REES, William (d.1410), of Tharston, Norf.
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Family and Education
prob. s. of John Rees of Long Stratton. m. ?(1) Margery, sis. of William Appleyard* of Norwich; (2) between June 1395 and Oct. 1400, Agnes (d.c.1408), da. of Sir John Shardelowe† of Barton Mills and Cooling, Suff. by his w. Margaret, wid. of Richard (d.1369), s. of John Freville of Little Shelford, Cambs. and of Sir John Brewes (d.c.1394) of Stinton, Norf., prob. s.p.
Commr. of sewers, Yorks., Lincs., Notts. Oct. 1383, Norf. Nov. 1408; inquiry, Norf. Sept. 1391, Nov. 1393 (forfeited goods), Mar. 1403 (encroachments on property pertaining to Norwich castle), Apr. 1409 (assault), Norwich June 1409 (ransom of merchants); weirs, Norf. June 1398; array Dec. 1399, Aug. 1402, Norf., Suff. Aug., Sept. 1403, Norwich Jan. 1404; to make proclamation of Henry IV’s intention to govern well, Norf. May 1402.
Sheriff, Norf. and Suff. 15 May 1397-3 Nov. 1399, 30 Nov. 1407-15 Nov. 1408, Cambs. and Hunts. 24 Nov. 1400-8 Nov. 1401.
J.p. Norf. 28 Nov. 1399-d., Suff. 28 Nov. 1399-Jan. 1405.
Escheator, Norf. and Suff. 9 Nov. 1406-30 Nov. 1407.
Controller of works at Norwich castle 28 Nov. 1408-d.
The family of Rees was relatively obscure before William’s time. Probably the son of John Rees who lived at Long Stratton, he held a manor in the neighbouring parish of Tharston, some eight miles south of Norwich. To this he added other properties, including a second manor in Tharston (purchased from the Nerford estate) and land at Tasburgh and Colney. He always took a personal interest in the affairs of the city of Norwich, being by marriage closely connected with the prominent local family of Appleyard (his first wife may have been William Appleyard’s sister, and his own sister was possibly William’s wife), and he owned at least one house there.1
At Tharston, Rees was a feudal tenant of the house of Mowbray, which he served for most of his life. In his youth he became a member of the household of Lord John Mowbray (d.1368), and in 1369 he was one of those appointed by the bishop of Lincoln to examine the accounts of his lord’s executors. During the minority of Mowbray’s sons, Rees became attached to the service of Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, who on 1 Oct. 1379 formally retained him as his esquire for life in peace and war, granting him as his fee the manor of Househam, Essex, which was worth between 20 marks and £20 a year, depending on whether it was well stocked. In 1384 he stood surety for Earl Richard at the Exchequer when he secured custody of the English estates of Fécamp abbey. Yet ties of lordship still linked him with the Mowbrays: shortly after the marriage of Arundel’s daughter to Thomas Mowbray, earl of Nottingham, he joined this earl’s retinue. In 1388 he served under Mowbray in France, and in November of the same year he provided securities at the Exchequer on his behalf. Rees was first returned to Parliament for Norfolk in 1390. This was at a time when Richard II was enticing Mowbray away from his erstwhile associates, the Lords Appellant (including his father-in-law, Arundel), and it may be significant that a year or so later the revenues of the Fitzalan manor in Essex earlier assigned to him ceased to be paid. In 1394, when the Earl Marshal was preparing to accompany the King to Ireland, he named Rees as one of his attorneys at home; and three years later Rees acted once again as mainpernor for his lord. Earl Thomas rewarded his retainer with annuities of £10 charged on his Cambridgeshire estates, granted on 15 Feb. 1397, just after the dissolution of Rees’s third Parliament, and of 20 marks from the issues of Willington, Bedfordshire, awarded on 3 Oct. following. In the meantime, in June that same year, Rees had been party to an important transaction, completed at Mowbray’s London residence, whereby Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, undertook to pay the Earl Marshal 8,000 marks, this being the amount he had unjustly taken from the younger man’s lordship of Gower over the years.2
In May 1397 Rees had been appointed sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk. Accordingly, he was responsible for conducting elections to the September Parliament, the assembly in which Richard II was to have his revenge over his enemies and to reward his supporter Mowbray with the dukedom of Norfolk. On 17 Nov. he secured royal confirmation of his letters patent from the recently executed earl of Arundel, perhaps in the hope of receiving once more the revenues of Househam. The period of Mowbray’s ascendancy, however, proved short lived, and in February 1398, following the charges of treason laid against the duke at Shrewsbury, Rees saw fit to procure a royal pardon expressly covering all offences he had committed in the years 1386 to 1388 as an adherent of the Lords Appellant. Before Duke Thomas went into exile he made Rees a grant for life of two-thirds of the manor of Ryarsh, Kent, to add to his annuities. Rees himself remained in England and continued to hold the office of sheriff until after Richard II’s deposition. In the records of the city of Norwich for the last year of the reign, there is a reference to expenditure on the wages of six archers who went with Rees, the sheriff, to London on behalf of the citizens. As Norwich was strongly Lancastrian in sympathy it may be that these men were sent to lend support to Henry of Bolingbroke on his entry into the capital. After his accession to the throne Henry confirmed Rees’s annuities from the Mowbray estates, authorizing payment of arrears amounting to £35. He was also to make full use of Rees’s services in the administration of East Anglia: Rees was appointed to the benches of both Norfolk and Suffolk, and later discharged office not only as sheriff there and in the neighbouring bailiwick of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, but also as escheator. He was the only man not of knightly rank to be summoned from the region to the great council of August 1401. In February 1409 he was given £20 for his ‘great labour, costs and expenses’ as sheriff. Although never again returned to the Commons, Rees continued to be interested in parliamentary affairs—at least to the extent of attending the Norfolk elections of 1407 and 1410.3
Rees evidently maintained his association with the house of Mowbray after the death of the duke of Norfolk in 1399. In February 1402 he was named by the Crown as one of the custodians of the manor of Fen Stanton, Huntingdonshire, during the minority of Thomas Mowbray, the new Earl Marshal, with responsibility for paying the earl’s brother, John, an annuity of £100; and in August 1405, shortly after Earl Thomas’s execution for treason, he was made joint keeper of the Mowbray manor of Forncett, Norfolk, forfeited to the Crown. However, he was not to live to see the rehabilitation of the house under Henry V. In these later years Rees may also have received retaining fees from Thomas, Lord Morley, for whom he had acted in 1391 as an attorney at home during his absence in Prussia. He witnessed a number of deeds for Morley, and before 1401 was named by him as a feoffee of estates in Norfolk, Essex and Hertfordshire.4
Rees’s standing among the local gentry had been enhanced by his second marriage, to an already twice-widowed lady named Agnes Shardelowe. Under the terms of a settlement made for her first marriage (to Richard Freville) Agnes held for life the Freville manors of Caxton and West Wratting in Cambridgeshire. These Rees treated as if they were his own, to be freely disposed of as he liked. He arranged that he should have possession for term of his life and then put the reversion into the hands of his own trustees (who included such influential local figures as Sir Simon Felbrigg KG, John Wynter* and Oliver Groos*), with instructions that after his death West Wratting was to be conveyed to Ely priory, and Caxton to be sold to found a chantry in the collegiate church of St. Mary in the Fields, Norwich, thus completely disregarding the rights of the Freville heir, William*.5
In March 1410 Rees was party to a grant to the hospital of St. Giles in Norwich, for the provision of prayers for the soul of Master John Derlington, the former archdeacon. On 8 June following he made a will for the disposal of his own goods and chattels, containing munificent bequests to a large number of churches and religious orders of the region. Particular favour was shown to St. Mary in the Fields, where he was to be buried next to his wife Margery, and to the church and clergy of St. Peter Mancroft, also in Norwich. The churches on Rees’s estates in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire were left a total of £24 6s.8d. for repairs. Each order of friars in Norwich was to have five marks, the Carmelites of Ipswich ten marks, and certain individually named friars a total of £20. The prioresses of five nunneries were each to have 13s.4d. and every nun under their rule 6s.8d., while every monk of the abbey of Bury St. Edmunds and at Norwich cathedral priory was to have a similar sum. Rees also remembered those in Norwich who were bedridden, dwelling in the local hospitals, or suffering from leprosy. His armour was to be sold to buy a cup worth five marks for Norwich cathedral. Rees’s personal chaplain was to have £10, and William Uvedale (his kinsman) £20. His executors were given individual bequests totalling £62. When disposing of his landed estate in another will (which has not survived), Rees apparently provided for the sale of certain properties to increase the stipend of the chantry priest at St. Mary’s, and instructed his executors to sell his manors at Caxton and Tharston for the endowment of another chantry there, but in the event, when, in 1413, his executors obtained the necessary royal licence, they used other properties purchased specifically for this purpose. Rees died on Nov. 1410.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
Variants: Rys, Ryse.
- 1. F. Blomefield, Norf. v. 305; CP25(1)168/180/226; CPR, 1396-9, p. 570; Recs. Norwich ed. Hudson and Tingey, ii. 252; Feudal Aids, iii. 627.
- 2. Early Lincoln Wills ed. Gibbons, 62; CPR, 1391-6, p. 506; 1396-9, p. 255; CIMisc. vi. 242, 387, 391; CFR, x. 57, 258; xi. 211; E101/41/7; R.E. Archer, ‘The Mowbrays’ (Oxf. Univ. D.Phil. thesis, 1984), 18-19.