PLUMPTON, Sir Robert (1383-1421), of Steeton, Yorks. and Kinoulton, Notts.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b.1383, e. s. of Sir William Plumpton (exec. June 1405) of Grassington and Studley Roger, Yorks. by Alice (d. Dec. 1423), da. and coh. of John Gisburn† (d.c.1390) of York; gds. and h. of Sir Robert Plumpton (d. Apr. 1407) of Plumpton, Yorks. m. by Nov. 1401, Alice (1387-bef. June 1419), da. and h. of Sir Godfrey Foljambe (1367-88) of Ockbrook, Derbys. and Mansfield Woodhouse, Notts. by Margaret (d. Apr. 1454), da. of Sir Simon Leek†, at least 3s. inc. Sir William†, 2da. Kntd. by Oct. 1411.2
Commr. of array, Yorks. July 1410; oyer and terminer Dec. 1411 (disorder at Great Ouseburn); to make arrests Oct. 1414; raise a royal loan Nov. 1419.
Steward of the duchy of Lancaster lordship of Knaresborough and constable of Knaresborough castle, Yorks. 26 Sept. 1414-d.; chief steward of the duchy wapentake of Staincliffe in Craven, Yorks. 20 Feb. 1417-Mich. 1418.3
Collector of a tax, Yorks. Jan. 1420.
Sir Robert’s ancestors are known to have lived at Plumpton from at least the 1160s onwards, and by the time of his birth the family had come to enjoy considerable influence in the north, not least because of his grandfather’s marriage to Isabel, the daughter of Henry, 1st Lord Scrope of Masham. The Plumptons were determined to consolidate their position even further by finding a wealthy bride for Robert, and with this purpose in mind in 1392 his father, Sir William, purchased the marriage of the infant Alice Foljambe from her uncle and guardian, Sir John Leek*. Alice was the great-grand daughter and heir of Sir Godfrey Foljambe, sometime steward of the duchy of Lancaster and owner of widespread estates in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Warwickshire. Although part of these holdings remained in the hands of dowagers (not least Alice’s mother, who married Sir Thomas Rempston I*, one of Henry IV’s leading adherents, and lived on until 1454), the rest of the Foljambe inheritance, which included the manors of Kimbolton and Mansfield Woodhouse (worth at least £20 a year) in Nottinghamshire, and the manor of Whittington in Warwickshire, together with property valued at £40 p.a. in Derbyshire, greatly augmented the wealth and authority of the Plumptons, whose territorial influence had hitherto been confined to Yorkshire. Custody of these estates was duly accorded to Robert and his wife once the latter reached the age of 14 in November 1401, and for the next four years they lived peacefully at Kinoulton.4
Sir William Plumpton’s decision to throw in his lot with his uncle, Richard Scrope, archbishop of York, and rise against Henry IV in open rebellion, disrupted this period of calm, and led, in June 1405, to his execution along with that of the archbishop, outside the walls of York. Sir William’s head was displayed on the Micklegate as a warning against further acts of treason, and eventually dispatched to his widow two months later, possibly on the orders of her brother-in-law, William Frost*, who was then governing the city. In other respects, however, the King showed great clemency towards the family, allowing the widowed lady Alice to retain the Plumpton manors of Grassington and Studley Roger (which had been temporarily forfeited after the uprising) and also permitting her to keep goods to the value of £40 out of her late husband’s estate so she could support the ten children still in her care. In point of fact, her complaints of poverty and destitution cannot be taken too seriously, for she was (with her sister, Isabel Frost) coheiress of the wealthy merchant, John Gisburn, a former mayor of York, who left extensive property there and in Ripon. Although Robert, as successor to both his father and grandfather, did not stand to inherit any of these holdings, which were entailed to provide for his many siblings, he none the less agreed to house and feed his new dependants, and in October 1405 he and his mother entered into an agreement whereby she and her younger children were assured of board and lodging at Kinoulton. The generous bequests made to them all by their maternal grandmother, Ellen Gisburn (who left Robert and his brothers £10 each) at this time clearly eased the financial strain. Moreover, King Henry was too shrewd a politician to allow Sir William’s treason to poison his relations with the rest of the Plumptons for long; and he soon issued royal pardons to Robert and his grandfather. The latter was even confirmed in the annuity of £20 which had previously been awarded to him by John of Gaunt from the revenues of the lordship of Pontefract, so that by his death, in April 1407, the process of rehabilitation was virtually complete.5
Since his mother had retained all the late Sir William’s estates as a jointure, it was not until his grandfather died that Robert Plumpton actually gained possession of any family property in Yorkshire. The survival of his widowed grandmother, Isabel, who enjoyed a life interest in the manor of Plumpton, further reduced his inheritance, but he was at least henceforward able to count upon additional revenues in the order of £20 a year from the manors of Idle, Nesfield and Steeton.6 Furthermore, in May 1408, the King decided to encourage Robert by transferring to him the handsome annuity which his grandfather had previously enjoyed. As we shall see, this confidence was not misplaced, and it was as a committed supporter of the Lacastrian regime (as well as a newly made knight) that Robert was returned to his first Parliament in 1411 by the electors of Yorkshire. While at Westminster he agreed to stand surety for Sir Winslowe Dorstainour as keeper of certain crown property in Northumberland. He may already by then have established a connexion with the King’s half-brother, Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester, for in the following summer Beaufort granted him an annual rent of £20 from the manor of Witney in Oxfordshire ‘pour le bon et agreable service’ which he had already performed. The bishop’s close attachment to Henry, prince of Wales, meant that once the latter assumed the throne in 1413, Plumpton was assured of a rather greater share of royal largesse than had previously come his way. He headed the list of electors who returned the Nottinghamshire Members to the first Parliament of the new reign, no doubt helping to secure the presence at Westminster of his wife’s young half-brother, Sir Thomas Rempston II, to whom he was closely attached. He himself represented the county in the Leicester Parliament of April 1414, being rewarded not long afterwards with the stewardship of the duchy of Lancaster lordship of Knaresborough and the constableship of Knaresborough castle. These two posts brought him a substantial salary as well as considerable reserves of local patronage; and he thus found himself in a dominant position in the surrounding area. His influence was further reinforced in October 1415 when John, duke of Bedford, a younger brother of Henry V, retained him for life at a fee of 20 marks p.a. to serve both in peace and war. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that he was able to negotiate a very favourable marriage contract for his 12-year-old son, William, who, in January 1416, was betrothed to Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir Brian Stapleton*. The latter promised to pay 360 marks to Plumpton, whose part of the bargain involved the settlement of an estate worth 20 marks p.a. in Kinoulton upon the couple, as well as the surrender of securities in case of any disputed title. The two men were, in fact, returned together to Parliament shortly afterwards (along with Sir Thomas Rempston II, who again represented Nottinghamshire). Like Sir Robert, Stapleton was closely connected with the duke of Bedford, whose influence lay behind the choice of his stepfather, Sir Richard Redmayne, as Speaker of the Commons in 1415, and his appointment as sheriff of Yorkshire soon afterwards. Redmayne no doubt used his official authority to secure the election of both Plumpton and Stapleton as shire knights, although their friendship came to an abrupt end when Stapleton died in France in 1417.
Already aware of the need to make provision for his younger children in the event of his own death, Sir Robert now placed his Yorkshire estates in the hands of trustees, among whom was Henry, Lord Fitzhugh, the King’s chamberlain and treasurer of the Exchequer, under whose command he left Southampton, in April 1418, to take part in Henry V’s reduction of Normandy. Just before his departure he arranged for annuities of 20 marks each to be settled upon his two younger sons; and he also set aside sums for the marriage of his daughters. He was, indeed, still in France, when, in June 1419, a contract was drawn up for the betrot