BONHAM, Thomas (d.1420), of Great Wishford, Wilts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Nov. 1414

Family and Education

yr. s. of Nicholas Bonham† of Bonham, Som. by his w. Edith. m. c.1382, Katherine, da. and h. of John Knottingley of Bathampton ‘Wylye’, Wilts., 1da. d.v.p.; (2) bef. 1400, Alice, 2s.

Offices Held

J.p. Wilts. 26 May 1386-July 1389, 1 July 1394-Oct. 1397, 28 Nov. 1399-Nov. 1404, 22 Feb. 1405-10, 16 Jan. 1414-d.

Commr. to sell wood for repairs to royal lodges, Wilts. Nov. 1391;1 of array Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399, July 1402, May 1415, Mar. 1419; to administer Shaftesbury abbey Nov. 1394; collect an aid, Wilts. Dec. 1401; of oyer and terminer, Dorset May 1402, Mar. 1404, Wilts. June 1409; to make proclamation of Henry IV’s intention to govern well May 1402; of arrest, Wilts., Dorset June 1402; to organize repairs to duchy of Lancaster property, Hants, Wilts., Berks., Dorset, Oxon. Oct. 1402; of inquiry, Hants, Wilts., Som. Feb. 1403 (wastes, Hayling priory), Apr. 1403 (wastes, Marlborough), May 1403 (ownership of Barford St. Martin), Wilts., Hants, Dorset (lands of Thomas, Lord West), Wilts. June 1406 (concealments), Nov. 1407 (robbery and arson), Mar. 1408 (concealment of land forfeited by John, earl of Salisbury), May 1408 (rights to an advowson), Aug. 1408 (assaults), Feb. 1409 (post mortem), duchy of Lancaster estates in Wilts., Hants, Som., Dorset, Oxon., Berks. June 1413 (concealments), Wilts. Feb., July 1418 (lands of Sir John Oldcastle*), Nov. 1419 (ownership of land), Dec. 1419 (possessions of Ivychurch priory); to raise royal loans Sept. 1405, June 1406, Nov. 1419 hold assizes of novel disseisin Dec. 1415.

Alnager, Salisbury 20 July 1394-Nov. 1396.

Sheriff, Wilts. 9 Nov. 1395-1 Dec. 1396, 9 May-8 Nov. 1401, 10 Dec. 1411-3 Nov. 1412.

Steward, duchy of Lancaster estates, Hants, Wilts., Som., Dorset, Oxon., Berks. 4 Feb. 1401-c. Sept. 1409.2

Escheator, Hants and Wilts. 29 Nov. 1402-18 Jan. 1403, 9 Nov. 1406-2 Nov. 1407, Wilts. 12 Nov. 1403-8 Nov. 1404.

Tax collector, Wilts. Mar. 1404.

Steward, estates of bp. of Salisbury by 1 Feb. 1405-c.1407.

Verderer, Grovely forest, Wilts. 2 Oct. 1414-d. 3


Thomas’s career was similar to that of his father, Nicholas, who sat in eight Parliaments for Wiltshire between 1355 and 1383, served as a j.p. and on many other royal commissions, and held office as steward of the borough of Wilton, but although he himself apparently sat in just three Parliaments, he became a more prominent figure in the administration of the county. Under the terms of Nicholas Bonham’s will, made in 1386, his lands were divided between his three lay sons: John, the eldest, inherited the manor of Bonham; Nicholas acquired more scattered properties, and Thomas himself received a moiety of the manor of Great Wishford, subject to the life interest of his mother. Yet in time, the portions of both John and Nicholas were to revert to Thomas’s branch of the family. Some four years previously Thomas had obtained, through his first marriage, the manors of Hanging Langford, Deptford and Bathampton ‘Wylye’, all also in Wiltshire. In 1412, his estates, including property in Salisbury, were assessed for the purposes of taxation at £45 a year.4

The Bonhams were closely involved in the affairs of the religious houses of the region: Thomas’s father had been a generous benefactor of the Church; two of his brothers had entered the priesthood (William was rector of the family living of Great Wishford, and Thomas was rector of Baverstock); while two of his sisters were nuns (one at Shaftesbury abbey, the other at Wilton). It perhaps followed naturally that Thomas’s own abilities as a lawyer would frequently be put to the service of ecclesiastical institutions. He is first recorded, in April 1380, standing surety for his brother John when the latter farmed the Wiltshire estates pertaining to the alien deanery of Mortain (a lease John was to retain for no fewer than 20 years); and five years later he performed a similar service for the prior of Watton. In 1392 he joined with Sir Thomas Hungerford*, Laurence Drew* and others in making a grant of land in Wiltshire to Edington priory, and in the following year he witnessed another benefaction to the same house offered by the abbess of Shaftesbury. This was but one of many occasions on which Bonham was party to the affairs of Shaftesbury abbey, and it seems likely that, especially in later years, he was steward of the house’s estates. (It is interesting to note that his brother John was, by 1405, steward of the other major Benedictine house of the region, Wilton.) Certainly, in November 1394 Thomas was one of those appointed to take custody of the convent at Shaftesbury, following the election of an unfit person as abbess, and his friendship with a later abbess, Cecily Fovent, led to his involvement in 1406 in the foundation of a chantry in the abbatial church, his role being that of a feoffee of property in Shaftesbury and elsewhere belonging to Robert Fovent* and other members of her family. In 1410 he and Cecily were granted at the Exchequer a rent of 8s. from burgages in Shaftesbury; and in the following year he was party to a gift of property in Kelston, Somerset, for the maintenance of the abbey. Bonham was also closely associated with the canons of Salisbury: in 1394 and again in 1399 he had acted as attorney for one of them, John Boor, who was also dean of the King’s chapel, during his absence in Ireland, and another, Master John Chitterne, was a co-executor of Bonham’s father’s will. John Waltham, bishop of Salisbury, was also one of Nicholas Bonham’s executors, and in his own will, made in 1395, he left Thomas ten marks. Bonham was, naturally enough, connected with Waltham’s successor as bishop, Richard Metford, whom he served as steward of the estates of the bishopric. He is recorded as dining in the episcopal household on several occasions in the year before Metford’s death in May 1407. Bonham’s interest in the affairs of religious houses is reflected, too, in his frequent appointment to royal commissions concerned with the possessions of alien priories and the interests of Tarent abbey, Hyde abbey and Amesbury priory, as well as by his readiness to act as a mainpernor for such as the prior of Bruton.5

Bonham’s professional skills were by no means confined to services for the Church, as his record as a j.p. (for over 21 years), sheriff and escheator (for three terms in each office) suggests. Furthermore, from 1401 for at least eight years, he served as steward of the duchy of Lancaster estates in six counties, for a fee of £22 a year. This appointment, which betokens a high degree of professional ability, may have come about through his tenancy of the duchy manor of Great Wishford. Not surprisingly, Bonham was in demand to perform legal transactions on behalf of other Wiltshire landowners. He was a friend of the future Speaker William Stourton*, whose seat at Stourton was in the same parish as the Bonhams’ manor of Bonham: in 1388 the two lawyers had acted as attorneys for Thomas Strete, a retainer of William Montagu, earl of Salisbury, during his absence on the earl’s lordship of the Isle of Man; both were feoffees of the lands in Crookham, Berkshire, which the earl granted to Strete; and together they held land in Othery, Somerset, by the earl’s gift. (It may well be the case that, like Stourton, Bonham served as a member of Montagu’s council.) Bonham was Stourton’s feoffee in Wiltshire and Somerset, while Stourton’s brother, John I*, acted in a similar capacity on Bonham’s behalf. One of the trustees of Bonham’s father’s estates was the prominent Lancastrian retainer, Sir Thomas Hungerford, and Bonham preserved this connexion, standing surety for Sir Thomas at his last election to Parliament in 1393, and witnessing deeds for his son, Sir Walter Hungerford*. Among those for whom Bonham held trusteeships were John Lisle* of Wootton and Sir Walter Romsey. Perhaps a more important connexion was with John, Lord Lovell, and his wife Maud, whom Bonham assisted in various transactions concerning land. Indeed, Henry Popham*, who was engaged in a lawsuit with the Lovells, alleged that Bonham was actually Lord Lovell’s retainer, and ought, therefore, to be removed from the Wiltshire bench for being biased in his lord’s favour.6 Although returned to only three Parliaments himself, Bonham showed his interest in parliamentary affairs by attending the Wiltshire elections of 1407, 1413 (May), 1414 (Apr.) and 1419.7

Bonham died on 4 Oct. 1420. The heir to his first wife’s property was his grand daughter, Alice, wife of Robert Mompesson, but the rest of his landed holdings passed first to his elder son William, who died before attaining his majority, and then to his second son, Thomas.8

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. E364/29 m. B.
  • 2. Somerville, Duchy, i. 621, 629.
  • 3. C242/9/9.
  • 4. G. J. Kidston, Bonhams of Wilts. and Essex, 8-10, 15-25, 31-36; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xlviii. 274-84; C138/48/67; Feudal Aids, vi. 531; CCR, 1405-9, p. 530; Wilts. Feet of Fines (Wilts. Rec. Soc. xli), 50, 73, 96-97, 256.
  • 5. CFR, ix. 193; x. 92, 339; xii. 102; xiii. 168; CPR, 1391-6, pp. 156, 475, 511; 1396-9, p. 520; 1405-8, p. 266; 1408-13, p. 349; CCR, 1392-6, p. 288; 1405-9, p. 123; Egerton 3135, ff. 36-37, 47, 59, 70-71, 110d, 115; Harl. 3755 ff. 3d, 4d, 28d, 29d, 57; VCH Dorset, ii. 79; C143/418/31, 437/26, 442/24.
  • 6. CPR, 1385-9, p. 441; 1391-6, p. 517; 1399-1401, p. 451; CCR, 1385-9, p. 456; 1392-6, p. 374; 1402-5, p. 421; 1405-9, p. 228; 1409-13, p. 75; 1413-19, pp. 62, 139-40, 294-5; SC8/135/6710; DL29/738/12102; C219/9/9; CAD, ii. C2520, 2670, 2797; vi. C7010.
  • 7. C219/10/4, 11/2, 3, 12/3.
  • 8. C138/48/67; Kidston, 38.