NEWPORT, Sir William (d.1416), of Abnalls, near Lichfield, Staffs.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
m. by Easter 1405, Margaret, wid. of John Grendon of Kibblestone, Staffs., 1s. 1da. Kntd. by 29 Nov. 1399.1
Sheriff, Staffs. 8 Nov. 1401-29 Nov. 1402, 22 Nov. 1405-5 Nov. 1406, 30 Nov. 1407-15 Nov. 1408.
Commr. to suppress treasonous rumours, Staffs. May 1402; make arrests Feb. 1409, Aug., Dec. 1411; raise the siege of Coity castle, Glam. Sept. 1412.
Constable of Beaumaris castle, Anglesey by 16 Apr. 1414-d.2
Newport’s background remains obscure, although it seems likely that he was a kinsman of Thomas Newport alias Gech† of High Ercall, Shropshire, who sat as a shire knight in the Parliament of November 1380, and served for a long period on the local bench. On being bound over to keep the peace in February 1401, Thomas’s son called upon him to act as one of his mainpernors, which suggests that some family connexion existed between them.3 Nothing is known of Newport’s career before December 1385, when he received royal letters of protection pending his departure for Portugal in the retinue of Ferdinand, Master of the Order of St. James. He was to campaign there in support of John of Gaunt’s claim to the throne of Castile, and one year later he became officially a member of Gaunt’s retinue with a fee of 20 marks a year promised to him for life in return for his service in peace and in war. The annuity was confirmed to him in March 1399 by Richard II, but he remained staunchly loyal to the house of Lancaster throughout the months of Henry of Bolingbroke’s exile; and in late November 1399, not long after the latter’s seizure of the throne, he received a much larger annuity of £40, charged upon the honour of Tutbury. He had by then become a King’s knight, and a few months later, in March 1400, Henry increased his pension by a further ten marks p.a.4 It was also at this time that Newport received a grant for life of the late Aymer Lichfield’s* property in and around the town of Lichfield. This award, which brought him over 300 acres of farmland, proved a mixed blessing, however, since he became involved in a number of lawsuits against persons trespassing upon or otherwise damaging his new acquisitions, and was, moreover, sued by Sir Ralph (later Lord) Cromwell for possession of Lichfield’s holdings in Curborough. Yet more property came to him on his marriage to Margaret Grendon, the widow of a local landowner, who became his wife not long before Easter 1405. Her dower included the Leicestershire manor of Gilmorton and other unspecified holdings in Staffordshire which probably lay near her previous home at Kibblestone.5
By the date of his first return to Parliament in 1407, Newport had established himself not only as a local figure of some consequence, but also as a soldier with a distinguished record in the field. He was one of the leading residents of Staffordshire to be summoned in July 1401 to attend a great council, and in the following November he began the first of three terms as sheriff, being chosen for the last time while the Commons of 1407, of which he was a Member, was still in session. Together with Sir Thomas Aston* and other prominent Staffordshire landowners, he was chosen by John Burghill, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, to act as a proxy in the Parliament of October 1404, which actually met at Coventry. During Henry IV’s campaigns against the Welsh Sir William served in the retinue of Henry, prince of Wales, whom he first indented to serve with a retinue of 29 esquires and 150 archers in March 1403, and subsequently attended with varying numbers of men over the next few years. The prince singled him out for particular praise in March 1405, after a hard-fought engagement in Glamorgan. He was present with his royal commander at the siege of Aberystwyth; and in September 1407 helped to officiate while terms of surrender were discussed. His loyalty was rewarded with the grant of the manor of Aber in Carnarvon, which was made to him for life by Prince Henry, and which increased his landed income by at least 40 marks a year, the value of yet another annuity, assigned to him in, or shortly before, 1408, by his patron as well. He also became constable of Beaumaris castle and sat as such during at least one of the three Parliaments to which he was elected.6
Over the years, Newport became involved both directly and indirectly in the affairs of his neighbours. In 1401, for example, he offered sureties in Chancery on behalf of Sir John Bagot (his parliamentary colleague in 1407 and 1411), who was then at odds with members of the Gresley family.7 His close links with Bagot may have prompted him initially to take sides against the latter’s enemy, Hugh Erdeswyk*, who was responsible for much of the disorder which affected Staffordshire from 1407 onwards. In the following year Newport made the first of many awards of his own livery of green and white cloth in contravention of the statute on illegal retaining. His continuous breaches of the law in this respect earned him fines totalling £355 over the next six years, although in common with other local landowners caught up in the disturbances he was granted royal letters of pardon for the offence. His inclusion among the commissioners appointed to arrest Erdeswyk and his supporters in 1409 and 1411 suggests that the two men were still in rival camps, but within a comparatively short time he had thrown in his lot with Erdeswyk, and appeared among the ‘prudhommes’ chosen by him to arrange a love-day with his sworn enemy, Edmund, Lord Ferrers of Chartley. Newport evidently assumed a violent, if not entirely distinguished, role in the ensuing fracas, and was summoned to appear before the King’s bench in 1414 to answer for his misdemeanours. He never came into court, having sufficient influence in high places to exculpate himself completely.8 Throughout this period Newport was himself engaged in a number of lawsuits for the recovery of debts owed to him both in a private capacity (as, for example, by William Colclough*) and as an executor of Robert Burgulon. He also brought an action of account against one of his estate staff, which, like all the others, apparently came to nothing.9 He was, on the other hand, rarely involved in the property transactions of his neighbours, although he did act as a feoffee for Richard Mynors, one of Erdeswyk’s keenest supporters; and in 1410 he was summoned with William Lee I* to defend his title to property in Little Chatwell, Shropshire.10
Newport died in the summer of 1416, being succeeded by his son, William, a somewhat less eminent but equally truculent member of the Staffordshire gentry. His widow, Margaret, survived him, and he also left at least one daughter, who appears to have married Ralph, the son of Sir Ralph Bracebridge of Kingsbury, Warwickshire, in about 1411.11
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. Warws. Feet of Fines (Dugdale Soc. xviii), 123; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xv. 64, 93; xvi. 47; DL42/15 f. 8.
- 2. Issues ed. Devon, 333.
- 3. CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 306, 319.
- 4. Camden Misc. xxii. 94; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xiv. 240; CPR, 1396-9, p. 489; 1399-1401, p. 257; DL29/738/12100; DL42/15 f. 8.
- 5. C138/19/27; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xv. 93, 106; xvi. 64, 79, 81; xvii. 53, 72; CPR, 1408-13, p. 280.
- 6. PPC, i. 163, 249; E101/404/24 ff. 4d, 5, 16, 16d; SC6/813/23; SC10/42/2094; St. Albans Chron. ed. Galbraith, 22-27; CPR, 1416-22, p. 119.
- 7. CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 319, 324.
- 8. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xvii. 4, 10, 16, 19, 26, 27, 29-31, 33, 35.
- 9. Ibid. xv. 95, 112; xvi. 47, 49; xvii. 47, 54.
- 10. Ibid. xi. 219; xv. 123-4.
- 11. Ibid. xvii. 72; n.s. iii. 124; Warws. Feet of Fines, 123; C138/19/27.