ABRAHALL, John (at least 1389-d.1443), of Dewchurch and 'Gillow' in Archenfield, Herefs.
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Family and Education
s. and h. of Richard Abrahall, esquire, by Elizabeth Pichard or Pechere of ‘Pecheres’, Herefs. m. (1) bef. June 1412, Margaret, wid. of Sir William Hampton of Hampton, Herefs.; (2) da. and h. of Richard Moore, ?1s.; (3) bef. 1437, Perryne, da. of Sir Thomas Whitney of Whitney, Herefs., 1s.1
Escheator, Herefs. and the adjacent marches of Wales 30 Nov. 1417-4 Nov. 1418, 5 Nov. 1439-4 Nov. 1440.
J.p. Herefs. 5 Mar. 1437-Feb. 1443.
Commr. to distribute a tax allowance, Herefs. May 1437, Apr. 1440; raise loans Nov. 1440, Mar. 1442; treat for payment of a parliamentary subsidy Feb. 1441; of inquiry, duchy of Lancaster lordships, Wales Feb. 1441; gaol delivery, Hereford castle Nov. 1441.
Steward of the castle of Bronllys, manors of Penkelly and Cantref Selyf, lordships of Llangoed and Alexanderston, and one third of the barony of Penkelly, Wales, 17 July 1439-d.; receiver-general of the same 21 Dec. 1439-d.
Receiver for the duchy of Lancaster in Monmouth, Ebbw and Caldicot 31 Oct. 1440-d.2
Steward of the earl of Stafford’s lordship of Brecon by Mich. 1441-d.3
Abrahall’s activities centred on Archenfield, south of Hereford in the Wye valley. In August 1411 he obtained from the dean and chapter of Hereford a ten-year lease of the church of Baysham and Sellack near Ross, saving only the right of presentation, at an annual rent of £23, and the following summer he acquired, through his first marriage, the manor of Hampton ‘Mappenore’ along with lands nearby, to hold for his wife’s lifetime. In March 1413 Abrahall found mainprise in the Exchequer for the abbot of Dore.4 By September of the same year he had entered the service of John, Lord Furnival (afterwards Lord Talbot and earl of Shrewsbury). It was later alleged that, acting on behalf of Talbot, Abrahall with a band of 100 armed men attempted to wrest possession of a certain enclosure called ‘Powesmore Hegg’ in Cortham near Diddlebury, Shropshire, from Thomas, earl of Arundel, the then treasurer of England, this being just one of a number of violent incidents arising from Talbot’s quarrel with Arundel. Nor was this the least of Abrahall’s offences, for, before his first return to Parliament in 1419, he had been implicated in no fewer than two murders. Indictments heard by the j.p.s in Shropshire asserted that he with certain ‘soudeours’ from Archenfield had at Lydbury on Good Friday 1414 murdered John Plowden esquire, Bishop Mascall’s warden of Ashwood, then on his way to church. (Since Abrahall did not incur an appropriate penalty and was accompanied by apparitors, it is probably safe to assume that he had a commission from the bishop regarding some complaint against his warden, and that it was when resisting arrest that Plowden had been killed.) However, on the same day, Abrahall and his men broke into the houses of the earl of Arundel’s retainer, John Burley I*, and his son John at Diddlebury and stole certain of their possessions, notably ‘unum horilagum’ called a ‘clokke’, together with livestock. These activities did not, even so, preclude Abrahall’s first appointment in 1417 as royal escheator of Herefordshire and the adjacent marches of Wales. While holding this office, in February 1418, he provided securities in £100 on behalf of a lollard, Walter Harald, chaplain, undertaking that the latter and his brother would not make illegal assemblies. Abrahall certainly did not apply such a restriction to himself: it was later alleged that at Ross at 8 a.m. on 10 Nov. 1418 John’s father, Richard, and John Hene, a labourer, aided and abetted by John himself, had so violently attacked William ap Howell that he died from his injuries. Ap Howell’s widow sought to bring the murderers to trial in the court of King’s bench the following year, supported in her plaint by her late husband’s cousin, Philip Maidstone of Herefordshire, only for the latter to be deterred from continuing the prosecution by threats to his own life from the Abrahalls. In addition, in 1419 John Abrahall ousted one David ap Rees from his manor of Strangford, near Ross, retaining possession until December that year, when a decision was reached on the matter by the royal council. He had little connexion with the city of Hereford and it seems likely that his election as parliamentary representative there in the autumn of 1419 had not been according to the citizens’ free choice; certainly an unusual group of men witnessed the election indenture at the guildhall, including the sheriff, Thomas Holgot* and Richard de la Mare†, esquire.5
In June 1420 Abrahall entered into bonds totalling £35 with the dean and chapter of Hereford, promising payment within seven years. His father had been retained by Gilbert, Lord Talbot, and following the latter’s death in 1419 John had found mainprise in the Exchequer in February 1420 for his widow, Beatrice, when she was granted custody of two parts of the estates during the minority of the heiress; and he subsequently, in 1420-1, acted as her receiver-general. He had been replaced, however, by September 1422 and seems to have been unwilling to come to terms with the new Lord Talbot, John, whom he had previously served. It is possible that Beatrice allowed Abrahall a free rein in the management of her Herefordshire and Gloucestershire estates and that his dismissal involved the loss of much local influence. Whatever the reason, in 1423 he took up arms against Talbot, such disturbance being caused by both men and their supporters in the neighbourhood of Goodrich, Talbot’s seat, that the local inhabitants appealed to Parliament. The indictments presented in September 1423 to the j.p.s at Hereford supply a catalogue of Abrahall’s alleged offences: it was claimed that he had assembled 1,000 heavily armed malefactors at Michaelchurch in Archenfield on 1 Apr. to attack Talbot, that in July, along with several members of the Skydemore family and some 80 others, he had murdered two local men, abducted several others from Aconbury into Wales, there holding them to ransom, and, not least, resorted to horse-stealing and larceny. About this time as well, Talbot’s brother-in-law, Sir Thomas de la Barre, filed a petition in Chancery claiming that Abrahall had sent his own servants with certain armed Welshmen to Dewsall, where they had cut down his corn and hay and carted it away to Archenfield, which, so de la Barre said, was a free lordship where Abrahall was the principal officer and held undisputed rule. For the next four years orders were issued for Abrahall’s arrest, but as the indictments had been brought before Talbot himself as a j.p., when Abrahall eventually gave himself up at the Marshalsea prison in 1427 and the case finally came before the King’s bench, it was dismissed for lack of impartial evidence.6
The fact that he had lost Talbot’s ‘good lordship’ and that several suits were pending against him in the royal courts (although he was able to obtain a general pardon for all offences committed before December 1414) may account for Abrahall’s exclusion from royal offices for nigh on 20 years after 1418. He attended the Herefordshire parliamentary elections at Hereford castle, however, in 1420, 1425, 1429, 1432 and 1433; and it is interesting to note that in 1432 he was accompanied to the shire court by several of his affinity. In the meantime he was placed in some positions of private trust: in 1429 he was again associated with members of the Skydemore family in transactions concerning the manor of ‘Brymesbergh’; and in the early 1430s he was enfoeffed by Richard, Lord Grey of Wilton, in certain of his Buckinghamshire and Essex manors. In 1434 he was among the gentry who were certified in Chancery as liable to take the oath not to maintain breakers of the peace. By January 1437 he had run up considerable debts, totalling £245, owing to creditors who included such notables as Bishop Nicolls of St. David’s and Joan Beauchamp, Lady of Abergavenny. However, despite this and his previous record, Abrahall was appointed to the Herefordshire bench in 1437, and two years later he obtained, to be held during royal pleasure, the office of steward of the castle and town of Bronllys and the other portions of the Bohun inheritance, the title to which had been in dispute between the King and Anne, countess of Stafford, since the partition of 1421. Furthermore, at the instance of the arbitrators, Bishop Stafford of Bath and Wells and Sir Roger Aston†, in December 1439 Abrahall was also appointed as receiver-general of those estates. He continued to hold both offices until his death. Possibly as a consequence of his official position he was appointed, in January 1440 and January 1443, as justice itinerant in his Welsh estates by the countess’s son, Humphrey, earl of Stafford, who also made him steward of his lordship of Brecon, at the large annual fee of £20, and even named him as one of his councillors. In the meantime, a few days before representing Herefordshire in the Parliament which met on 12 Nov. 1439, he had again been appointed escheator of that county, and during the second session of the Parliament, in January 1440, he had found mainprise in the Exchequer for Ralph, Lord Sudeley, and the other lessees of estates of the late earl of Warwick. In October of this year he secured a further place in the royal administration as receiver of the duchy of Lancaster lordships in Monmouthshire. Of much less significance was his office as steward of Bishop Spofford in Herefordshire, it being in this capacity that, in 1441, he was instructed by the bishop to hold commissions of inquiry in Ross as to the assize of bread and ale and the keeping of the regulations for weights and measures.7 Abrahall’s reinstatement to royal favour may be attributed not only to his burgeoning relationship with the Staffords, but also to the settlement of his quarrel with Talbot, with whom he evidently now resumed amicable relations: certainly, in June 1442, at Cheswardine, he witnessed a deed of Talbot’s, and by the following year was acting as one of the earl’s councillors. Indeed, it may have been this connexion that helped secure his election to the Parliaments of 1439 and 1442.8
By 1443 Abrahall had accumulated considerable landed estates and other interests in Herefordshire and the marches, being a tenant-in-chief of both the Crown and the duchy of Lancaster. He held a moiety of the manor of Eaton Tregoes, including 380 acres of land, a park of 1,000 acres, a water-mill and a fishery, two ‘tenements’ (Foy and Ingestone) containing 340 acres, along with property at Peterstow, Netherton, Ross, ‘Bishopsland’ and elsewhere in Archenfield, the advowsons of Tretire and Michaelchurch, and holdings at Mansell Lacy and in Hereford. In addition he owned the manors of ‘Evorston’ and Caer Caradoc in Shropshire and lands in Gloucestershire. Much of this property was held by him as a tenant of the earl of Shrewsbury. He died on 27 Feb. 1443, according to one inquest, or 8 Mar. according to another. It was on 14 Mar. following that John Norris †, a royal esquire of the body, was granted custody of his lands during the minority of his son William, then aged six, along with the latter’s wardship and marriage. In July a special commission of inquiry was set up to assess the value of Abrahall’s holdings. As a result of his dying intestate quarrels arose over the inheritance; and evidence was brought that August before Bishop Spofford (himself a feoffee of Abrahall’s manor of ‘Tradraghaun’ in the lordship of Goodrich) in an attempt to prove that Abrahall had wished to leave his lands to his nephew, John Cokkes. Abrahall’s mother and his confessor both testified to this effect, perhaps to avoid the loss of income resulting from a minority. At all events, the profits arising from Eaton Tregoes had been collected since Abrahall’s death by Sir Hugh Mortimer and Richard ap Harry, and it was the promotion of the latter’s perfectly valid claim to a moiety of the manor which caused riots at Hereford in October, when the royal commissioners held their inquiry.9
Further difficulty arose as a result of Abrahall’s excessive debts. It was alleged in 1457 that he had died without completing payments to the Exchequer for the farm of Bronllys castle, which by then amounted to £1,129. There was trouble, too, over the sum of £274 which he had owed at the termination of his account as receiver for the duchy of Lancaster, and which he had failed to render to the treasurer of the Household to whom it had been assigned. Since he was ‘endetted and charged’ to many other creditors, no one could be found to take responsibility for the administration of his goods and chattels. Part of the latter, valuable silver plate weighing 700 ounces, was said to have been placed by Abrahall in the safekeeping of a Hereford merchant, John Fuyster, but Fuyster refused to deliver it to the Household, claiming that he had received the goods from Abrahall as part-payment for a house in Hereford. Abrahall’s mainpernor Henry Shelford, clerk, had also died, and Shelford’s executor had to clear another large debt owed to the duchy.10
John’s son, William, did eventually enter his inheritance, but not before encountering some additional difficulties with regard to the manors of Kempley, Gloucestershire, and Much Birch, Herefordshire, which, so it was claimed by Reynold, Lord Grey of Wilton, John Abrahall had held only as a feoffee.11
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
Variants: Aberhall, Abrall, Habrahale.
- 1. J.H. Matthews, Herefs. (Wormelow) i. 131-2; Vis. Herefs. ed. Weaver, 2-3; CP25(1) 83/52/46. There appears to have been some confusion with regard to Abrahall’s wives, but it was certainly Perryne who survived him: C139/110/39.
- 2. Somerville, Duchy, i. 650; DL37/8/41.
- 3. C. Rawcliffe, Staffords, 207.
- 4. Cal. Hereford Cathedral Muns. (NLW 1955), nos. 1824-5; CP25(1)83/52/46; CFR, xiii. 260.
- 5. Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. ser. 3, vii. 391; ser. 4, vi. 197; CCR, 1413-19, p. 459; 1419-22, p. 24; KB27/616 Rex m. 26, 632 mm. 5, 7d, 634 m. 110, Rex m. 12, 651 Rex. m. 20d, 659 Rex m. 4d, 666 Rex m. 2; KB9/995 mm. 13, 14; C1/4/128; JUST 1/753 m. 29.
- 6. Hereford Cath. Muns. nos. 1864, 2223, 2978; CPR, 1416-22, p. 258; RP, iv. 254; C1/4/181; KB9/203 m. 30, 222/2 mm. 51-52; KB27/653 Rex m. 9, 666 Rex mm. 8, 20; A.J. Pollard, ‘The Talbots’ (Bristol Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1968), 29-30; Matthews, 24.
- 7. C219/13/3, 14/1, 3, 4; CP25(1)83/55/31; CPR, 1429-36, pp. 183, 376; 1436-41, pp. 7, 553; 1441-6, p. 162; CCR, 1435-41, pp. 410-11; 1441-7, p. 90; CFR, xvii. 122, 180; J. Duncumb, Hist. Herefs. (contd. by Cooke), iii. 114; Rawcliffe, 222.
- 8. CCR, 1441-7, p. 156; Pollard, 239, 241, 249.
- 9. Reg. Spofford (Canterbury and York Soc. xxiii), 254, 257, 359; CAD, ii. B2545; CPR, 1441-6, pp. 146-7, 166, 201; CFR, xvii. 233; C139/110/39; Matthews, 141-2; KB27/732 Rex m. 23, 734 Rex m. 36, 747 Rex m. 6; KB9/245 mm. 112-13.
- 10. E368/233 m. 109; C1/15/10; DL37/16/19.
- 11. C140/9/8; Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. xxxvi. 142; C1/29/91; CIPM Hen. VII, i. 262.