STONOR, Thomas (1394-1431), of Stonor, Oxon.
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Family and Education
b. 25 Apr. 1394,1 2nd s. and h. of Sir Ralph Stonor (c.1369-1394) of Stonor by Joan, da. of Sir Robert Bealknap c.j.KB. m. bef. Nov. 1415, Alice (d. 1 Oct. 1468), da. and h. of Thomas Kirby of Horton Kirby, Kent, 2s. inc. Thomas†, 6da.
J.p. Oxon. 7 July 1423-4.
Sheriff, Oxon. and Berks. 13 Nov. 1423-6 Nov. 1424, 7 Nov. 1427-4 Nov. 1428.
Commr. to take assizes, Berks. May 1425; raise royal loans, Oxon., Berks. Mar. 1430.
Thomas came of a wealthy family, established at Stonor since the reign of Edward I, whose estates in eight shires had been for the most part accumulated by his great-great-grandfather, Sir John Stonor (d.1354), an eminent lawyer and for some 25 years c.j.c.p. His father died serving with Richard II in Ireland in November 1394, while still a young man, leaving two infant sons: Gilbert (1393-6) and Thomas himself, who had been born only a few months earlier. Within a year their mother married one of the ‘King’s esquires’, Edmund Hampden* of Great Hampden, but by then custody of all save the widow’s portion of the Stonor holdings had been granted to William Wilcotes* and Thomas Barantyn* (Thomas Stonor’s godfather), for an annual payment of £80 at the Exchequer. Then, following Barantyn’s death, new arrangements were made: on 30 Nov. 1403 Thomas Chaucer* of Ewelme procured the marriage of the heir, and a year later he received custody of the estates also, and at a bargain price, for he made a flat payment of no more than £200, even though Stonor’s minority had still over ten years to run.2
The estates of which Stonor formally received seisin in June 1415 (after making proof of age) included houses in London and Westminster besides no fewer than 15 manors in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Devon, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Lincolnshire and Oxfordshire. These had been estimated in 1382 to be worth 400 marks a year (£266 13s.4d.), and receivers’ accounts reveal that in Thomas’s own time they yielded £243 or more annually. Shortly afterwards Stonor placed a large part of this impressive inheritance in the hands of trustees, who, headed by Robert Hallum, bishop of Salisbury, and Thomas Chaucer, his former guardian, also included the latter’s close associates, John Golafre* and John Warfield*. Stonor was most likely already married to Bishop Hallum’s kinswoman, Alice Kirby, with whom he acquired the manor of Horton Kirby in Kent as her inheritance from her father; and the couple were to take possession after Hallum’s death (in 1419) of land at Horton and Cliffe, also in Kent, by grant of the bishop’s heir, Gilbert Hallum, who had taken holy orders. Meanwhile, in the year after he attained his majority, Thomas had set about making improvements to his manor-house at Stonor: employing Flemish craftsmen for the works, he authorized expenditure of £55 on the manufacture and carriage of 200,000 bricks alone. Later on he made other changes to his patrimony: he sold off manors in Lincolnshire (in 1425) and the house in London, but not, apparently, in response to financial need, for at the same time he was expanding his holdings elsewhere, notably in Berkshire.3
Stonor’s career was that of a typical well-to-do country gentleman, though, doubtless through the influence of Thomas Chaucer, he occupied a position of greater importance than his age warranted. When returned to Parliament for the first time, in 1416, he was still only 21. Just before his election he had been included in the group of trustees, headed by Thomas Beaufort, earl of Dorset, who were placed in control of the estates in Berkshire and Oxfordshire which Chaucer had recently purchased from Sir Richard Adderbury II* (including Donnington castle, which he had already settled on his daughter Alice, widow of Sir John Phelip*). In later years Stonor was also to act as a feoffee of Chaucer’s land at Ewelme, and of other former Adderbury properties, including the manors of Hook Norton and Kidlington. There can be no doubt that he remained very much under Chaucer’s sway throughout his life: he attended the Oxfordshire elections to the Parliament of May 1421, when Chaucer was returned for the ninth time (and was to be Speaker for the fifth); he sat in the Commons as his companion for the same shire on three occasions (in 1427, 1429 and 1431) and, in due course, he asked him to be sole guardian of his son and heir. As a young man he left a good deal of his business affairs in the capable hands of this influential figure and the other trustees of his estates. Thus, it was they who bore the brunt of the litigation started by Richard Fortescue over the lease of Stonor’s manor of Ermington (Devon). He himself, however, did take part in negotiations with his adversary’s brother, John Fortescue* (the future chief justice), and wrote to their father to let him know that ‘youre son Jon and I beth fully accorded as towchyng to the ferm of the manor off Ermyngton’ and warning that John’s reputation depended on his brother’s acceptance of their agreement, as contained in formal indentures. That Stonor was no mere cipher is also clear from his readiness to assist in the affairs of his kinsmen, the Hampdens: thus, he helped his half-brother, Edmund Hampden†, to acquire Dunton (Buckinghamshire); and in 1429 he acted as executor of the will of the Wiltshire landowner, John Worfton, who had married his half-sister, Isabel. Furthermore, at some unknown date, he was made a trustee of certain properties belonging to Henry VI’s governess, Alice Beauchamp, the wealthy widow of Sir Thomas Butler* of Sudeley and Sir John Dallingridge* of Bodiam.4
Stonor died aged 36 on 2 Mar. 1431, while his sixth Parliament was still in session. (He had not yet received from the sheriff of Oxfordshire the full amount due as his expenses for attending that of 1429.) Before his death he had made provision for two chantry priests at Stonor and another at Little Marlow priory; and he had also built an almshouse at nearby Assendon which, according to his will, was to house nine blind and feeble men, each of whom would receive 1½d. a day from his estate during the minority of his son and heir, Thomas (b.1424). In another will he gave instructions that his widow, Alice, should have four of his manors (worth about £403) as her dower, and in addition hold for her lifetime the manor of Penton Mewsey (Hampshire) and all their Kentish lands, for the sustenance, clothes and education of those five of their daughters who were as yet unmarried. Chaucer, to whom was given sole governance and supervision of the heir, was to have the profits of the manor of Hembury during the boy’s minority, but was instructed along with Alice Stonor, John Warfield and the testator’s half-brother, John Hampden†, to sell young Thomas’s marriage, putting the proceeds towards raising at least 1,000 marks as dowries for the five girls.5 Thomas the son is said to have subsequently taken to wife a natural daughter of Chaucer’s son-in-law, William de la Pole, earl of Suffolk. Alice, our Member’s widow, was married in 1432 in the chapel at Stonor to Richard Drayton†, esquire. The couple died within two days of each other in 1468.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Authors: Richmond / L. S. Woodger
- 1. C138/10/50.
- 2. Stonor Letters (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, xxix), pp. vii, xviii, xix; CIPM, xvi. 931; CFR, xi. 136; xii. 295-6; CPR, 1401-5, pp. 335, 455; C136/85/39; C138/12/34.
- 3. C138/10/50; Stonor Letters, pp. xi-xvi, xx, 29-30; CPR, 1381-5, p. 127; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 223-4, 430; 1419-22, pp. 47, 62, 222, 224; 1422-9, p. 42; CAD, i. C537, 1223; iii. C3122; Cam. Misc. xiii. 5; Peds. Plea Rolls, ed. Wrottesley, 323; Reg. Hallum (Canterbury and York Soc. lxxii), 247.
- 4. CP25(1)13/81/8, 191/26/9; CCR, 1413-19, p. 522; CPR, 1422-9, p. 315; 1429-36, p. 448; C219/12/5; Stonor Letters, 36-38, 47; Reg. Chichele, ii. 408.
- 5. C139/48/22; Stonor Letters, pp. xxi-xxii, 47-49; ibid. (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, xxx), 185; VCH Oxon. viii. 142n, 177.
- 6. Early Lincoln Wills ed. Gibbons, 119; Stonor Letters (xxix), 97; C140/29/48.