TAILBOYS, Sir Walter (1350-1417), of Sotby and Skellingthorpe, Lincs.
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Family and Education
b. Hepple, Northumb. 2 Feb. 1350, s. and h. of Sir Henry Tailboys (d. 23 Feb. 1369) of Hepple by Eleanor, da. and h. of Sir Gilbert Burradon of Burradon, Northumb., niece and h. of Gilbert Umfraville (d.s.p. 6 Jan. 1381), 3rd earl of Angus and 3rd Lord Kyme, de jure Baroness Kyme. m. bef. 1396, Margaret, 3s. inc. Walter† 1da. Kntd. by Oct. 1386.1
Commr. of oyer and terminer, Northumb. Dec. 1378 (disorder at Whittingham), Leics. Apr. 1383 (withdrawal of labour services by the tenants of Newstead priory), Lincs. July 1383 (attack on Richard Ravenser, archdeacon of Lincoln), Feb. 1389 (murder of John Rouceby, canon of Lincoln), Mar. 1393 (civic unrest in Lincoln); inquiry Feb. 1387 (extortions at Torksey), May 1389 (alleged usurpation of the franchises of Grimsby), June 1406 (wastes and concealments); array (Lindsey) Dec. 1399, Sept. 1403, May 1415; to proclaim the King’s intention to rule justly May 1402; raise a royal loan June 1406.
Collector of a tax, Northumb. Mar. 1380.
Sheriff, Lincs. 13 Dec. 1389-7 Mar. 1390.
One of the richest landowners to represent Lincolnshire during our period, Walter Tailboys was heir through his mother and father to property in five counties. He was just two years old when his parents settled upon him land in the Northumbrian village of Warton, which lay near the family seat at Hepple. Their estates then comprised half the barony of Hepple with extensive appurtenances in the surrounding countryside and half the manor of Hurworth in County Durham. Both the barony and the manor had been in single ownership until the mid 13th century, when they were partitioned, the other share passing first to the Chartenay family and later to Sir Robert Ogle. Walter was still a minor at the time of his father’s death in 1369, and he had to wait another three years before gaining possession of his patrimony. Indeed, although he proved his age at Newcastle in the Easter week of 1371, it was not until the following October that all these holdings were in his hands. The division of Hurworth and Hepple proved inconvenient in many respects, and as time passed Tailboys and Ogle recognized the desirability of an exchange which would leave each of them with one undivided piece of property. Finally, in November 1386, they reached an agreement whereby Sir Robert was to receive the other half of the barony in return for his share of the manor; and he duly offered securities of 700 marks as an earnest of his readiness to abide by the transaction. A survey of the barony made two years later suggests that Tailboys was well advised to exact such substantial guarantees, as the whole area had suffered badly at the hands of Scottish raiders, and was said to produce little more than 20s. p.a.2 He also derived from his father a claim to the manor of Tailboys in Crawden, Cambridgeshire, which Sir William Heron had acquired, evidently under rather dubious circumstances, from his grandfather some years before. By 1387 he had begun litigation in the court of common pleas against Sir William’s son for the recovery of the manor, and although the case dragged on for at least four years, he was eventually able to re-assert his title.3
It was, however, from his mother that Tailboys obtained by far the most substantial part of his inheritance. Eleanor Burradon was the niece and heir-general of Gilbert, titular earl of Angus and Lord Kyme, who died without issue in January 1381, seised of lands and manors throughout the north of England. Many of these properties were entailed upon the issue of Gilbert’s half-brother, Sir Thomas Umfraville of Hessle in Yorkshire, and were, moreover, held for life by the widowed countess of Angus, but the rest passed directly to Eleanor. She thus became owner of the manors of Frotterton and Fawdon, together with other farmland in Northumberland, the manors of Norton Kyme and Paddockthorpe in Yorkshire, and that of Sotby in Lincolnshire. It is now impossible to tell precisely how much these five major holdings were worth, but they must have produced well over £67 a year. Within a matter of months, Eleanor conveyed most, if not all, of her inheritance to her son, granting him the Northumberland estates in April 1381, and the manor of Sotby soon afterwards. Since he acquired the latter without the necessary royal licence, he almost immediately incurred a fine of £15 at the Exchequer. His interest in establishing himself in Lincolnshire was, however, such that in the following year he undertook to pay the dowager countess and her new husband, Henry Percy, 1st earl of Northumberland, an annual rent of £30 6s.6½d. for the manor of Skellingthorpe, and from then onwards this part of England became his home. He seems to have had little to do with his mother’s property across the county border in Yorkshire, but it may possibly have come to him slightly later, when she died.4
Although he was still in his early thirties when he moved south, Tailboys had already gained some experience of local government in Northumberland. He was, moreover, a seasoned campaigner, having on his own testimony begun the profession of arms at about the age of 19. His military exploits seem to have been confined to the Anglo-Scottish border, which was the scene of protracted hostilities throughout this period. Indeed, in 1380, he was actually taken captive and ransomed by the Scots, King Richard intervening to authorize an exchange of prisoners and the shipment of grain supplies to Scotland as measures towards his release. Tailboys may well have fought in the retinue of the earl of Northumberland, to whom, as we have seen, his mother became connected by marriage. He certainly took part in Richard II’s unsuccessful expedition to Scotland in 1385, although by then his involvement in border society had virtually ceased. Within less than two years of his arrival in Lincolnshre, Tailboys was returned by the county electors to Parliament, and soon after that he began serving regularly as a royal commissioner there. His servants were accustomed to the lawlessness of the northern march, and found it less easy to settle down: in 1384, for example, a commission of oyer and terminer was set up to investigate a robbery committed by them on the widowed Lady Roos’s estates at Wragby. Even so, their master soon established himself as a leading member of the local community. He was again returned to the House of Commons in 1386, giving evidence during the session on behalf of Richard, Lord Scrope of Bolton, in his celebrated dispute with Sir Robert Grosvenor over their claim to the same coat of arms.5
We do not know if Tailboys was an active supporter of the Lords Appellant, but his return to the Merciless Parliament of 1388 in which they secured the downfall of the court party suggests that he had some sympathy with their cause. This is borne out by his decision to sue out royal letters of pardon in April 1398, when Richard had already punished the chief of his enemies of ten years before. On the other hand, however, the King thought sufficiently well of him to entrust him with the difficult task of settling the civic disturbances which affected Lincoln so seriously in the spring of 1393; and although the problem eventually proved too delicate for a routine commission, it is clear that Tailboys was regarded by the authorities as a man of some consequence. His more personal affairs likewise confirm this impression. In December 1389, for example, the bishop of Lincoln gave him a licence to celebrate mass privately wherever he wished in the diocese. He was, moreover, much in demand as a trustee, notably for the influential Lincoln merchant, John Sutton I* (who left him a hauberk of steel in his will of 1391), Sir Gerard Braybrooke II* and the latter’s uncle Robert Braybrooke, bishop of London. On one occasion he was sued in the court of Chancery for his refusal to surrender estates which had been settled upon him in trust, but the outcome of the case is not recorded. He was evidently on close terms with Robert, Lord Willoughby of Eresby, who chose him, in 1395, as supervisor of his will, and also made him a bequest of a silver cup. His other friends included John Skipwith*, for whom he witnessed deeds, and with whom he stood surety, in 1406, for (Sir) John Rochford*. Although he did not serve again in Parliament after 1388, Tailboys continued to lead an eventful life, marked, in its latter part, by a number of lawsuits. In 1397 he made an attempt to sue one William Hasilrigh for a debt of £40, and a few years later he became involved in a dispute with Sir Henry Retford* over the ownership of land in Lincolnshire. The case was heard at the Lincoln assizes, as was another one, brought by him in 1406, over rights to unspecified property. He was, meanwhile, summoned as a representative for Lincolnshire to the great councils of August 1401 and 1403; and although he performed comparatively few official duties after this date he remained active for several more years. This is evident from a complaint made by the citizens of Lincoln in the spring of 1411, alleging that Tailboys and a retinue of ‘about 160 horsemen’ had tried to murder Sir Thomas Chaworth* in the city, killing two local men and wounding many others in their attempt. He and his brother-in-law, Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, were, moreover, charged with laying ambushes for local wool merchants on their way to the coast and terrorizing the countryside. The severity with which these crimes was viewed may be gauged from the size of the pledges for good behaviour (£3,000) demanded from Tailboys at this time, and the setting up of a commission of oyer and terminer to examine those concerned.