TILNEY, Sir Philip (d.1394), of Boston, Lincs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Feb. 1388
Sept. 1388
Jan. 1390

Family and Education

3rd s. of Sir Frederick Tilney of Boston by his w. Margery (d. aft. 1399), da. of Sir John Rochford of Boston. m. prob. by Mar. 1382, Grace, h. of the Baynard family of Histon, Cambs., 2s. 1da. Kntd. between Mar. 1384 and May 1385.1

Offices Held

Dep. butler, Boston 5 Nov. 1378-4 Nov. 1382.

Commr. to suppress the rebels of 1381, Cambs. Mar., Dec. 1382; of array, Lincs. (Holland) Apr. 1385, Mar. 1392; sewers July 1386, Norf. Mar. 1387, Suss. Feb. 1392, Cambs., Norf. Apr., May 1392, Suss. Apr. 1393; to assess and levy a royal loan, Boston Sept. 1386; issue proclamations against increases in the price of armour, Lincs. (Holland) Sept. 1386; of inquiry July 1388 (claim to the manor of South Rasen), May 1391 (refusal of chantry priests to discharge their duties); oyer and terminer, Lincoln Mar. 1390 (franchises of the keeper of the castle), Yorks. Mar. 1390 (insurrections in the liberty of Knaresborough), Lincoln May 1390 (assault on the cathedral close), Yorks. July 1390 (treasons and felonies); to settle a civic dispute, Lincoln Mar. 1393; make arrests Aug. 1393 (generally); conduct prisoners to Nottingham castle Sept. 1393.

Sheriff, Cambs. and Hunts. 1 Nov. 1383-11 Nov. 1384,2 Lincs. 18 Nov. 1386-7.

Alderman of the Corpus Christi guild, Boston c. 1387-aft. 13 Feb. 1389.3

Chief steward of the duchy of Lancaster, north parts by 20 Apr. 1389-d.4

J.p. duchy of Lancaster liberties in Yorks. 11 Mar. 1390-d., Lincs. (Holland) 28 June 1390-d.

Steward to Bishop Fordham of Ely 1 Mar. 1394.-d.5


Sir Philip Tilney belonged to an ancient and distinguished family which settled in East Anglia at the time of the Norman Conquest, and which moved to Boston in, or before, the early 13th century. His elder brother, Frederick, whom he succeeded as deputy to the King’s butler there in 1378, was a leading member of the local mercantile community and had been active as a collector of customs on and off since 1351. He himself first appears in May 1373, when he acted as a mainpernor at the Exchequer for the farmer of certain estates in Boston. He again went surety for a friend in February 1378, this time in the court of Chancery. His association with Richard Ravenser, archdeacon of Lincoln, who had previously been keeper of the hanaper of the Chancery and treasurer to Queen Philippa, began at this date, when the two men served together as trustees of the manor of North Witham. Two years later, Ravenser employed Tilney as one of his attorneys, and in May 1385 he chose the young man to execute his will (a task which was to involve the latter in a considerable amount of protracted litigation and other demanding business).6

The year 1385 saw Tilney’s first return to Parliament, for he had by then became a figure of some importance. He was already in demand as a feoffee-to-uses, his activities in this capacity having brought him into contact with such important figures as William Ufford, earl of Suffolk, and William d’Espaigne. His own property transactions, although fairly modest, led to the purchase of land in the Lincolnshire villages of Holbeach and Moulton, while through marriage he acquired estates in Histon, Waterbeach and Denny, as well as other unspecified parts of Cambridgeshire (probably Thetford on the Isle of Ely), which came to his wife as heiress of the Baynard family. Although the first mention of Grace Tilney does not occur until March 1384, when she and her husband were licensed by the bishop of Lincoln to celebrate mass privately, they probably married some two years earlier, at which point Tilney actually began serving on royal commissions in Cambridgeshire. His appointment as sheriff there followed in November 1383, so he could boast a good deal of administrative experience by the time of his election to Parliament. Following the example of his brother, Frederick, and several other members of the prolific Tilney clan, he joined the brethren of the guild of Corpus Christi in Boston during the early 1380s; and it was also then (in May 1382) that he saw fit to sue out royal letters of pardon. His reasons are not recorded, but they may well have had something to do with his activities as deputy butler of Boston. Even so, despite his strong connexions with the town, Tilney was, as we have seen, a rentier on a far wider scale. We do not know how he came into possession of the manor of ‘Lonedon’ in Tydd St. Mary (which was held in trust for him by his friends, John Meres* and John Skipwith*, the husband of his niece, Alice), but like the land which he occupied in the Norfolk village of Tilney, the manor may have formed part of his inheritance.7

Relations between Tilney and his cousin, (Sir) John Rochford*, were cordial, and in 1386 they acted together as trustees for the merchant, John Bell*. All three were by then members of the Corpus Christi guild, and their desire to endow it with additional property in Boston and Skirbeck explains why, in 1387, Tilney became involved as plaintiff in a collusive lawsuit over the ownership of these properties. Two years later (by which date he had been elected alderman of the guild) he joined with Rochford in petitioning the Crown for the exemplification of earlier letters patent concerning its foundation; and in May 1392 he was instrumental in securing the grant of a new royal licence for the acquisition of additional lands and rents worth £20 a year by the brethren. Plans were then already under way in Boston for the establishment of a smaller guild dedicated to God and the Virgin. Once again, Bell, Rochford and Tilney played a prominent part in securing the necessary approval. They and other distinguished local figures, all of whom were tenants of Richard II’s first queen, Anne of Bohemia, approached her as their intermediary. Letters patent permitting them to alienate revenues worth £10 a year to the new fraternity were issued in response to her petition in the autumn of 1392, Tilney’s mother, Margery, being one of the first benefactors.8

Tilney’s influence during these negotiations was greatly strengthened by the fact that since April 1389, if not before, he had occupied the post of chief steward of the north parts of the duchy of Lancaster. One reward which came his way as a result was the keepership of the estates of the young Robert Hauley, a royal ward whose widowed mother became the wife of (Sir) Alexander Lound*. These comprised the manor of Ingleton in Yorkshire and the manors of Mablethorpe and Aylesby together with part of Riby in Lincolnshire, for which he was charged an annual rent of £33 13s.4d. (besides having to pay 50 marks a year to one of Robert’s relatives). This property remained in his hands from December 1389 until his death almost five years later, when his mother succeeded him as keeper of Aylesby.9 Tilney’s work as a duchy official probably explains his connexion with the two knights, Sir William Thorpe, a former courtier of Edward III, and Sir Robert Swillington, sometime chamberlain of John of Gaunt and a lifelong servant of the house of Lancaster. Both men drew up their wills in 1391, and both named him as executor, Sir William promising a cash payment of 20 marks and Sir Robert a silver cup, as rewards for his labours. The various conveyances in which Tilney was named at this time show him to have been involved as a trustee with Thomas Arundel, archbishop of York, and John Waltham, bishop of Salisbury, although it was more usual for him to act with his close friends, Bell, Rochford and the above-mentioned John Meres. He also had dealings with the influential landowners, John Tyndale* and John Styuecle*, assisting the former as a feoffee-to-uses, and helping the latter with the complex transactions arising from his purchase, in 1392, of the Bealknap estates. He agreed, moreover, to stand joint sureties of £1,000 on behalf of Thomas, Lord Furnival, who was then bound over in Chancery to keep the peace.10

During the summer of 1392, the Franciscan abbey of Denny in Cambridgeshire obtained permission from the King to buy Tilney’s estates in and around Histon. He is said to have sold them for over £257, having probably decided to spend the rest of his life in Lincolnshire. His family none the less maintained an active interest in the abbey, and in 1398 his daughter, Grace, received an indult allowing her to visit it whenever and for as long as she wished. One of Tilney’s last tasks was the extremely important one of settling a violent dispute which threatened to disrupt the government of Lincoln. His fellow commissioners included Sir John Bussy (his colleague in the previous two Parliaments) and his cousin, (Sir) John Rochford, but since King Richard evidently felt that the problem of effecting a satisfactory solution required rather more delicate handling than could be expected of so formal a body, the commission was rescinded in March 1393, and Bussy was left to deal with the problem alone.11

Tilney drew up his will at Tydd St. Mary on 4 Apr. 1394, just three months after he and his wife were granted a papal indult to choose their own confessor, and only a few weeks after his appointment as steward to Bishop Fordham of Ely. He died at some point before July of the same year, and was buried in the parish church of Boston. Both his mother and his wife were appointed to execute his will, together with his old friend and kinsman, John Skipwith. Grace received one half of his goods, while obtaining custody of the other half during the minority of their elder son, Frederick.12

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


Variants: Tilnay, Tilneye, Tylney(e).

  • 1. Lincs. AO, Reg. Buckingham XII, ff. 301, 326-7, 417v-18; P. Thompson, Boston, 118; VCH Cambs. ii. 396-8; CPL, v. 233-4; Lincs. Peds. ed. Maddison, 829. There is no evidence to support Thompson’s belief (p. 373) that Tilney’s wife was the da. and h. of Sir Robert Rosse of Gedney.
  • 2. Philip Tilney’s name is given on the fine rolls, but that of his brother, Frederick, on the precepta roll (PRO List ‘Sheriffs’, 13). His personal connexion with Cambs. was, however, far stronger, and it was almost certainly he who held office.
  • 3. Thompson, 117, 364.
  • 4. Somerville, Duchy, i. 367.
  • 5. Ely Diocesan Remembrancer (1900), 54.
  • 6. Thompson, 373; Nottingham Med. Studies, iii. 26, 64n; Lincs. AO, Reg. Buckingham XII, ff. 30, 326-7; FL 3131; CFR, viii. 213, 215; CCR, 1377-81, pp. 118, 127; 1389-92, p. 148, 1392-6, p. 86; CPR, 1385-9, p. 490.
  • 7. C67/29 m. 8; CP25(1)142/141/35, 143/142/1, 11, 143/41, 145/21, 144/148/1; Thompson, 117, 364; Peds. Plea Rolls ed. Wrottesley, 222; CCR, 1389-92, pp. 243-4.
  • 8. C143/414/31, 418/4; CP25(1)143/146/10; JUST 1/1496 rot. 2v, 3v; Lincs. Peds. 829; CPR, 1388-92, p. 9; 1391-6, pp. 68, 192, 195.
  • 9. CPR, 1388-92, p. 225; 1391-6, pp. 277, 406; CCR, 1392-6, p. 306; CFR, x. 309, 313, 328; xi. 101-2, 125-6.
  • 10. CP25(1)143/147/16, 41, 144/148/33, 149/2; Lincs. AO, Reg. Buckingham XII, ff. 380v, 383v-4; CPR, 1391-6, p. 48; CCR, 1392-6, pp. 76, 119; 1396-9, p. 80.
  • 11. C143/415/5; Cambridge Antiq. Soc. Procs. iv. 107-8; VCH Cambs. ii. 396-8; CPR, 1391-6, p. 74; CCR, 1392-6, pp. 133-4.
  • 12. CPL, iv. 495; Lincs. AO, Reg. Buckingham XII, ff. 417v-18.