OKEOVER, Thomas (d.1460), of Okeover, Staffs. and Snelston, Derbys.
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Family and Education
s. and h. of Sir Philip Okeover*. m. (1) Margaret, ?da. of John Curson* (d.1405) of Kedleston, Derbys., 2s. (1 d.v.p.); (2) by 1432, Thomasina, wid. of George Sallowe (d. Nov. 1417) of Answorth, Notts.1
Commr. of inquiry, Derbys. Feb. 1422 (counterfeiting).
Okeover must have been of age by the Michaelmas term of 1399, when he sued a local man for causing damage to his closes at Ilam in Staffordshire. His father died not long afterwards, leaving him heir to the manors of Okeover, Snelston and Atlow. Other family property in the Derbyshire villages of Ashbourne, Mappleton and Chesterfield was occupied first by his widowed mother and then by his younger brother, John, but he held the reversionary interest, and thus eventually gained control of all the Okeover estates. Little else is known about him before his first return to Parliament, although he did become involved in litigation with members of the Stathum family over the ownership of the manor of Callow in Derbyshire. His father had previously tried without success to recover the manor, and this particular action may well have been collusive. Many years later, in 1443, he made a formal release of his title to John Stathum, so the matter clearly remained somewhat contentious. Meanwhile, in 1410, Okeover became a trustee of property in Ireton Kirk, Derbyshire, and in the following year he took on the lease of farmland in the nearby village of Kniveton. Yet despite his not inconsiderable influence as a landowner, his interest in local government remained fairly limited. Save for his appearance at the county elections to the Parliaments of 1413 (May), 1416 (Mar), 1420, 1421 (May), 1422 and 1423, he was content to leave administrative affairs to others. He did deputize for a brief period, in about 1413, for the Derbyshire landowner, Sir John Dabrichecourt, who was then constable of the Tower of London; and his experiences as a custodian of a group of lollard prisoners there led him subsequently to petition Chancery for the arrest of the heretic, Richard Wrothe, whom he regarded as a dangerous subversive. Otherwise, he avoided the responsibilities of office, preferring to live quietly on his estates. His nomination by the local j.p.s, in 1420, as one of the Staffordshire landowners who were considered best able to perform military service for the defence of the realm, reflects his status in the county community, but this appears to have been the only occasion on which he was approached as a potential combatant.3
Okeover’s relations with his neighbours were somewhat variable. In 1416 he and Sir John Cockayne* joined with several prominent local figures to devise a contract for the settlement of money upon the young daughters of Henry Fitzherbert: the other parties on this occasion included John de la Pole* of Hartington (the guardian of the girls’ brother, Nicholas), who later acted as one of Okeover’s trustees when he made an extensive settlement of his estates in the late 1420s for the benefit of his elder son, Thomas. Okeover’s connexion with his parliamentary colleague, Nicholas Goushill, was even closer, constituting what some may have regarded as an unholy alliance. In about 1415 the pair were charged by Richard Clitheroe of attempting to abduct his wife (the mother of Sir Nicholas Longford*) and of trying to intimidate him with a private army almost 200 strong. The outcome of the case, which came before the court of Chancery, is not known, although it seems highly unlikely that either Goushill or Okeover could have raised such a large following even in pursuit of a private vendetta. The abbot of Burton in Staffordshire was certainly quite prepared to risk Okeover’s displeasure, and made a firm stand against his claim to possess both the stewardship of the abbey estates and the right of presentation to Okeover chapel, countering with a demand for certain rents and services there and in Ilam. The dispute went to arbitration in 1418, when a distinguished panel of mediators, including Sir Richard Vernon*, Peter de la Pole* and Richard Lane*, found in the abbot’s favour. Okeover’s dealings with the prior of Tutbury were also beset with difficulties: in 1427 he faced an action for the recovery of debts totalling £20 brought by the prior in the court of common pleas.4 But at least he was now affluent enough to meet these various charges; and in about 1432 his income increased even further as a result of his marriage to Thomasina, the widow of George Sallowe, a wealthy landowner with estates in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Her dower comprised extensive property in both counties, although it was not for another two years that he obtained formal seisin of these estates, together with a royal pardon for his trespass in marrying her without official permission.5
By his first wife, Margaret (who is said to have been the daughter of his neighbour, the influential crown servant, John Curson), Okeover had two sons. Thomas, the elder, appeared with him on the list of Staffordshire gentlemen who were to take the general oath of May 1434 that they would not support persons disturbing the peace, but he died not long afterwards, leaving a young son named Philip to succeed him. The boy was brought up by his grandfather, who, in September 1439, arranged a marriage for him with one of the daughters of the Staffordshire landowner, Ralph Bassett of Blore. The two men offered mutual bonds of £100 to abide by the terms of the contract, having already settled substantial holdings upon trustees acting on behalf of the couple. Philip went on to serve in the household of Edward, Lord Ferrers of Groby; and, with his father-in-law, he became embroiled in a bitter and protracted feud with the Cockaynes of Ashbourne, to whom he was possibly related by marriage. Okeover, by now well advanced in years, remained aloof from this quarrel and may even have entrusted his Derbyshire and Staffordshire estates to Philip’s care while he lived out of trouble on his wife’s manor of Answorth in Nottinghamshire. He was certainly resident in the county by 1447, when he was sued for debt by a local family.6
Thomas Okeover must have been at least 80 years old when he died on 4 Jan. 1460. Some two years previously he had made a new entail of his estates upon his grandson, but otherwise his last years were spent in complete retirement.7