CLAVERING, Sir John (c.1364-1425), of Callaly and Yetlington, Northumb.

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

b.c.1364, s. and h. of Sir Robert Clavering* by his 1st w. m. (1) Joan, da. of Thomas Heton, 1s; (2) Ellen. Kntd. by July 1389.1

Offices Held

Chief steward and bailiff of the abp. of York’s liberty of Hexhamshire, Northumb. 10 July 1382-bef. 18 July 1405.

Commr. to raise debts owed to Thomas Arundel, former abp. of York, Northumb. Mar. 1398; of inquiry June 1406 (concealments); to raise a royal loan June 1406; survey Roxburgh castle Dec. 1416.2

Sheriff, Northumb. 5 Nov. 1403-21 Jan. 1405.


While still a minor, aged about 18, John Clavering was granted the offices of chief steward and bailiff of the archbishop of York’s liberty of Hexhamshire. He seems to have been related to the then archbishop, Alexander Neville (younger son of John, Lord Neville of Raby), who made the award to his ‘kinsman’ for life in July 1382, had his letters patent ratified by the York chapter in the following January and finally, in September 1384, obtained official confirmation of the appointment from Richard II himself. By July 1389, when he witnessed a deed at Newcastle for (Sir) John Widdrington*, John had been knighted. No more is heard of him, however, until his appearance four years later in Chancery as a mainpernor for the judge, Sir William Fulthorpe, who was being sued for debt. The death of his father, in January 1394, left Sir John heir to the manors of Callaly and Yetlington in Northumberland and of Tillmouth and Duddo to the south in the palatinate of Durham. He took immediate possession, although repeated raids by the Scots had greatly reduced the value of his two Northumbrian properties, which produced no more than about £3 p.a. as a result of the devastation.3

By the spring of 1398 Sir John had become embroiled in a dispute with Sir William Swinburne*, who ‘with false and rashly assumed authority’ had taken over the stewardship of Hexhamshire and the fees and profits of office, seizing an opportunity offered by the death of Archbishop Waldby in the previous January. Sir John was not prepared to countenance such a challenge to his authority, even from so powerful an adversary, and an appeal by him to the royal council earned Swinburne a stinging rebuke, as well as the threat of interrogation at Westminster should he fail to relinquish the post at once. Sir John evidently supported the Lancastrian coup d’état of 1399, and remained loyal to Henry IV during the northern uprising four years later. Perhaps his family connexion with the Nevilles predisposed him to take a firm stand against their rivals the Percys, but at all events King Henry trusted him enough to make him sheriff of Northumberland in November 1403, during the aftermath of the rebellion. The combination of recent arson and looting by the insurgents, together with the long-term effects of repeated forays by the Scots caused Sir John tremendous problems, since he could no longer raise the required farm, even though persistently pressed to do so by the Exchequer. His desire both to defend and explain his position may have led him to stand for the Parliament of 1406, during which King Henry ordered the treasurer of England to make allowance for Sir John’s difficulties. Bishop Skirlaw of Durham took advantage of Sir John’s election to name him as one of his parliamentary proxies, along with Sir Robert Lisle* and Sir Thomas Rokeby*, both of whom were staunch supporters of the Lancastrian regime.4

Although he is not known to have represented Northumberland again in the House of Commons, Sir John did attend the parliamentary elections for the county at least six times between 1407 and 1422.5 He had, of course, many friends and associates among the Northumbrian gentry, and during this period we find him acting, along with Robert Harbottle* and others, as a trustee of a sizeable estate around Corbridge. On drawing up his will, in 1409, the influential landowner, Sir Robert Ogle, not only left Sir John two fine horses but also made him an executor, a task which he shared with the testator’s younger son, John Bertram*. In February 1412, Sir John served as a juror at an inquisition post mortem held at Newcastle on Isabel, the widow of Sir William Carnaby*; and a few months later he attested a conveyance of the manor of Newham for Sir Richard Arundel.6

Sir John died on 22 Mar. 1425, by which date Robert, the child of his first marriage to Joan, the daughter of Thomas Heton, was about 23 years old. Ellen, his second wife, survived him, and received an assignment of dower from his estates in the palatinate of Durham.7

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


  • 1. C136/80/14; C139/26/47; Hist. Northumb. xiv. ped. facing p. 537; J. Hodgson, Hist. Northumb. ii (2), 252.
  • 2. Cal. Scots Docs. (supp.) v. no. 953.
  • 3. CPR, 1381-5, p. 410; Hodgson, loc. cit.; C136/80/14; CCR, 1392-6, p. 118; DKR, xxxiii. 49; CFR, xi. 100.
  • 4. Northumb. RO, Swinburne (Capheaton) ms, 1/96; SC8/42/2098; CCR, 1405-9, p. 47.
  • 5. C219/10/4, 11/2, 5, 12/2, 5, 13/1.
  • 6. C137/85/2; Surtees Soc. clxiv. 119; Newcastle-upon-Tyne Rec. Ser. vii. 107; CCR, 1409-13, p. 362.
  • 7. C139/26/47; DKR, xxxiii. 175; xlv. 179; Hist. Northumb. xiv. ped. facing p. 537.