LECHE, Roger (d.1416), of Chatsworth and Nether Haddon, Derbys.
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Family and Education
m. (1) 1s. Sir Philip*, 4da.; (2) by Oct. 1414, Katherine (d. 4 May 1420), wid. of Sir John Bromwich† (d. by (389) of Nailsworth, Glos., and Sir Hugh Waterton (d.1409) of Tibberton, Worcs. Kntd. by Apr. 1404.1
Commr. of inquiry, Derbys., Staffs. Nov. 1399 (cattle thefts), Derbys. Mar. 1406 (defections to the rebel army in Wales), Derbys., Beds., Bucks., Hants, Leics., Northants., Notts., Rutland, Staffs., Warws. Mar. 1410, July 1412 (royal rights and franchises), Derbys., Hunts., Leics., Lincs., Staffs., Yorks. June 1413 (concealments), Derbys., Notts. Jan. 1414 (lollards at large); to make arrests Feb. 1402, Jan. 1408, Dec. 1411; prevent the spread of treasonous rumours, Derbys. May 1402; assemble and lead an army against the rebels in the north, Derbys., Notts. May 1405; of oyer and terminer, Devon, Cornw. (crimes generally); to make new rentals for the lordship of Tutbury, Staffs. Jan. 1415;2 of array, Derbys. May 1415.
J.p. Derbys. 28 Nov. 1399-Feb. 1407, 16 Nov. 1413-d., Staffs. 8 Feb. 1406-7, 12 June 1410-Dec. 1417.
Sheriff, Notts. and Derbys. 24 Nov. 1400-8 Nov. 1401, Flintshire 17 Oct. 1407-d.3
Controller of the household of Hen. IV by 1 Apr. 1404-aft. 19 Jan. 1405; steward of the household of Henry, prince of Wales by 3 July 1407-21 Mar. 1413; treasurer of the household of Hen. V by 31 Oct. 1413-bef. Jan. 1416.4
Ambassador to treat for peace and the surrender of prisoners with the Scots 26 June 1404.5
Keeper of the city of York for the Crown 3 June 1405-3 July 1406.6
Steward of the duchy of Lancaster lordship of the High Peak, Derbys. 18 Nov. 1405-d.; steward of the duchy lordship of Tutbury, Staffs. by 1407-d.; bailiff of the High Peak by 1413-d.; chief steward of the duchy of Lancaster north parts 5 Apr. 1413-d.; chamberlain of the duchy of Lancaster 12 May 1416-d.7
Constable of Flint castle 17 Oct. 1407-d.8
Forester, Macclesfield, Cheshire 24 Oct. 1408-Sept. 1411.9
Controller of a tax, Suss. July 1413.
Treasurer of England 17 Apr.-23 Sept. 1416.
From comparatively obscure beginnings among the ranks of the Derbyshire gentry Roger Leche rose to become one of the most influential crown employees of his day. Years of loyal service to the house of Lancaster were rewarded with high office, culminating shortly before his death, in 1416, in his appointment as treasurer of England. His early life and family background are now hard to trace, but he was evidently of age by September 1388, when he acted as a trustee of land in Chesterfield. In November 1391 he offered securities of £100 on behalf of a local man who had disturbed the peace, and soon afterwards he was himself bound over after a violent affray involving various members of the Walwayn family of London. Never slow to take the law into his own hands, Leche grossly abused his position as an arbitrator at a love-day in Derbyshire, in September 1392, by arriving with a body of 12 armed men in an attempt to intimidate one of the parties. The latter had, however, enlisted the support of John Stafford of Eyam, a retainer of John of Gaunt: a brawl ensued, and both protagonists found themselves before the King’s bench for causing an affray. Leche was again in trouble with the authorities one year later as a result not only of his refusal to satisfy Richard II with regard to a ransom (presumably taken in France) but also became of ‘trespasses contrary to the statute of purveyance’. In due course, after many evasions, he submitted to a term of imprisonment in the Marshal-sea and undertook to pay off his debts. Little more is heard of him until his appearance in 1398 as a defendant in a lawsuit over property in Eyam brought by his old rival, John Stafford.10 No direct evidence has survived of any strong connexion between him and either John of Gaunt or his son, Henry of Bolingbroke, during this period, although the dramatic improvement in his fortunes which followed the Lancastrian coup d’ état of 1399 certainly suggests that he was already a trusted member of the new King’s entourage. His friendship with (Sir) Ralph Staveley*, which dated back several years, may well have helped him considerably, since the latter stood high in favour at Court.11
Within a month of Bolingbroke’s return from exile, in the summer of 1399, Leche was granted the reversion of property called ‘Wylondes’ in the High Peak to the value of up to £24 p.a.; and less than four years later, as a result of the untimely death of the then tenant, Sir Thomas Wensley*, the land was actually in his hands. Meanwhile, barely a few weeks after King Henry’s coronation, he began to serve as a royal commissioner and j.p., being further rewarded with a life annuity of £66 13s.4d., which was also allocated from the revenues of the High Peak. In November 1400 Leche was entrusted with the shrievalty of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, and summonses followed to meetings of the great councils held in August 1401 and 1403. Indeed, by the time of his first return to Parliament, in 1402, he was already in attendance as a squire of the royal body, if not as the occupant of a senior position in the King’s household itself. His readiness to perform military service for the regime enhanced his position even further. He spent at least one month, in the autumn of 1403, securing the defences of Carmarthen castle against the Welsh, and he may well have fought at the battle of Shrewsbury in the previous July. Henry IV’s decision to grant him the marriage and wardship of the young son of Sir Richard Vernon of Shipbrook, one of the rebels who was killed in the fighting, would bear out such a presumption, for even though he had to pay 200 marks for the boy, Leche derived a substantial profit from the arrangement. He went on to consolidate his interests in the palatinate of Cheshire by acquiring the manors of Marple and Wibersley and the forestership of Macclesfield forest during the minority of (Sir) Richard Vernon* of Harlaston (whose family is not to be confused with the Ship-brook branch). In his capacity as controller of the royal household, he attended further sessions of the great council during this period, notably one held at Lichfield in 1404 to discuss plans for the campaign against the Welsh and their allies in northern England. Rampant disaffection in York led King Henry to confiscate the city’s liberties in the summer of 1405 (following Archbishop Scrope’s rebellion and execution); and Leche proved to be a natural choice as governor during the difficult period of occupation which followed. The House of Commons of 1406, to which he was again returned, was certainly impressed by the range of his experience; and it is easy to see why he was chosen as one of the five shire knights who were to confer with the royal council over the implementation of schemes for the protection of the English coast. We do not know exactly when Leche donned the livery of the prince of Wales or became steward of his household, but in June 1407 he put his affairs in order before marching with him to Wales ‘there to abide upon the King’s service’. One month later at Hertford he witnessed the nomination of proxies for a betrothal ceremony between the prince and Marie, the daughter of Charles VI of France (although these plans came to nothing), and by the following September he found himself beneath the walls of Aberystwyth castle, which was then in a state of siege.12
The many and varied marks of preferment already shown to Leche included the two lucrative and important stewardships of the High Peak and Tutbury, which greatly augmented his authority in Derbyshire and Staffordshire. Although not without local influence on his own account (his Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire estates were together said to produce at least £50 p.a. in 1412), he clearly derived considerable prestige from such an obvious display of royal favour, which also brought him additional fees in the order of £40 a year. Other perquisites of office took the form of gifts of timber and game—as, for example, the six oak trees presented by Henry IV as a contribution towards the building of a chapel by Leche at Hayfield in Derbyshire. The latter was, however, expected in return to maintain a vigilant watch for any possible infringements of royal authority or breaches of the peace. Thus, during the Easter term of 1410, he began a private prosecution against William Vernon (brother of (Sir) Richard) for contravening the Statute of Liveries by recruiting an armed following, although in doing so he was clearly acting as an agent of the Crown. Despite his long record of service to Henry IV, Leche suddenly fell from grace in the autumn of 1414, and was even consigned to the Tower of London for a few weeks in late October and November of that year. It has been suggested that he and the other five knights who were similarly detained were somehow involved in the unsuccessful attempt then made by Bishop Beaufort and several other members of the royal council to persuade the King to abdicate in favour of Prince Henry. As steward of the latter’s household, Leche would certainly have been privy to any such plans, and it is interesting to note that when the prince eventually did mount the throne, in March 1413, he was one of the first and most conspicuous recipients of royal patronage. Yet his brief period of imprisonment may be explained in less conspiratorial terms. During this period of constitutional crisis, some Derbyshire gentry, among whom was Sir John Cockayne*, threw in their lot with Prince Henry’s younger brother and rival, Thomas of Lancaster. Relations between the two camps were evidently strained almost to breaking point, for in August 1410 Cockayne (who in happier times had acted as one of Leche’s trustees) assembled a private army said to number 200 strong ‘to resist the malice’ of Sir Roger, whom he accused of attempted murder. Given that Cockayne was also committed to the Tower, and that the other three knights had been involved in recent disturbances of the peace as well, none of them could claim to have been unduly victimized by the government, which was clearly concerned about public order.13
Leche’s promotion in 1413 to the stewardship of those parts of the duchy of Lancaster north of the river Trent brought him an additional salary of £40 p.a., although his new post as treasurer of the royal household proved far more important, not only in terms of pay and status, but also because it gave him continuous access to the monarch himself. Needless to say, the electors of Derbyshire were anxious to return so powerful a figure to the first Parliament of the new reign, choosing Sir Thomas Chaworth (who had also suffered imprisonment in 1411) as Leche’s colleague on this occasion. The election of his son, Sir Philip, to the next Parliament, which met in April 1414, clearly reflects his own unrivalled position in the county; and he himself sat again—for the last time—in the following November. He did, however, find time to attend the county court at Derby for the election of March 1416, when two retainers of the duchy of Lancaster were duly chosen. From the very beginning of his reign, Henry V showed a marked interest in religious affairs, being particularly concerned about the low administrative standards and lack of vocation evident in certain monastic houses. In July 1413 he chose Leche to act as one of the supervisors of the affairs of the Cistercian abbey of Combermere in Cheshire. Two years before the MP had been allocated a similar task with regard to Henwood priory in Warwickshire; and such was his aptitude in this field that he was subsequently given charge of the maintenance of Repton priory in Derbyshire as well. King Henry moreover regarded him as an ideal person to manage the endowment and financing of his new foundation at Sheen, assigning him considerable revenues from the duchy of Lancaster for this purpose. Leche’s efforts were rewarded in November 1413 with a grant of the lease of estates confiscated from the alien priory of Hinckley in Leicestershire. His position at Court made it easy for him to obtain the farm of such properties at preferential rates: in April 1415, for instance, he and his son, Sir Philip, obtained a 20-year lease of the manor of Bolsover in Derbyshire; and in the following November the wardship of the estates of the late Sir Nicholas Longford* was granted to him at the Exchequer. A few days later a similar assignment of the castles and lordships in Wales and the marches which had escheated to the Crown on the death of the earl of Arundel was made to Leche and a group of courtiers; and one year later he managed to acquire the tenancy of the duchy of Lancaster manor of Daventry in Northamptonshire.14 Leche must by then have been a very wealthy man indeed, since his marriage to the twice-widowed Katherine Bromwich, who became his wife in 1414, greatly augmented his landed income. From her first husband, Sir John Bromwich, who had been surveyor (or governor) of Henry of Bolingbroke’s estates, she acquired a jointure comprising the manors of Nailsworth and Bromsbarrow in Gloucestershire and Grendon in Herefordshire, which together produced at least £26 p.a. She also had him to thank for a reversionary interest in property near Nether Haddon in Derbyshire, but this did not fall in for some time. Her subsequent marriage to the distinguished Lancastrian retainer, Sir Hugh Waterton (erstwhile chamberlain of the royal household), brought her a life interest in the manors of Eaton Tregoes (alone valued at over £22 p.a.) in Herefordshire and Tibberton in Worcestershire; and as a mark of royal favour, in 1406, Henry IV had granted her a similar estate in the two duchy of Lancaster manors of Stretton, Derbyshire, and Ashperton, Herefordshire, as well as other property in Monmouthshire. Leche promptly made a settlement upon her of his own manor of Nether Haddon, and later, in July 1415, just before his departure for France, he instructed his feoffees to confirm her in possession of the hostel and other holdings which he had acquired near Baynard’s Castle in London. On his return to England he and Katherine received a royal pardon, presumably to cover any irregularities in these arrangements.15
Both Leche and his son indented to serve on Henry V’s first expedition to France, the former providing a substantial retinue of 20 men-at-arms and 60 foot soldiers, while the latter raised a more modest following. Prior to his departure from Southampton, King Henry made a will which was to be implemented by feoffees holding a substantial part of the duchy estates. It comes as no surprise to find Leche among the trustees thus appointed on 22 July 1415; and in the following year his authority in this quarter was further increased as a result of his appointment as chamberlain of the duchy. The most important of his many offices was, however, that of treasurer of England, which he discharged for six months (at an annual fee of 100 marks) before being allowed to resign in September 1416. Ill health may have forced his retirement, for he died two months later, towards the end of November.16
No doubt because of his preoccupation with administrative responsibilities at the very highest level, comparatively little is known about the more personal aspects of Leche’s career. During the early years of the 15th century he was closely involved in the affairs of Sir Thomas Rempston I* (another senior employee of the duchy of Lancaster) and even once acted as his attorney at the Derby assizes. On his visits to Westminster for the Parliaments of 1402 and 1406 he showed himself willing to stand surety for various people who had been bound over in the court of Chancery to keep the peace, and from time to time he became involved in local property transactions, the most significant of which concerned the endowment of Darley abbey in 1410 by an influential group of Derbyshire rentiers. Curiously enough, Leche does not appear either to have cultivated powerful friends among the aristocracy or to have been much sought out by those desirous of advancement. Although he twice acted as a parliamentary proxy for the bishop of Coventry and Lichfield (in 1402 and April 1414), he was otherwise content to rely upon royal patronage. He certainly made no real effort to secure wealthy husbands for his four daughters, only one of whom married a landowner of any real note (the Staffordshire knight, Sir Sampson Meverel†, whose father, John, had sat with Leche in the Parliament of November 1414). We are, in fact, left with the picture of an administrator and crown servant of outstanding merit, whose personal ambitions were evidently more than satisfied by his royal masters.17
The administration of the estates of both Sir Roger Leche and his widow, who died in May 1420, created considerable problems, not least for William Loveney*, who was executor for them both. By October 1421 a major dispute had arisen between Loveney and the Exchequer, probably over an outstanding debt of £66 13s.4d. which was still owed two years later despite an attempt at arbitration. The retention of documents concerning the ownership of Leche’s London property also gave rise to litigation, which eventually reached the court of Chancery.18
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Lecche, Leech.
- 1. C1/6/180, 9/330; C138/51/94; CP25(1)39/43/4; DL42/15, f. 185; CPR, 1413-16, p. 257; Somerville, Duchy, i. 385-6, 416-17.
- 2. DL42/17, f. 38.
- 3. DKR, xxxvi. 284; J.H. Wylie, Hen. IV, ii. 481.
- 4. DL42/15, ff. 185, 195v; E101/406/21; E404/29/137; Wylie, iii. 50; idem, Hen. V, ii. 70. Leche may have been controller of Henry IV’s household as early as 29 Aug. 1399, but despite the wording of a royal grant this seems unlikely (DL42/15, ff. 185v-6).
- 5. Rot. Scot. ed. Macpherson etc. ii. 167.
- 6. Wylie, Hen. IV, ii. 230; CFR, xii. 310.
- 7. Somerville, i. 417, 419, 539, 551, 553.
- 8. DKR, xxxi. 216.
- 9. Ibid. xxxvi. 284.
- 10. JUST 1/1508 rot. 9; KB9/989 m. 10; Derbys. Chs. ed. Jeayes, no. 781; CCR, 1389-92, pp. 506, 532; CPR, 1391-6, p. 297.
- 11. S.M. Wright, Derbys. Gentry (Derbys. Rec. Soc. viii), 84, is wrong in describing Leche as chamberlain of the household of Henry, earl of Derby. This post was occupied by Sir Hugh Waterton, whose widow Leche eventually married.
- 12. DL28/27/3; DL29/11988; DL42/15, ff. 185v-6, 195v; DL42/16 (pt. 3), f. 4v; PPC, i. 162; ii. 88; St. Albans Chron. ed. Galbraith, 23; DKR, xxxvi. 284, 499; TRHS (ser. 5), xiv. 53; CCR, 1405-9, p. 275; Wylie, Hen. IV, ii. 230, 418; iii. 50; iv. 187, 204, 252; CPR, 1408-13, p. 30.