WORSHIP, John (d.1413), of Grovebury, Beds. and Worplesdon, Surr.
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Family and Education
m. by Mar. 1390, Joan Duylle, wid. of John Bele alias Fletcher (fl. 1363) and Walter Galoys, s.p.1
Yeoman of the royal cuphouse by 23 May 1387;2 usher of the royal chamber by 22 Sept. 1395-aft. 23 Jan. 1399.
Keeper of Guildford park, Surr. 17 July 1388-27 June 1391.
Commr. of inquiry, Beds. Feb. 1393 (goods of a felon); kiddles June 1398; array Dec. 1399, Sept. 1403.
Sheriff, Beds. and Bucks. 3 Nov. 1397-31 Oct. 1399.
J.p. Beds. 12 Nov. 1397-Feb 1407.
Collector of a tax, Beds. Mar. 1404.
Nothing is known for certain about this MP’s family background, although he may well have been related to Ralph Worship (b.1311), a resident of Worplesdon who, in 1351, gave evidence at a local inquest. One of the many rewards which John subsequently received as a servant of the Crown was the farm of this very manor, with which he possibly had quite early connexions. His career at Court evidently began at the time of Richard II’s coronation in July 1377, although we cannot tell what position he then held. Indeed, nothing more is heard of him before September 1386, when he and three other of ‘the King’s servitors’ shared the wardship of the estates, marriage and person of the young William Morewood, whose lands were then said to be worth 40 marks a year. By the following May, Worship had become a yeoman of the royal cuphouse, and as such received an annuity of ten marks assigned upon the revenues of certain land in Flint. Further preferment followed in July 1388 with the office of parker of Guildford, a post initially granted to him by the previous occupant, Thomas Tyle, the chief butler of England, and confirmed by King Richard a fortnight later. This appointment again bears out the likelihood of some previous association with Surrey, although Worship remained in office for less than three years.3
Worship acquired his influence in Bedfordshire, which he represented in no less than six Parliaments, through marriage to the twice-widowed Joan Duylle. She became his wife in, or shortly before, March 1390, as it was then that he obtained royal letters patent permitting him to cross to France for negotiations with the abbess of Fontévrault, who numbered Joan among her tenants in England. Joan and her first husband, John Bele, had leased the manor of Grovebury from the abbess for the term of their joint lives, and Worship was anxious to secure a similar title for himself. Either he or his proxy reached Fontévrault in the summer of 1390, when a new lease was drawn up in his favour. He had, however, to pay dearly for the abbess’s compliance, not only promising to assist the local monastic cell of Grovebury (which was a dependency of Fontévrault) with ‘counsel and advice’, but also undertaking to surrender 800 francs to the house’s agents in Paris. By then an esquire of the royal body, he found it comparatively easy to get King Richard’s official sanction, and in the following January his dealings with the abbess were recorded and confirmed in Chancery on the patent roll. None the less, as the property of an alien priory, the manor of Grovebury remained liable to confiscation by the Crown, and in 1403 Worship was summoned to appear before the royal council at Westminster to show by what title he held it. Concern lest his tenure might again be disputed probably lay behind his decision, in May 1411, to buy the manor outright, and he again obtained permission to visit Fontévrault, this time to discuss a purchase price with the abbess. There is, however, some doubt as to whether these arrangements were completed, since at the time of the confiscation of all the non-conventual alien religious houses in England, which occurred in 1414 after Worship’s death, the manor of Grovebury had already been granted to Sir John Phelip*.4
Within a matter of months of taking up residence in Bedfordshire, Worship became involved in the county community. In February 1391 he joined with two of his future parliamentary colleagues in witnessing a local deed; and in the following July he was one of a group of landowners who stood surety for Sir Thomas Aylesbury*. He entered the House of Commons for the first time in 1393, a date which also marks the start of his activities in local government. Even so, his principal interests were still at Court, and in his role as an esquire of the royal body (if not already as usher of the chamber) he accompanied Richard II on his first expedition to Ireland. Letters of protection and permission to appoint attorneys in England were issued to him together on 10 Aug. 1394; and it is interesting to note that he then entrusted his affairs to two of his neighbours in Bedfordshire—the influential lawyer, John Hervy*, and a notable rentier named Thomas Pever† (who later became one of his feoffees). Wages of 1s. a day were paid to him for the duration of the expedition, namely from 7 Sept. 1394 to 21 Apr. 1395, throughout which he remained close about the King’s person.5 On his return he was dispatched to Buckinghamshire to uphold Richard’s interest in the wardship of the late Sir Edmund Missenden’s* next heir, an enterprise which involved him in such heavy personal expenses that in the following September he was given custody of the land in question rent-free as compensation. Having thus established a personal connexion in Buckinghamshire, Worship decided to acquire an estate of his own there, and soon afterwards he bought the manor of Dunton from the coheirs of the late Henry Chalfont. Although the sale was effected without a royal licence, Worship had no difficulty in obtaining the necessary letters of pardon, which he received in June Over the next seven years various members of Chalfont’s family confirmed him and his wife in possession of the manor, but since neither of them appear to have left any children, it was again put on the market when they died.6
On at least three occasions during this period Worship acted as a mainpernor for friends living in Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire; and although his appointment in November 1397 a sheriff of the two counties cannot but be seen as yet another move by King Richard to strengthen his hand in the localities, Worship was certainly far more than a mere placeman. His position at Court was, no doubt, in part the reason for his election to the two Parliaments of that year, and it also helps to account for his inclusion on the Bedfordshire commission of the peace (issued just nine days after he became sheriff): but he had also by then become an established figure in the area, where he seems to have commanded support in his own right as well as in that of his royal master. Even so, his loyalty and commitment to the court party stand out as the dominant features of his career; and he took his seat in the second Parliament of 1397 as one of the most implacable enemies of the Lords Appellant of 1388, who then themselves fell victim to their own weapon, the bill of appeal. In view of his political sympathies, it is perhaps surprising to find Worship’s name among those who, in the summer of 1398, decided to sue out royal letters of pardon. He probably did this as a matter of routine, although he may have been concerned to obtain protection because of official misdemeanours as sheriff. At all events, the King continued to hold him in great esteem, and in January 1399 he was granted the manor of Worplesdon to hold free of rent for the rest of his life. The award was made on the surrender of his earlier annuity of ten marks, but since the manor then bore an approximate valuation of between £20 and £30 p.a., his financial position still improved dramatically.7
Because of his duties as sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, Worship did not take part in King Richard’s second Irish expedition, which set out in the spring of 1399, leaving the country exposed to invasion by Henry of Bolingbroke and his supporters. With his personal fortunes so closely linked to those of the Court, Worship needed no prompting to take up arms against the usurper, and he hurriedly raised a force of six knights, 46 esquires and 66 archers. For most of July he and his men remained in attendance upon the duke of York, whom Richard had left behind as Custos Anglie, but as all hopes of effective resistance collapsed the entire force threw in its lot with the Lancastrian cause, and accepted Bolingbroke’s seizure as a fait accompli. The newly crowned Henry IV was too shrewd to countenance all but the most limited political reprisals, and Worship suffered very little through the change of regime. Although he lost his place at Court and was removed as sheriff, he did retain the manor of Worplesdon; and, moreover, he kept his seat on the bench. His value as an experienced administrator was certainly never questioned, for within a few weeks of Henry’s coronation he served on a commission of array in Bedfordshire. In 1400 Worship obtained a writ of supersedeas halting proceedings begun against him in the Exchequer as a result of administrative confusion over the surrender of certain documents. He retired from public life in 1407, the date of his last return to Parliament, and died in, or just before, July 1413, when Sir John Phelip had taken possession of Grovebury.8
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Wership, Wurschipp.