BALDWIN, John (1468/69-1545), of Aylesbury, Bucks.
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Family and Education
b. 1468/69, ?yr. s. of William Baldwin of Bucks. educ. I. Temple. m. (1) c.1500, ?Agnes, da. of William Dormer of West Wycombe, 1s. d.v.p. 3da.; (2) settlement 4 June 1518, Anne, da. of Sir William Norris of Yattendon, Berks., wid. of William Wroughton of Broad Hinton, Wilts. suc. bro. 21 Sept. 1484. Kntd. 1534.2
Clerk of the kitchen, I. Temple 1508, steward 1510, auditor 1511-20, Autumn reader 1516, Lent 1524, ?Autumn 1531, treasurer 1521-3.
J.p. Bucks. 1510-d., Beds. 1536, Cambs. 1536-9, Hunts. 1536-8, Norf. 1538-40, Suff. 1538-9, liberty of St. Albans 1538-9, Essex and Kent 1542, Mdx. 1543, Suss. 1544; commr. subsidy, Bucks. 1512, 1514, 1515, 1523, 1524, benevolence 1544/45, other commissions 1513-d.; attorney-gen. Wales and duchy of Cornw. 1530-2; King’s serjeant-at-law 1531-5; justice of assize northern circuit 1532/33, Suff., Hunts., liberties of Bury and Ramsey 1540, home circuit 1542; c.j.c.p. Apr. 1535-d.; trier of petitions in the Lords, Parlts. of 1536, 1539 and 1542.3
John Baldwin may have been descended from the family of that name which in the 14th century held Owlswick in Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire. His father was probably the William Baldwin to whom in 1469 a brother, John Baldwin of Aylesbury, left his Buckinghamshire lands and who died ten years later: in 1484 John Baldwin the younger succeeded his brother Richard at Aylesbury and in 1489 he was granted a special licence to enter on this inheritance without proof of age. He may already have been admitted to the Inner Temple where he is first mentioned in 1508. He remained an active member of the inn and no doubt built up a successful practice as a barrister: he was probably the John Baldwin named in the accounts of the steward of Ashby St. Ledgers, Northamptonshire, for 1520, as receiving a fee, and Sir Thomas Lovell I’s funeral expenses in 1524 include a payment of 20s. to Baldwin and two others ‘of our counsel’. In the subsidy of 1523 Baldwin’s goods were valued at £133.4
In June 1529 Baldwin was appointed one of the commissioners to hear chancery cases referred to them by Wolsey. Some months earlier the see of Winchester had been granted to the cardinal in commendam, and when Parliament was summoned in the following August he may still have had a part in the choice of the Members for the episcopal boroughs of Downton, Hindon and Taunton. The men returned for them, five rising lawyers and Cromwell, were all such as Wolsey or Sir William Paulet, his steward for the diocese, might have nominated as Paulet certainly nominated Cromwell at Taunton, although only after Cromwell had gained the King’s assent to his entering the Commons. Baldwin may have taken the same precaution: he was a kinsman by marriage of the courtier Henry Norris, who towards the end of October carried a message to Wolsey from the King.5
In 1530 Baldwin served on a commission to inquire into Wolsey’s lands in Buckinghamshire. He soon obtained promotion in the law, first as attorney-general for Wales and the duchy of Cornwall, and then as King’s serjeant, an appointment which, however, provoked a disagreement with his inn; like his kinsman by marriage, John Pakington, Baldwin took the view that the office discharged him from reading a third time, whereas the inn held that it conferred the obligation to do so and ordered him to pay a fine of £10 if he refused. According to John Spelman, Baldwin and Thomas Willoughby were the first serjeants to be knighted as such. Baldwin’s work on the northern circuit probably did not involve his absence from Parliament, but his appointment in April 1535 as chief justice of the common pleas, over the heads of the puisne judges, must have terminated his Membership, although he is not known to have been replaced in the Commons for the last session. He was not lost to Parliament, however, for as a judge he received a writ of assistance to the Parliament of 1536 and to every succeeding one until his death. He had doubtless owed his elevation to Cromwell, although there is no evidence that the two men were close. He is said to have differed frequently from his fellow-justices and the reporter Sir James Dyer remarked of his dissenting opinion in a case that ‘neither I nor any one else, I believe, understood his refutation’. His office involved his appointment as a special commissioner of oyer and terminer at the many treason trials which took place between 1535 and 1541, including those of Fisher and More, and of his kinsman Henry Norris.6
Baldwin had taken part in the administration of his shire since 1510, and in 1520 he had been nominated, but not pricked, sheriff there and in Bedfordshire. In 1536 he was listed among the Buckinghamshire gentlemen to be mobilised at the time of the northern rebellion, and in 1544 he supplied men for the army against France. In February 1537 he wrote to Cromwell from Aylesbury about rumours circulating in the county that the churches were to be pulled down and that Baldwin himself was to acquire their lead; a witness examined by Baldwin said that the country for eight miles round Buckingham could be raised at an hour’s warning. Some colour is given to the rumour about the lead by a rental of property formerly belonging to the Greyfriars priory at Aylesbury, which in 1538 bears a note that the session-house in the town needed a new lead roof and that the King and Baldwin were to provide one. When Leland visited Aylesbury a few years later he observed that the ‘domus civica’ had lately been rebuilt by Baldwin, with the King supplying the timber.7
Baldwin’s inheritance in Aylesbury consisted of the manor of Otters Fee, a house called ‘Le Crowne’ and a tenement called (ambiguously) ‘Bawd’s Fee’. In 1512 he acquired a 24-year lease of the nearby manor of Cranwell in Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire, but it was not until the last ten years of his life that he blossomed as a landowner. In 1536 he bought the manor of Danvers in Little Marlow, in the following year those of Chearsley and Ludgershall, and in 1538 that of Aylesbury itself: the last, bought from Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire, made him the town’s chief proprietor. In 1541 he had a large grant of ex-monastic property, comprising the Greyfriars, Aylesbury, and the manors of Abbot’s Broughton and Upton, and after the Countess of Salisbury and her son Lord Montagu had been attainted, he paid £796 for their manors of Dundridge and Ellesborough. His Buckinghamshire property was valued in his inquisition at £200 a year.8
By his will, which he made on 11 Oct. 1545, a week before his death, Baldwin disposed of his landed property in three shares, his only son William having predeceased him in 1538 leaving no heir. For the wardship of one grandson, John Burlace, and the primer seisin of another, Thomas, son of Robert Pakington, the crown was to have the manors of Aylesbury, Broughton and Upton; another part, including lands in Oxfordshire and Wiltshire, was set aside for the performance of the will; and most of the remainder went to his unmarried daughter Alice, the last abbess of the Augustinian house at Burnham, Buckinghamshire, for her life. He named Alice sole executrix and his brother-in-law Sir Robert Dormer and his cousin William Galy overseers, and made many small bequests of money and goods to friends and relatives. He was buried beside his first wife in Aylesbury church, where his daughter Alice, who died in the following year, directed that a marble tomb should be erected over the grave. In October 1545 the Earl of Hertford wrote to Sir William Paget asking that William Wroughton, Baldwin’s stepson, might have custody of his mother, who ‘hath been of long abstracted of her wits’, but three months later she was committed to the widow of Sir George Carew. Aylesbury passed to Baldwin’s grandson Thomas Pakington, and in Mary’s reign became a parliamentary borough under that family’s patronage.9