PAUNCEFOOT, Sir John (1368-c.1445), of Crickhowell castle, Brec. and Hasfield, Glos.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. 17 Nov. 1368, s. and h. of Hugh Pauncefoot of Crickhowell and Hasfield by his w. Katherine. m. bef. Apr. 1406, Alice, ?4s. inc. Thomas†, 1da. Kntd. by Aug. 1394.
Commr. to resist the rebels from S. Wales, Herefs. May 1401; raise royal loans, Glos. Mar. 1430, Mar. 1431; assess contributions to a subsidy Apr. 1431; of array Aug. 1436.
J.p. Glos. 12 Feb. 1422-July 1423, 1 June 1432-Nov. 1438.
Sheriff, Glos. 1 May 1422-13 Nov. 1423, 12 Dec. 1426-7 Nov. 1427, 3 Nov. 1434-7 Nov. 1435, Herefs. 7 Nov. 1437-3 Nov. 1438.
The descent of the Pauncefoot family, which excelled in military engagements in Wales and the marches, especially under Edward I, may be traced from 1199, by which date Sir John’s ancestors were already in possession of Hasfield. Their estates also included the manor of Cowarne and the lordship of Crickhowell (on the borders of Herefordshire and Brecon), and Bentley Pauncefoot in the royal forest of Feckenham in Worcestershire. Our MP inherited the family lands after the deaths of his uncle Grimbald, in 1375, and his father, Hugh (Grimbald’s younger brother), some time before 1379. A minor, he became the ward of Philippa, countess of March, from whom Crickhowell was then held. His mother, Katherine, subsequently married Richard Ruyhale*, a Worcestershire lawyer, who after her death in May 1382 obtained custody of a large portion of his inheritance. Pauncefoot came of age in November 1389 and obtained seisin six months later. It was not until he was considerably older, indeed not until 1431, that he procured royal confirmation of charters granted to his forebears in the 13th century, permitting them to have a market and fair at Cowarne, free warren on their other lands and a coney warren at Bentley. The precise value of his landed holdings is not known, although in 1412 those in Gloucestershire were said to be worth £20 a year. The identity of Pauncefoot’s wife, Alice, is uncertain, although credence may be given to the suggestion that she was a daughter of Sir Andrew Herle†, if only on account of the presence of Thomas Mille* at the settlement of the manor of Leighton (Herefordshire) on the couple in 1406, for Mille had married Herle’s widow and was possibly, therefore, Alice’s stepfather.1
In 1392 Pauncefoot was associated with (Sir) Kynard de la Bere* and others from the gentry of Herefordshire in the foundation of a chantry in St. Nicholas’s church, Norton, for the souls of their kinsmen. He was knighted before August 1394 when preparing to go to Ireland in the retinue of the lieutenant, Roger Mortimer, earl of March (grandson of his former guardian). Subsequently, by the earl’s grant dated 12 Sept. 1397, he received as his bachelor a life annuity of £20 charged on lands at Clifford (Herefordshire) and Glasbury (Brecon). The earl was killed in Ireland in the following year, but the annuity was confirmed by Henry IV in February 1400. It was then that Sir John offered his services as a soldier to the King, only to be wounded while taking part in the royal expedition to Scotland. As compensation, he was granted on 7 Feb. 1401 an annuity of £40 for life, from the issues of estate in Pembrokeshire. Pauncefoot’s wounds were, nevertheless, not so serious as to prevent his continuing to serve in a military capacity: three months later he was commissioned with other prominent Herefordshire knights to raise a posse of the county for resistance to the invasion of Welsh rebels assembled in the lordship of Abergavenny; and he was able to fight on the King’s side at the battle of Shrewsbury on 21 July 1403. In the confusion following the battle the sheriff of Herefordshire mistakenly believed that he had risen in insurrection against the King and in support of the Percys, and promptly put him, his followers and servants under arrest and confiscated their horses and personal property. Writs were sent for Pauncefoot’s release in August, and clearly there was little doubt as to his loyalty for on 8 Sept. he was ordered, under pain of forfeiture of his border castle of Crickhowell, to furnish and safeguard this stronghold with fencible men, victuals, armour and artillery, the Council being aware of the peril caused by the careless guarding of such places during the rebellion.2
Pauncefoot served on no royal commissions whatsoever between then and 1422, a period of nearly 20 years. The reasons for this are unclear, although ill health caused by his war wounds may have been one. In the course of this period while loosening his ties with Herefordshire he was strengthening those with Gloucestershire. In 1397 he had been asked by John Browning* to be godfather to one of his sons, and he headed the list of electors at the Gloucestershire elections to the Parliament of 1407 (a Parliament actually held at Gloucester), when the boy’s grandfather, Sir Thomas Fitznichol, and his own feoffee, Thomas Mille, were returned. His old injuries did not prevent him travelling abroad: in October 1409 he took out royal letters of protection to go overseas, and perhaps his omission from public employment may be partially attributed to other similar journeys. At the Gloucestershire elections of 1411 he stood surety for Mille and Robert Whittington, and he himself was returned by the local gentry two years later, on Parliament’s first meeting after Henry V’s accession. In June 1417 Pauncefoot witnessed the enfeoffments made by Thomas, Lord Berkeley, shortly before his death. At that time the King was anxious to secure the marches of Wales during his forthcoming expedition to France and took action to prevent renewed uprisings in support of the fugitive lollard leader, Sir John Oldcastle*. The latter’s erstwhile friends were all required to undertake not to join in insurrections nor to succour Oldcastle in any way, and Pauncefoot was among those who helped to provide securities in £1,000 that John ap Harry* would keep his word. He then served on the King’s campaign in France, in the retinue of Edmund, earl of March, the son of his former lord. Shortly after sitting in Henry V’s last Parliament, in December 1421, he was appointed to the Gloucestershire bench, his first royal commission since 1403. Then, in May, he became sheriff of the county for the first time.3
Under Henry VI Pauncefoot became more active in local administration, officiating for two more terms as sheriff of Gloucestershire and one in Herefordshire. Ex officio he held the parliamentary elections of 1422, 1423, 1427 and 1435, and in the meantime, in 1429, he acted as mainpernor for one of the knights-elect, Sir Maurice Berkeley of Uley. In November 1428 the Council authorized him to spend £200 on repairs to Gloucester castle, under the supervision of the prior of Llanthony. He was making preparations to travel abroad again in May 1431, and by 20 July he had reached Rome where, at the Papal Curia, he appeared as proctor for Bishop Spofford of Herefordshire. There is evidence that in May 1432 he was holding office as steward of the court at Minsterworth, Gloucestershire, a manor then owned by the duchy of Lancaster, although as there is no other record of his stewardship this seems to have been a temporary appointment. When members of the gentry throughout the country were required in 1434 to take oaths not to maintain malefactors, Sir John did so in Gloucestershire. Among those with whom he was now connected was Henry Bourgchier, count of Eu (afterwards Viscount Bourgchier and earl of Essex), both of them being feoffees of the manor of Dymock which had once been held by Pauncefoot’s stepfather and had later come into the possession of John Merbury* of Lyonshall, the former chamberlain, receiver, and justiciar of South Wales. Pauncefoot and his co-feoffees apparently took possession of the manor from Merbury in order to sell it, but then became involved in several long and complicated lawsuits in Chancery and other central courts, which were not to be settled until 1438.4
By that time Pauncefoot was 70 years old, and besides the litigation over Dymock he now had to face other disputes. First, he quarrelled with the abbot of St. Augustine’s, Bristol, about an annual rent of £2 10s. from the manor of Ashleworth which one of his ancestors had granted to the abbey. But a more serious matter brought him into conflict with one of the highest in the land: Richard, duke of York. In September 1444, with the assistance of his son-in-law, William Tracy† of Toddington, and Miles Scull†, the deputy justiciar of South Wales, among others, Pauncefoot effected an entail of his castle, manor and lordship of Crickhowell by which it was settled on himself and his son, Thomas, in survivorship, with remainder to other descendants of his father, Hugh. This in itself could not give the duke, from whom (as the earl of March’s heir) Sir John held Crickhowell, much cause for concern. But in the following month the feoffees granted that the reversion of the property, in default of heirs, should fall to the King, from whom Crickhowell was thenceforth to be held for an annual rent of one red rose and the service of one knight’s fee. York, incensed, petitioned the Parliament of 1445 alleging that Pauncefoot by ‘grete and sotill imaginacion’ had attempted to disinherit him, and obtained a royal licence to sue in Parliament, through his counsellors, for restitution. There is just a hint that there may have been political motives behind Pauncefoot’s actions: his son, Thomas, was probably already married to Margaret Swynford, niece of John, Lord Beauchamp of Powick and daughter of Sir Thomas Swynford, the kinsman of York’s opponents the Beauforts. But, of course, he may have been prompted by an entirely different and more personal grudge, such as the failure of York to pay his annuity from the March estates.5
Pauncefoot probably died shortly afterwards. His eldest son, William, on whom he had settled Bentley some 27 years previously, had predeceased him, and his heir was the next son, Thomas, who was to represent Gloucestershire in the Parliaments of 1447 and 1449 (Feb.).6