CHAMBERLAIN, William (d.1445), of Southampton.

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

Family and Education

2nd s. of Thomas Chamberlain alias Lorimer of Grampound, Cornw. by his w. Joan.1 m. (1) by Aug. 1421, Margery (d. 8 Sept. 1432), prob. wid. of Henry Keswick (d.1420),2 1s. d.v.p. 1da.; (2) c. Mar. 1438, Jane, wid. of Robert Perry and gdda. of Richard Cavendish.3

Offices Held

Commr. of inquiry, Hants Feb. 1422 (counterfeiting); weirs Dec. 1435 (q.); array Jan. 1436; to search for smuggled goods, Southampton Oct. 1436; of gaol delivery, Winchester castle Nov. 1442.

Recorder, Southampton prob. by 1428-aft. Sept. 1439.4

J.p.q. Hants 28 Oct. 1439-d.


William’s father, who held lands around Grampound and Creed on the river Fal as well as property in Truro, became involved in Southampton affairs in 1392, from when he served for five years as steward of the hospital of St. Julian. In 1400 he began to build up his family’s interests in the town by acquiring a lease from the hospital, for as much as £20 a year, of the New Inn atte Corone, along with five messuages and a great gate in English Street, three more dwellings and three tenements in French Street, a house in Haymarket, cottages in East Street and a plot in the suburbs. Nevertheless, he retained his holdings in his native shire, and it was a Cornish borough, Truro, which his son William first represented in Parliament. All of the Chamberlain properties in Southampton were eventually to pass to William, but in the meantime, in 1421, after his father’s death, he made provision for his mother to keep for the rest of her life the Cornish estate and most of the Southampton property in fee tail, with successive remainders to himself and his brothers, Robert (already an esquire), Ralph (bailiff of Southampton in 1432-3) and John. William himself took possession of two houses next to St. Michael’s church and two of the French Street buildings, but New Inn and the rest of the Chamberlain estate passed to his elder brother, Robert.5 To compensate, William set about accumulating land on his own behalf: in 1424 he acquired premises that had belonged to John Penkestone*, a garden by Market Lane and access to a well; three years later he purchased part of a kitchen and a plot (‘Moushole’) next to a garden of his own, and in 1428 he took possession of some of the property in the town belonging to Sir Henry Pleasington*. The Chamberlains together acquired much of the estate of Richard Bradway*, while William alone purchased property in Simnel Street and above the town gaol. His dispute with ‘God’s House’ hospital over ownership of the storehouse and forge next to his land on the shore was resolved by his release of these buildings in 1435. Four years previously his holdings in Southampton alone had been valued at £15 p.a.6 But as well as these Chamberlain had by then acquired lands elsewhere in Hampshire. His first wife (with whom in the 1420s he had obtained indulgences from Pope Martin V) was probably the widow of Henry Keswick, a lawyer, for in 1422 he was able to secure from Bishop Beaufort the keeping of Keswick’s manor of ‘Nabyngerton’ during the minority of his son and heir, together with the latter’s marriage. By 1425 he had obtained a life interest in young Keswick’s manor of Hinton Daubnay; and in 1438 the heir quitclaimed to him the ‘manor’ of Stamshaw in Portsea, along with all of his late father’s holdings in Fareham, Redbridge, Totton and Eling. Chamberlain also acquired lands in Redbridge and Littleton as well as two houses in Winchester, worth 26s.8d. annually. In addition, in 1433 he had received seisin from the widow of Robert Inkpen (into whose family his brother Ralph had married) of a house and four cottages situated in Parchment Street in the same city, along with ‘Inkepennesmede’ and messuages outside the west gate. In 1440 Chamberlain had 4,000 slates carried to Winchester from Southampton for a building project. By this date he also held lands at Tidworth, for goods were also carted there on his behalf, and he was occasionally described as ‘of South Tidworth’. Indeed, his landed holdings in Hampshire had an estimated annual value of as much as £64.7

Chamberlain’s career as a lawyer had evidently flourished. He was probably recorder of Southampton as early as 1428, when, like the common clerk, John Fleming†, he received livery of striped cloth. In 1428-9 he was responsible for making several payments at Westminster in connexion with the town’s charter: for writs from the royal justices, for the counsel of a serjeant-at-arms, Thomas Rolfe, and of John Vampage†, for attorneys employed in the King’s bench, and for the display and enrolment of the charter in that court. Also, in 1429 he and Fleming rode to Salisbury to complete the purchase of West Hall, Southampton, for the town. He was certainly recorder when elected to the Parliaments of 1429, 1431, 1432, 1433 and 1435, on the first occasion receiving £22 13s.5d. (as much as 3s.6d. a day) for his wages and expenses when away from home. Chamberlain attended the shire elections at Winchester in 1427, 1431, 1432, 1437 and 1442, and he also travelled there in 1439 for a suit between the town of Southampton and Winchester cathedral priory. In the Parliament of that year he acted as proxy for the abbot of Hyde. Two years previously he had made a formal release to the prior of Selborne of all actions against him, while in 1444 he was referred to as ‘legis peritus’.8 For the past five years he had been a member of the Hampshire bench.

Not surprisingly, Chamberlain’s standing as a lawyer and landowner gave him influential connexions in the shire. The feoffees of his lands included such notables as Sir Maurice Berkeley†, Robert Colpays†, the Winchester lawyer, and William Brocas*, esquire. In January 1444 his brother Robert relinquished to him all his interest in the family estate in Southampton, undertaking that if he were disturbed in possession, he might receive annual rents of £10 from their Cornish patrimony.9 After the death of his only son, William, Chamberlain provided for the inheritance of his daughter Joan, who at the time of his death, which occurred on 6 Apr. 1445, was aged 18 and married to Richard Holt, esquire, of Coldrey in Froyle, Hampshire (either the knight of the shire of 1431 or the latter’s son of the same name). The Southampton terrier of 1454 shows Holt in possession of Chamberlain’s property.10

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Queen’s Coll. Oxf., God’s House, D431. HP ed. Wedgwood 1439-1509, Biogs. 172, asserts that Chamberlain was the s. of Margaret Norman, and that it was through her that he came to hold Sarson, Normanscourt and South Tidworth, Hants, but there is no evidence for this.
  • 2. VCH Hants, iii. 96; Coll. Top. et. Gen. v. 284-5.
  • 3. God’s House, D438. Jane Perry, co-recipient with Chamberlain of a grant by his feoffees in 1438, is not therein described as his wife.
  • 4. Stewards’ Bks. (Soton Rec. Soc. xxxv), i. 14; ii. 85.
  • 5. God’s House, D431-3, R296-300; Black Bk. (Soton Rec. Soc. xiii), i. 56-57.
  • 6. God’s House, D434-5, 437, 774, R406; Black Bk. (Soton Rec. Soc. xiv), 33-35, 41, 45, 48; CCR, 1422-9, pp. 47, 454, 462; Southampton RO, SC4/2/252, 253a; Stewards’ Bks. ii. 55; Feudal Aids, ii. 360.
  • 7. CPL, vii. 303, 562; Feudal Aids, ii. 358, 362, 375; VCH Hants, iii. 193; CCR, 1429-35, p. 288; 1435-41, p. 169; Winchester Coll. muns. 20259; CP25(1)207/32/8; Brokage Bk. (Soton Rec. Soc. xl), i. 113, 161-2; God’s House, D376; E179/173/92; Reg. Common Seal (Hants Rec. Ser. ii), no. 195.
  • 8. Stewards’ Bks. i. 14, 18, 28, 30, 32, 34, 38, 78, 100, 102, 136; ii. p. xiii (where Chamberlain’s fee is erroneously given as 26s.8d. per quarter — see pp. 29, 79, 85), 84; Port Bk. 1427-30 (Soton Rec. Soc. xv), 116; C219/13/5, 14/2, 3, 15/1, 2; SC10/49/2434; Chs. Selborne (Hants Rec. Soc. iv), 111; Southampton RO, SC4/2/275.
  • 9. God’s House, D376, 436; CCR, 1441-7, pp. 205-6.
  • 10. C139/120/43; Southampton RO, SC13/1/1. Joan m. (2) bef. 1466, Constantine Darell† of Collingbourne Wilts. and d. in 1496, when one of her heirs was Holt’s gdda. Laura, countess of Ormond: CIPM Hen. VII, i. 1255; CP, x. 132-3. Thomas Chamberlain, MP for Ludgershall in 1442 and Soton in 1453, was not William’s bro. (as given in HP, 1439-1509, Biogs. 171-2) but his nephew.