WEST, Thomas, of Lostwithiel, Cornw.
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Family and Education
Commr. to purvey corn for the royal household Nov. 1438; of inquiry, Hants, Kent July 1448 (a breach of the truce with Portugal).
Collector of customs and subsidies, Ipswich 22 July 1439-Feb. 1442.
Clerk of the market of the Household Oct. 1445-Mar. 1461.
Jt. constable and parker of Leeds castle, Kent Mich. 1449-Mar. 1461.
Little is known about West’s early life, and the long gap between the Parliaments of 1417 and 1449 might well cast doubt on the idea that the same man represented Lostwithiel so late in Henry VI’s reign. There is some evidence, however, that this was indeed the case. At the time of Thomas West’s first Parliament, in March 1416, someone of this name was in London living as a member of the household of Thomas Jayet*, the controller of the stannaries of the duchy of Cornwall, who had sat for Lostwithiel, the duchy headquarters, in the Commons of 1411. Jayet, in the will he made on 29 Mar., left West the sum of £2, all his ‘harness’ in Cornwall, and his best russet robe trimmed with fur.1 Whether West continued in duchy service after Jayet’s death has not been discovered, but certainly the man of this name who later appears as a member of Henry VI’s household is known to have been in royal employment of some sort under Henry V, and to have had connexions with the men of Lostwithiel. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we may assume that the person who benefitted from Jayet’s will was the same as he who, after a career in crown service, last sat in the Commons in 1455.
In February 1429 West was preparing to go abroad in the retinue of John, duke of Bedford, the regent of France. He may have spent several years overseas, for he is not recorded in England thereafter until 1438, by which time he had joined the King’s own entourage. In that year he was commissioned, along with the customers of Great Yarmouth and Bishop’s Lynn, to supply grain for the provisioning of the Household. Rewards were slow in coming, however, for although, in 1443, he and Geoffrey Pole, both of them described as ‘King’s esquires’, were granted in survivorship the reversion of the offices of constable and parker of Leeds castle, six more years were to elapse before they actually took over the posts. Meanwhile, in March 1443, West had been given letters of credence by the King’s Council authorizing him to inform the Baron of Carew verbally how he was to arrange for the manning of ships for the relief of Bordeaux and Bayonne. Then, in October 1445, expressly for good service to Henry V as well as to his successor, West was awarded the reversion of the office of clerk of the market, following the death of the present holder, John Thorley. In fact, however, he assumed office immediately, busying himself by making ‘examination in citeez, boroughez, townez and franchisee ... for the assizes of bred, wyne [and] ale’, and riding ‘in the contries before the Kinges commyng to warn the peple to bake, to brewe and to make redy othyr vytayle and stuff in to theire logginges’. It would seem that West travelled about with the Household for the next 15 years. Certainly, he was listed in the Household ordinances of 1454 as one of the 12 ‘squiers of attendance’, and in the meantime, the Parliament of February 1449, in which he sat in the Commons for Lostwithiel, had appointed him as one of the four men who were to receive the issues from the lands of the King’s wards and assign them to the payment of the household staff. In March 1453 he and John Roger† were jointly granted in reversion the post of keeper of the armoury in the Tower of London, that is when John Malpas died. There is no indication, however, as to whether they ever actually took office.2
Over the years West had retained contact with the people of Lostwithiel: for example, in 1439 he had been associated in a legal transaction, completed in London, with Richard Penpons, who had sat for the borough in the Parliament of 1435; and in 1450, being then described as ‘of Leeds, Kent, esquire’ he went surety for Stephen Kendale of Lostwithiel, his parliamentary colleague of long before, in 1417, who was engaged in a suit in Chancery.3 A more important connexion, one with Sir John Fastolf, quite possibly dated back to the days of their service together under the duke of Bedford. On Fastolf’s behalf West appeared at the Exchequer on no fewer than 14 different occasions between June 1449 and October 1454; and in July 1449, when Sir John placed all his property in Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Surrey in the hands of a distinguished group of feoffees (including both archbishops, three bishops, three lords and two judges), he was included in their number. However, when, in 1457, a new trust was created, he declined to continue.4
What happened to West during the political upheavals of 1460 and 1461 is not recorded. His accounts as clerk of the market from Michaelmas 1459 until Edward IV’s accession (when Gilbert Debenham† officially took over the post) were rendered at the Exchequer by an attorney.5 It is not inconceivable that he went into exile along with other members of Henry VI’s household.