BRANTINGHAM, Sir William (d.1413), of Dodford, Northants. and Catteshull, Surr.

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



Jan. 1404
Oct. 1404

Family and Education

s. of Hawise, da. and h. of John Scardbroke; prob. bro. of Thomas Brantingham (d.1394), bp. of Exeter. m. (1) by June 1378, Maud, great-niece of William Feriby (d.1379) sometime keeper of the royal wardrobe; (2) by Dec. 1399, Joan, s.p. Kntd. between Sept. 1394 and May 1395.1

Offices Held

Clerk of recognizances, Kingston-upon-Hull 5 Nov. 1369-prob. aft. May 1400.

Keeper of Somerton castle, Lincs. 7 Dec. 1369-18 Nov. 1377.

Commr. to seize the estates and person of a royal ward, Lincs. Oct. 1370, Berwick-upon-Tweed Mar. 1371; reassess taxes, Northants. Aug. 1379; make arrests, Cornw. Dec. 1382 (pirates), July 1384; of inquiry, Plymouth Mar. 1383 (mercantile dispute), Cornw. Nov. 1383 (evasion of customs), Dec. 1385 (wrecks off the coast), May 1386 (concealments); to survey the estates of Princess Joan, Devon, Cornw. Sept. 1385; restore confiscated estates, Cornw. Oct. 1385.

Tronager of wools, Kingston-upon-Hull 20 Apr. 1371-aft. May 1400.

Serjeant of the butlery of the Household bef. 15 Feb. 1374-bef. 13 Jan. 1377.

Examiner (or carter) of wine bought for the Household in England 15 Feb. 1374-prob. c.1399.2

Avener of the Household by 7 June 1377-c. Nov. 1406.3

Receiver of the duchy of Cornw. in Devon and Cornw. 17 Sept. 1381-Feb. 1388.4


Despite repeated attempts by historians to provide him with a full and convincing pedigree, Brantingham’s precise relationship to the other members of his distinguished family cannot be established with any degree of certainty. He is said to have been the son of John Brantingham, a proctor for the archdeacon of Surrey in the Parliament of 1307, but no clear evidence has survived to support this belief. That he was a close relative of two eminent clerics and crown servants seems more than likely, since it was no doubt through their influence that he obtained a post at court. Ralph Brantingham (d.1369), who was probably our MP’s uncle, held office as a clerk of Edward III’s wardrobe until 1349, when he became chamberlain of the Exchequer. Ralph may have been instrumental in furthering the interests of the celebrated Thomas Brantingham, since the latter first rose to prominence while on the staff of the royal wardrobe, being promoted in 1361 to the treasurership of Calais, then to the keepership of the wardrobe, and finally, in 1369, to the office of treasurer of England. A ‘political churchman’ cast in the traditional mould, Thomas Brantingham acquired many benefices, most notably the bishopric of Exeter, which he held from 1370 until his death in 1394. According to the evidence presented in a late 15th-century lawsuit (but not in any contemporary sources), the bishop was actually William’s elder brother; and his patronage may clearly be discerned at various stages of the latter’s career, as for example, in arrangements for his marriage to a great-niece of William Feriby, a previous keeper of the wardrobe.5

William Brantingham is first mentioned in February 1362, when Edward III granted him a fee of £5 p.a. which, although initially awarded for life, was in fact exchanged for the post of tronager of wool at Kingston-upon-Hull some nine years later. This appointment was clearly intended as a sinecure, since Brantingham employed a series of deputies during his term of office. Meanwhile, in May 1369, he was involved in the conveyance of property near the royal palace of Eltham to a crown servant, and even though no references to him as a yeoman of the body survive before the following September, we may assume that he already stood well in the King’s favour. The clerkship of recognizances at Hull and the keepership of Somerton castle were given to him during Thomas Brantingham’s first term as treasurer of England. It was also at this time that our Member was able to trade his annuity for a lucrative post in the royal customs, and that he obtained the wardship of the Lincolnshire estates of Elizabeth Toures (which, significantly enough, he had previously been commissioned to seize for the Crown), together with a grant of the marriage of the young heiress. Subsequently, in September 1373, Edward III gave him three forfeited messuages in Southampton, and at a somewhat later date made him farmer of the manor of Chelworth in Wiltshire for a period of ten years. Brantingham already held office as a serjeant of the King’s butlery when, in February 1374, he was chosen to examine the wine bought for the royal household in England. Once again he was permitted to discharge his duties through a deputy, ostensibly because of his commitments at Court. Although he left the butlery at some point over the next three years, Brantingham retained the second post, which was confirmed to him by Richard II. The young King also made him avener of the household at a salary of £10 a year, payable from the Exchequer for life.6

By the date of his first return to Parliament in 1379, our Member had established a number of valuable connexions outside London. His family took its name from the manor of Brantingham in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and on at least four of the occasions during the 1370s when he stood surety at the Exchequer he is described as a Yorkshireman. At some point before April 1374 he was a party to Bishop Brantingham’s acquisition of the manor of Thorpe near the family seat, while he himself possessed a life interest in land in the Yorkshire village of Northcave. It is worth noting, too, that besides holding office as keeper of the royal wardrobe, his wife’s kinsman, William Feriby, was also a canon of York minster.7 The Brantinghams may well have been distantly related to Sir John Keynes, whose estates comprised the manors of Dodford in Northamptonshire, Oxhull in Warwickshire, Purton Keynes in Wiltshire and Coombe Keynes in Dorset, as well as the reversion of Tarrant Keynston in the same county. At all events, the wardship of Keynes’s two children, John and Wintelan, belonged to the bishop, who disposed of his interest to William. The latter was determined to gain permanent control of their property at all costs and when the two heirs died without issue, in 1375, he prevailed upon their aunt, Elizabeth, to make over her title to him. In October of that year she obtained a royal pardon for effecting the transaction without the necessary royal licence, and herself died childless shortly afterwards. There is a strong possibility that she was either threatened or tricked into parting with her inheritance, since Brantingham was later accused of paying a woman to impersonate her in an attempt to deceive a local jury. The ruse failed, largely because his plan of making the imposter dress like a pilgrim from the Holy Land, ‘clothyn as it were in an estate of innocencye’ proved too much for her dramatic capabilities and ended in farce. The Keynes estates ought then to have passed to Sir John Ladbrooke’s daughter, Alice, who had apparently lost her father’s support by marrying one of his servants. Capitalizing upon her vulnerability, Brantingham and the bishop (who had supported him throughout) not only conspired to have her pronunced illegitimate, but also produced two fraudulent claimants, whose title they advanced by such questionable means as falsifying the returns of inquisitions post mortem taken in 1376 and 1385. Despite repeated attempts to question his highly dubious conduct, Brantingham retained control of the contested property until his death, taking considerable trouble to secure an exemplification in the records of Chancery of his own version of the evidence concerning the descent of the five manors. According to his own inquisition post mortem, he derived at least £50 p.a. from them; and it was through his acquisition of Dodford (the most lucrative of all) that he was able to establish himself as a figure of importance in Northamptonshire.8 In June 1376 Brantingham offered his possessions there as security for a loan from the prior of Merton; and distraints were made upon the same land in May 1379 and January 1393 because of his refusal to accept a knighthood when qualified to do so. Brantingham often stood surety for friends with business in Chancery or at the Exchequer, and during the first half of this period he was generally known as a resident of Northamptonshire. His return to the Parliament of 1379 also reflects his standing in the county, although Bishop Brantingham may well have played some part in securing his election. The recently-appointed continual council (of which the bishop, as treasurer of England, was a member) had already aroused so much antagonism at all social levels that the government must have been anxious to place some of its supporters in an overwhelmingly hostile House of Commons. Since our Member did not sit again for Northamptonshire, and showed no interest in pursuing his parliamentary career until 1404, we may be justified in regarding his election as a result of pressing political circumstances.9

Following the death of Maud, the widow of Sir John Lisle, in April 1378, Brantingham obtained custody of the manor of Walton in Northamptonshire, which he occupied until her son, Sir John*, came of age, eight years later. He claimed the wardship as lord of the manor of Dodford, but it is evident that his sphere of operations was already beginning to move further south into the Home Counties. He was involved in property transactions there from Easter 1377, and in the following August he stood surety for John Legge† as alnager of Surrey and Sussex. Legge in turn acted as his mainpernor a few weeks later when he became farmer of the manor of Losley (in Surrey) for the Crown.10 Brantingham’s friendship with Legge, a royal serjeant-at-arms, led to his purchase of the manor of Catteshull with its extensive appurtenances in other parts of Surrey. He initially held the property in trust for Legge, but on the latter’s death at the hands of the rebels of 1381 he decided to take advantage of his position as one of his friend’s executors, and bought it outright from Legge’s daughter, Joan, and her husband, William Weston I*.11

Brantingham’s territorial interests were spreading far and wide at this time, for in October 1380 the King granted him and John Herlyngton* a joint lease of confiscated property in the Huntingdonshire village of Folksworth. Not long afterwards he was made receiver of the duchy of Cornwall in Devon and Cornwall at a fee of £20 a year. Since the receivership lay within the diocese of Thomas Brantingham, now bishop of Exeter, with whom he had official dealings, his appointment may well have owed something to family influence, although it is clear from the letters patent confirming him in office after an ineffective move to install the Londoner, William Venour†, in his place, that Richard II’s mother, the princess Joan, had also been active on his behalf. While serving as receiver, Brantingham became farmer of the manor of Conerton in Cornwall, which had escheated to the Crown, and for which he paid an annual rent of £20. He was finally removed from office in February 1388, probably as a result of the financial malpractices which led to his brief imprisonment in the Fleet almost two years later.12 Our Member had by then been promoted to the rank of esquire of the body, although nothing is heard of his activities in this capacity until June 1393, when royal letters of protection previously issued to him were revoked on the ground that he had stayed in England instead of making arrangements for the King’s projected visit to Calais. He was, none the less, permitted to lease certain crown property in the Northamptonshire village of Daventry one year later, and in September 1394 he began serious preparations for service in Ireland with Richard II, being granted further letters of protection as well as permission to appoint four attorneys in England. He was knighted at some point during the next eight months, when he was still in attendance upon his royal master at a fee of 2s. per diem for himself and 6d. for each of his three mounted archers.13

Notwithstanding his attachment to Richard II, Brantingham suffered no real reversal because of the Lancastrian usurpation. He was confirmed in the two offices of avener of the Household and tronager of wools at Hull in May 1400, retaining the former, with its pension of £10 p.a., until November 1406. His election as a shire knight for Surrey to the two Parliaments of 1404 took place, therefore, while he was still a crown servant, and again occurred at a time when the government (in this case the King himself) had particular need of support. Although already a comparatively old man, he lived on for a further nine years, during which his main concern was to defend his title to the Keynes estates. It is just possible that his second wife, Joan, whom he married before December 1399, was Sir John Keynes’s widow — but this cannot now be proved. The couple were then confirmed in possession of the manor of Dodford by John Cressy, whose mother, a distant relative of Sir John’s, had assisted Brantingham in his earlier machinations, and who himself (thanks to the MP’s activities) now held a reversionary interest in most of the inheritance. Joan’s identity poses many problems, because she may equally well have been the widow of John Sunninghill†, who, in July 1374, granted Brantingham an annuity of £20 from the revenues of Sunninghill in Berkshire. John was dead by 1386, when our Member offered sureties of £120 as a guarantee of his readiness to confirm Joan’s estate in the manor, and it is interesting to note that he described himself as ‘of Berkshire’ shortly before this date. In February 1401 he was fighting an action for trespass in the same county, where he perhaps acquired property through marriage.14

Brantingham’s private affairs reflect his public position, in so far that they show him to have been a wealthy man with widespread and influential connexions. As we have seen, he often acted as a mainpernor (sometimes offering impressively large securities) and he appears from time to time as a feoffee-to-uses, most notably for Sir John Trussell*, James Butler, earl of Ormond, and the above-mentioned John Legge. On several occasions during his long career Brantingham was himself the recipient of bonds, frequently in sums of 200 marks or more. It may be that he made a practice of lending money on his own account, although some of these transactions involved other crown officials and were perhaps of a more formal nature. Brantingham was still involved in litigation over the Keynes inheritance at the time of his death, which took place on 15 July 1413. He had settled part of the property upon his nephew, John Brantingham (who did not live to see the end of the dispute), but the rest reverted to John Cressy the younger, a royal ward. His other estates were already in the hands of feoffees, and since he left neither a widow nor children, they were sold over the next few years.15

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


Variant: Brantyngham.

  • 1. The genealogy provided by Hingeston-Randolph in his edition of Reg. Brantingham (ii. frontispiece) is largely unreliable, especially as most of it is undocumented. For what little information has survived about Brantingham’s background and marriages see C138/2/27; Test. Ebor. i. 103; Sel. Cases in Exchequer Chamber (Selden Soc. li), i. 15-20; CPR, 1391-6, pp. 475, 565; 1405-8, p. 375.
  • 2. This grant was initially of the office of examiner (CPR, 1370-4, p. 416) but it was confirmed as that of carter (ibid. 1377-81, p. 227).
  • 3. Although described as ‘late avener’ in May 1403 (E404/18/431), he was still being allocated £10 p.a. as current avener in October 1406 (E404/22/129), and received his last payment on 19 Nov. 1406 (E403/589).
  • 4. E401/572, 574; SC6/813/2, 5, 7-9, 818/9, 11, 819/1.
  • 5. Reg. Brantingham, ii. frontispiece; T.F. Tout, Chapters, iii. 261-2, 345-50, 356-7, 455; G. Baker, Northants. i. 351-5.
  • 6. CPR, 1361-4, p. 165; 1367-70, pp. 247, 457; 1370-4, pp. 69-71, 105, 354, 451; 1374-7, p. 481; 1377-81, p. 247; 1385-9, pp. 245, 304; Guildhall Lib. London, 9171/1 f. 46v; CFR, viii. 97, 381; CIPM, xiii. 5.
  • 7. CFR, viii. 168, 301; ix. 21, 23-24; CPR, 1370-4, p. 269; CIPM, xiv. 56; Test. Ebor. i. 103.
  • 8. CAD, vi. C6036; CPR, 1374-7, p. 178; 1381-5, p. 537; 1385-9, pp. 105-7; Sel. Cases in Exchequer Chamber, i. 15-20; C138/2/27; Baker, i. 351-5.
  • 9. CFR, ix. 241-2; x. 86-87, 261, 285; CCR, 1374-7, p. 367; 1381-5, pp. 92, 575; 1385-9, p. 92; CPR, 1389-92, p. 183; 1391-6, p. 272; E401/535, 589.
  • 10. CIPM, xiii. 80; xvi. 595; E364/27D; CP25(1)288/50/805; CCR, 1374-7, p. 541; 1377-81, p. 80; CFR, ix. 21.
  • 11. CCR, 1377-81, pp. 338-9, 481; CPR, 1429-36, p. 62; CIPM, xv. 518; CP25(1)231/61/73, 75; Feudal Aids, vi. 388; Reg. Wykeham (Hants Rec. Soc. 1896-9), ii. 356; VCH Surr. iii. 32.
  • 12. CFR, ix. 217, 267, 357; x. 1155; Reg. Brantingham, ii. 598; CPR, 1385-9, pp. 109, 297.
  • 13. CPR, 1381-5, p. 537; 1391-6, pp. 272, 473, 475, 565; CFR, xi. 126; E101/402 m. 36.
  • 14. CPR, 1399-1401, p. 493; 1405-8, p. 375; CCR, 1374-7, p. 84; 1385-9, p. 275; CFR, x. 89. It appears that Joan Sunninghill recovered her late husband’s manor from William Venour of London in about 1386. As we have seen, Venour temporarily replaced Brantingham as receiver of Devon and Cornwall at this time, which suggests some kind of connexion between the two men.
  • 15. VCH Bucks. ii. 342; CPR, 1369-74, p. 453; 1374-7, p. 99; 1436-41, p. 477; CCR, 1369-74, p. 308; 1374-7, p. 204; 1377-81, pp. 82, 250; 1381-5, pp. 606-7; 1389-92, p. 320; 1399-1402, p. 94; 1409-13, pp. 36-37, 389-90; C138/2/27.