1436, when he was approached by the King for a personal loan of £40 to help pay for the wars with France. The abbess of St. Mary’s, Chatteris, also recovered a fee of £10 a year from the manor of Kersey (which he held as farmer) at this time, so his financial position must have suffered quite a serious set-back.20
Hunt’s last years were largely taken up with official commitments, including an embassy to the Netherlands, on which he was accompanied by the great canonist, William Lyndwood, and the London mercer, Sir William Estfield†. He must have died at some point between January 1450, when he was reappointed to the Huntingdonshire bench for the very last time, and July 1456, the date of a release made by his son and heir, Roger, of certain estates formerly held by him in trust. Roger Hunt the younger is said to have married Elizabeth, the daughter of Walter Taylarde of Diddington in Huntingdonshire, but in comparison with his father he remains a remote and shadowy figure.21
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Two other men named Roger Hunt were active during the MP’s lifetime. One came from Notts. and appears in both 1409 and 1428 (CPR, 1408-13, p. 18; CFR, xv. 232), while the other, who lived at Balsham in Cambs. played a modest part in local government (C1/15/93; CFR, xvi. 68, 285; CPR, 1429-36, p. 386).