COLVILLE, Sir Thomas (d.1405), of Coxwold, Yorks.

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

s. and h. of Sir Thomas Colville (d.c.1398) of Coxwold. m. Joan (fl. 1406), s.p. Kntd. by Feb. 1394.1

Offices Held

Master forester of the royal forest of Galtres, Yorks. 6 Oct. 1395-d.

Commr. of inquiry, Yorks. Oct. 1395 (wastes on the lands of the alien priory of Begard), Northumb. Feb. 1401 (smuggling at Newcastle-upon-Tyne); to make an arrest, Yorks., Westmld. Nov. 1398; of oyer and terminer, Yorks. Nov. 1401 (poaching on the estates of St. Mary’s abbey, York), June 1402 (assault on the monks of St. Mary’s); array Aug. 1403.

Collector of tunnage and poundage, Cumb. Feb. 1405.


By the middle of the 12th century the Colvilles had acquired from their feudal overlord, Roger Mowbray (ancestor of the dukes of Norfolk), the Yorkshire manors of Coxwold, Yearsley and Oulston, which, with other property in York, Thirsk, Everley, Nunwick, Kilburn and Kirklington-cum-Upsland, provided them with a substantial landed income for generations. The name Thomas was frequently used in the family, so it is not always easy to distinguish the subject of this biography from his father, who died in about 1398. The latter served in the retinue of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, from the early 1370s onwards, and was also connected with Ralph, Lord Neville of Raby, first as a partner in jousts against the Scots, in 1391, and later as one of his attorneys. Notwithstanding his frequent appearances as a royal commissioner in the north, Sir Thomas Colville the elder seems to have been a violent and lawless man, at least if the allegations of Walter Skirlaw, bishop of Durham, who accused him of sustained attacks on his estates in Yorkshire, are to be believed.2 Sir Thomas certainly used his influence to further the career of his son, who had been knighted by February 1394, when he went bail for Sir Thomas Musgrave*, an influential neighbour then implicated in the murder of William Soulby*. It was in the following year that the younger Colville secured the lucrative post of master forester or steward of the royal forest of Galtres, which was granted to him for life on the request of Robert Stokley, a member of Richard II’s household. He soon came to share his father’s attachment to Lord Neville of Raby, since in November 1396 he offered securities on his behalf as farmer of certain property in Yorkshire, left by the widowed Lady Willoughby. He performed a similar service three years later, by which time Neville had been created earl of Westmorland, and was about to take over the wardship of part of the northern estates of the late duke of Norfolk. A series of recognizances, drawn up between February and June 1405, shows that Sir Thomas was also involved in the earl’s financial affairs, being a party to transactions in which sums of at least £216 changed hands.3

Perhaps because of his father’s loyal service to John of Gaunt, Sir Thomas was singled out for preferment after the Lancastrian coup d’état of 1399, when Gaunt’s son, Henry of Bolingbroke, seized the throne. In October of that year he was granted half the manor and castle of Bolsover in Derbyshire, which was worth about £18 p.a., even after a standing charge of 20 marks had been met from the revenues. He continued to sit on various royal commissions, and in July 1401 he obtained letters from the Crown permitting him to appoint John Sowerby* as one of his attorneys while he was engaged on royal business in Scotland. Not surprisingly in view of his influential position as a local landowner and friend of the Nevilles, he was returned to the Parliament of 1402 by the Yorkshire electors. Sir Thomas’s close relationship with the earl of Westmorland proved in the end, however, to be his undoing, for he was murdered at Overton on Ascension Day 1405 by a group of insurgents who had thrown in their lot with the Nevilles’ sworn enemy, Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland. Ironically, in view of the circumstances leading to his death, Sir Thomas’s next heir was found to be a distant cousin, named John Percy, whose own estates had just been confiscated because of his part as a ringleader in Northumberland’s rebellion. Although Percy obtained royal letters of pardon not long afterwards, Henry IV’s leniency stopped short at allowing him entry to an inheritance worth at least £46 p.a., and the property was farmed out to various local men who had stayed loyal to the Crown. Sir Thomas’s brother (or half-brother), William Yearsley, was allowed to lease certain holdings in and around Upsland, and thus came into direct conflict with his widowed sister-in-law, Joan, because of his refusal to assign her a suitable dower. The men responsible for Sir Thomas’s death were immediately declared liable to forfeiture; and in April 1408 a commission of oyer and terminer, headed, appropriately enough, by the earl of Westmorland, was set up to investigate the whole incident.4

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


  • 1. VCH Yorks. (N. Riding ), ii. 21; CCR, 1392-6, p. 272; Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. lix. 44-45.
  • 2. VCH Yorks. (N. Riding ), ii. 14; CPR, 1391-6, pp. 197, 509; 1396-9, p. 365; Reg. Gaunt, 1371-5, no. 1288; Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xix. 121; C1/3/17; CP25(1)278/144/14.
  • 3. CFR, xi. 196; xii. 29; CPR, 1391-6, pp. 559, 624; CCR, 1392-6, p. 272; 1402-5, pp. 509, 521; 1405-9, p. 72.
  • 4. CPR, 1399-1401, p. 23; 1405-8, pp. 38, 43, 48, 158, 163, 488; Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. lix. 44-46, 67; VCH Yorks. (N. Riding ), ii. 21; CFR, xiii. 20, 21; Cal. Scots. Docs. (supp.) v. no. 2080.