PRESTON, John (d.1434), of Preston Patrick, Westmld. and Preston near Glynde, Suss.
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Family and Education
Commr. of inquiry, Thames valley Feb. 1391, Suss. Jan. 1400 (concealments), Westmld. July 1405, London Jan. 1414 (lollards), Mdx. Mar. 1417 (treason), Westmld. Feb. 1419 (concealments), Berks., Glos., Oxon., Salop, Staffs., Westmld. May 1419 (treason), Wilts. Nov. 1420, Yorks. July 1421, July 1422 (treason), July 1424, Northumb. Nov. 1424 (Scrope estates), Kent Nov. 1424, Yorks. June 1425; weirs, Surr., Suss. June 1398, Essex, Herts., Mdx. July 1416; to reconstruct archives of abpric. of Canterbury Feb. 1399; of sewers, Kent, Surr. Apr. 1399, Suss. Nov. 1401, Thames valley July 1416, Surr. Dec. 1417, Suss., Yorks. Feb. 1422, Suss. Oct. 1422, Yorks. Dec. 1422, June 1424; array, Suss. July 1402, Aug., Sept. 1403, Mdx. May 1418; to make proclamation of Henry IV’s intention to govern well May 1402; of gaol delivery, Newgate 16 times Jan. 1406-25;1 to determine an appeal against judgement of the marshal of Calais July 1409; of oyer and terminer, Surr. Nov. 1410, Mar. 1411, London, Surr., Yorks. July 1411, London Jan., Feb. 1414, Essex, Mdx. Feb. 1416, Beds. Aug. 1416, Oxon. Dec. 1418, Suss. Feb. 1420, Kent July 1423, Essex Nov., Dec. 1423, Yorks. Mar. 1426; to correct error in ct. proceedings, London June 1416; hold assizes, Cumb., Northumb., Westmld., Yorks. Feb., Nov. 1422, July 1426, Berks. May 1425.
Steward of duchy of Lancaster, Suss. 14 Nov. 1393-8 July 1404,2 of the abp. of Canterbury’s manors of South Malling, Suss. and Otford, Kent by Oct. 1397.
The earl of Arundel’s bailiff of the rapes of Arundel and Chichester by July 1396-June 1397.3
J.p. Suss. June 1397-Feb. 1403, Surr. July 1397-Feb. 1403, Westmld. July 1401-Feb. 1407, June 1419-July 1432, Mdx. Nov. 1413-July 1423, Salop Feb. 1416-Dec. 1420, Glos. Nov. 1416-Feb. 1422, Herefs. Nov. 1416-Feb. 1422, Berks. Feb. 1417-22, Staffs. Dec. 1417-July 1420, Worcs. Dec. 1417-July 1420, Oxford Feb. 1418-Apr. 1422, Oxon. Apr. 1418-Feb. 1422, Bucks. Feb. Kent July 1420-Feb. 1428, Cumb. Dec. 1420-Mar. 1428, Northumb. Feb. 1422-May 1433, Yorks. (N. Riding) Feb. 1422-Jan. 1432, (W. Riding) Feb. 1422-Nov. 1431, (E. Riding) July 1423-Nov. 1429.
Tax collector, Suss. Mar. 1404.
Recorder of London by July 1406-June 1415.4
J.c.p. 16 June 1415-28 Jan. 1428.
Coming from the Westmorland family which held the manors of Preston Patrick and Preston Richard, John, the future judge, was probably a younger son, for he apparently inherited Preston Patrick only after the death of his brother, Richard. His father, another John, represented their native shire in Parliament six times between 1362 and 1382 and served on many royal commissions in that county as well as in Yorkshire and Cumberland before his death, which occurred some time between 1392 and July 1395. At the latter date John, junior, as his son and heir and tenant of his lands, appeared in Chancery to take oath that a certain commission had never been delivered to his late father. Before 1395 it is sometimes difficult to disentangle the careers of father and son, especially as the younger man had been active for some 15 years previously. Preston junior retained interests in Westmorland throughout his life, and in later years he was appointed to judicial commissions in the north of England,5 but the foundation for his successful career was a practice in the lawcourts at Westminster; and it was in the south, in Sussex, that he made his reputation. A kinsman and namesake of his (perhaps even his father) had been a friend of Sir John Waleys† of Glynde, near whose seat he himself acquired lands, at Ringmer, South Malling and Framfield; while after his rise to the judiciary he was to purchase other properties in the south, most notably the manor of Farnborough and lands at Chelsfield and Bromley in Kent.6
Quite early on, Preston’s ability as a lawyer brought him to the attention of John of Gaunt, who appointed him in 1393 as steward of his estates in Sussex, a post in which he was to be retained by Henry of Bolingbroke until 1404. But his services were by no means offered exclusively to the house of Lancaster; on occasion the Crown employed him as an attorney, as, for example, in 1394 when he was rewarded with £2 6s.8d. for his labour in the successful prosecution of a man charged with ten murders. In 1395 he was authorized to take an oath from Henry Michelgrove’s widow before she was assigned dower, receiving a year later custody at the Exchequer of the rest of Michelgrove’s property in Kent and Sussex during the minority of the heir. Also in 1396 he shared keeping of the estates of Richard, Lord Talbot. Following the death of Archbishop Courtenay of Canterbury, Preston was among those made guardians of the temporalities of the see, although the grant was to be cancelled before it had taken effect. He was probably already holding office as steward of the archbishop’s manors of South Malling and Otford, which he was to retain after Archbishop Arundel was exiled by the Parliament of September 1397. For more than a year previously he had been acting as ‘bailiff’ of certain of the estates of the archbishop’s brother, Richard, earl of Arundel. Clearly, however, he was not so strongly identified with the Fitzalans as to forfeit his place on royal commissions; on the contrary, it had only been after Earl Richard’s arrest (which was to lead to his condemnation for treason) that he had joined the ranks of j.p.s in Sussex and Surrey. Preston could exert sufficient influence in Chancery to secure in November 1398 a special commission headed by the earls of Northumberland and Westmorland to bring to trial before the King’s Council his adversary, John Middleton, who with his followers had allegedly sought to ambush and kill him and his friends in the north of England. It was no doubt Preston’s position as duchy of Lancaster steward which prompted his election for Sussex to the Parliament of 1399 in the company of the prominent Lancastrian, John Pelham, friend of Henry of Bolingbroke, whom they were to acclaim as King. While Parliament was in session that November he secured a share in the farm of the estates of the alien priory of Wilmington for the duration of the war with France. However, a few years later, in February 1404, Pelham placed Preston under arrest at Pevensey castle, from whence he was escorted before the King’s Council to answer certain charges. Doubtless his detention arose from his performance as steward of the estates of the duchy of Lancaster in Sussex, a post in which Pelham was to succeed him just a few months later.7 Yet although Preston’s relations with the King’s friend were damaged, it was on behalf of an associate of Pelham’s, the lawyer, John Halle II*, that in later years he was to act as a trustee of property in East Hoathly. In 1407 and 1413 he and other friends entered into recognizances with the prior of the Cluniac house at Lewes (near his lands at Glynde), in connexion with certain holdings in Yorkshire which the monks had leased to him. The prior subsequently presented Preston’s son, John, to the living at Sandal (Westmorland).8
However, after 1404 Preston’s rise in the legal profession had largely taken him away from Sussex to London, where he held the civic office of recorder for at least nine years. During this period of his career he acted as a mortgagor of the Essex estates of Richard de Vere, earl of Oxford, and as a trustee of a manor in Yorkshire pertaining to the inheritance of John Mowbray, the future duke of Norfolk.9 In February 1412 he was promoted to the degree of serjeant-at-law and, thereafter, was kept constantly busy on royal business and as a j.p. in various parts of the country. A small reward from the Crown, in the form of some tenements in Smithfield worth four marks a year, came his way in 1414. In the following year he resigned his recordership of London in order to become a puisne j.c.p. Besides his annual salary of 110 marks, he now occasionally received additional perquisites for his labours, such as the wardship of the Lumley estates in the north, awarded him in 1421. Preston stayed on as an evidently hard-working judge until January 1428, when his petition that he was too aged and infirm to attend the court was accepted and he was allowed to retire.10
Preston died on Michaelmas day 1434. Eleven years later his house, ‘Le Grete Belle’ near the Barbican, along with the 14 dwellings annexed to it, was forfeited to the Crown on the ground that it had been put into the hands of trustees (who included two members of his family—his younger son, Robert, and Nicholas Preston, clerk) to the use of the chaplains serving a chantry which he was said to have founded in St. Gregory’s chapel near Preston Richard, thus being in breach of the Statute of Mortmain. However, a subsequent search in the records of Chancery found no evidence that the chantry had ever been founded, and further inquiries established that the trustees had held the property only to the use of Preston and his heirs.11 Another of the judge’s sons, Richard, inherited both his Sussex lands and his estate in Westmorland.12
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
The existence of several other men called John Preston (including one from Southwark who held office from 1409 until his death in 1413 as marshal of the King’s bench: Sel. Cases King’s Bench (Selden Soc. lxxxviii), p. xx) makes identification difficult. That the judge who came from Westmld. was one and the same man as had interests near Lewes, is established by Cat. Glynde Place Archs. ed. Dell, no. 1504, and CCR, 1405-9, p. 292; 1413-19, p. 70.
- 1. Cal. Letter Bks. London, I, K, passim .
- 2. DL28/32/22; Somerville, Duchy, i. 379, 615.
- 3. E401/602, 12 July, 606, 4 June.
- 4. Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 279.
- 5. J. Nicolson and R. Burn, Westmld. and Cumb. i. 238-9; E. Foss, Judges, iv. 354-5; CCR, 1377-81, p. 506; 1392-6, p. 472; 1399-1402, p. 575.
- 6. Cat. Glynde Place Archs. nos. 4, 19, 1169, 1186, 1190, 1504; CCR, 1422-9, p. 213. It is quite possible that he was the John Preston associated from 1377 with Sir Robert Bealknap, c.j.c.p., who in about 1385 had settled on him for the lifetime of
- 7. Issues ed. Devon, 261; CFR, xi. 177-8, 187-8; xii. 11; CPR, 1396-9, pp. 170, 205, 503; 1401-5, p. 364; CCR, 1392-6, p. 433.
- 8. Add. Chs. 30223, 30225; Suss. Feet of Fines, no. 2758; CCR, 1405-9, p. 292; 1413-19, p. 70; Nicolson and Burn, i. 238-9.
- 9. CPR, 1408-13, p. 426; CCR, 1409-13, p. 78; 1422-9, p. 214; 1435-41, p. 149.
- 10. CCR, 1409-13, p. 258; 1422-9, p. 361; CPR, 1413-16, pp. 153, 322, 335; 1429-36, p. 42; CFR, xiv. 392.
- 11. C145/312/34; CPR, 1441-6, p. 366; CCR, 1441-7, pp. 332-5, 385-6.
- 12. Cat. Glynde Place Archs. no. 1504; Nicolson and Burn, i. 238-9.