WIMBLEDON, Ralph, of Ashstead, Surr.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
Under sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1406-7.1
Tax collector, Surr. Dec. 1414, Nov. 1415.
Escheator, Surr. and Suss. 4 Nov. 1418-23 Nov. 1419, 20 May 1422-13 Nov. 1423.
Commr. of inquiry, Surr., Suss. Nov. 1427, Aug. (wastes and damages at Asshurst park), July 1439 (customs evasion); to assess taxes, Surr. Apr. 1431.
Wimbledon’s social position and apparent wealth suggest that he was a kinsman, possibly even the son, of the William Wimbledon who was constable of Farnham castle, Surrey, and a prominent figure in local administration during the late 14th and early 15th centuries. Ralph’s career was equally distinguished, for even at the time of his single return to the Parliament of May 1413 when he was still a young man, he took part in the election of the shire knights; and he was also present at the Guildford county court for subsequent elections to the Parliaments of 1414 (Nov), (Nov. 1415, 1417, 1420, 1425, 1431, 1432 and 1433. The extent of his holdings not merely in and around Guildford but throughout Surrey contributed greatly to his influence in the county: between 1407 and 1428, for example, he either purchased or inherited six messuages and 287 acres of farmland and woodland in Leatherhead, Effingham, Dorking, West Horsley, Ockley and Wotton. Wimbledon was clearly an ambitious man whose plans for the enlargement of his estates went far beyond the re-investment of surplus revenues. In March 1418 he obtained joint custody with John Wilcotes* of two thirds of the manors of Barnsbury, Middlesex, and Icklingham, Suffolk, during the minority of Richard Berners’s daughter, Margery; and in the following year he became farmer of the young Thomas St. Cler’s manor of Wethersfield, Suffolk, again during the child’s minority and again rendering an annual account at the Exchequer. In July 1420 he offered sureties in Chancery on behalf of Thomas Smith, another Surrey man taking on the farm of crown estates, as well as acting as an attorney on behalf of John Ferriby†, who was then fighting with the royal army in Normandy.2
On 20 Nov. 1423 Wimbledon was pardoned his outlawry in Wiltshire for failing to answer Thomas Semeleye and others on a plea of trespass. Soon afterwards he was himself one of the five plaintiffs in an assize of novel disseisin brought at Guildford against William Bole and his trustees. He continued to acquire property in the south-east throughout his life, although it is evident that his interest in certain transactions was solely that of a feoffee. In June 1425, for example, he was one of the men upon whom Sir John Graa† settled the manor of Burston, Norfolk; and eight years later he was similarly a party to the enfeoffment of the manor and advowson of West Horsley by John Ferriby and Margery his wife, who was Wimbledon’s former ward.3
Meanwhile, in May 1431, being then described as ‘of Ashstead’, Wimbledon was among the notables of Surrey required by the Crown to take the general oath that they would not support anyone who disturbed the King’s peace. Together with Ralph Amersham, one of his near neighbours, he obtained a quitclaim regarding two messuages, two mills, rents worth £7 a year and 128 acres of land in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, and Stoke, Hertfordshire, in July 1434, but it may well be that he was again involved as a trustee rather than the new owner of the property. His last known accession had been made by June 1441, when he, his wife, Isabel, and their own feoffees secured a royal pardon for acquiring and entering one third of the manor of Mickleham, Surrey, without a licence.4
Wimbledon’s activities as an office-holder and commissioner and his position as a landowner together accorded him a status equivalent to that of a shire knight. Members of his family, probably his direct descendants, added to his land at Mickleham and, having established themselves at Norbury and elsewhere in Surrey, played an even more important role in the business of local government during the late 15th century and after.