POMEROY, Sir John (c.1347-1416), of Berry Pomeroy, Devon.
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Family and Education
b.c.1347, s. of Sir Henry Pomeroy (d.1373) of Berry Pomeroy by his w. Joan. m. by 1377, Joan (d.1420), da. and coh. of Sir Richard Merton† of Merton, Devon, wid. of John Bampfield of Poltimore, s.p. Kntd. bef. Dec. 1374.
Commr. of array, Devon May 1375, Apr., July, Aug. 1377, Feb. 1379, Mar. 1380, Apr. 1385, Mar. 1392; arrest Aug. 1378, Sept. 1381; to issue proclamations prohibiting unlawful assemblies June 1381; of oyer and terminer Oct. 1412.
J.p. Cornw. 4 Mar. 1377-8, Devon Dec. 1381-3.
Sheriff, Devon 30 Sept.-3 Nov. 1399.
It seems unlikely that a knight and landowner of the standing of Sir John Pomeroy would sit in Parliament for a mere borough as distinct from a shire, and the omission of his designation as knight from the return might be thought to strengthen the doubt that it was in fact he and not some lesser man of the same name who represented Totnes at Gloucester in 1407. Yet no other John Pomeroy has been found to fit the bill, and the evidence of Sir John’s undisputed influence in the borough as owner of the suburb of Bridgetown, coupled with the attendance of his steward, Robert French*, at the elections to the Parliament in question, leads to the conclusion that he was, indeed, elected to the Commons as a burgess.1
Sir John was a descendant of Ralph de Pomaria, who came over with the Conqueror, and was himself the son of a knight who fought at Crécy. Although he is not known to have taken part in any foreign campaigns, his appointments to several royal commissions of array may suggest some military experience. The substantial Pomeroy estates in Devon and Cornwall included the manors of Raphael and Stockleigh Pomeroy, a third of Brixham and a moiety of Harberton, as well as the castles of Berry Pomeroy and Tregony. To these, which he inherited from his father in December 1373, John added by marriage lands in Nymet St. George and Kilmington, and he also shared the patronage of the church at Merton. Then, in 1376, he acquired estates in Cornwall from William Huish, brother-in-law of Sir Robert Tresilian†, c.j.KB, which involved him in a legal tangle after Tresilian’s forfeiture for treason and execution in 1388. Huish property in Devon (at Huish, Stowford, Washbourne and Allaleigh) also passed into or through Pomeroy’s hands, but was lost before 1391. No reliable contemporary valuation of the Pomeroy estates has survived. In 1412 Sir John was said to be holding lands in Devon worth £60 p.a., but this was probably a low estimate, for at the time of his death Berry Pomeroy alone was reported to be worth £40.2
That Sir John’s career in royal service was undistinguished may have had something to do with his political sympathies. As well as his contacts with Tresilian he had also materially assisted the judge’s clerk, John Blake (who was likewise condemned to death by the Merciless Parliament), by giving him the wardship of one of his tenants in Lesnewth. Pomeroy’s dismissal from the shrievalty of Devon barely a month after his appointment on the first day of Henry IV’s reign was almost certainly for political reasons, but, unfortunately, no information as to the circumstances has been found. His friendship with Sir John Dynham (d.1428), of Hartland, may also have given him cause for regret: in 1398 he had acted as one of four mainpernors who, in a bond for £200, undertook that Dynham would keep the peace; but although in 1401 Dynham received a pardon and his bailsmen were released from their obligations six years later, they were held responsible for two more offences of his, and Dynham had eventually to forfeit 700 marks to obtain further pardons for himself and his friends.3
In 1387 Pomeroy, considering himself in no way bound by an entail of the family estates in favour of the male line which had been made in 1329, had settled them in the event of his dying childless on his heirs-general. A change of mind, seen in provisions made in 1404 and 1414 on behalf of his cousin and male heir, Edward Pomeroy*, was ignored after his death in 1416, for the Crown preferred the claims of his nephew, John Cole IV* of Nethway, and his niece Joan, who had married another member of the family, Sir Thomas Pomeroy*. Sir John’s will, for which probate was granted in October 1416, has not survived. His widow was required to take an oath not to remarry without the King’s licence, and presumably never did so. She died four years later.4