STRETCH, John (d.1418), of Ashe in Musbury, Devon, Milborne, Dorset and Oxborough, Norf.
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Family and Education
s. and h. of Thomas Stretch of Milborne by Amy, da. of Thomas Orway. m. (1) bef. 1380, Joan, 1s.; (2) by 1412, Joan, da. of John Harewell* and h. of his 1st w. Elizabeth, da. and h. of Sir John Weyland of Oxborough.1
Tax collector, Devon Jan. 1392, controller Mar. 1404.
Commr. of array, Devon Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399, July 1402; inquiry, Devon, Cornw. June 1394 (shipwreck), Dec. 1398 (Botreaux estates), Som. Oct. 1395 (Sir John Merriott’s† estates), Dorset Jan. 1405 (poverty of Lyme Regis); to deliver a ward to Sir William Bonville I* Oct. 1395; of sewers, Som. Aug. 14O1; to raise royal loans, Devon Sept. 1405.
Steward of duchy of Lancaster estates, Devon and Som. 18 Nov. 1399-?1405; feodary of the same, Som., Devon and Cornw. 9 July 1405-28 Nov. 1410.2
In April 1387 Stretch and his widowed mother obtained a licence from Bishop Brantingham of Exeter to have an oratory at their home at Ashe. The property was only a short distance from Sir William Bonville’s seat at Shute, and for a long time Stretch is frequently found acting for this influential neighbour in transactions affecting many of the Bonville estates. He must, in fact, have been a very close friend to Sir William, and served him not only as a feoffee but also as supervisor of the will he made in 1408, then receiving a generous bequest of £20 for his assistance. Stretch’s own holdings in Devon, Somerset and Dorset were assessed in 1412 at just over £90 a year. They included land at Ashe and Whitford in Devon, Wareham, Ulwell, Milborne St. Andrew and Bailey Ridge, in Dorset, and Compton Durville, Hassock Moor (in South Petherton) and Roadwell in Somerset. The Somerset properties, together with the manor of Loxton, formed part of his second wife’s inheritance, and she also brought him three manors in Suffolk and three more in Norfolk. Stretch seems to have usually lived on one of these East Anglian properties, Oxborough, at least in the last years of his life. After his death, however, his widow sold most of her estates.3
Besides these direct interests in land, Stretch was involved as a feoffee in the foundation of a chantry in Holy Trinity church, Ilchester, and in the provision of religious services in the White Hall priory in the same town for the soul of the first wife of John Stourton I* of Preston Plucknett. He similarly acted for Sir Matthew Gournay and his wife in their land settlements, and also as a trustee of the Carew estates in Devon. His executorship of Sir Peter Courtenay’s† will is further evidence of the importance of his connexions with leading county families. The standing of Stretch’s contacts may at least partly explain his appointment initially as steward, and later as feodary, of the duchy of Lancaster estates in the West Country. Whether he owed these offices to any special services rendered to John of Gaunt or to Henry of Bolingbroke is not clear, but it may be significant that his promotion as steward was made on the day before the dissolution of the first Parliament of Henry’s reign, while he was making his only appearance in the Commons. Although in 1401 he obtained formal exemption from public service against his will, he continued to hold royal office and to serve on commissions over a wide area of the south-west. In about 1415 Stretch made a loan of £40 to Henry V. The fact that repayment was assigned on the customs dutues levied at Bishop’s Lynn suggests that by then he had retired to his home in Norfolk.4
Stretch made his will at Oxborough on 26 Aug. 1418. He wished to be buried in the church of St. John the Evangelist there, to which he gave ten marks for the building of a porch. The sum of £4 13s.4d. was set aside to pay for 1,000 masses for his soul, and his other bequests in cash amounted to £89 10s. His wife was given his best chest at Ashe, wherein he kept his accounts, along with other household effects there and at Roadwell; while his son Thomas received certain goods from Ashe, vestments from London, farming implements and a white horse. Much of Stretch’s will, however, concerned the poor on his estates and dwelling in the almshouse which he had founded at Wareham and to which he now gave all his land and property in the vicinity, along with the profits from his holdings at Ulwell and Bailey Ridge. (The property was still owned by the house as late as 1870.) To the same foundation he also donated 400 sheep, £17 in money, debts owed to him of £22, and half of the residue of his moveable possessions. He otherwise disposed of the rest of his livestock, which, together with the flock given to the almshouse, amounted to 554 sheep, 25 cows and three steers, and in addition he gave away nearly 14 tons of barley and a stone of wool, but issued strict instructions that a mill and cider-press left to his wife were not to be moved from Ashe. He died on 4 Sept. and the will was proved before Archbishop Chichele on the 16th.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. J. Hutchins, Dorset, iv. 197; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 292; Reg. Brantingham ed. Hingeston-Randolph, 638; F. Blomefield, Norf. vi. 172.
- 2. Somerville, Duchy, i. 634.
- 3. CCR, 1389-92, pp. 320, 538; 1396-9, p. 241; 1419-22, p. 261; 1422-9, pp. 63-64; Som. Feet of Fines (Som. Rec. Soc. xvii), 211; ibid. (xxii), 42-44, 181; CPR, 1391-6, p. 636; 1396-9, p. 268; 1408-13, p. 147; Reg. Stafford ed. Hingeston-Randolph, 392-3; Feudal Aids, vi. 419, 430, 506.
- 4. CCR, 1405-9, p. 165; 1413-19, p. 219; CPR, 1392-6, pp. 388-9; 1399-1401, p. 531; 1405-8, pp. 31, 267-8; 1413-16, p. 371; Reg. Stafford, 186, 210; Huntington Lib. San Marino, Hastings ms HAD (large box) 2820.
- 5. Hutchins, iv. 196; Reg. Chichele, ii. 140-3; C138/30/10.