WAWETON, John (b. by 1339), of Great Staughton and Somersham, Hunts., Basmey, Beds. and Stowe Wythe, Cambs.
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Family and Education
Commr. of array, Hunts. Feb. 1367, Apr., July 1377, Mar. 1380, Apr. 1385, Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399, Sept. 1403; inquiry, Cambs., Hunts. Mar. 1367 (crimes of William Burton), Cambs. Feb., Apr. 1376 (alienations without royal licence); to make an arrest, Hunts. Feb. 1373; of oyer and terminer Feb. 1378 (disorder at St. Neots); to suppress the insurgents, Cambs. June 1381, Hunts. Dec. 1382; enforce labour services July 1381 (estates of Ramsey abbey), Cambs. July 1381 (estates of William Gamboun); proclaim the King’s intention of ruling justly, Hunts. May 1402.
J.p. Hunts. 15 Nov. 1369-74, 12 Nov. 1397-Feb. 1405.
Tax collector, Hunts. Dec. 1380; controller Mar. 1404.
Although they were a prolific and evidently quite influential family, the Wawetons are not well documented during the 13th and early 14h centuries, during which time they settled in the area where the three counties of Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire converge. Our Member was the fourth son of Robert Waweton and his wife Maud, who in 1339 entailed their manor of Stowe Wythe upon the boys in succession. He must then have been very young indeed, but the settlement none the less eventually worked in his favour, and at some point before 1396 this property came into his hands, bringing him an income in the order of £13 a year. It is less easy to discover exactly how he acquired the two manors of Great Staughton and Basmey in Eaton Socon, although both had been occupied by the Wawetons for several years and presumably formed part of his inheritance. His other holdings comprised the manors of Bluntisham and Lye in Colne, together with extensive appurtenances in the neighbouring village of Somersham, all of which added substantially to his position as a Huntingdonshire landowner. Indeed, notwithstanding an occasional appearance on crown commissions in Cambridgeshire, most of Waweton’s administrative appointments were confined to Huntingdonshire, which he represented in no less than ten Parliaments spread over a period of almost 30 years.2
Waweton is first mentioned as an adult in July 1364, when he was a party to a conveyance of property in the Ramsey area of Huntingdonshire. He entered Parliament in the following year, and in 1367 he began serving as a royal commissioner. He was thus already a figure of some consequence when, in February 1369, the prior of the Benedictine house of Swavesey in Cambridgeshire chose him to supervise his affairs in England while he was away on business in Rome. Not long afterwards, Waweton himself went overseas as a member of Sir Robert Knolles’s expedition to France, which left England in July 1370 and ended in miserable failure because of disagreements among the English captains.3 On his return, our Member became increasingly involved in the property transactions of his friends and neighbours, most prominent among whom was Sir William Moigne*, his colleague in Richard II’s first Parliament. From 1371 onwards, Waweton had acted as a trustee of the Moigne estates, and he also attested various deeds on Sir William’s behalf. He was often in demand in both capacities among the local gentry, as, for instance, in 1375, when he acquired the manor of Sculthorpe in Norfolk in trust for John Pykeman, the new lord. His other associates included Henry English*, who had married the widow of one of his kinsmen and made him a feoffee-to-uses of his estates in Cambridgeshire, and Sir William Keighley, although he was also prepared to assist other, less affluent members of the community whose possessions were far more modest.4
Like so many of his contemporaries both in and out of Parliament, Waweton was a country gentleman whose interest in local administration was not matched by any desire for involvement in the wider issues of the day. On the whole, his career passed without incident, and although he was accused, in June 1385, of poaching on the bishop of Ely’s land at Somersham, no other evidence of disorder or lawlessness on his part has come to light. His relations with the prior of Ely were considerably more cordial, for in June 1392 he and his friend, Sir William Castleacre, obtained letters patent from the Crown, permitting them to alienate land worth about £15 a year to the priory. Waweton’s contribution comprised his manor of ‘Hyntons’ in Bluntisham, together with land in Earith and Somersham, although he still retained a sizeable amount of property in this area, which was entailed upon his daughter, Margaret.5
Waweton’s political affiliations during the vicissitudes of the late 1390s remain an interesting source for speculation. For whereas his son Thomas’s election to both of the 1397 Parliaments, no less than his own re-appointment to the Huntingdonshire bench in November of that year, would suggest that his sympathies then lay with Richard II and the court party, he was certainly not enough of a favourite to obtain immunity from the King’s policy of forced loans. In January 1398, he surrendered £20 to the Exchequer, perhaps in return for the royal pardon accorded to him six months later. We cannot now tell if this document was any more than a formality, but it is worth nothing that Henry IV evidently held him in some regard. In February 1401 he was granted the wardship and marriage of Richard, the young son and heir of William Gamboun of Cambridgeshire, and thus had to look no further for a suitable match for his own daughter, whom he married to the boy. Despite his age, which must have been well over 60, Waweton was, moreover, summoned to the great councils of August 1401 and 1403 as a representative of Huntingdonshire.6
The MP may well have had another son besides Thomas, the future Speaker of the Commons, who was already a leading figure in Huntingdonshire during his father’s lifetime. His name is occasionally associated with a John Waweton the younger, although we cannot now determine the exact nature of their relationship. In 1406, for example, the two men were together suing a local farmer on some unspecified charge, although since he is not mentioned again, there is a strong possibility that the younger one died soon afterwards. John Waweton the elder was certainly still alive in 1412, being named for the last time in the tax returns of that year. He left a widow, called Parnell, who held most of his Huntingdonshire estates as a jointure. A reversionary interest had allegedly been settled upon their daughter, Margaret, and her heirs, but the failure of the trustees to implement these arrangements led to a protracted round of litigation involving the children of Margaret’s two marriages. Thomas had already taken up residence at Great Staughton, and duly claimed the manor of Basmey as his rightful share of the Waweton inheritance.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Walton, Wanton, Wauton, Wawton.
- 1. C1/11/13-14; CP25(1)287/40; Vis. Beds. (Harl. Soc. xix), 198. A great deal of confusion exists over this MP's pedigree, even within the pages of the VCH where he is described variously as the son of Robert Waweton of Stowe Wythe (Cambs. v. 1