WESTON, William I (c.1351-c.1419), of West Clandon, Surr.
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Family and Education
b.c.1351, s. and h. of William Weston (d. by 1353) of West Clandon. m. by Oct. 1381, Joan (b.c.1356), da. and h. of John Legge† (d.1381) of Catteshall and Artington, Surr., serjeant-at-arms to Richard II, by his 1st w. Agnes Northwood, at least 3s. inc. William III* and John†.1
Commr. to escort French prisoners to Nottingham July 1373; enforce labour dues, Kent, Surr., Wilts. Oct. 1381, Surr. Mar. 1382; of array Mar. 1392, Aug., Sept. 1403; gaol delivery, Guildford Apr. 1394; inquiry, Surr. by May 1400 (wastes), Dec. 1406 (wastes).
Poss. keeper of Ostrowyk castle (march of Calais), by 6 Nov. 1375-bef. Aug 1377.2
Tax collector, Surr. Mar. 1380, May 1384.
Sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 16 Dec. 1382-1 Dec. 1383.
J.p. Surr. 21 Dec. 1382-July 1389, 18 June 1394-July 1397, 16 May 1401-Feb. 1407, 8 Dec. 1413-Oct. 1417.
Escheator, Surr. and Suss. 30 Nov. 1388-15 Nov. 1389, ?10 Feb.-24 Nov. 1400, ?8 Nov. 1401-29 Nov. 1402.
Alnager, Surr. and Suss. 20 July 1394-10 Dec. 1396.
William Weston came of a prolific and influential family with branches throughout the south-east of England. His grandfather, after whom he was named, had a particularly distinguished career, since besides representing Surrey in at least four Parliaments and serving on many royal commissions, he was also a serjeant-at-arms to Edward III. On his death in 1347 he was succeeded first by his son and then, when the latter died suddenly at some point before 1353, by the subject of this biography, who was barely two years old. The bulk of the Weston estates, comprising the manors of West Clandon and Papworth as well as other property in Shere, Send and Albury in Surrey together worth £10 p.a., remained in the hands of the young William Weston’s grandmother, Margery, who died in 1361.3 Weston came into his inheritance ten years later and was further able to consolidate his possessions in Surrey through his marriage to Joan, the daughter and heir of John Legge, a prominent local landowner and a serjeant-at-arms to both Edward III and Richard II. On Legge’s violent death during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, Joan inherited the manors of Catteshull and Artington as well as messuages, land and rents in Merrow, Worplesdon, Ripley and Wonersh. (Sir) William Brantingham*, Legge’s executor and feoffee, purchased Catteshull from the Westons in 1384, while at the same time confirming them in possession of the manor of Artington. Although they were also at this time obliged to settle rents worth £20 a year from Clandon upon Margaret Norton, their annual landed income must still have been well in excess of this sum. It was estimated at £20 a year in 1412, some time after they had conveyed Papworth to their eldest son, John.4
Weston owed much of his early success to his powerful father-in-law, who was probably instrumental in securing his appointment in April 1371 as an esquire of the body to Edward III with an annuity of 40 marks. In August of the following year, Weston stood surety for certain men-at-arms retained in the service of the Crown by William Newbiggin; and in July 1373 he and Legge were commissioned by Edward III to escort the two captive sons of Charles de Blois to Nottingham castle. Meanwhile, at some point before April 1374, Sir John Gower made him a trustee of his manor of Kentwell in Suffolk.5 It is now impossible to tell if the William Weston, esquire, who became warden of the castle of Ostrowyk in the march of Calais in November 1375, subsequently represented Surrey in Parliament, although he could well have done so. The surrender of Ostrowyk to the French gave the Parliament of October 1377 a welcome tool to use against the government and its mishandling of the war-effort: Weston, as commander, was charged with treason, found guilty and sentenced to death by Parliament, only to be pardoned by the young Richard II and released from prison in the following December.6 The subject of this biography may well have spent some time abroad, although he was definitely back in England by the spring of 1377, when he and his father-in-law were involved in litigation at the Guildford assizes over the ownership of unspecified property in Surrey; and shortly afterwards he agreed to stand surety for the latter on his appointment as farmer of the cloth subsidy in Surrey and Sussex.
If, indeed, he was responsible for the English humiliation at Ostrowyk, Weston did not long suffer the consequences of his actions. In May 1378 he became farmer of the royal manor of Haselbury Plucknett in Somerset, paying an annual rent of £42 at the Exchequer, although since the Crown later tried—and failed—to recover sureties of £200 from him and his mainpernors, we may assume that he soon fell into arrears. In October 1378, and again in 1392, Weston was fined 40s. for not taking the order of knighthood—a privilege which he eschewed for the rest of his life. He appeared, meanwhile, among the witnesses to John Legge’s conveyance of the manor of Catteshull in July 1379; and it is possible that his election to Parliament in the following year was accomplished through his father-in-law’s influence. This source of patronage caused abruptly on Legge’s murder at the hands of the rebels of 1381, although Weston was at least accorded the satisfaction of serving on two commissions for the suppression of the revolt.7
The 1380s were a time of great activity on Weston’s part, for it was during this period that he held office as both sheriff and escheator of Surrey and Sussex, besides sitting on the local bench. Despite the award of royal letters patent of February 1385 exempting him from any form of government service, he continued to play a full part in local administration until 1417, when he finally ceased to act as a j.p. He was also caught up in the affairs of his neighbours: he stood surety in Chancery for John Hathersham I* (among others), witnessed deeds for Nicholas Slyfield and Sir Thomas Hoo, and in July 1390 Robert Sekynton, the rector of Shere, close him to execute his will.8 Although less often in demand as a feoffee, Weston twice assumed this role in the year 1409—on the first occasion for Richard, son and heir of Sir James Berners*, and on the second for Robert Newdigate, both of whom were prominent Surrey landowners.9 Of his more private affairs comparatively little is known. Between April 1386 and March 1411 he was involved in at least five lawsuits, but only one, heard at the Guildford assizes in 1394, ever came before a jury, which fined him 6s.8d. for the illegal occupation of property in Southwark.10 His appointment in 1415 of an attorney to take seisin on his behalf of the manor of Hall in Sutton, near Petworth (Sussex), possibly supports the long-held belief that his young son, William III, married Maud, the daughter and heir of Thomas Harbinger of Sutton, although it is possible that Weston himself contracted a second marriage at this time, and the evidence remains inconclusive.
Weston’s stature in county society is borne out by his impressive parliamentary career, which spanned a period of almost 40 years. He also attended the county elections held at Guildford to the Parliaments of 1407 and May 1413