DERBY, John (d.1420), of Wallingford, Berks.

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



Feb. 1388

Family and Education

m. bef. Apr. 1400, Alice, wid. of John Woderove, late receiver of the honour of Wallingford.1

Offices Held

Poulterer of the household of Joan, princess of Wales, bef. Aug. 1385.

Bailiff, Wallingford, Mich. 1385-6; mayor 1396-7, 1409-11; alderman 1401-2, 1411-15, 1417-18, 1419- d. 2

Purveyor for the works at Wallingford castle 18 Mar. 1392-aft. Aug. 1399.

Receiver of the honour of Wallingford 1 Apr. 1400-Mich. 1401.3

Tax collector, Berks. Mar. 1401.


Probably a local man, Derby first appears in Wallingford court records in 1378. He kept a hostelry in the town which he maintained until at least 1394, but at views of frankpledge he was several times amerced for selling ale, wine and victuals at excessive prices.4 At some time before her death at Wallingford in 1385, Derby had become poulterer of the household to Joan, princess of Wales, who usually resided at Wallingford castle. It was probably as a result that he received in 1386 a royal grant of 2d. a day for life, and was retained as a purveyor of victuals. (In 1390 he was appointed to buy poultry for consumption at a tournament to be held in London.) In 1391 he received a grant for life of two royal mills outside Wallingford called ‘South Gate Mills’ at a basic rent of £5 a year, provided that he kept them in good repair. (They were then ‘on the point of falling to the ground’.)

Derby’s employment by the Crown continued in 1392, when he was appointed purveyor of the works at Wallingford castle. He was still occupying this office in August 1399, when he obtained a royal writ of aid to impress labourers and requisition materials. Nor did the change of dynasty affect him adversely. Quite the contrary, for not only did Henry IV confirm his annuity and his tenure for life of the royal mills, but also, on 1 Apr. 1400, he appointed him as receiver of the honours of Wallingford and St. Valery, the four-and-a-half hundreds of Chiltern, and the fee farm of Wallingford. He probably secured this position partly as a result of marrying the widow of the last receiver, John Woderove, a servant of the duchy of Lancaster who had died earlier that year. His retention of the receivership however, was short, for by Michaelmas 1401 he had surrendered it to John Coterell*, doubtless because he was already £166 4s.10d. in arrears. The size of the debt was perhaps mainly due to Woderove’s deficits, which Derby had presumably accepted on marrying his widow. He was now permitted to pay them off at the generous rate of £10 a year.5

Derby’s influence in local government was of long duration. Having served as bailiff in 1385-6, in 1396 he became mayor, probably for the first time, and received 16s.8d. as his stipend. It was perhaps also as mayor that, in 1398, he was allocated the sum of £10 diversis expensis factis apud London’.6 He continued to serve the borough, most notably as an alderman, right up to his death. Furthermore, from 1386 onwards, he was closely involved in Wallingford’s parliamentary representation, being frequently associated in this respect with his fellow royal servant, John Coterell. He stood surety for Coterell in January 1390, in 1394 and 1395 when the two men served in the Commons together, and for both Parliaments of 1397. Thereafter, though he himself was never again returned to the Lower House, he was present in his capacity as either mayor or alderman at the borough elections of 1410, 1413 (May), 1414 (Apr.), 1419 and 1420.7

Derby perhaps owed both his election to Parliament and, initially, his prominent position in the borough, to his local importance as a royal servant. It is likely, however, that he was counted among the richest burgesses of the town, for, apart from his royal pension of 2d. per day and income from the South Gate Mills (both confirmed by Henry V in 1413), he also owned considerable property in Garsington, Wheatley and Cowley (Oxfordshire). This last was leased to John Warfield* and others in May 1420 for an annual rent of £8, just a few months before Derby’s death, which occurred in December that year.8

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: Charles Kightly


  • 1. SC6/813/19.
  • 2. Berks. RO, W/JBb/49-50, W/FR/7, W/TLa/13; Boarstall Cart. (Oxf. Hist. Soc. lxxxviii), nos. 805, 826-7, 832-3, 836-8, 840; Bodl. Chs. Berks. 130-1, 133; C219/11/2, 3, 12/3, 4.
  • 3. CFR, xii. 53; SC6/1096/15.
  • 4. Berks. RO, W/JBb/34, 35, 39, 41, 42, 45-51, 53, 54, 58.
  • 5. CPR, 1385-9, p. 163; 1388-92, pp. 302, 422; 1391-6, p. 29; 1396-9, p. 596; 1399-1401, p. 79; SC6/813/19.
  • 6. Berks. RO, W/FR/7: Derby’s visit may have been connected with an attempt to continue the reduction of Wallingford’s fee farm by half, see CPR, 1388-92, p. 448.
  • 7. C219/9/7, 10-13, 10/5, 11/2, 3, 12/3, 4.
  • 8. CPR, 1413-16, p. 52; CP25(1)191/26/42; CFR, xiv. 363-4.