SWYNNERTON, John (c.1349-c.1427), of Hilton, Staffs. and Welton, Northants.
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Family and Education
b.c.1349, s. and h. of Sir John Swynnerton (d.1379), of Hilton by his w. Christine. m. bef. 1399, Clemency (d. Oct. 1430), 5s. (1 d.v.p.).1
Hereditary steward of the forest of Cannock, Staffs. 25 Jan. 1380-d.2
Commr. of oyer and terminer, Staffs. Feb. 1381, July 1401; inquiry Nov. 1390, July 1406; to take sureties, Staffs., Warws. Mar. 1392.
Sheriff, Staffs. 21 Oct. 1391-18 Oct. 1392.
Escheator, Staffs. 8 Nov. 1401-29 Nov. 1402.
Swynnerton belonged to the cadet branch of a distinguished Staffordshire family, being the grandson of Sir John Swynnerton† of Hilton, who was himself the younger brother of Roger, first Lord Swynnerton of Swynnerton (d.1338). Sir John had built up a substantial estate, which included the manors of Hilton and Welton, as well as land and rents in the Staffordshire villages of Essington, Wyrley, Pillaton and Penkridge, and the area around Ticknall in Derbyshire. The seneschalsy of Cannock forest came to him through marriage, and passed, together with the rest of his property, to his son, Sir John. The latter made further additions to his inheritance, most notably the purchase of the manor of Essington, and like his father before him earned a considerable reputation as a soldier, sheriff and local commissioner.3 His own son, the subject of this biography, was therefore following an established family tradition in his performance of public office, and it was no doubt generally assumed that he would at some point represent Staffordshire in Parliament. John Swynnerton the younger first appears during the Easter term of 1372, when he and another man were being sued for an act of assault, allegedly committed at Lichfield in the previous year. It was almost certainly he, rather than his father, who joined John of Gaunt’s ill-fated expedition for the reconquest of Aquitaine in 1373 as a retainer of Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick.4 On his father’s death in December 1379, Swynnerton came into his inheritance, which, over the years, was the subject of various enfeoffments-to-uses, some of which involved his friend, the lawyer, John Lane*. The size of his landed income cannot now be determined, although we know that the manor of Welton, which he leased out for life to Sir John Holt, was alone worth over £18 a year in May 1388, and contained stock and produce valued at a further £44.5 Swynnerton had, meanwhile, begun to serve occasionally on royal commissions, although, unlike his father and grandfather before him, he never sat on the local bench. In November 1389, however, he was able to use his influence to obtain a writ of supersedeas, and thus avoid proceedings for arrears of rent in Cannock forest being heard against him at the Exchequer. Two years later he began a term as sheriff of Staffordshire, during which he seized the opportunity to sue two local men for trespass on his estates at Handsacre.6
Swynnerton’s appointment as escheator of Staffordshire in November 1401, his return to Parliament while still in office and the award of an annuity of five marks made to him for life from the Derbyshire estates of the duchy of Lancaster at some point before 1412 suggest that he was known and recognized for his loyalty to the house of Lancaster. Yet this did not prevent the temporary confiscation of his land in Cannock forest, for in 1403 the Crown finally took steps to recover the rents which it had been claiming from the reign of Edward III.7 Swynnerton must have been over 53 when he entered the House of Commons, and he evidently retired from public life not long afterwards. Although he did not die until about 1427, his remaining years appear to have passed uneventfully. The lawsuits brought against him in 1402 for the illegal detention of muniments and in 1405 for assault and theft were dropped almost as soon as they were begun. Indeed, his main preoccupation during this period was the consolidation of his holdings in Great and Little Sardon, Staffordshire, and the settlement of dower properties there and in Northamptonshire upon his daughter-in-law, Ellen Mallory, who married his eldest son in, or before, April 1406, and was widowed within the next two years.8 No more is heard of Swynnerton until November 1425, when he became farmer of pannage on the King’s chases at Alrewas and elsewhere in Staffordshire. He died shortly afterwards, leaving the bulk of his estates to his grandson and heir, John, a minor in royal custody, whose marriage was sold for 80 marks to Humphrey, earl of Stafford, in July 1429. The young man died at the same time as his widowed grandmother in October of the following year, and his estates reverted to his uncle, Thomas Swynnerton, the shire knight’s second son.9