WILCOMBE, Nicholas, of Wappingthorn in Steyning, Suss.
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Family and Education
s. of Robert Wilcombe of Suss. by his 1st w. Alice, sis. and h. of William Bonet of Wappingthorn. m. (1) bef. 1348, (2) bef. Dec. 1357, Mary; (3) Alice (d. 27 May 1399), wid. of his uncle, William Bonet, 3s.
Sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 12 Dec. 1372-7 Nov. 1373.
J.p. Suss. 6 May 1375-80.
Commr. of inquiry, Suss. July 1376 (extortions of Richard Lyons†), Nov. 1376 (shipwrecked goods); array Apr., July 1377, Feb. 1379, Mar. 1380, Aug. 1388; oyer and terminer Mar. 1377, May 1378.
Tax collector, Suss. Mar. 1377, Dec. 1380; assessor May 1379.
Wilcombe is first recorded in 1333, presumably while still a young child, when a settlement was made of land in Chiltington, Sussex, on his father Robert for life, with remainder to him. From 1344 he also had a reversionary interest in property at Piddinghoe held by his brother, Thomas. Having attained his majority, in 1356 he acquired a moiety of East Chiltington manor, to which in the following year he added land at Pyecombe and Clayton given to him and his wife, Mary, by his father.1 The Wilcombes’ relationship to the family of Bonet was a complicated one, for Nicholas, the heir to the Bonet properties through his mother, Alice, sister of William Bonet (fl. 1361), later married his uncle’s widow, another Alice, thus also securing possession of her dower portion in the same. He had inherited by 1367 when his eldest son (another Nicholas) formally gave up to him all his right to the manors of Wappingthorn, ‘Woghwode’ and Tottington (in Sele), as well as to land elsewhere. At a later date he sold the Bonet manor of ‘Chyntyng’ to Richard, 3rd Lord Poynings (d.1387), with whom he was to have various dealings in the course of his career.2
As a young man, Wilcombe was retained by Richard, earl of Arundel (d.1376). Thus he came to be named among the adherents of the earl and the prior of the Dominican friary at Chichester when the earl was summoned to appear personally in the papal court at Avignon in October 1364, following allegations of injuries caused by them to the bishop of Chichester, only for the personal citation to be revoked and the earl ordered to appear by proxy. That he was close to other members of the earl’s family, too, is clear from his nomination in 1375, together with Richard Fitzalan, the future earl, as executor of the will of his aunt Katherine, widow of Lord Hussey and of Sir Andrew Peverel†.3 Before the old earl’s death Wilcombe acquired a certain standing within the shire community of Sussex. In 1368 he had headed the list of witnesses to a grant made by the prior and convent of Sele, and twice in the following year he had appeared as mainpernor at the Exchequer for the proctor of the abbot of Fécamp. His appointment as sheriff in 1372 had been followed, three years later, by nomination to the Sussex bench. Wilcombe soon established a close association with Sir William Percy*, a trusted retainer of the new earl of Arundel. It was in Percy’s company that he was returned to the first Parliament of Richard II’s reign, and on his behalf that he served on a commission of oyer and terminer in the following springy—in order to bring to trial the mayor and bailiffs of Chichester for assaults on Sir William’s men. In July 1379 he was joined by Percy and Lord Poynings at the Exchequer in providing sureties for the farmer of Sele priory, while a few years later both of these associates were to witness deeds on his own behalf. In 1381 Wilcombe paid a fine of £2 for failing to take up the order of knighthood as required by royal proclamation. He was again elected to Parliament in September 1388, once more with Percy as his fellow shire knight, only on this occasion Sir William was exonerated from attending in order that he might organize the defences of Sussex against the French. It may be assumed that Wilcombe lent his support in the Commons to the policies of his lord the earl of Arundel and the other Appellants, then still in control of the government.