POLE, Peter de la (d.c.1444), of Radbourne, Derbys. and Newborough, Staffs.
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Family and Education
s. and h. of Sir John de la Pole (d.c.1390) of Newborough, chief steward of the duchy of Lancaster north parts, by Cecily, da. of Sir Peter Wakebridge (d.1349) of Wakebridge, Derbys., sis. and h. of Sir William Wakebridge† (d.s.p. 1372). m. by 1401, Elizabeth (d. Aug. 1432), da. and h. of Sir John Laughton by Eleanor, sis. and coh. of Sir John Chandos (d.1370) KG, of Radbourne, 2s.1
J.p. Derbys. 18 June 1394-July 1444.
Commr. to enforce the statute on weirs, Derbys. June 1398; of inquiry, Cheshire Nov. 1399 (cattle thefts at Macclesfield), Notts. June 1403 (estates of the late Sir Hugh Annesley),2 Derbys. Mar. 1406 (defections to the Welsh rebels), Nov. 1406 (land of the late Henry Hervill), Beds., Bucks., Derbys., Hants, Leics., Northants., Notts., Rutland, Staffs., Warms. Mar. 1410 (royal rights and titles), Derbys., Hunts., Leics., Lincs., Staffs., Yorks. June 1413 (same), Derbys. Nov. 1413 (disorder at Swarkeston), Staffs. May 1416 (concealments in the honour of Tutbury),3 Notts. July 1416 (counterfeiting), Derbys. Apr. 1431 (persons liable to contribute to a royal grant); oyer and terminer Mar. 1401 (poaching at Willington); to make arrests, Notts., Derbys. Jan. 1414 (lollards at large); of array, Derbys. May 1415, Oct. 1417, Mar. 1419, Aug. 1436; to raise a royal loan Nov. 1419, Notts., Derbys. Mar. 1430, Mar. 1431.
Collector of a tax, Derbys. Mar. 1404, Jan. 1436, of a royal loan Sept. 1405, Jan. 1420.
Escheator, Notts. and Derbys. 3 Nov. 1412-10 Nov. 1413, 4 Nov. 1418-23 Nov. 1419.
Justice of pleas at Chester 10 July 1421-Nov. 1422, 14 Jan. 1427-29 Apr. 1427; dep. justice 3 June-3 July 1427.4
As the son of one of the most successful lawyers in the north of England, Peter de la Pole had every incentive and encouragement to enter the legal profession, and although he never achieved his father’s eminence he certainly came to enjoy great influence and prosperity. Sir John de la Pole owed his initial success to the patronage of John of Gaunt, rising in his service to occupy a number of senior posts in the administrative hierarchy of the duchy of Lancaster, as well as sitting regularly on the duchy council and advising Gaunt on important points of law. His ability was also recognized by Richard II, who relied heavily upon him as a j.p. and commissioner in Staffordshire and Derbyshire, where the bulk of his property lay. On his death, in or just before 1390, Sir John owned extensive estates in and around the Staffordshire villages of Agardsley, Uttoxeter and Newborough, as well as other farmland in Needwood forest; while across the county border in Derbyshire his main holdings lay in Ashbourne, Thorne, Pentrich, Kniveton and Bentley. Together with other more scattered tenements, these constituted Peter’s inheritance, provision having been made for his younger brothers, Nicholas (who may have died young), Edmund and Ralph, out of their mother’s own property in Wakebridge. He was further able to augment his landed income by marrying Elizabeth Laughton, a niece of the great soldier, Sir John Chandos, from whom she inherited (through her mother) one third of the manors of Mugginton, Eckington and Radbourne in Derbyshire. By 1412 de la Pole’s estates in this county alone were said to be worth £50 a year, and they still bore the same official valuation some 24 years later.5
De la Pole was one of the executors of his father’s will, and as such he was obliged, in November 1391, to sue out a writ of supersedeas to halt proceedings begun against Sir John in the Exchequer because of his failure to discharge the terms of a royal commission. He may already by then have been practicing as a lawyer, since the first of his many appearances as a mainpernor occurred in the previous June. Between then and 1418 he went surety and offered bail for a wide variety of people on at least 12 occasions, becoming thus involved in the affairs of such influential local figures as Sir William Meynell*, Sir Thomas Chaworth*, John Leventhorpe* and the abbot of Burton-upon-Trent. He also agreed to arbitrate in a dispute between the abbot and Thomas Okeover*, who not surprisingly lost his case.6 It was, however, as a trustee that de la Pole was most often in demand. The majority of these settlements were of fairly small estates, but he did act on behalf of (Sir) Nicholas Strelley* (before 1405), Sir William Bourgchier* and his wife, Anne, countess of Stafford (1407), (Sir) Roger Leche* (1407), Beatrice, the widow of Sir Hugh Shirley* (1414), Ralph, Lord Cromwell (1422), Sir John Zouche* (1422) and Robert Stonham* (1433), as well as participating in the additional endowment of the two Augustinian houses of Darley abbey in Derbyshire and Fineshale priory in Northamptonshire. Furthermore, in September 1401, Richard, Lord Grey of Codnor, the recently appointed admiral of the northern fleet, who owned extensive estates in the Midlands, chose de la Pole to supervise his affairs in England while he was away directing operations against the Scots.7
By the date of his only known return to Parliament, de la Pole had acquired considerable knowledge of local government as a j.p. and royal commissioner. He already maintained an informal connexion with senior staff of the duchy of Lancaster (many of whom had known his late father), but it was not until the following year, in 1402, that he was retained, at the standard fee of £2 p.a., as a member of the duchy council. He continued to sit on this body until at least 1422, and, moreover, performed other ad hoc tasks such as the examination of evidence in disputes concerning the duchy and the investigation of concealments by tenants. He was, consequently, able to secure for himself and his friend, Sir Thomas Gresley*, the custody and marriage of the two daughters of the late Robert Dethick (whose wardship belonged to the duchy) for the relatively modest sum of £40. Two years later, in 1419, Joan of Navarre, the widow of Henry IV, leased him the manor of Glaston in Staffordshire for a term of three years, so he may perhaps have been employed by her, too.8 At various points in his career, de la Pole was named as a party to recognizances, sometimes in quite heavy sums. Most, if not all, of these clearly involved him in a professional capacity, since as a lawyer he was often requested to provide formal guarantees of his clients’ financial reliability. In 1423, for example, he offered the Crown a bond worth £200 as security in case the two daughters of Sir John Dabrichecourt*, who were royal wards, married without the necessary licence.9
Surprisingly little is known about de la Pole’s work as an attorney, although he clearly undertook quite a number of cases. In 1407 he represented his mother-in-law in the court of Chancery where she was attempting to recover a consignment of wool from a group of Italian merchants. Likewise, in 1424, he pleaded on behalf of his wards, Isabel and Alice Dethick, at the Derby assizes; and he also appeared from time to time in the court of common pleas. His services as an executor were, on the whole, available only to members of his own family—such as his cousin, Thomas Reresby of Thrybergh, who drew up his will in 1431—although many years previously, in 1408, he had acted in this capacity for the Staffordshire landowner, Thomas Francis. Occasional references survive to his activities as an arbitrator (as, for instance, in a dispute involving the servants of James, Lord Audley, which was submitted to his award in 1422); and he was probably called in to settle many similar local quarrels.10
De la Pole’s busy legal practice, combined with his almost continuous involvement in local administration, may well have left him comparatively little time for personal matters, and it is perhaps hardly surprising that this aspect of his life remains virtually undocumented. In 1412 King Henry rewarded his dedication with two grants of confiscated property, although the second was consequent upon the outlawry of his brother, Ralph, who had failed to appear in court when being sued for debt, and may thus have planned to retain hold of his assets. Four years later he attended the Derbyshire parliamentary elections, and helped to return his kinsman, John de la Pole* of Hartington. The latter’s candidacy probably led him to make a special trip to Derby, for he does not otherwise appear to have shown any active interest in the election of Members. As a shrewd lawyer, de la Pole was usually able to avoid any litigation which threatened him personally, but in 1422 he and Ralph were accused of wrongful arrest by a man whom they claimed as one of their villeins, and they were duly fined £5 for various acts of harassment. De la Pole was caught up in another dispute some six years later over the ownership of land in Hertfordshire, but it appears that on this occasion he was simply acting as a feoffee-to-uses. His work as Sir Nicholas Strelley’s trustee did, however, lead to a potentially serious quarrel with the latter’s son, Sir Robert*, who accused him, in about 1430, of disposing of his inheritance without his knowledge. De la Pole evidently managed to convince Strelley that no such transactions had ever taken place, and avoided any further confrontation.11
Although he must have been well over 60 when his wife died in 1432, de la Pole continued to play an active part in the county community for another ten years or so. He and his elder son, Ralph, were included on the list of Derbyshire gentry expected, in May 1434, to take the general oath that they would not support by maintenance anyone who broke the peace. Ralph may already have been given estates of his own, as in 1439 he went to law to assert his right to present to the church of Mugginton, notwithstanding a release of their title previously made by his parents to William Dethick*. Peter de la Pole himself presented to a chantry in Crich church, Derbyshire, in 1441, and to Eckington church in the following year, but he probably died before July 1444, when his name disappeared from the Derbyshire commission of the peace after no less than 50 years unbroken service. He was buried beside his wife in a tomb at Radbourne church. His effigy depicts him wearing the Lancastrian ‘SS’ collar of livery. His son, Ralph, who eventually became a j.KB, had already begun to prosper in the service of the duchy, and was employed as a justice at Lancaster and in the Lancastrian lordships in South Wales, thus continuing a profitable family tradition.12
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. J.C. Cox, Notes on Churches Derbys. iii. 212-15, 257-8; iv. 35, 56; CCR, 1389-92, p. 509; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. n.s. iii. 149; Test. Ebor. ii. 126-7; Peds. Plea Rolls ed. Wrottesley, 111.
- 2. He never received his commission (CPR, 1401-5, pp. 121, 239).
- 3. DL42/17, f. 208.
- 4. DKR, xxxi. 230; xxxvii. 592.
- 5. Somerville, Duchy, i. 367, 373, 381, 468; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xiii. 104; Reg. Gaunt 1371-5, no. 303; Feudal Aids, i. 264, 298; vi. 413; Cox, ii. 212-13, 215; EHR, xlix. 632.
- 6. CCR, 1389-92, pp. 363, 509; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 380; 1408-13, p. 453; CFR, xi. 204, 260; xii. 12-13, 161; xiii. 82; xiv. 255; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xvi. 19, 23, 24; E. Powell, ‘Settlement by Arbitration’, Law and Hist. Rev. ii. 30.
- 7. C143/441/12; CP25(1)39/43/7, 186/37/25, 39/16, 280/154/43; SC1/51/68; Corporation of London RO, hr 134/116; CCR, 1396-9, p. 116; 1405-9, pp. 133, 275; 1419-22, pp. 75-76; 1429-35, pp. 73, 75-76; CAD, vi. C4724; CPR, 1408-13, p. 197; 1413-16, p. 159; 1422-9, pp. 204, 212; 1429-36, p. 99; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xi. 229; xvi. 66; Huntington Lib. San Marino, Hastings ms HAD 174/2832; Cal. Scots. Docs. (supp.) v. no. 2081; E.P. Shirley, Stemmata Shirleiana, 388.
- 8. C138/55/13; DL41/7/1; DL42/16, f. 39v, 17 (pt. 2), ff. 3, 60, 60v, 71v, 85v, 101, 101v; Somerville, i. 453.
- 9. CCR, 1405-9, p. 294; 1409-13, p. 319; 1413-19, p. 193; 1419-22, p. 128; 1422-9, pp. 65, 72, 402; 1429-35, p. 43.
- 10. JUST 1/1537; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xvi. 11, 82; CPR, 1405-8, p. 402; 1405-9, p. 478; Test. Ebor. ii. 282.
- 11. C219/11/8; SC1/51/68; Wm. Salt. Arch. Soc. xvi. 87; CFR, xiii. 240; CPR, 1408-13, p. 423; CCR, 1422-9, p. 410.
- 12. Cox, iii. 187, 257-8; iv. 47; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. n.s. iii. 149; CPR, 1429-36, p. 412; Somerville, i. 451, 453, 469, 472.