WENTWORTH, John (d.c.1417), of Bishop's Lynn, Norf.
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Family and Education
m. Joan, 1s. 1da.
Chamberlain, Lynn Mich. 1388-9, 1398-9; constable 1389-90; coroner by Jan. 1390, Sept. 1397; mayor Mich. 1400-2, 1405-6.1
Constable of the Staple, Lynn 2 Oct. 1396-7.2
Commr. of array, Lynn May 1398, Aug., Oct. 1403; arrest May 1406.
Collector of customs and subsidies, Lynn 18 Dec. 1404-Oct. 1405, 20 Feb. 1407-Sept. 1408.
J.p. Lynn 26 Feb. 1407-Nov. 1412.
Wentworth, with the support of two leading merchants of Bishop’s Lynn, Henry Betley* and John Wace*, entered the freedom of the town on 13 June 1382, on payment of a £2 admission fee.3 By the time of his first return to Parliament he had established profitable trading links with the Hanse ports and the Baltic, dealing in such commodities as dried fish (including a cargo worth £100 in October 1390), several varieties of cloth, and salt, iron and wine. Six years later he was elected by his fellows as constable of the local Staple, and was still holding this office throughout the first session of his second Parliament (September 1397). He had built up business contacts not only with Huntingdonshire farmers but also with London tradesmen, although in 1403 one of the latter, a haberdasher, charged him with debt in the court of common pleas so that he had to sue out a writ of supersedeas from Chancery to avoid arrest. His financial position was evidently more buoyant by 1410, for, on 22 July, he was able to join with eight other merchants of Lynn in making Henry IV a loan of 200 marks as a contribution towards the cost of naval defence.4
Within a few years of his admission as a burgess, Wentworth had become a jurat, and he later had spells in office as chamberlain, constable and coroner of the borough. He was chosen as an elector of the town officers every August between 1390 and 1393, and of the parliamentary burgesses in 1392 and 1406, on the latter occasion providing mainprise for the attendance in the Commons of one of his fellow potentiores, Thomas Brigge. On 28 Sept. 1397, the day before the end of the Westminster session of Wentworth’s second Parliament and when he was again discharging the duties of coroner, the sheriff of Norfolk was instructed to make arrangements to find a replacement on the ground that he was insufficiently qualified for the post.5 In July 1402, when Wentworth was mayor, it was only natural that he should be included among the 23 burgesses who were each required to provide the sheriff of Norfolk with securities in £100 in earnest of an undertaking not to molest their overlord, Bishop Despenser of Norwich. He himself can hardly have been on good terms with Despenser, especially following the action which the latter brought against him and the commonalty of the borough, under an assize of novel disseisin, for the recovery of 100 acres of arable land and 20 of pasture in Lynn, which resulted in the bishop being awarded damages of as much as £1,000. However, his relations as mayor with some of the townspeople, always excluding those belonging to his own party of the potentiores, were no better: in the same year he wrote to Henry IV complaining about his party’s opponents as outrageous people who committed crimes and fomented riots. It is not surprising that in May 1412 the committee of nine mediocres and inferiores set up to review the borough’s finances disallowed his claim for expenses of £80 10s., incurred during his three mayoralities. In August following he quarrelled publicly with two of the ringleaders, John Bilney II* and John Tilney*; but on 21 Nov. he was required, with Edmund Beleyeter* and Thomas Waterden*, to release all personal actions in Chancery against their colleague, the mayor, Roger Galion. Eight days later Wentworth was removed from the local bench. His hostility to Galion’s party was still being felt a year later when Bartholomew Petipas†, the then mayor, was compelled to write to his friends complaining of Wentworth’s obstructive behaviour, and requiring them to acquaint the bishop of Norwich of the situation. Shortly before their return to power, on the night of 20 Aug. 1414, Wentworth and other potentiores were assaulted by John Tilney, William Halyate* and their followers. It was not until November following, with his party’s candidate now instated as mayor, that Wentworth again attested a parliamentary election.6
In the meantime, in August 1411, Wentworth had joined with eight others, including Edmund Oldhall*, the prominent duchy of Lancaster official, in undertaking to pay a group headed by Sir John Ingoldisthorpe*, the large sum of £900 in instalments spread over a number of years. The purpose of this transaction is unclear, although his subsequent enfeoffment of the manor of Walsham, Suffolk, by Elizabeth, widow of Sir William Elmham*, may have been connected with it, for Oldhall and Ingoldisthorpe were both included among his co-feoffees.7 Wentworth’s own properties in Lynn included a house purchased in 1405, a quay, and a tenement in ‘Le Cheker’. He died at an unknown date before 27 Jan. 1418. Soon afterwards his widow, Joan, petitioned the chancellor, Bishop Langley of Durham, with regard to three other buildings and certain lands of which he had been seised in fee simple. She claimed that although her late husband had demised part of these premises to her for life, on condition that she sold the reversionary interest for alms, and part to his daughter, Katherine, towards her marriage, she had been forcibly ousted by their son, John, who at the same time had also stolen goods worth £100. However, she found a powerful protector in Thomas Beaufort, duke of Exeter, whose tenant Wentworth had been. Beaufort not only sent the chancellor another petition on her behalf but also, along with Thomas Derham*, John Frank* and William Paston (later j.c.p.), complained to him about his own disseisin by the younger John Wentworth in August 1420 of no less than 34 messuages in Bishop’s Lynn, but presumably not all of these had belonged to the deceased MP.8
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
Variants: Wenteworth, Wyntworth.
- 1. Red Reg. King’s Lynn ed. Ingleby, ii. ff. 129d, 131d, 132; HMC 11th Rep. III, 223; CCR, 1396-9, p. 150; Norf. Official Lists ed. Le Strange, 190.
- 2. C267/7/14.
- 3. Red Reg. King’s Lynn, f. 167.
- 4. E122/93/31, 94/12; N.S.B. Gras, Early Eng. Customs System, 447, 451, 538, 543, 547; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 166; CCR, 1402-5, p. 288, Harl. Roll H23; PPC, i. 347.
- 5. Red Reg. King’s Lynn, ff. 115-17, 133, 135; C219/10/3.
- 6. CCR, 1399-1402, p. 575; 1402-5, p. 358; 1409-13, p. 404; HMC 11th Rep. 192-3; CIMisc. vii. 517; King’s Lynn Town Hall, Ae 17, Ca 3; W. Richards, Lynn, i. 365, 621; C219/11/4.
- 7. CCR, 1409-13, p. 240; CPR, 1413-16, p. 302.
- 8. CP25(1)168/183/56; CPR, 1405-8, p. 270; C1/4/67, 167, 5/52.