EDGECOMBE, Sir Peter (1468/69-1539), of West Stonehouse and Cotehele, Cornw.
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Family and Education
b. 1468/69, s. of Sir Richard Edgecombe of Meavy, Devon and Cotehele by Jane, da. of Thomas Tremayne of Collacombe, Devon. educ. L. Inn, adm. 6 Mar. 1488. m. (1) Jane, da. and h. of James Dernford of West Stonehouse, wid. of Charles Dynham of Nutwell, Devon, 3s. inc. Richard 4da.; (2) by 1525, Catherine, da. of Sir John St. John of Bletsoe, Beds., wid. of Sir Griffith ap Rhys of Carmarthen, Carm., s.p. suc. fa. 7 Sept. 1489; KB 1 Nov. 1494, banneret 16 Aug. 1513.2
Esquire of the body by 1489, knight by 1504; constable, Launceston castle, Cornw. 1489-d.; escheator and feodary, duchy of Cornw. 1489-d.; sheriff, Devon 1494-5, 1497-8, 1517-18, 1528-9, Cornw. 1498-9, 1505-6, 1516-17, 1534-5; j.p. Cornw. 1498-d., Devon 1501-d.; commr. subsidy, Devon 1504, 1512, 1514, 1515, Cornw. 1512, 1514, 1515, 1523, 1524, array, Cornw. 1511, assessionable manors 1525, 1528, 1532, 1535, musters 1539, coastal defences south-western counties 1539; keeper, Kerrybullock park, Cornw. 1509-d.; receiver-gen. earldom of Devon 18 Apr. 1510-11 or later; recorder, Launceston by 1521-d.; member, council of Catherine, dowager Countess of Devon by 1547, council of Henry, Marquess of Exeter by 1530-d., council in the west 1539; chief steward, Tavistock abbey, Devon by 1535.3
A branch of the Edgecombe family, who took their name from a manor in the parish of Milton Abbot, Devon, had been seated at Cotehele since the middle of the 14th century. Sir Peter Edgecombe’s father had been comptroller of the Household to Henry VII and one of the King’s personal friends: his services to the crown had been rewarded and his wealth greatly augmented by the grant of the important Cornish manors of Bodrigan, Tregrehan, and Tremodret. These lands, together with the castle, manor and borough of Totnes, the manor of Cornworthy, and other property in Devon and Cornwall constituted a fine inheritance for Edgecombe when in February 1497 he obtained a long overdue licence to enter upon it. This licence probably cost him dear; the delay in granting it may have been connected with the policy of the King’s financial agents, at whose hands he is known to have suffered. On one occasion, for an unspecified reason, he and his father’s old friend Roger Holland were bound by a recognizance to Edmund Dudley, Sir Richard Empson, Sir Thomas Lovell I and others. On another occasion he entered into a bond for the sum of 1,000 marks, ‘wherein he, the Earl of Devon and others were bounden that the said earl should make no retainers contrary to the statute’. Edgecombe only obtained his discharge from this obligation by paying Dudley £100 in ready money.4
Some years before he entered upon his inheritance Edgecombe had added greatly to his family’s fortunes by his marriage to Jane Dynham, who brought to him the manors of West Stonehouse and Rame and made him an unrivalled landowner in the neighbourhood of Plymouth. Evidently he was always on the friendliest terms with the townsmen: in 1494, ‘when Mr. Edgecombe was made knight and sheriff’, the corporation toasted him in red wine and malmsey, during 1524-5 three gallons of wine were sent to him and his wife Catherine ‘at their first homecoming’, and six years later he was entertained to dinner by the mayor and council during discussions regarding several mills.5
Edgecombe was one of the leading figures in the south-west. He was knighted during the festivities at court celebrating the future Henry VIII’s creation as Duke of York, and some days later he was pricked sheriff for the first time. He was to serve as sheriff of either Devon or Cornwall seven more times and during his last term of office, in 1534-5, he claimed to have spent 40 marks more than he had received. He also saw some military action: in 1497 he answered the King’s call to rally the men of Devon and Cornwall against Perkin Warbeck and after his initial failure he helped to relieve Exeter; in 1513 he accompanied Henry VIII to France, where in recognition of his bravery he was made knight banneret, and seven years later he returned there with a more pacific role at the Field of Cloth of Gold; finally in 1536, at the time of the Lincolnshire rebellion, he was ordered to Ampthill with 200 men, although in the event the order was countermanded.6
Edgecombe’s prestige in his own country and his service to the crown made him a natural choice for election in either Devon or Cornwall during the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII. The returns for the Parliaments summoned in the early 16th century are for the most part lost, but Edgecombe’s two known elections for Cornwall probably had their counterparts on other occasions. He was better qualified to sit for Cornwall than for Devon, where wealthier men could outstrip him and where in 1529 his shrievalty precluded his election. His return on 7 Jan. 1515 as a knight of the shire probably implies that he had taken the same place in 1512, for it was the Members of that Parliament whom the King asked to be returned again in 1515. In 1517 Edgecombe brought an action in the Exchequer against Sir William Trevanion, a former sheriff of Cornwall, for withholding £24 8s. due to him for wages and travelling expenses. After the dissolution of Parliament he had sued out a writ de expensis which he served on Trevanion on 7 Jan. 1516: Trevanion seems to have levied the money several months later but failed to deliver it to Edgecombe, who also claimed that his efforts to obtain it had cost him 20 marks. The outcome is unknown, but it may be remarked that the amount, if based on a knight of the shire’s rate of 4s. a day, represented a total of 122 days and that as the two sessions of the Parliament had consumed only 101 days Edgecombe was claiming a generous travel allowance of five days a journey. He may have sat in the next Parliament, that of 1523, and did so in its successor six years later. Nothing is known of his role in this Parliament, but on 23 Mar. 1534, during the sixth session, he wrote to Cromwell to explain that an outbreak of measles in his household prevented him from coming to court or to Parliament: he may have also missed the last session on account of ill-health. He was probably returned to the brief Parliament of June 1536 in accordance with the King’s general request for the re-election of the previous Members. Three years later he made ‘a great suit’ to represent Cornwall again, but in the event he was passed over in favour of either William Godolphin I or Sir John Chamond.7
Edgecombe engaged in official correspondence with Cromwell and evidently enjoyed the minister’s regard. When he heard that the lesser monasteries were about to be suppressed he informed Cromwell that his ancestors had founded Totnes priory and Cornworthy nunnery and that he would be grateful for the temporalities of the former. If Cromwell did as he was asked and passed this request on to the King it was evidently ignored, for Edgecombe later complained that the two houses had been promised to Sir Philip Champernon and Richard Pollard. He then offered 800 marks to the King—and £100 to Cromwell for his ‘lawful favour’—if the suppression of Totnes were to be redeemed and the two beneficiaries otherwise recompensed, but the effort was unavailing. His last years were presumably spent mainly in Cornwall, where he was much occupied with troublesome papists, with the organization of coastal defence and with duties arising from his membership of the council in the west.8
Edgecombe died on 14 Aug. 1539 and his will, which he had made as early as 3 Mar. 1530, was proved on the following 15 Sept. He remembered his household servants and left £10 to the parish churches of Bodmin, Calstock and Plymouth for distribution among the poor. He directed that the profits of the honor and borough of Totnes and the manor of Cornworthy should be used for the performance of his will and the payment of his debts, after which his feoffees were to release all their interest in these lands to his heirs male. They were also to hand over his tinworks in Devon to his son John and those in Cornwall to his son James. His two younger sons received £100 each, his daughter Anne £300, and his wife the plate, household stuff and lands which he had given her in jointure. He appointed as executors his wife and his eldest son, enjoining them to cause masses to be said for his soul. His death was mourned by family and friends, but as Sir John Russell, Baron Russell, observed to Cromwell the good knight would live on in the hearts and minds of all those who had known him.