PECCHE, Sir William (1359-99), of Lullingstone, Kent.
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Family and Education
b. 9 Feb. 1359, s. and h. of John Pecche† (d.1380) of London, fishmonger, by his 1st w. Ellen. m. c. Sept. 1380, Joan (d. 21 Mar. 1410), er. da. and coh. of John Hadley* of London, grocer, by his 1st w., 1s., other ch. Kntd. bef. May 1380.
Through his enterprise as a merchant, Pecche’s father, mayor of London in 1361-2 and parliamentary representative in 1361, 1369, 1371 and 1372, not only amassed a large fortune in the City, but also accumulated landed estates scattered through half a dozen counties. His downfall came in the Good Parliament of 1376, as a direct outcome of his having accepted a grant from Edward III three years earlier of the monopoly of the sale of sweet wines in the capital. (The attack which the Commons then made on the fiscal and commercial policies of the Court originated in part in a dispute between groups of London merchants, rivals for enjoyment of the financial advantages of political influence.) Pecche was impeached for having taken for himself a levy of 3s.4d. on each pipe of wine sold, over and above the 10s. per pipe he had paid into the Exchequer. The proceedings discredited the oligarchy ruling London, providing an opportunity for the enemies of the system within the City to demand constitutional reform; and in August Pecche was deprived of his aldermanic rank and adjudged to lose his freedom. Rehabilitation by the Court, helped by a connexion with John of Gaunt (both through his business dealings and as one of the duke’s feudal tenants), followed with the reversal of the judgement against him in Edward III’s last Parliament of 1377 (Jan.) and a royal pardon; but the civic authorities never received him back into favour.2
It is hard to tell to what extent the father’s imprisonment and loss of his goods—albeit temporarily—affected the son’s prospects, but it would appear that the size of the latter’s inheritance remained largely unaltered. William was heir to estates in Kent, including land and the advowson at Mapplescombe and two manors at Lullingstone, where his father enjoyed rights of free warren by royal charter; in Surrey (Folleslowe park and the manor of Redhall near Burstow); in Cambridgeshire (a manor in Abington Pigotts); and in Middlesex (West Twyford and ‘Malories’ in Willesden). And in London there were a number of substantial properties in the parishes of St. Mary Woolnoth, St. Michael on Cornhill, and St. Dionysius Backchurch.3 The young man was the chief beneficiary, and co-executor with his stepmother, Mary, of the will his father made on his deathbed on 27 May 1380. In accordance with John Pecche’s instructions, the widow promptly sold to the duke of Lancaster the remainder of her husband’s lease on a mansion in Lombard Street, and on 9 Aug., just six days after her stepson was formally granted livery of his estates by the Crown, she reached an agreement with him whereby she would forego rents from the city properties to which she was entitled by way of dower, but only in return for an annuity of £50 for life. Furthermore, she retained as jointure Pecche’s manor in Abington; but, then, in 1386, after her marriage to Sir William Moigne*, the Huntingdonshire landowner, William sold his reversionary interest in the same to others.4
William is first recorded in 1372 when, still a minor, he took possession of a piece of meadowland on the riverbank between Shoreham and Lullingstone. After coming into his inheritance eight years later, he made Lullingstone his home, and subsequently acted as patron of the local parish church of St. Botolph. All the same, his ties with the City of London remained strong, for he was married within a few months of his father’s death to the elder daughter of the then mayor of London, John Hadley, a wealthy merchant and prominent financier.5 Nevertheless, it had evidently been decided earlier in Pecche’s life that he should not follow his father into trade, but instead should be trained for the profession of arms. He was already a knight when, on the very day his father died in 1380, he took out royal letters of protection for service in Brittany as a member of the retinue of William, Lord Latimer, in the army commanded by Edward III’s youngest son, Thomas of Woodstock. Back home in March the following year, he sealed indentures with Sir Thomas Felton KG, agreeing to provide a contingent of four men-at-arms and five archers for a further half-year’s service in the duchy. Felton’s death before they were due to embark at Southampton in May, probably meant that the contract was terminated, but a debt of £73 6s.8d., owed by Sir William to Sir Ralph Ferrers, and which he agreed to pay off in instalments that December, may well have been incurred while he was overseas. That he continued to be affiliated to Thomas of Woodstock is evident, for in the summer of 1385 he took part in the royal expedition to Scotland, as a knight in Woodstock’s contingent. It was not until 1393 that Pecche began to take part in the local administration of Kent, and not until he was nearly 35 years old that, in the following year, he was elected to his first Parliament. In 1396 he assisted his father-in-law, Hadley, to make settlements of land after the marriage of the latter’s younger daughter into the important Suffolk family of Wingfield.6
The momentous political events of the summer and autumn of 1399 may well altogether have passed Pecche by, for he was in Calais when he made his will on 9 Sept. and he died there before 2 Oct. Aged 40, and suffering from a severe illness or perhaps a wound, he referred in the will to the brief time he had left to him and, accordingly, instructed his executors (his ‘dear father’, John Hadley, and John Topp, a priest) to look into earlier testaments of his for clarification of his wishes. The will, written in the form of a letter addressed to the executors, asked especially that his ‘dear wife and companion’ should be discharged of his debts, and everything done for the honour and profit of their children. He requested that a chaplain be employed to pray for his late father’s soul, and that, near his own intended tomb in the Carmelite friary at Calais, a window should be glazed depicting Saints Mary, John the Baptist and Margaret, and, in its fourth quarter, his own heraldic arms. Hadley took on the guardianship of his grandson, Pecche’s ten-year-old son and