COLAS, Henry, of Guildford, Surr.
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Family and Education
1s. illegit. d.v.p.
Colas was probably the son of Henry Colas of Guildford, a wealthy inn-keeper, who sat for the borough in the Parliament of 1377 (Jan.) at the end of a long and active career. Colas senior’s interests also extended to trade, for besides playing an important part in the affairs of the local guild merchant, he had farmed the cloth subsidy in Kent for over 12 years.1 The younger Henry, also a taverner by trade, was evidently a prosperous man too, although most of the evidence about him derives from the various lawsuits in which he became involved. The first of a series of actions concerning the titles of Henry Colas and his illegitimate son, Walter, to property in Surrey was brought at the Guildford assizes in October 1383 by Thomas Manrok, who claimed to have been wrongfully evicted from farmland in Stoke. On this occasion Colas won his case, but found himself in serious difficulties after the death of his son later in the same year. His attempts to retain the young man’s land and tenements were clearly illegal, since the property of any bastard dying without issue reverted by law to the Crown. An inquisition post mortem was finally held at Guildford in July 1386, when it was found that Colas had no title to any of the rents and profits which he had been taking for the previous three years. In the following December he stood surety at the Exchequer for Edmund, duke of York, Robert Braybrooke, bishop of London, and others as keepers of certain holdings in the borough, which had probably been in his own hands until the jury made its unfavourable return. This connexion with the duke dated back to March 1384 (when York was still earl of Cambridge), at which time Colas received royal letters of protection for one year’s service on the Scottish border in his retinue. It also explains his appearance with York and Braybrooke as plaintiffs in an action of novel disseisin heard in October 1387 before the justices of assize at Guildford: the disproportionately high damages of £10 paid by the defendants certainly suggest that interests other than his own were primarily at stake. Colas himself appears to have been far less successful in his dealings with the law. Soon after the inquisition post mortem on his late son’s estates he faced a second suit brought by the latter’s former tenants, and again during the Easter term of 1390 and the Trinity term of 1402 he was back in court to defend himself against other aggrieved landowners.2
Although he is known to have lived in Guildford until 1413, if not later, Colas does not seem to have become involved in the business of local government. In June 1395 he witnessed a quitclaim of land in and around the borough made by John Cross*; and at Michaelmas 1396 he began making regular biannual payments of 10s. each as a fine at the Exchequer. These continued for the next 17 years and may perhaps have been incurred as a result of his concealment of crown property during the 1380s. A fine of this size would only have been imposed for some particularly serious offence, but there is no evidence of any ill-considered political activities or other misdemeanors on his part.3