DENYS, Sir Gilbert (d.1422), of Siston, Glos.

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. 1390

Family and Education

?s. of William Denys.1 m. (1) between Oct. 1377 and Oct. 1382, Margaret (c.1352-1398), da. of William Corbet and sis. and h. of William Corbet of Hope, Salop, and Siston, wid. of William Wyriot, s.p.; (2) bef. 1408, Margaret (c.1386-1460), er. da. and event. coh. of Sir Maurice Russell* of Dyrham, Glos., and Kingston Russell, Dorset, by his 1st w., at least 2s., 1da. Kntd. by Jan. 1385.

Offices Held

Commr. of inquiry, Som., Glos. June 1389 (trespasses in Fullwood and Kingswood), Glos. Jan. 1412 (contributions to a subsidy); to determine an appeal in the constable’s ct. Feb. 1394; of sewers, Glos. Feb. 1402, Mar. 1410; to raise men to put down the Welsh rebellion Oct. 1403; of array Nov. 1403.

Sheriff, Glos. 7 Nov. 1393-11 Nov. 1394.

Keeper of the earl of Stafford’s castle of Newport, Mon. c. July 1403-? d. ; steward of the lordship of Newport by 31 Mar. 1406-aft. Feb. 1417; sheriff of the lordship by Feb. 1417-?d.2


Denys probably came from Ogmore in Glamorgan, and most of his landed holdings in Gloucestershire were acquired through his first marriage, to Margaret Corbet. On the death of her brother in 1377, Margaret had inherited the manors of Siston, Alveston and Earthcott, together with the hundred of Langley in that county, as well as the hamlet of Hope in Shropshire. That her inheritance did not also include the family’s substantial estates in Pembrokeshire was due to earlier settlements restricting their descent to the male line. After her marriage to Denys some five years later the couple made Siston their home. For quite a while they were to receive no income from the other Corbet manors, however, for Margaret’s brother had died leaving outstanding part of a debt of £320 to William Canynges*, the Bristol merchant, which sum had now to be raised from his estate. Margaret died childless in or before April 1398, but arrangements made during her lifetime enabled Denys not only to retain her property for the rest of his life, but also to pass it on to the children of his second marriage.3 By 1412 Denys was receiving an estimated annual income from land in Gloucestershire of £40. This came almost entirely from the Corbet properties, for no immediate material advantage had accrued from his second marriage, to Margaret Russell. The match was socially advantageous, even so, for Margaret came of a good family; and there was the certain prospect of her inheritance of at least part of the wealthy Sir Maurice Russell’s estates. In due course, when Russell died in 1416, under the terms of an entail made nearly 50 years before, his Gloucestershire manors of Dyrham, Haresfield and ‘Henton’ were partitioned between his daughters, Margaret Denys and Isabel, wife of Sir John Drayton*: but Denys and Drayton were no longer alive when, 16 years later, the bulk of the Russell estates fell to Margaret and Isabel following the deaths of their half-brother, Thomas, and the latter’s infant daughter.4

Denys’s career had begun in the service of John of Gaunt. It was on the duke’s behalf that, in May 1375, he had taken formal custody of the manors of Aberavon and Sully in Glamorganshire, part of the holdings of the late Lord Despenser. He was to make his mark as a soldier rather than an administrator, and his military service started in March 1378 when he took out royal letters of protection to go overseas in Gaunt’s retinue. Having won his spurs, six years later he enlisted in the army about to sail for Portugal in the company of the Portuguese chancellor, Fernand, master of the Order of St. James. Denys served on his first royal commission at home in 1389, represented Gloucestershire in Parliament for the first time in the following year, and subsequently (1393-4) held office for a term as sheriff. Like so many others of the gentry he was not appointed to local office during the last few years of Richard II’s reign, although whether, in his case, there was a personal or political reason for this is not known. Under Henry IV he resumed his participation in local government, and, furthermore, he was one of the five men summoned from Gloucestershire to attend a great council convened for August 1401. In the meantime, after Gaunt’s death, if not before, Denys had attached himself to Edmund, earl of Stafford, and had taken part in one of the earl’s campaigns — most likely the one mounted against the Scots by Henry IV in 1400. It seems likely that Stafford appointed him as constable of his castle at Newport in Monmouthshire, for after the earl’s death at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403, when the Crown saw fit to take over the garrisoning of his marcher castles during his son’s minority, Denys was retained at Newport in command of a body of 40 lances and 80 archers, his task being to resist the incursions of Glendower’s forces. The government relied heavily on such men of the marches as Denys in combatting the Welsh rebels, and on 7 Oct. that year he was among those ordered to assemble the fencibles of Gloucestershire on foot and horseback and lead them armed to Chepstow to join the King’s army. Three days later he and Edward, Lord Charlton, were granted full powers to pardon any rebels of the lordships of Usk, Caerleon and Trilleck who submitted to them. The following year saw him employed at sea in a fleet under the command of Thomas, Lord Berkeley, the admiral of the west. In less troubled years, after the suppression of the revolt, Denys put his experience as a military commander to his own personal use: in 1412 he and William Gamage ‘with no moderate multitude of armed men’ laid siege to Coity castle, Glamorganshire, then occupied by Sir Richard Vernon’s widow. On 16 Sept. the King dispatched commissioners to raise the siege and to make proclamation that any claims to right or title in the castle should be made according to due process of law, but those sent dared not venture near Coity in the face of the entrenched might of Denys and his supporters. Eventually, the attack was beaten off by forces raised by the sheriffs of Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, and Sir John Greyndore* arrested Denys and Gamage. They were committed to the Tower on 19 Nov., there to remain until 3 June 1413, after the death of Henry IV. Although Henry V showed leniency in releasing Denys, he never appointed him to any royal commissions. However, Denys did continue to hold office at Newport as steward and sheriff, apparently owing these appointments to Anne, dowager countess of Stafford, and her third husband, Sir William Bourgchier*. Denys had also remained on good terms with Lord Berkeley, who shortly before his death in the summer of 1417 named him among the trustees of his estates. Such an undertaking must have brought him into contact with Berkeley’s son-in-law, Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick; and, indeed, one of his own feoffees, Robert Stanshawe†, was a retainer of Warwick’s, and it was on behalf of the earl’s cousin, Richard Beauchamp, earl of Worcester, that he witnessed a charter at Cardiff in May 1421.5

Denys had effected an entail of his principal manor of Siston in 1420, and it was there that he made his will on 16 Oct. 1421. He asked to be buried in the local church near the grave of his first wife, and insisted that his widow should take a vow of chastity if she wished to retain possession of his moveable goods. (If she refused she would only receive the customary third share, the rest being divided between his sons and assigned for payment of his funeral expenses.) Denys evidently mistrusted his wife; and, moreover, he did not ask her to act as an executor, choosing instead his daughter Joan, wife of Thomas Gamage (a kinsman of his former lieutenant). The overseers of the will were Bishop Henry Beaufort of Winchester, Bishop Philip Morgan of Worcester and Master Lewis Cocherche. Denys died on 24 Mar. 1422 and his will came up for probate on I Apr. His heir was Maurice Denys, his eldest son by his second marriage, who, then aged 12, was granted in wardship to Edward Stradling, esquire (the husband of Bishop Beaufort’s bastard). Denys’s widow was far from inclined to take a vow of chastity; on 12 Dec. she obtained the Council’s licence to marry John Kemys†.6 Ten years later she and her sister Isabel (by now married to Stephen Hatfield†), inherited the rest of the considerable Russell estates in Somerset, Dorset and elsewhere; and she lived on in enjoyment of the same until 1460. It was not until Kemys died in 1477 that her property descended to Denys’s grandson, Sir Walter.7

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


Variants: Deneys, Deonys, Dynys.

  • 1. W.R. Williams, Parl. Hist. Glos. 29.
  • 2. C. Rawcliffe, Staffords, 214.
  • 3. CIPM, xv. 26-30; C143/401/2; CP25(1)78/80/57; Reg. Wakefield (Worcs. Hist. Soc. n.s. vii), 321, 443; CFR, xi. 269.
  • 4. C115/K2/6682 ff. 37d-39; C138/17/61; CFR, xiv. 175-6.
  • 5. CIMisc. iii. 999; Foedera ed. Rymer (orig. edn.), vii. 186; Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 148; PPC, i. 160; ii. 68, 215; CPR, 1401-5, pp. 438, 440; 1408-13, pp. 433, 476; E101/43/32; CCR, 1409-13, pp. 367, 407; 1413-19, p. 17; Cat. Muns. Berkeley Castle ed. Jeayes, no. 581; Neath Abbey Chs. ed. Francis; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xiv. 264.
  • 6. PCC 53 Marche; C138/63/27; C139/56/53; CCR, 1422-9, p. 3; CFR, xiv. 441-2; CPR, 1422-9, p. 19.
  • 7. CFR, xvi. 125-7, 129, 131; xix. 246; G. Scott Thomson, Two Cents. Fam. Hist. 326-7; C140/60/16; CCR, 1476-85, pp. 145-6.