WYDEVILLE, Thomas (prob. by 1364-1435), of Grafton Regis, Northampton.
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Family and Education
b. prob. by 1364, s. and h. of John Wydeville*. by his 1st w. m. (1) by 1396, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Thomas Lyons (d. by Nov. 1408) of Ashton, Som. by his w. Margaret (d.1396), prob. 1s. d.v.p.; (2) Alice (d. by 1434), s.p.1
Sheriff, Northants. 22 Nov. 1406-23 Nov. 1407, 29 Nov. 1410-10 Dec. 1411, 1 Dec. 1415-30 Nov. 1416, 16 Nov. 1420-13 Nov. 1423, 4 Nov. 1428-10 Feb. 1430, 5 Nov. 1433-3 Nov 1434.
Commr. to make arrests, Northants. May, Aug. 1408, Jan. 1411 (lollards at large), Feb. 1411, Bucks., Leics., Northants., Oxon. Nov. 1421; hold a special assize, Northants. Apr. 1410 (dispute over the manor of Hinton by Brackley);2 of inquiry Jan. 1412 (persons liable to pay taxes), Mar. 1413 (common highway at Little Billing), Dec. 1413 (attack on John Mortimer* at Grendon), Feb., July 1418 (estates of Sir John Oldcastle*), Mar. 1418 (treasons and insurrections), May 1423 (ownership of land at Byfield), May 1425 (withdrawal of labour services by tenants of Richard Knightley* at Fawsley), Bucks. Sept. 1429 (abuse of procedure in parliamentary elections), Northants. Apr. 1431 (persons liable to pay taxes), Derbys., Leics., Lincs., Northants., Notts., Rutland, Warws., July 1434 (evasion of customs and concealments); array, Northants. Mar. 1419; to raise royal loans Nov. 1419, Jan. 1420, Mar. 1422, July 1426, May 1428, Northants., Rutland. Mar. 1430, Northants. Mar. 1431; of oyer and terminer Mar. 1426 (assault at Daventry).
J.p. Northants 21 Mar. 1413-Feb. 1422, 20 Feb.-July 1432.
Escheator, Northants. and Rutland 8 Dec. 1416-30 Nov. 1437.
Steward of the Warws. estates of Anne, dowager countess of Stafford, by Mich. 1434-aft. Mich. 1435.3
Tax collector, Northants. Jan. 1436.
Steward of the manor of Hanslope, Bucks. for Richard, earl of Warwick, bef. 3 Apr. 1439.4
The subject of this biography was quite probably the eldest of three sons born by June 1367 to John Wydeville and his first wife, Katherine. It was then that provision was made by their father for the two younger boys, and although they were subsequently disinherited in favour of their half-brother, Richard†, Thomas himself continued to enjoy his rightful position as heir presumptive to the rest of the Wvdeville estates. He had taken a wife by the autumn of 1396, when his mother-in-law, Margaret Lyons, arranged in her will for the partition of her lands between her two daughters and their husbands. Wydeville thus acquired an interest in a substantial complex of properties in the West Country, which he further consolidated by securing the reversion of his father-in-law’s holdings in Ashton, Somerset. His title was shared with one Thomas Wydeville the younger, who may well have been his son; and in November 1408 their trustees were pardoned for entering the manor without a royal licence. By 1412 Wydeville’s annual income from property in Bristol and the four Somerset manors of Ashton, Burton, Milton and Woolvershill was said to be worth £80, so he clearly derived considerable financial benefit from his first marriage.5
The earliest known reference to Wydeville occurs in April 1394, at which time he agreed to act as a mainpernor in Chancery for a local man who was being sued for debt. We do, however, know that he was pardoned in October 1398 specifically as a supporter of the Lords Appellant during the previous decade, his attachment to their cause being perhaps influenced by his father’s connexion with Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, one of the leading Appellants, against whom Richard II then sought revenge. (He himself was later to be employed as an estate steward by Beauchamp’s son, the 13th earl.) Even so, our Member was quite prepared to take part in the King’s ill-fated expedition to Ireland, which he joined under the captaincy of Edward, duke of Aumâle. In the spring of 1399 he obtained letters patent permitting him to appoint John Bosenho* and his own brother-in-law, Reynold Ragon*, as his attorneys, and he was consequently out of England at the time of the Lancastrian usurpation. His association with Aumâle (who was deprived of his dukedom and thus obliged to revert to his former title of earl of Rutland) continued, and in December of the same year the two men acted together as trustees of the Northamptonshire estates of Richard Basset.6
At some point between then and February 1401, John Wydeville died, leaving his eldest son an impressive inheritance. This comprised Cleyley Hundred and the manors of Grafton Regis and Stoke Bruern, together with farmland in Pattishall in Northamptonshire, as well as the two manors of Bow Brickhill and Caldecote in Buckinghamshire. The Wydevilles also owned the Bedfordshire manors of Biddenham and Holcote, and had fairly extensive holdings at Bromham in the same county, although not all of this property seems to have remained in Thomas’s hands. He was, however, anxious to enlarge his estates by purchase; and it is evident from his will of 1434 that over the years he bought land in Paulerspury and Elulcote (Northamptonshire) and Burton (Buckinghamshire). This document also refers to his manors of Hartwell, Roade and Astcote, as well as various holdings in and around Northampton, Horton, Quinton, Easton Weston, Thornby, Ashton, Dalscote, Eastcote and Shutlanger; and although some of these Northamptonshire properties may have been appurtenant to his land in Pattishall, others were probably acquired by marriage or through the local property market. Wydeville was also lord of the manor of Figheldean in Wiltshire, no doubt in the right of his first wife, Elizabeth. It is now impossible to tell how much these holdings produced, although according to the tax assessment of 1412 his annual landed income from Bedfordshire alone amounted to at least £40. Surprisingly in an age noted for its litigiousness, Wydeville managed to avoid any major lawsuits over his title to the above-mentioned estates. A group of landowners with property in Grafton Regis (including Ralph Parles*) claimed at the Northampton assizes of 1417 that he had deprived them of certain common pasture, but they lost their case, and no further actions were begun against him there.7
Understandably, in view of his importance as a landowner, Wydeville was in constant demand among his Northamptonshire neighbours as a mainpernor, trustee and witness to property transactions. Indeed, most of the surviving information about his career concerns activities in this respect. In July 1403, for example, he became a feoffee-to-uses for Sir John St. John* and his wife; and two years later he offered securities of £20 at the Northampton assizes on behalf of John Mortimer (with whom he was to sit in the first Parliament of 1414). At a somewhat later date the Northamptonshire MP, Nicholas Merbury*, settled his manor of Braybrooke in trust upon Wydeville, who had also by then acquired an interest in the estates of the Lords Zouche of Harringworth. Together with his patron, the earl of Rutland, the bishop of Winchester and other distinguished public figures, our Member was made a feoffee by William, 4th Lord Zouche (d.1415), and it was thus that he acquired the right to present to the living of Bulwick in Northamptonshire. He continued to assist Lord Zouche’s descendants in a similar capacity; and in June 1423 he joined with Sir John Zouche*, another member of the family, in giving securities worth 700 marks to the archbishop of Canterbury on behalf of William, Lord Lovell, who had just sued out livery of his estates.8 The performance of duties of this kind could often result in litigation, as Wydeville found after agreeing to hold the manor of Fisherwick in Staffordshire (as well as other properties) in trust for Elizabeth, Lady Clinton. Their title was challenged in, or before, November 1419 by the redoubtable John Mynors*; and it was only after both the court of Chancery and the royal council had found against him that he agreed to confirm them in possession.9 At various times Wydeville was also involved in the affairs of, inter alios, the above-mentioned Lord Lovell, Sir Robert Stury of Barnwell in Northamptonshire, several members of the influential Tresham family, and Henry Chichele, archbishop of Canterbury, whose foundation grant of 1425 to the college of Higham Ferrers was witnessed by him and other leading members of the county community. He was, moreover, well known among the lesser gentry and yeomen farmers of the region, as his frequent appearance in the witness lists of local deeds and charters amply testifies.10
By the date of his first return to Parliament in the spring of 1414, Wydeville had already gained considerable experience as a royal commissioner and office-holder in Northamptonshire, having served for over a year on the local bench as well as occupying the shrievalty for no less than three separate terms (he was to be picked six times in all). He first became sheriff in November 1406, in immediate succession to his younger half-brother and eventual coheir, Richard, a prominent Lancastrian retainer. The latter’s attachment to Henry V—an attachment which was remarked upon with derision by the enemies of his son, Lord Rivers—may well account for our Member’s appointment in March 1413 as a j.p., and possibly explains why he was not elected to Parliament until comparatively late in his career. His monumental brass in Bromham parish church depicts him as wearing the ‘SS’ collar of the house of Lancaster, although no other evidence has come to light to confirm that he, too, was a servant of the Crown. Henry V did, however, choose him to act as custodian of two French prisoners, Raoul, count de Gaucourt, and Jean, count d’Estouteville, both of whom had been captured in 1415 on the fall of Herfleur. He was responsible for Gaucourt from April 1417 until 1422, and for Estouteville for a somewhat shorter period of about two years, ending in May 1419. His custodial expenses were considerable, and at least £619, if not more, remained unpaid until well after his death. Indeed, as late as 1454 his executors were assigned £19 16s. a year as part of an outstanding debt of £99. Wydeville’s losses in this respect were somewhat offset in March 1418, when he and five others obtained the joint farm of the estates of the late Sir Thomas Green. Three years later he was also made keeper of the three Northamptonshire manors of Croughton, Aynho and Eydon, pending the settlement of a dispute over their ownership. A further mark of royal favour came his way in July 1427, when he was granted the wardship and marriage of the young John Neville, together with the custody of his late mother’s property in Buckinghamshire of which he was already a trustee. Two years later the terms of this award (which was then made jointly to Wydeville and his friend, William Tresham†) were enlarged to include the two manors of Stoke Goldington and Gayhurst in their entirety. The partners agreed to pay an annual rent of £20 for the land and a lump sum of 80 marks for the marriage.11
Thomas Wydeville drew up his will on 12 Oct. 1434, by which time both his wives, Elizabeth and Alice, lay buried in the family tomb at Bromham. He was still alive in July of the following year, since an arrangement was then made for the repayment to him of a loan of £40 which he had advanced towards the cost of national defence, but he evidently died very soon afterwards. His next heirs were his sister, the widowed Elizabeth Ragon (whose late husband’s property he had held in trust for several years), and the descendants of his other sister, Agnes Halewell, who between them shared the bulk of his estates, save for the manor of Grafton Regis and the hundred of Cleyley, both of which had been settled by him upon his half-brother, Richard. His executors, among whom were William Tresham and the abbot of the Augustinian house of St. James in Northampton, were instructed to purchase land worth 200 marks so that his right heirs might be compensated for the loss of Grafton, although it appears, from subsequent litigation in the court of Chancery, that one of these heirs, at least, had great difficulty in obtaining her rightful share of the family estates. Richard Wydeville, who sat for Kent in the Parliament of 1433, lived on until the end of 1441, and is now chiefly remembered as the grandfather of Elizabeth Wydeville, queen to Edward IV.12
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
The biographies of both John and Thomas Wydeville in the CP (xi. 16-17) contain a number of errors, some of which arise as a result of the author’s mistaken belief that John’s second son and namesake lived on until 1403 or after, and also had a son named Thomas. Our MP was, moreover, the son-in-law and not the great-grandson of Thomas Lyons and Margaret, his wife (Test. Vetusta ed. Nicolas, i. 138).
- 1. CP, xi. 16-17; G. Baker, Northants. ii. 162; Test. Vetusta, i. 138; CPR, 1408-13, p. 21; Mon. Brasses ed. Mill Stephenson, 3.
- 2. RP, iii. 634.
- 3. SC11/816.
- 4. SC12/18/45, f. 47.
- 5. CP, xi. 16-17; CPR, 1381-5, p. 212; 1408-13, p. 21; Test. Vetusta, i. 138; Feudal Aids, iv. 381; vi. 448, 509.
- 6. C67/31 m. 13; CCR, 1392-6, p. 276; CPR, 1396-9, pp. 523, 577; 1399-1401, p. 325.
- 7. Baker, ii. 162; Feudal Aids, iv. 43; vi. 397; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 311; JUST 1/1514 rot. 37, 37v.
- 8. C139/63/28; CP25(1)178/92/33; E326/4611; JUST 1/1514 rot. 5; CPR, 1413-16, pp. 395-6; CFR, xv. 10; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 138, 260, 262, 263; 1419-22, p. 244; 1422-9, pp. 72-73; 1429-35, p. 69; Bridges, ii. 289; Add. Ch. 21871.
- 9. C1/4/142; Huntington Lib. San Marino, Hastings ms, HAD 22/394; CPR, 1416-22, p. 253; 1422-9, pp. 473-4; CCR, 1419-22, pp. 192, 197; 1422-9, pp. 99, 102; 1429-35, pp. 57-58; Bridges, ii. 214.
- 10. CP25(1)178/93/33; CPR, 1435-41, p. 227; Northants. RO, Stopford Sackville ms, 910; CCR, 1422-9, pp. 139, 389, 472; 1429-35, pp. 7, 29, 32, 47; 1435-41, p. 198; Add. Chs. 793, 799, 800, 7571, 10652.
- 11. CP, xi. 17; Mon. Brasses, 3; E364/58A; Issues ed. Devon, 363-4; CFR, xiv. 224; xv. 173, 289; CPR, 1416-22, p. 317; 1436-41, p. 387; 1452-61; p. 199.
- 12. Baker, ii. 162; Mon. Brasses, 3; CPR, 1429-36, p. 467; C1/19/330-2; CP, xi. 17-19.