STRICKLAND, Thomas II (d.1455), of Sizergh, Westmld.
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Family and Education
Keeper of Inglewood forest, Cumb. 26 July 1403-27 Feb. 1407.
Escheator, Cumb. and Westmld. 9 Dec. 1408-7 Nov. 1409, Beds. and Bucks. 13 Nov. 1412-10 Nov. 1413.
Sheriff, Beds. and Bucks. 4 Nov. 1409-29 Nov. 1410, 6 Nov. 1413-12 Nov 1414.
Collector of taxes, Westmld. July 1413.
Commr. of array, Westmld. May 1415, Apr. 1418, Mar. 1419, Mar. 1427, Oct. 1429, Mar. 1430, Westmld., Yorks. Mar. 1431, Cumb., Westmld. July 1437, Westmld. Nov. 1448; to raise royal loans, Beds. Apr. 1421; of inquiry Nov. 1421 (lands of Richard, Lord Scrope of Bolton), Westmld. Dec. 1429 (wastes on the manor of Kirkby in Kendale by John Preston*), Cumb. May 1434 (lands of William Stapleton*), Westmld. Mar. 1439 (thefts from the estates of Elizabeth, widow of Robert Crackenthorpe*); oyer and terminer, Westmld. July 1441 (disorder at Reagill).
J.p. Westmld. 24 June 1419-d.
Steward of the estates of Thomas Daniel, chamberlain of Chester, in Kendale, Westmld. 5 Nov. 1446-d.2
As a young man, Thomas Strickland entered the service of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, who granted him an annuity of ten marks for life. On Gaunt’s death, in February 1399, he promptly transferred his allegiance to his son, Henry of Bolingbroke. He was thus sure of preferment when the latter seized the throne in the following September, and within a matter of weeks he assumed the rank of King’s esquire at a greatly increased fee of 25 marks a year. Before long he had proved himself a loyal and valuable servant of the new regime, which employed him in a variety of administrative and military capacities. In October 1402, for example, he received £20 as a reward for ‘his great labours in the wars with England and Scotland’; and on 26 July 1403, just five days after his valiant conduct at the battle of Shrewsbury, he became keeper of the royal forest of Inglewood. The wording of this grant, made ‘in relief of his poor estate’, no doubt reflects Thomas’s position as an heir presumptive who had yet to enter his patrimony, for despite his family’s wealth his own finances at this time were probably quite strained. His expenses during Henry IV’s campaign against the northern and Welsh rebels were certainly considered onerous enough to merit a supplementary gift of £38, partly to cover his unpaid wages as a member of the royal household, but also to make good his contribution to the war-effort. At the same time, in November 1403, he was permitted to farm three closes in Inglewood forest, although an error in the wording of the royal writ later caused some confusion. Finally, in February 1407, a precise arrangement was reached whereby he and (Sir) John Skelton* contracted to lease two closes at an annual rent of £10 until 1413, when the terms of their tenancy were to be widened to include other property as well. An element of distrust may have clouded their relationship, since each man demanded unusually heavy securities from the other, Thomas being bound in no less than £300 to keep faith over the transaction. Not surprisingly, in view of his father’s influence in the north-west and his own strong position at Court, he was returned by the electors of Westmorland to the Coventry Parliament of October 1404, during which Henry IV made him a present of two ‘fierce young horses’, recently confiscated from Sir Henry Percy (‘Hotspur’), the leader of the rebel army at Shrewsbury.3
In February 1405, Sir Walter Strickland, now well advanced in years, negotiated a marriage contract for Thomas with Sir John Beetham, whose daughter, Mabel, became his wife. As well as an immediate settlement of land worth £20, and cash to the value of £93, payable by Sir John in five instalments, the couple were promised the reversion of all Sir Walter’s other estates, and thus assured of an eventual income well in excess of £80 a year. Thomas was also helped, in that August, by yet another mark of royal bounty in the shape of a wardship to the value of £10 which had been forfeited by Hotspur’s father, the earl of Northumberland, for his treason against the Crown. We do not know the exact date of Sir Walter’s death, although Thomas was still being described as his son and heir in October 1407, when he gave evidence at a local inquisition post mortem. He had already secured jointly with Sir Thomas Brownflete (the former controller of the royal household) the keepership of all Thomas, Lord Fauconberg’s, estates during the minority of his daughter, Joan, but in the event his term of authority proved short lived, as Ralph, earl of Westmorland, had his eye on this valuable prize. Fortunately for Strickland, the start of Westmorland’s tenancy, in March 1408, coincided with his entry into his own inheritance, so the losses involved were not serious. His widowed stepmother, Alice, was awarded various dower properties in Natland, Hackthorpe and Stainton, but this still left Thomas with extensive holdings in Sizergh, Great Strickland and at least nine other Westmorland manors. On Alice’s marriage to Thomas Warcop II*, in 1411, Thomas was, moreover, able to negotiate a lease whereby he paid £20 13s.4d. p.a. to her for custody of her dower.4
Meanwhile, in June 1408, Thomas consolidated his links with the royal household by acting as a mainpernor for Sir John Stanley, who was then Henry IV’s steward. His career in local government began in the following December with a term as escheator of Cumberland and Westmorland. One of his first duties was to implement a recent royal grant to himself and Sir Robert Urswyk of the wardship of the late Sir William Threlkeld’s* estates in the two counties. Thomas’s star was certainly in the ascendant, and yet more preferment came his way soon after. As if to atone for the revocation of the lease of Lord Fauconberg’s property, King Henry now permitted Thomas and another of his esquires, Richard Clitheroe I*, to draw up to £40 a year from the dower lands formerly held by Fauconberg’s widow, Joan. The award was made in recognition of ‘good and disinterested service’; and it was no doubt for the same reason that Thomas was also given the opportunity, in October 1409, to farm the royal manor of Eltham at an annual rent of £40 for the next seven years. (His tenancy was actually extended, in February 1413, for another 11 years, but he had to pay slightly more for this concession.) Although it also reflects the trust which he inspired at Court, Thomas’s appointment as sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, one month later, seems more surprising, since he is not known to have acquired any land in Bedfordshire before 1424, when he delivered the last instalment of the £106 13.4d. purchase price fixed upon a property called ‘Parmenters’ near Pertenhall. His financial dealings with the vendor, John Marshall of St. Neot’s in Huntingdonshire, are, however, documented from at least 1416 onwards, so he may perhaps have been speculating on the local land market from a much earlier date. His younger brother, Walter Strickland†, had long been established in the area through his marriage to Isabel, the daughter and heir of John Olney, so Thomas probably used this connexion to extend his sphere of influence. His last reward from the grateful Henry IV came in May 1412, when a fee of £20 was allocated to him from the revenues of Essex and Hertfordshire. Problems of over-assignment probably explain why the annuity was reduced by £5 shortly afterwards, and deducted instead from the rent which Thomas was still paying at the Exchequer for his closes in Inglewood forest.5
The accession of Henry V, in March 1413, made little immediate difference to Thomas, who continued to serve in the royal household and draw his accustomed fees and wages. King Henry was naturally anxious to retain such an experienced soldier as a member of his first expedition to France in the summer of 1415, and in April of that year Thomas contracted formally to lead a personal following of two men-at-arms and six archers in the army. Throughout the ensuing campaign, which culminated in triumph at the battle of Agincourt on 25 Oct., he carried the royal banner of St. George. Two years later, a major offensive was launched for the subjection of Normandy; and Thomas once again took to the field, having first made provision for his wife and eldest son by settling his estates on trustees. By the time of his brief return to England, in the spring of 1418, he had been knighted, but after serving on a commission of array in Westmorland, he went back to the theatre of war to take part in the siege of Rouen. Apart from a short trip to London in October for the delivery of two important French prisoners to the chancellor, Thomas Langley, bishop of Durham, Sir Thomas remained in the field until, in January 1419, King Henry made his victorious entry into the Norman capital. By this time he was having to dig deep into his own pocket, since he had received no more than half a year’s wages, together with plate to the value of £14, as a guarantee of future payment. Much to his annoyance, the government actually began proceedings against him for the recovery of its pledge; and in 1424 he was obliged to appeal for redress in a petition which describes his exemplary record of unpaid military service.6
From 1419 onwards Sir Thomas devoted far more attention to local affairs, even though he retained the status of a King’s knight and continued as a royal annuitant for many years to come. Now a member of the Westmorland bench, he attended the county elections to the Parliaments of 1419, 1422 and 1425. He was also present in his judicial capacity at Appleby in September 1421, when the sessions of the peace were disrupted by the Thornburgh gang in the course of their murderous vendetta against John Lancaster I*, being himself threatened with death and otherwise intimidated by the men whose crimes were currently under investigation. His daughter, Margaret, may already have married William Lancaster of Strickland Ketel, who was one of Lancaster’s kinsmen, so he had a personal as well as a professional interest in the dispute. His other associates among the Westmorland gentry included Sir William Threlkeld’s son, Sir Henry, whose estates he had farmed for a few years, but who none the less regarded him as a friend. In 1422 and 1423 he witnessed deeds on Sir Henry’s behalf, and as late as 1443 he intervened in an attempt to smooth relations between Threlkeld and his estranged son, Lancelot. An even stronger bond was eventually forged between the two families as a result of Lancelot’s marriage to Sir Thomas’s youngest daughter, Ellen, who received a large part of the Threlkeld estates as her jointure.7 An earlier marriage contract negotiated in 1426 by Sir Thomas on behalf of his elder son, Walter, reflects clearly enough the value and importance which local gentry placed upon an alliance with the Stricklands. The bride’s father, Nicholas Croft of Leighton in Lancashire, not only agreed to pay £133 6s.8d. for the marriage, but also bound himself in far heavier securities than Sir Thomas to abide by their agreement. Although the latter undertook to settle land worth 20 marks p.a. upon the couple, he also reserved estates to the same value for his younger son, Robert, and insisted that his own wife, Mabel, should be guaranteed a dower worth at least 50 marks a year. A series of enfeoffments made by Sir Thomas at this time suggest that he was, indeed, punctilious in implementing the terms of the contract, not least with regard to the interests of his other dependants.8
After an interval of over 25 years, Sir Thomas again stood for Parliament in 1429, and was duly returned as a shire knight for Westmorland. Some pressing item of family business may well have prompted him to seek election, as his brother, Walter, also attempted to gain a seat in the Commons at this time, albeit with less success. An inquiry held at Aylesbury in September 1429, before the Parliament was a week old, revealed that Walter and his friend, Sir John Cheyne II* had been named on a false return by the sheriff of Buckinghamshire, (Sir) Thomas Waweton*, who had ignored the wishes of the local electors by substituting his own choice of candidates. This temporary reversal does not appear to have affected Walter’s career at Court, where he helped to maintain the family presence when his brother was in the north. Indeed, the following year saw his appointment as master of the King’s hounds, while Sir Thomas himself was preparing to sail for France in the entourage of Henry VI. In the event, however, personal matters prevented Strickland from leaving England with the young King in April 1430, as he had become involved in a dispute with Sir Richard Redmayne over the ownership of land in Hincaster, and felt it necessary to await the decision of a group of arbitrators. In July he conveyed the property to a trustee, but it was not until September, at the earliest, that he was at last ready to set out. While awaiting his ship at Sandwich he drew up a will, which safeguarded the interests of his younger son and two unmarried daughters, as well as granting extensive custodial powers to his wife during the remaining years of his elder son’s minority. His doubts as to the future proved unfounded, however, and he returned safe from France after attending Henry VI’s coronation on 16 Dec. at the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.9
Sir Thomas represented Westmorland in Parliament for the third and last time in 1431, when he must have been well over 50 years old. It was then that he and his wife obtained a papal indult permitting them to make use of a portable altar. They also made an enfeoffment of their manor of Sizergh, perhaps in anticipation of Walter’s coming-of-age, which took place not long afterwards. The young man may already have entered the service of Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury, for whom Sir Thomas had once acted as a mainpernor; and by the end of the decade he, too, was enjoying the fruits of royal patronage as keeper of the Sussex and Hampshire estates confiscated from the abbey of Manche in Normandy. Meanwhile, in 1432, Sir Thomas undertook to act as an arbitrator in a quarrel between Thomas Redmayne and the Middleton family over land in Deepdale in Yorkshire. Despite his advancing years, he lost none of his interest in local matters: in 1437 and later, in 1444, for example, he served as a juror at inquisitions held in the north to evaluate the estates of the late duke of Bedford; and in 1446 he was again approached to settle certain ‘controversies and trespasses’ between his neighbours. On this occasion, his son, Walter, was named with him as an arbitrator, while also sharing his duties as steward of the Westmorland estates of Thomas Daniel, a royal favourite who was then in office as chamberlain of Chester, and who later, in 1447, became King’s remembrancer as well. Even at this late stage in his career, our MP was employed as a trustee by William, Lord Harington, so he remained active almost until the end.10
On 30 July 1455, the administration of Sir Thomas’s effects was granted to his widow, Mabel, and their son, Walter, on the ground that he had ‘lately died intestate’, his will of 1430 being clearly in need of drastic revision. A major settlement of property in and around Stainton made some 18 years previously ensured that Mabel was left with a handsome jointure; but the bulk of Sir Thomas’s estates descended to Walter, who had already been returned to Parliament in 1442, and, like his father before him, was enjoying the benefits of influence at Court.11