MORLEY, John, of Wennington, Lancs.
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Family and Education
Commr. to prevent the spread of treasonous rumours, Lancs. May 1402; of inquiry, Yorks. Mar. 1406 (defections to the northern rebels); array July 1410, Lancs. Apr. 1418, Mar. 1430, Mar. 1431.
Thanks to advantageous marriages, both Morley’s father and his uncle, Simon, were able to add greatly to the family estates which had initially been confined to Great Mearley in Clitheroe. It was, therefore, through his mother that Morley inherited the manor of Wennington in Lonsdale, where he chose to live, leasing out the more modest Clitheroe properties to a neighbouring landowner.2 Given the great influence exercised by John of Gaunt and his son, Henry of Bolingbroke, in this area, it is hardly surprising to discover that Morley’s youth was spent as an esquire in the latter’s retinue. He first appears in the summer of 1390, when he took part in the expedition which Bolingbroke led in support of the Teutonic Knights in their crusade against the Lithuanians. His duties were evidently concerned with such basic matters of commissariat as the provision of fodder and the transport of horses, although the experience stood him in good stead when his master seized the throne nine years later. In September 1400 an annuity of ten marks was assigned to him for life from the revenues of Lancashire ‘in return for past and future services’; and before long the fee had been increased to £20 p.a. In May 1402 he was appointed to an important royal commission for the suppression of sedition, but perhaps because he was somewhat overshadowed by other, more powerful and richer members of the Lancashire gentry, equally loyal in their support of the new regime, he did not receive further preferment in the way of pensions, offices or rewards.3
In August 1402, the abbot of Whalley called upon Morley to assist him as a mainpernor, but little evidence has otherwise survived about his more private affairs at this time. Not long after his accession, in 1413, Henry V confirmed Morley in his annuity, and when recruiting an army for his first invasion of France two years later, he engaged his services with a modest personal following of two archers. Morley first entered Parliament in March 1416, by which date he was involved in litigation for the recovery of debts totalling 40 marks. In the event, both defendants managed to escape the force of the law and he was obliged to admit defeat.4 He served as a juror at inquests held at Lancaster in March 1418 and August 1423 into the possessions of two members of the Croft family, and was during this period once more confirmed in receipt of his annuity from the Crown. He attended the Lancashire elections to the Parliaments of 1426, 1433 and 1437, being himself returned to the House of Commons in 1431 for the second and last time. He is known to have sat on a jury summoned in 1428 to determine the age of Thomas Hesketh, and to have been listed among the Lancashire gentry who were to take the general oath of 1434 that they would not support anyone who disturbed the peace. Yet in most respects his life was evidently free from incident.5 It seems unlikely, on chronological grounds, that he was the John Morley who served on royal commissions in the north during the late 1440s, or that he attended the inquisition post mortem held on Sir Thomas Dacre in 1458 at Lancaster; but this John Morley may perhaps have been one of his sons. He certainly had one child, named William, who was dead by then. The latter’s widow retained control of the Morley estates, possibly through her second husband, Th