KIRKBY, John I (d.1424), of Romsey, Hants and West Harnham, Wilts.
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Family and Education
m. (1) Margaret, da. and h. of Oliver Harnham of West Harnham, 1s. d.v.p.; (2) Alison, sis. of Master Gilbert Hallam, canon of Salisbury cathedral, 1s.1
Commr. of inquiry, Wilts. May 1403 (claims to land made by Elizabeth, countess of Huntingdon); array, Hants Apr. 1418.
Tax collector, Wilts. June 1410, Dec. 1421, Oct. 1422.
John’s origins are obscure, but it seems clear that he was related to the Kirkbys or Kirbys of Horton Kirby, Kent, whose estates came into the possession of Thomas Stonor* of Stonor through marriage to Alice, daughter and heir of Thomas Kirby. Certainly, in 1420 the Stonors granted him an annual rent of £5 from Horton Kirby during the lifetime of his brother-in-law, Master Gilbert Hallam.2
Kirkby is first described as being ‘of Hampshire’ in 1389, when acting as a mainpernor in Chancery. In 1403 he obtained a rent of 12 marks a year from the manor of Stanbridge Earls in Romsey, and he may have subsequently acquired the manor itself. (His son had possession of it later.) As an outcome of his first marriage, he already held property in Wiltshire, in West and East Harnham and at Britford near Salisbury, and this he retained ‘by the courtesy’ after the deaths of his wife and their son Thomas, successfully defeating all other claims to ownership and in 1414 purchasing from the coheirs the right to pass the estate on to his own heirs. It is not known whether Kirkby acquired much property by his second marriage, but it doubtless brought him some prestige, for his wife was the sister of a canon of Salisbury cathedral, who was himself the ‘cousin and heir’ of Bishop Robert Hallum of Salisbury. Sometime before the bishop’s death at the Council of Constance in 1417, Kirkby entered his service, and late in 1419 he still had in his keeping £20 of Hallum’s money. Meanwhile, in 1412, together with his kinsman Peter Kirkby, a London grocer, he had obtained from Walter Charlton lands in ‘Caylewey’ and Morley in Wiltshire. In 1422 Kirkby was bound in £100 to abide by the award of Bishop Beaufort of Winchester regarding seven manors in Hampshire which he claimed against Beaufort’s receiver, Richard Barbot of Ervills in Hambledon, but he was apparently unsuccessful in his suit.3
According to the assessments of 1412, Kirkby held lands in Dorset worth £76 6s.8d. a year, in Hampshire worth £32 13s.4d. a year, in Sussex worth £26 13s.4d. a year and in Wiltshire worth £53 6s.8d. a year (making a total income of £189). But, in fact, he was not nearly so wealthy as these figures imply, for most of the estates specified belonged to the heir of Thomas, Lord West, and were only temporarily in his hands. In fact, Kirkby’s own holdings in Wiltshire were valued at no more than £20 p.a., and those in Hampshire, mostly situated in Romsey, were later assessed at £23 16s.8d., giving him a total annual income of less than £45. Kirkby had been named as one of the executors of the will of Lord West in 1405, and had received from him a bequest of as much as £100. In April 1405 he had shared, with Eleanor, Lady St. Amand, (Sir) John Pelham* and others, the custody by royal grant of a moiety of the West estates during the minority of the heir, the terms being altered in the following year to cover the whole estate for 400 marks a year, payable to Queen Joan as part of her dower. (In the meantime Kirkby had been granted another wardship, that of the heir of Thomas Tauk, but he had relinquished it in favour of Pelham, who was now excluded from the custodianship of the West estates.) The heir, Thomas, 2nd Lord West, received seisin of his inheritance in 1413, but Kirkby retained an association with him and witnessed the will he made two years later, by which he himself was to receive a bequest of £26 13s.4d. Indeed, the connexion with the Wests continued for many years more, for Thomas’s successor, Reynold, Lord de la Warre, subsequently acted as a feoffee of the Kirkby estates.