POULTNEY, Sir John (c.1352-1428), of Poultney, Leics. and Shenley, Herts.
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Family and Education
b.c.1352, 2nd s. and h. of Robert Owen alias Poultney (d. by 1376) of Poultney by Cecily, sis. and coh. of Robert Poutrel of Wysall, Notts. m. Joan Wiston of Peatling, Leics., at least 2s. inc. Thomas Poutrel†, 1da. Kntd. between May 1382 and Nov. 1386.1
Tax collector, Leics. Mar. 1380, May 1384, Nov. 1386, Nov. 1388.
As the great-nephew and heir of the eminent London merchant, Sir John Poultney (d.1349), this Member enjoyed a degree of wealth and influence which makes his own comparative obscurity rather surprising. His distinguished ancestor came from the village of Poultney, where he spent his youth, but such was his financial expertise that within a few years he was able to purchase land in Newton Harcourt, Misterton and Walcote (also in Leicestershire), together with the manors of Ditton Camoys (Cambridgeshire), Shenley (Hertfordshire), Poplar (Middlesex) and Ospringe (Kent). He was also the owner of an impressive amount of property in the City, although no more than part of this, worth approximately 100 marks a year, descended to his heirs. Sir John’s only son, Sir William, died childless in 1367, leaving all the Poultney estates not then held in dower by his widowed mother to his cousin, Robert Owen. The latter shrewdly changed his name to Poultney, and, perhaps as a result of his improved status, soon obtained a seat on the Leicestershire bench. He died shortly before November 1376, by which time his second son, the subject of this biography, had assumed control of the entire inheritance. Through his mother, Cecily Poutrel, the young man also gained possession of part of the manor of Prestwold, and possibly other holdings elsewhere in Leicestershire.2
Poultney seems to have spent most of his life in this part of England, and his involvement in local government was confined to four terms as a tax collector in Leicestershire. The royal letters of pardon accorded to him in May 1382 state that he was then living at Poultney, where he had no doubt received the bonds in £40 offered to him two years previously by one of his neighbours. At Michaelmas 1388, and again in the following February, he witnessed conveyances of Sir Ralph Hastings’s property in Leicestershire and Warwickshire; and at some point over the next ten years he began an action for the recovery of a debt of four marks owed to him by one William Martin of Enderby (also in Leicestershire). A second pardon was granted to him in May 1398 by Richard II, referring specifically to support given by him a decade earlier to the Lords Appellant, but nothing more is known about his political affiliations during this turbulent period.3 In October 1400, Sir John witnessed a deed at Ridge in Hertfordshire, which suggests that he may by then have moved south to his manor of Shenley. He was already involved in a dispute with William of Wykeham, bishop of Winchester, over the Poultney estates in Kent, although the lawsuit, which left Wykeham in possession of the manor of Ospringe, may well have been collusive.4 From this date onwards, Poultney devoted more time to his interests in Hertfordshire, and was returned to three consecutive Parliaments by the electorate. In June 1409 he obtained a grant of free warren on his Leicestershire demesnes from Henry IV, this being the only known act of royal patronage to come his way. Three years later he and John Fray* bound themselves in mutual recognizances of 200 marks, offering their estates in the home counties as security for the performance of unspecified conditions. It is unlikely that this undertaking had anything to do wi