OKEOVER, Sir Philip (d.c.1400), of Okeover, Staffs. and Snelston, Derbys.
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Family and Education
s. and h. of Sir Thomas Okeover (d. by 1372), of Okeover. m. ?(1) Elizabeth, da. of Roger, Lord Grey of Ruthin (d.1352/3), by Elizabeth, da. of John, Lord Hastings (1262-1313); (2) by June 1372, Alice, at least 2s. inc. Thomas*. Kntd. by Apr. 1379.1
Commr. of inquiry, Staffs. 1379 (murders),2 Salop, Staffs. July 1389, Jan. 1390 (goods of Robert de Vere, late duke of Ireland); array, Derbys. Aug. 1384,3 Mar. 1386, Mar. 1392; to make arrests, Derbys., Leics., Staffs. July 1394.
J.p. Derbys. 28 June-Dec. 1390.
The ancient and distinguished family of Okeover took its name from a village on the border between Staffordshire and Derbyshire; and Sir Philip could trace his ancestors back to the early 12th century when a formal grant of the manor was made to one of their number by the abbot of Burton-upon-Trent. His grandfather, Sir Roger, was a knight of the body to Edward III, whom he accompanied on various military campaigns, although he also played his part in local government and represented Derbyshire in the Parliament of 1331. Far less is known about Sir Philip’s father, who evidently died in, or shortly before, June 1372, seised of the manors of Okeover, Snelston and Atlow, together with other holdings in the Derbyshire villages of Ashbourne and Mappleton, all of which were promptly conveyed to Philip and his wife, Alice, by the existing trustees. Alice may well have been the MP’s second wife, for he is said by some authorities to have married Elizabeth, the daughter of Roger, Lord Grey of Ruthin. No direct evidence of their union survives, but it is interesting to note that in later life he acted as feoffee-to-uses not only of almost all the Grey estates but also of the inheritance left by John, earl of Pembroke, to which the Greys were chief claimants.4
Like his grandfather before him, Okeover was a soldier by profession. His first experience of warfare overseas appears to have been in 1370, when he campaigned with John, duke of Lancaster, in Aquitaine. He was retained formally as a member of the ducal entourage, and took part in the expedition which Lancaster led to Spain in 1386—but this attachment did not prevent him from serving under other banners when the occasion arose. In 1375, for example, he crossed to Brittany in the company of Edward, Lord Despenser; four years later royal letters of protection were again issued to him pending his departure abroad; and in both 1380 and 1381 he joined forces with the celebrated captain, Sir Hugh Calveley, who was then fighting in northern France.5 Events at home still proved a major preoccupation, however, not least because his position as a landowner inevitably involved him in various lawsuits and property transactions. As early as 1373, he was obliged to sue a local woman for trespass on his estates at Mappleton; and in 1382 (the year of his first return to Parliament) he deemed it expedient to settle all his possessions upon new feoffees. Among the property thus entailed was the manor of Callow in Derbyshire, which was already the subject of a lawsuit between him and his kinswoman, Goditha Stathum. Probably at her incitement, her sons had been involved in the Derbyshire uprising of 1381, seizing the opportunity to pursue a vendetta against Gaunt’s tenants and estate staff in the area. Their hatred of Sir Philip was thus particularly intense, not least because he had mobilized a force of armed men and, on the pretext of suppressing the rebellion, had attacked Goditha’s land at Callow. She brought a writ of trespass against him in the court of King’s bench, while he arraigned her on an assize of novel disseisin at Derby. Both cases dragged on for some time, but Okeover was unable to support his title, and eventually conceded defeat. During this period he agreed to act as a general trustee for his aunt, Isabel Sacheverell, through whom he possessed a somewhat remote claim to the manor of Hopewell, as well as to other property adjoining his own demesnes at Snelston. Although the former never came into his hands, he did eventually inherit the latter, and was thus partly compensated in effect for the loss of Callow. We do not know how he acquired his other estates m in Chesterfield and Ashbourne (Derbyshire), but they may perhaps have come to him through marriage, and were eventually retained by his widow for some years.6
Despite his frequent absences abroad, Okeover remained a prominent figure in the local community, where he was in some demand as a feoffee and witness to conveyances of property. He was a trustee for such influential Derbyshire landowners as Sir John Cockayne* of Ashbourne and Sir Nicholas Longford (d.1401); and in 1392 he attested the foundation charter of a chantry at Ashbourne where prayers were to be said for the good estate of his patron, John of Gaunt. Not all of his activities were so meritorious, however. As one of the duke’s followers he was expected to uphold the latter’s hegemony in the north Midlands, and when, in about 1388, Sir Roger Strange*, another of Gaunt’s men, became involved in a dispute over the manor of Shenstone in Staffordshire he and such other prominent Lancastrians as Sir Walter Blount*, Sir John de la Pole* and Sir Nicholas Montgomery I* were dispatched to the local assizes to overawe the jury. Even worse was his involvement at this time in Sir John Ipstones’s* attempt to secure the manors of Hopton and Tean by disinheriting Maud, the widow of Humphrey Peshale. Together with a gang of armed men, the former comrades-in-arms abducted Maud from her mother-in-law’s home at Chetwynd in Shropshire, in December 1388, forced her to marry Ipstones’s son, and made her sign away her title to all the property. On the recommendation of a royal commission of inquiry, Ipstones and Okeover were eventually committed to trial at the Shrewsbury assizes, but once again it proved an easy matter to intimidate the jury.7
Sir Philip may still have been alive in May 1400, when the defendant in a case of trespass brought by him in the court of common pleas managed to obtain a royal pardon for outlawry; but he certainly died before the following November, leaving his executors, Thomas Shene and the parson of Calwich in Staffordshire, the task of recovering certain unpaid debts. He was survived by his wife, Alice, who later made provision for the settlement of the above-mentioned estates in Chesterfield and Ashbourne as well as land in Mappleton upon their younger son, John. The rest of his property went to Thomas Okeover, the next heir.8
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Okehore, Okere, Oukovere.
- 1. William Salt Arch. Soc. xi. 191-2; xiii. 184-5, 188-9, 195; n.s. vii. 180-2; J. Nichols, Leics. iv. 245; Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 131. Evidence of Okeover’s marriage to Elizabeth Grey is largely circumstantial, but it is clear that the family pedigrees are wrong in describing Alice as his first wife, since she survived him (Derbys. Chs. ed. Jeayes, no. 823).
- 2. William Salt Arch. Soc. xiv. 149.
- 3. Ibid. 242.
- 4. Ibid. xi. 191-2, 209-10; n.s. vii. 25-40, 43; CPR, 1388-92, p. 514; CCR, 1389-92, p. 538; 1396-9, p. 83; 1399-1402, pp. 231, 234, 241, 267.
- 5. William Salt Arch. Soc. viii. 112; xiv. 227, 230, 231, 244; Reg. Gaunt, 1379-83, p. 9; E101/34/5; Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ii. 131, 132.
- 6. Derbys. Chs. nos. 80, 823, 1645, 2130; D. Crook, ‘Derbys. 1381’, Hist. Research, lx. 12-20; JUST 1/1488 rot. 33v, 64-64v; William Salt Arch. Soc. xiii. 98, 101, 184-5, 188-9, 195; n.s. vii. 165-7.
- 7. Derbys. Chs. nos. 76, 1693, 1761, 2416; William Salt Arch. Soc. xv. 122; S.K. Walker, ‘John of Gaunt and his retainers, 1361-99’ (Oxf. Univ. D.Phil. thesis, 1986), 245-6; CPR, 1388-92, pp. 339-40.
- 8. CPR, 1399-1401, p. 168; Derbys. Chs. nos. 80, 823; William Salt Arch. Soc. xv. 108; xvii. 42; n.s. vii. 168.