SCROPE, Sir John le (d.1405), of Hollinhall and Haldenby, Yorks.
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Family and Education
4th or 5th s. of Henry, 1st Lord Scrope of Masham (1312-92) and yr. bro. of Stephen, 2nd Lord Scrope (1345-1406) and Richard le Scrope (exec. 1405), abp. of York. m. by Sept. 1388, Elizabeth (b.1361), e. da. and coh. of David, earl of Atholl and Lord Strathbogie (1332-69) by Elizabeth (d. Oct. 1375), da. of Henry, Lord Ferrers of Groby (d.1343), wid. of Sir Thomas Percy (d.c.1387), yr. s. of Henry, earl of Northumberland (d.1408), 2da. Kntd. by Nov 1384.1
Commr. of kiddles, Yorks. May 1392, Feb. 1400; inquiry Mar. 1401 (water supply at Kingston-upon-Hull); array (E. Riding) Aug., Sept. 1403.
J.p. archiepiscopal liberties of Beverley and Ripon Yorks. 1 Aug. 1398, (E. Riding) 16 July 1401-d.
Collector of a tax, Yorks. (E. Riding) Mar. 1404.
The le Scrope family established itself in Wensleydale well before the early 13th century, and the Masham branch claimed its immediate descent from Sir Geoffrey le Scrope, c.j.KB, a younger son of Sir William le Scrope of Bolton (d. by 1312). Sir William’s eldest grandson, Sir Richard, was created 1st Lord Scrope of Bolton in 1370, and is now chiefly remembered for his celebrated dispute with Sir Robert Grosvenor oever the right to bear the same coat of arms. His career was, however, noteworthy in many other respects, for between 1371 and 1382 he served successively as treasurer of England, joint warden of the west march, steward of the royal household and chancellor of England. One of his predecessors as steward was his cousin, Henry, the judge’s son and heir, who from 1350 onwards had been summoned to Parliament as Lord Scrope of Masham. The latter had at least seven children, who between them built up an impressive network of connexions with baronial families throughout the north and Midlands. His eldest son, Sir Geoffrey (d.v.p. 1362), married a daughter of Ralph, 2nd Lord Neville, while his second son and eventual heir, Sir Stephen, became related through his wife to the Lords Roos, Wells and Huntingfield. The elder of their two sisters, Joan, took Henry, 2nd Lord Fitzhugh, as her husband; and the younger, Isabel, married the influential Yorkshire landowner, Sir Robert Plumpton. Lord Scrope of Masham’s other sons also did well for themselves, for although Sir Henry died young at the start of a promising military career in France, Richard rose rapidly in the ecclesiastical hierarcy to become bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, and later, in 1398, archbishop of York. His subsequent rebellion against Henry IV in 1405 led to his execution for treason, a fate which contributed in no small measure to his reputation in the north as ‘Saint Richard Scrope, the glory of York’. The next brother, John, the subject of this biography, was thus eminently well placed to compensate for his position as a younger son by exploiting a wide range of valuable family relationships. He was greatly helped, too, by his father’s decision to settle upon him the Yorkshire manors of Hollinhall (near Ripon), Over Sedbury (near Gilling), Haldenby and Birkby, together with fairly extensive properties in York, as well as in the West Riding villages of Doncaster and Rotherham. His share of the le Scrope estates also appears to have included the manor of Hay in Hertfordshire, which he was likewise allowed to pass on to his descendants.2
John le Scrope is first mentioned in July 1380, when he accompanied Thomas of Woodstock, earl of Buckingham, to Calais, on an expedition intended to help the duke of Brittany against the French. He again took up arms in 1383, this time in the retinue of Woodstock’s elder brother, John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, on the Scottish march. Lord Scrope’s grant to him of the manor of Hollinhall followed in October 1384, by which date he had been knighted. He must have received the above-mentioned holdings in York then as well, since he was not long afterwards involved with Sir Gerard Usflete (his future parliamentary colleague) in contesting a claim to property there advanced at the local assizes by the abbot of St. Mary’s. The suit was perhaps collusive, in so far that it produced a clear legal record of their title. Lord Scrope had no doubt already begun searching for a wife whose wealth and status would enhance his son’s position, although a suitable candidate did not in fact appear until about 1387, on the death of Sir Thomas Percy. The latter’s widow, Elizabeth, was the elder daughter and coheir of David, earl of Atholl, who had died without male issue in 1369 when she was still a mere child. She and her sister, Philippa, then became wards of the 1st earl of Northumberland. In order to retain permanent control of the extensive and lucrative inheritance, the earl promptly married them to his two younger sons, ensuring through a series of entails that each sister would, on her death, leave her entire share of the Atholl estates to the issue of her first marriage, disregarding the claims of any subsequent offspring. Elizabeth had two daughters by Sir Thomas, but although they stood eventually to inherit everything, she still represented such a valuable prize that long-term dynastic considerations could, for once, be overlooked. By July 1376, after a partition had been made of the dower properties and jointure previously held by Elizabeth’s late mother, the countess, she and Percy were in possession of widespread farmland and other holdings centred upon the manors of Brabourne (Kent), Collingbourne Valence (Wiltshire), Postwick and Holkham (Norfolk) and Thornton (Northumberland). The couple were also allocated a substantial part of the liberty of Tindale in Northumberland, together with a number of knights’ fees there and in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex. Elizabeth was, moreover, one of the heirs-general of Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke (d.1324), whose widow, Mary, had died in 1377 seised of a large and valuable dower. Most of the property went to John Hastings, the infant son and heir of John, earl of Pembroke (d.1375), but Elizabeth received the manors of Filby and Carbrooke in Norfolk, the manor, town and forest of Felton in Northumberland, land and rents worth £40 a year in Nottinghamshire, and further revenues of £10 p.a. from Driffield in Yorkshire.3
Sir John married his wealthy bride shortly before September 1388, thereby effecting a dramatic improvement in his financial position, and extending his sphere of influence right up to the Scottish border. In 1389, for example, he joined with the earl of Northumberland in settling a boundary dispute between their tenants in the vills of Mitford and Morpeth. His hopes of even greater territorial aggrandisement were further raised on the death, in December 1389, of the young John Hastings, who was killed at a practice joust while still a minor. Since he left no children, the ownership of the Hastings estates was contested between a number of rival claimants. Reynold, Lord Grey of Ruthin, possessed the strongest title to most of the property, but Elizabeth and her sister were named as coheirs to various lands and manors in Buckinghamshire, Essex and Berkshire. After an initial attempt to gain control of these and other holdings in East Anglia, they finally admitted defeat, however, and in 1391 Lord Grey was confirmed in possession by the Crown.4Meanwhile, in May 1390, Sir John and Elizabeth obtained royal letters patent permitting them to appoint attorneys for the management of their affairs in Ireland. The letters were renewed two years later, the earl of Ormond being nominated as their representative on both occasions. Not long afterwards, Sir Aymer Atholl, Elizabeth’s uncle, settled upon her and her husband the manor of Ponteland in Northumberland, along with a reversionary interest in the pension of £30 p.a. which he had initially received from her father, although (as with the rest of the Atholl inheritance) her issue by Sir Thomas Percy rather than the children of her second marriage were to inherit when she died. In 1393 Sir John joined with her in conveying the advowson of Foston, in the North Riding, to the prior of the Carthusian house of St. Michael near Hull, and in the following year they both obtained a papal indult for the plenary remission of sins at the hour of death.
Notwithstanding his considerable wealth and impressive connexions, Sir John had hitherto shown little interest in public affairs, but in July 1396 letters of safe conduct were issued to him pending his departure abroad on royal business. It was then that he and his wife formally engaged the services of John Mitford* as keeper of their castle at Mitford, while also offering him a fee of 100s. a year for his ‘good counsel’. John’s son, William*, another lawyer, had previously stood bail for le Scrope when he was being sued for debt by a London draper, so the connexion was evidently of long standing. Despite all his preparations, Sir John did not spend long overseas. The nature of the venture is not known, nor does it appear to have been followed by any other embassies or missions. Indeed, by 1398, he was dealing with problems of a specifically local nature, when his tenants at Gainsborough in Lincolnshire made a vociferous protest about the abuses perpetrated by his steward. Sir John had previously been involved with his brother, Stephen (who succeeded to the family title in 1392) in transactions with the Lincolnshire gentry, so it seems likely that the manor formed part of the settlement made upon him by the Scropes.5
On the death of Robert Waldby, archbishop of York, in January 1398, Richard II decided to appoint one of his leading supporters, Richard le Scrope, the then bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, to the vacant see. Despite protests from the chapter, who favoured another candidate, the King would brook no opposition, and in June a papal bull was issued effecting le Scrope’s translation. The temporalities of the see had already been entrusted by Richard II to a group of the new archbishop’s friends and relatives, including his brother, Sir John, and another kinsman, William le Scrope, the heir presumptive of Richard, Lord Scrope, the heir presumptive of Richard, Lord Scrope of Bolton. Such was William’s standing at court that he had recently been created earl of Wiltshire, but there is no evidence to suggest that Sir John ever nursed similar ambitions or, indeed, that he even made full use of the influence already at his disposal. He was prepared to act as a j.p. in the archiepiscopal liberties of Beverley and Ripon, but this evidently marked the limit of his aspirations. He and his brothers did, however, remain close, as can be seen from his presence with the archbishop and Stephen, Lord Scrope of Masham, at Turnham Hall in July 1398, when a papal dispensation was read permitting the marriage of Stephen’s son, Henry, with the widowed Lady Devereux. Like the archbishop, Sir John gave cautious support to the Lancatrian coup d’état of 1399; and he was evidently prepared to associate himself with the new regime. Not long after being returned for Yorkshire to the Parliament of 1401, he took a seat on the county bench. His appointment to two commissions of array for the suppression of the Percys’ first uprising in 1403 suggests, moreover, that he threw himself firmly behind the government during this troubled period. But by 1405 his attitude had clearly changed. In the summer of that year he stood accused of collaborating with his kinsman, Sir William Percy, to secure the expulsion of a follower of the earl of Westmorland from local office; and although he escaped the fate of Sir William and the archbishop, both of whom were executed for treason on 8 June, he may well have been implicated in their rebellion.6
In the event, Sir John did not long outlive his brother. He made his will on 18 Dec. 1405, naming the late archbishop among the three supervisors either as a mark of respect, or because he was merely repeating an earlier draft, and died within less than five days. A man of some learning, he left a bible to his nephew and executor, Henry, the future 3rd Lord Scrope of Masham, a book in French called Tristrem to one of his daughters, and another entitled Le Grace Dieu to her sister. Henry Percy, the earl of Northumberland’s grandson and heir presumptive, who was then in exile in Scotland, was to receive a gold cup; and the Carthusians of Hull were promised £20 to help secure their title to Felton. Sir John’s widow and his two daughters were still alive in June 1415, when Henry, Lord Scrope, drew up his own will, leaving them each jewellery pro remembrancia. He was himself executed a few weeks later for conspiring against Henry V, thus bringing a tragic chapter in the family’s history to an end.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. CP, i. 308-9; xi. 563-4; CIPM, xiv. no. 86; xvi. no. 721; Test. Ebor. i. 388-9; CCR, 1381-5, p. 590.
- 2. Scrope v. Grosvenor, ii. 127-30, 138-9; Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xii. 258; Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. lix. 55-56; lxxvi. 172, 178; CP, xi. 539-40, 554-64.
- 3. Scrope v. Grosvenor, ii. 127-8; CP25(1)181/14/26; E179/159/48; JUST 1/1500 rot. 5; CP, i. 308-9; CPR, 1370-4, pp. 329-30; CCR, 1374-7, p. 322; 1389-92, pp. 367-70; 1399-1402, pp. 525-6; CIPM, xiv. nos. 86, 317, 339, 346; xvi. no. 1037; CFR, ix. 5; J. Hodgson, Hist. Northumb. ii (2), 495-6.
- 4. CIPM, xvi. nos. 721, 885-922; CFR, xi. 15-18; CP, vi. 155-6.
- 5. CP25(1)278/146/12, 147/1; CPL, iv. 488; Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 173; CCR, 1381-5, p. 590; 1392-6, p. 276; CPR, 1388-92, p. 246; 1391-6, p. 43; Sel. Cases King’s Bench (Selden Soc. lxxxviii), 92-94; Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. lix. 20-21; Hodgson, ii (2), 536.
- 6. Scrope v. Grosvenor, ii. 140; CFR, xi. 255; CPR, 1405-8, p. 19.
- 7. Scrope v. Grosvenor, ii. 142-4; Test. Ebor. i. 338-9.