DEBENHAM, William II, of Ipswich, Suff.

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



Nov. 1414
May 1421

Family and Education

?s. of William Debenham I*.

Offices Held

Bailiff, Ipswich Sept. 1414-15, 1417-20, 1429-30, 1433-4, 1441-2, 1444-5.1

Tronager, Ipswich 28 Jan. 1420-1.

J.p. Ipswich 10 July 1433-Nov. 1440.


Either this William Debenham or his older namesake acquired a tenement in St. Mary’s parish, Ipswich, in March 1404, to which in the course of the next five years he added land in the same district and in St. Nicholas’s parish. In 1411 Debenham (probably the younger man) purchased four shops with solars in St. Laurence’s, and later transactions dating between 1414 and 1422 involved property of his in the parishes of St. Margaret and St. Peter.2 Like the other William Debenham, he was a merchant dealing in cloth, but as the principal commodity he traded in was wine (for example, he imported 45 casks on the Marie which entered port in December 1413) he was usually described as ‘vintner’. Later, in February 1428, he obtained a royal licence to ship grain from Ipswich to the Low Countries.3

Debenham attended the Ipswich elections to the Parliaments of 1410, 1413 (May), 1421 (Dec.), 1423, 1427 and 1429, on occasion acting as mainpernor for those elected. When bailiff he was responsible for making the parliamentary returns, doing so for the assemblies of 1414 (Nov.), 1417 and 1419 — he himself being one of those elected on all three occasions — and again in 1442. Furthermore, in the company initially of his kinsman Gilbert Debenham* of Little Wenham and then of the latter’s son, he attended the shire elections for Suffolk in 1411, 1413 (May), 1414 (Nov.), 1417, 1427 and 1431. In 1417, himself returned for Ipswich, he was named as mainpernor for Sir John Braham, one of the knights of the shire.4

In April 1420 Debenham and his fellow bailiff, Robert Lucas*, were accused in Chancery by John Shipley, bailiff of the estates of the duchy of Lancaster in Suffolk, of the wrongful arrest of a duchy tenant at Earl Stonham, and three months later Debenham had to provide securities that he would not procure any hurt or harm to Shipley. That August he was named with several prominent members of the gentry of East Anglia as a feoffee of property left in the will of Margaret Weyland, with whom he may have become acquainted through his friend James Andrew* of Sproughton, Margaret’s son-in-law.5 There are other signs that Debenham was establishing himself among the local gentry: in 1431 he was enfeoffed of land at Stoke by Sir William Phelip*, and three years later he acted as co-trustee of property at Soham, along with Phelip (by then the King’s chamberlain) and Bishop Alnwick of Norwich (the King’s confessor). In 1436 James Andrew’s son, John†, made Debenham a feoffee of lands at Sproughton, once belonging to his father. Meanwhile, in October 1434, Debenham had obtained at the Exchequer a cottage and tenement in Ipswich on a 40 years’ lease. Two years later the bailiff of Ipswich leased to him and others land in the parishes of St. Nicholas and St. Clement, for 6d. a year; and in 1443 a plea of fresh force was brought against him in the borough court for charging excessive rent for a house in St. Mary’s. He had, moreover, been acquiring holdings outside the town: some time between 1431 and 1442, described as ‘of Stoke’, he had been sued in Chancery for land at Hadleigh, and by the later date he had also obtained property at Soham.6

Debenham is last recorded alive on the occasion of his eighth election as bailiff of Ipswich in 1444. Precisely when he died is not known, but he was buried in the church of the Carmelite friars of Ipswich; and in 1464 John Drayles, who had obtained most of his property by purchase, not only requested burial next to his tomb, but also asked that masses be said for 30 years for his soul.7

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: K.N. Houghton


  • 1. E368/188, 190-3; N. Bacon, Annalls of Ipswiche ed. Richardson, 93, 96.
  • 2. Ipswich RO, recog. rolls 6-14 Hen. IV, 3-10 Hen. V.
  • 3. E122/51/39; Add. 30158, f. 3; DKR, xlviii. 253. But no firm evidence has been found to establish his identity as William Debenham, the citizen and skinner of London, who had trading connexions in Glos. and Wilts. and died shortly before July 1450, leaving a widow named Isabel: CPR, 1416-22, p. 93; 1422-9, p. 152; Guildhall Lib. London, 9171/3, f. 287.
  • 4. C219/10/5, 6, 11/1, 4, 12/2, 3, 6, 13/2, 5, 14/1, 2, 15/2.
  • 5. CCR, 1419-22, p. 115; C1/5/165; HMC 9th Rep. pt. 1, p. 228.
  • 6. CP25(1)224/116/15, 16; C1/10/89; CFR, xvi. 218-19; CCR, 1435-41, p. 107; HMC 9th Rep. pt. 1, p. 234; Stowe Ch. 412; Ipswich RO, roll AV10/7.
  • 7. HMC 9th Rep. pt. 1, pp. 229-30.