OKEHURST, John, of Wisborough Green and Kirdford, Suss.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
Tax collector, Suss. Nov. 1386, Mar. 1388.
In 1369 Okehurst took possession from John Sconare and his wife of land, tenements and rents in Wisborough Green, Billingshurst, and other places nearby. He was later described as ‘of Kirdford’, in the same part of Sussex, near Petworth, and it was there that he witnessed a deed in 1387. Acquisitions made later on in his life, such as the 30-year lease of a messuage and garden at ‘Le Mule Wardesgren’ in Billingshurst (dated 1394), served to consolidate his holdings in the locality, and he appeared among the suitors to the hundred courts at Poling and Esewrith as also a tenant of the earls of Arundel in land at Preston and Billingshurst, respectively.2
Okehurst’s career as a lawyer began by 1375, when he stood surety in Chancery for John Lyggard of West Clandon, Surrey, who was being sued for debt. Thereafter he made regular appearances as an attorney at the Sussex assizes held at East Grinstead, and in the court of common pleas for the registration of conveyances relating to land near his home. In 1387 and 1388 he and his wife, Cecily, were themselves engaged in suits at the assizes with men from Chichester and Selsey, and it is clear from his being called ‘of Manwood’ (the forest which covered Selsey bill), that he had already acquired property in that area of the county, perhaps as an outcome of his marriage.3 Indeed, in March 1397 he paid homage to the new bishop of Chichester, Robert Rede, for land at Ham in Sidlesham, about four miles from Chichester. Okehurst sat on an inquisition ad quod damnum at Chichester on 5 Apr. the same year, and secured election to Parliament for the city in the autumn. Nevertheless, his main interests continued to be centred on the Arun valley. He acted as a trustee of land at Kirdford on behalf of members of the family of Slefhurst in 1400, and four years later was among the parishioners of Wisborough who obtained from Bishop Rede a licence to build a chapel at Loxwood, because they found it difficult to reach their parish church in the winter on account of the rain and mud.4
In 1400 Okehurst and his son, William, delivered seisin to William Cheyne, the future judge, and others, of certain of their landed holdings. William would appear to have inherited his father’s lands by 1414. Certainly, John died before April 1419, at which date his widow, Cecily, then the wife of William Walton, conveyed to her son the manor of Ham to hold during her lifetime for an annual rent of £4 and the provision of two pounds of wax, presumably for candles. Many years later, in 1467, when a chantry was founded at the altar of St. Clement in Chichester cathedral in memory of William Okehurst, prayers were also said there for the souls of his parents.5