STYUECLE, Richard (d.1440/1), of Merston and Chewton Mendip, Som.
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Family and Education
m. between Nov. 1396 and Jan. 1398, Elizabeth (c.1372-10 Apr. 1414), da. and h. of John Fitzroger of Chewton and Merston, wid. of John (d.v.p. 1396), 1st. s. of Sir William Bonville I* (d.1408) of Shute, Devon, at least 2s. 1da.
Commr. of inquiry, Suss. Feb. 1398 (diversion of a watercourse), Kent, Suss. Dec. 1406, May 1407 (shipwrecked goods), Som. Aug. 1409 (concealments), July 1411 (suicide), Bristol July 1411 (wastes, hospital of St. John the Baptist), [?Som. Sept. 1439 (concealments)]; array, Suss. Aug., Sept. 1403, Surr., Suss. Apr. 1418; to supervise musters of the duke of Exeter’s army, Southampton Mar. 1418.
Collector of customs and subsidies, Chichester 11 Feb. 1412-12 Apr. 1413.
Escheator, Som. and Dorset 3 Nov. 1412-10 Nov. 1413.
J.p. Suss. 8 Apr. 1416-Mar. 1419.
It is just possible that Richard came from the important Huntingdonshire family of Styuecle, but his earliest recorded connexions were with Essex. In 1396 he was granted by Richard II an annuity of £15 to be taken for life from the manor of Ridgewell in that county, and it was with the designation as ‘of Essex’ that in the following year he twice provided securities at the Exchequer. At the royal court he came into contact with Roger Walden, the treasurer and archbishop, who asked him to assist him and his brother, John Walden*, in the various transactions necessary for their purchase of ‘Pembroke manor’ in Tottenham.1 The life of this obscure ‘King’s esquire’ was changed dramatically in about 1397 by his marriage to the widowed Elizabeth Bonville, heiress to the widespread Fitzroger estates in six counties, which included the lucrative manors of Chewton (worth at least £40 a year) and Merston (worth some 40 marks). No single valuation of the whole of this inheritance has survived, but from separate assessments of its parts it may be safely asserted that the annual revenues exceeded £105. Styuecle had been made a wealthy man. For a while he and his wife lived mainly in the diocese of London, but after the end of the reign they seem to have divided their time between her principal manors in Somerset and Sussex.2
Styuecle’s royal annuity was confirmed by Henry IV in October 1399, but he is not recorded as a member of the royal household subsequently. Often resident in Sussex, he there made the acquaintance of Sir William Percy*, the sometime retainer of Richard, earl of Arundel, and in 1406 he witnessed an important transaction at Arundel castle on behalf of the new earl, Thomas. His public service on royal commissions was divided between Sussex and Somerset, and at the end of the reign he was holding simultaneously the posts of customer at Chichester and escheator of Somerset and Dorset.3 Having been made a person of some social consequence as an outcome of his marriage, he was asked in 1413 to take on the feoffeeship of the west country estates of William, Lord Botreaux, and he later acted similarly elsewhere on behalf of Thomas, Lord Camoys. Although his annuity had received confirmation from Henry V, he is not known to have participated in the royal campaigns in France. His parliamentary service was compressed into little more than two years, following which, in 1419, his appointments to royal commissions, including those of the peace in Sussex, ceased abruptly.4
The reason for this sudden eclipse probably lies in Styuecle’s loss of control over the Fitzroger estates. In 1410 he and his wife had completed transactions whereby the whole of her inheritance, with the exception of Chewton and her moiety of West Kington (Wiltshire), was settled on them jointly with remainder to their children. The effect of this entail had been that on Elizabeth Styuecle’s death in 1414 her husband had been permitted to retain these particular estates for life, with reversion to their son, Roger; furthermore, the Crown had conceded that he was also entitled to hold all the excepted properties ‘by the courtesy’ until his death, thus confirming that Elizabeth’s first-born son, Sir William Bonville II*, was to be dispossessed of his maternal inheritance. Not surprisingly, the reaction of this already wealthy and influential young man was to bring suits in the court of common pleas against his stepfather to oust him from the Fitzroger estates; and in 1421 and 1422 judgements were given in his favour.5 In all probability, Styuecle was left with little more than some property at Merston—for it was as ‘of Merston, gentleman’ that he stood surety in 1425 for the prior of Bruton (Somerset). Yet he was by no means impoverished, for he continued to receive his annuity from the Crown. Indeed, that he was financially sound is clear from the frequency with which he was asked to act as a mainpernor. Thus, in 1426 he provided securities at the Exchequer for Sir Richard Stafford†; in 1434 he stood surety under pain of £500 that Lord Botreaux, his associate of long standing, would keep the peace; and in 1436 he found bail in £600 for Sir Edward Stradling’s appearance before the barons of the Exchequer.6 Styuecle may have served on one last royal commission in Somerset in 1439,7 but he died shortly before 28 Nov. 1441. His line continued at Afton in Devon through the marriage of his younger son, Hugh (d.1457), to an heiress.8
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. CCR, 1385-9, p. 595; 1399-1402, p. 227; CPR, 1391-6, p. 719; 1401-5, p. 361; CFR, xi. 246; VCH Mdx. v. 326.
- 2. VCH Suss. iv. 159; J. Nichols, Hist. Leics. ii. 574-5; Feudal Aids, vi. 510, 522; CCR, 1396-9, pp. 364, 368; C136/91/11; CPL, v. 231.
- 3. CPR, 1399-1401, p. 42; 1452-61, p. 203; CCR, 1435-41, p. 363.
- 4. CPR, 1413-16, p. 154; Huntington Lib. San Marino, Hastings ms HAD 212/3491; CCR, 1419-22, p. 164.
- 5. Suss. Feet of Fines (Suss. Rec. Soc. xxiii), no. 2810; C138/7/18; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 132-3, 145-6; CP40/640 m. 374; Peds. Plea Rolls ed. Wrottesley, 304, 307.
- 6. CPR, 1422-9, p. 35; CCR, 1422-9, p. 194; 1429-35, p. 311; 1435-41, p. 58; CFR, xv. 119-20.
- 7. It is possible, but unproven, that he was the Richard Styuecle who in 1439 was associated with the chancellor, John Stafford, bishop of Bath and Wells, in a gift by a Herefordshire man of his goods and chattels, and in the same year was closely connected with Thomas Haseley*, the secondary clerk of the Crown in Chancery and clerk of the Commons, for whom he provided securities of £500. Together with Haseley, that Styuecle sat on the Mdx. bench in 1439-40: CPR, 1446-52, p. 262; CCR, 1435-41, pp. 250, 252.
- 8. CPR, 1441-6, p. 26; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 721; CP, v. 508.