RICKHILL, William (bef.1385-aft.1447), of Ifield, Kent.
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Family and Education
b. bef. Dec. 1385, 1st s. of Sir William Rickhill (d.1407) j.c.p., of Ifield and Islingham in Frindsbury by his w. Rose (d.1418); er. bro. of John Rickhill† (d.1432) of Islingham. m. bef. Feb. 1421, Katherine (d. 27 Aug. 1433), da. of William Coventry of London, mercer, 1da.
Commr. of array, Kent Mar. 1419.
William was the eldest of the four sons of Sir William Rickhill, the judge chiefly remembered for having received the ‘confession’ of Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester, shortly before the latter was murdered at Calais castle in September 1397. He was the godson of the judge’s friend, Sir William Walworth† (d.1385), the famous London mayor, from whom he received a bequest of £5. Evidently, however, he did not find much favour with his father as he matured in years, for Justice Rickhill did not even mention him in his will made in 1407, which ordered the distribution of very large sums of money (at least £800). Furthermore, Sir William set aside a substantial part of the estates he had accumulated in the course of his career to benefit his younger sons to the exclusion of the eldest. Thus, John inherited, besides Islingham and several other landed holdings in Kent, the Cambridgeshire manor of Ditton Camoys; Nicholas received Mokelton Hall in Ulting, Essex, and Paddington Bray in Abinger, Surrey, together with a number of properties in London; and Thomas was favourably placed in the entails of all these holdings.1 It looks very much as if William’s share consisted of the manors of Ridley and Ifield alone, although he may also have eventually inherited the lands which his mother, Rose, held as dower in the Kentish hundred of Shamwell, and these were worth about £30 a year as estimated by the assessors of the subsidy of 1412. Rose, at least, regarded him with affection: she entrusted him with her goods and chattels, and in her will in April 1418 she named him among her executors.2 The Rickhills always maintained friendly relations with various Londoners: William’s sister became the wife of Richard Gille, a draper in the City, while he himself married into a London family, his wife Katherine (with whom he procured a papal indult for a portable altar in 1421), being the sister of John Coventry, the mercer and sometime mayor. By the terms of his will, composed in 1427, Coventry left Katherine a bequest of 100 marks, and at the same time appointed his brother-in-law Rickhill as supervisor.3
Rickhill’s career had begun in 1415 as a member of the retinue of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, on Henry V’s first campaign in France. But although he did well at the battle of Agincourt by capturing three of the enemy, whom he held to ransom, the lure of booty seems not to have encouraged him to take further part in the French wars. His relations with the monks of Rochester cathedral priory were always close, no doubt because his parents, benefactors of the cathedral (to which the judge had given £100), lay buried in St. Mary’s chapel. On 5 Oct. 1418 the ailing bishop of Rochester, Richard Young, appointed him as one of his proctors to play host to Archbishop Chichele, then about to commence a visitation of the diocese, and when, a few days later, Young made his will, he named him as one of just two executors. Rickhill and his brother, John, were both present in the chapter house in March 1422 to witness an agreement made between the prior and chapter and the parishioners of St. Nicholas’s altar in the cathedral, to determine future relations between the parties. More important, the brothers also had personal dealings with Thomas Langley, bishop of Durham, the then chancellor, who in the previous year had agreed to the marriage of his nephew, James Hopwode†, to John Rickhill’s daughter. William attended the parliamentary elections held at Rochester in 1422, 1423 (on the occasion of his brother John’s return as knight of the shire) and 1426 (when John as sheriff was the presiding officer). But he was the only member of the family to be listed among the gentry of Kent required in the spring of 1434 to take the general oath against maintenance of malefactors.4
During the 1430s Rickhill was engaged in a number of lawsuits in connexion with the affairs of his late brother, Nicholas (who died before July 1432). Joan Brickhill a ‘poure wydowe’ from Northfleet, having first alleged in Chancery that Nicholas had defrauded her of property through his influence over her son, whom ‘for grete love and trust’ she had placed under his governance ‘honestly to trete, teche and norisshe hym’, now brought an action against William for having, ‘of malice and sotelte’ retained certain goods worth £40 which she had left in his care. Nicholas had married a wealthy widow with estates in Essex, and it was probably a dispute over her holdings which led William in 1433 to enter into mutual recognizances in £1,000 with John Doreward of Bocking (son of the former Speaker).5 Rickhill also had his own affairs to attend to: his application for a royal licence to grant in mortmain to the wardens of Rochester bridge the manor of Little Delce, together with other property in the same parish of St. Margaret near Rochester, was eventually granted in June 1441; three years earlier he had made arrangements for the settlement of his manor of Ridley on his only daughter Rose, then the wife of William Idele; and in 1440 he had placed his moveable goods in the safe-keeping of friends, w