DERHAM, Thomas (d.1444/5), of Crimplesham, Norf.

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. of Ralph Moule of East Dereham, Norf.1 m. (1) ?bef. Nov. 1424, Agnes;2 (2) bef. Oct. 1427, Alice; (3) Elizabeth, da. and h. of Baldwin de Vere of Denver, Norf.3

Offices Held

Commr. of inquiry, Norf., Suff., Cambs. Feb. 1401, Apr. 1402, June 1406 (concealments of royal rights), Dec. 1401 (trespasses against the townspeople of Lynn by the bishop of Norwich), May 1407 (attacks on foreign merchants), Norf. Nov. 1408 (insurrections at Thetford), Feb. 1410 (a complaint by the prior of Wymondham), Norf., Suff. Apr. 1410 (the regrating of corn), Norf. July 1410 (misprisions), Dec. 1415 (unrest in Lynn), Jan. 1423 (the claim of Joan, Lady Cobham, to the manor of Burnham), Dec. 1433 (misgovernance at Norwich), Bucks. Mar. 1439 (escapes of felons); oyer and terminer, Suff. July 1402, Norf. Mar. 1411; to raise loans, Norf., Suff. June 1406; of sewers, Norf. June 1407, Cambs., Hunts., Northants., Lincs., Norf. May 1418, Norf. Nov. 1424, Mar. 1430 (q.), Cambs. Dec. 1435; array, Norf. Apr. 1418 Mar. 1419; gaol delivery, Norwich castle Feb.1428, Nov. 1428 (q.);4 to assess a parliamentary tax, Norf. Apr. 1431.

J.p. Norf. 20 Mar. 1406-Feb. 1407, 12 Dec. 1414-Nov. 1423, 20 July 1424-Nov. 1430, Lynn 26 Feb. 1407-Nov. 1412, 16 Aug. 1414-Apr. 1429, 28 Feb. 1437-July 1444, Suff. 20 Feb. 1410-Dec. 1417.

King’s attorney, ct. c.p. 13 July-7 Aug. 1408.

Steward of Bacton, Suff. by appointment of Michael de la Pole, earl of Suffolk, Mich. 1410-11, of Gaywood, Norf. for Bp. Wakering of Norwich by Mich. 1420.5

Escheator, Beds. and Bucks. 12 Nov. 1414-14 Dec. 1415.


Although there were Derhams living in Bishop’s Lynn from before 1347, Thomas was a native of East Dereham, several miles away. He was described as ‘alias Thomas Moule of East Dereham’ in March 1388, when the letters patent of protection granted him as sailing to Brest in the retinue of Sir John Roches* were revoked because he had failed to join the expedition. His father, who held part of the manor of ‘Wesenham’s’ was also, in 1398, possessed of a part of a knight’s fee in Crimplesham near West Dereham, and it was there that Thomas was to take up residence.6

Derham soon gained a reputation as a competent lawyer, building up a busy practice in the service of many important clients, whose interests he safeguarded as an attorney in the lawcourts and as a trustee of their estates. His career effectively began in the late 1390s when he acted on behalf of Sir Leonard Kerdeston of Norfolk and the master of the local hospital of Beck, among others. Subsequently, he made numerous appearances as a surety in Chancery and the Exchequer. Although most of his business came from the gentry of Norfolk, in 1403 he was one of a syndicate who purchased from the Braybrookes Lord Grey’s manor of Hartley in Kent, only to sell it subsequently to John Urban*, the Cornishman. In the same year he provided securities at the Exchequer for Elizabeth, widow of Robert, 5th Lord Scales, whose cousin, Sir Simon Felbrigg KG, became a close associate of his in many transactions and, indeed, was to act in later years on his own behalf as a feoffee. In 1405 and 1406 he went surety for lessees of certain estates forfeited by Thomas Mowbray, the late Earl Marshal: namely, Sir Thomas Erpingham KG and Mowbray’s retainer, William Rees*. In Erpingham he found an influential contact at Henry IV’s court, a link which the burgesses of Bishop’s Lynn may well have borne in mind when electing him as their parliamentary representative at that time. For Rees he was later to appear as a trustee of manors in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.7

Derham’s election by Bishop’s Lynn to the Parliament of 1406 perhaps owed something to his activities in the town as a royal commissioner five years previously when, while investigating complaints made against Bishop Despenser of Norwich, he had enjoyed the burgesses’ hospitality. But more recently, in 1404-5, the town had paid him £1 for his legal advice. In later years, at least from 1413 to 1418, he was to be retained for his counsel to the local authorities at a fee of £2 a year.8Furthermore, he served as a j.p. there (by royal appointment) for 27 years. Derham’s tenure of the office of King’s attorney in the common pleas in 1408 was extremely short (the post having been promised elsewhere), but it was over a long period, 1408-22, that, again at an annual fee of £2, he was retained by the duchy of Lancaster council as one of its apprentices-at-law.9

Very likely the most powerful of Derham’s patrons were Bishop Beaufort of Winchester (for whom he witnessed letters patent at Southwark in 1409), and the bishop’s brother Thomas, who in 1416 became duke of Exeter. Derham was co-feoffee with the latter in property at Lynn and after the duke’s death (in 1426) he continued to look after his posthumous concerns not only as a trustee but also as an administrator of his estates in Suffolk and Hampshire.10 In earlier years the Beauforts had been closely attached to Henry of Monmouth when prince of Wales, and it is of particular interest that several of Derham’s clients were of the prince’s affinity. For instance, in 1410 he had acted as surety for John Wynter*, the receiver-general of the prince’s estates. Derham performed several services for Sir Thomas Erpingham, who received substantial annuities from Prince Henry: as a feoffee he conveyed ‘Berney’s Inn’ in Norwich to him in 1409; three years later he assisted him in his purchase of the Norfolk manor of ‘Bourdeleys’ in Scoulton; and he subsequently served as a feoffee of his estates elsewhere in the shire and in Essex. It was on behalf of Erpingham’s nephew (Sir) John Phelip*, the prince’s retainer and friend, that, early in 1413, Derham was party to the acquisition of the manor of West Greenwich, Kent; and in November 1414, following the royal grant to Phelip of the widespread estates of Grovebury priory, Derham helped to bring into effect the settlement of the same on Sir John jointly with his wife Alice Chaucer, kinswoman of the Beauforts. This latter trusteeship may provide an explanation for his appointment as escheator in Bedfordshire at that time. His connexion with Erpingham’s other nephew and eventual heir, Sir William Phelip (later Lord Bardolf), lasted until the latter’s death in 1441, for Derham was also a trustee of Phelip’s patrimony. Yet another factor drawing him closer to the Beauforts was Sir William Phelip’s executorship of the duke of Exeter’s will.11

In the course of his career as a lawyer Derham provided services for several other members of the gentry of East Anglia. In 1411 he had become a trustee of the estates of the recently-deceased Constantine, Lord Clifton; a year later he was acting in a similar capacity in the manors held by Sir Thomas Gerberge’s* wife; in 1415 he was a feoffee of Walsham, Suffolk, on behalf of Sir William Elmham’s* widow, and before long he was engaged by Sir Roger Swillington for legal transactions regarding his lands in Suffolk and Yorkshire.12 On occasion, he was named as an executor (as, for example, by Henry Betley* of Lynn’s widow), and the wealthy Sir Edmund Thorpe* (d.1418) asked him to oversee the administration of his will. Often a visitor to Norwich, where he attended the shire elections of 1410 and 1421 (May), Derham was retained as one of the city’s counsellors in legal matters, receiving an annual fee of 26s.8d.regularly from 1408 until 1430, as well as 13s.4d. for livery, on occasion. In 1411-12 he was paid one mark for a gun he had given to the mayor, and provided with wine at the Rammysheed in Chepe, London, while engaged on the city’s business in the capital. Furthermore, he served the diocesan, Bishop Wakering, as steward of Gaywood, the episcopal manor near Lynn.13 Derham was also retained as legal advisor to the de la Pole earls of Suffolk: he appeared as steward of courts in Suffolk on behalf of Michael, the 2nd earl, and in 1416 he was made a trustee of the estates in East Anglia held by the 3rd earl’s widow, Elizabeth, subsequently being one of the group of her advisors who together received an annual rent of £20. His trusteeship of the estates of Sir John Phelip’s widow, Alice, later brought him into close contact with William de la Pole, the 4th earl (and afterwards duke) of Suffolk, whom she took as her third husband.14

It is not surprising that Derham, being of good reputation as a lawyer and well regarded as a member of the Norfolk and Suffolk benches, was often chosen to arbitrate between the parties to difficult lawsuits. In 1425, in the duke of Gloucester’s presence at London, he was named by William Paston (the future j.c.p.) as one of the referees in his quarrel with Walter Aslak. And it may have been in connexion with the settlement eventually reached that, along with Paston, he was party to transactions with John Aslak of Crostwight a few years later. About this time, one John Bexwell, professing himself in a petition to Chancery to be ‘gretely hurt’ by Derham’s evasion of payment of rents (on the false grounds that he was an alien), asked that their ‘umper’, Sir Thomas Tuddenham†, should hand over the lawyer’s £100 bond. In May 1434 Derham was among the Norfolk gentry required to take the general oath not to maintain breakers of the peace.15

Derham died between 12 Aug. 1444, when he made his will, and 23 Mar. 1445, when it was proved in the prerogative court of Canterbury. His testamentary depositions were straightforward enough: he requested burial in the parish church at Crimplesham, to which he left, for repairs, ten quarters of malt, and, for masses for his soul, three years’ profits (£40) from his property near by. Here he had evidently maintained a richly-furnished house and well-stocked lands. Elizabeth Derham (presumably his wife) and her daughter, Alice, were bequeathed various beds (including those with woven hangings depicting scenes from the lives of St. George and St. Michael), bedding, linen, curtains, carpets, silver vessels, a prayer book and also livestock, while her son, Thomas, was to receive, as well as similar items, a horse called ‘Scote’, six cows, 20 ewes, carts, carriages, farming equipment, a fishery and specified provisions. Sir Thomas Tuddenham was named as a supervisor of the will.16

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. C67/30 mm. 6, 28.
  • 2. If he is to be identified with Thomas Derham ‘of Sall’, Norf. who held lands there in 1424: CP25(1)169/186/10.
  • 3. F. Blomefield, Norf. vii. 324-5.
  • 4. Norwich Recs. ed. Hudson and Tingey, i. 303-4.
  • 5. SC6/996/20; Recs. King’s Lynn ed. Harrod, 105.
  • 6. Cal. Freemen Lynn, 10, 22; Red Reg. King’s Lynn ed. Ingleby, f. 156; CPR, 1385-9, p. 422; 1422-9, p. 425; Blomefield, vii. 312-13, 324-5.
  • 7. C1/3/88; CCR, 1385-9, p. 124; 1396-9, p. 94; CFR, xii. 215, 320-1; xiii. 40; CPR, 1401-5, pp. 231, 489; 1405-8, p. 472; 1408-13, p. 352.
  • 8. King’s Lynn Town Hall, Ea 41, 42, 47, 48.
  • 9. DL28/4/7, f. 10; Somerville, Duchy, i. 453; CPR, 1405-8, pp. 456, 459.
  • 10. CPR, 1408-13, p. 357; 1422-9, p. 446; C1/5/52; CCR, 1422-9, p. 465; CFR, xv. 257.
  • 11. CFR, xiii. 187; Norf. Arch. vi. 144; CPR, 1408-13, pp. 416, 470; 1413-16, pp. 67, 259; 1416-22, p. 248; CCR, 1409-13, p. 361; 1422-9, p. 175; 1441-7, pp. 21, 367; RP, iv. 77, 470; CP25(1)169/184/149.
  • 12. CPR, 1408-13, p. 274; 1413-16, p. 302; CCR, 1409-13, p. 331; 1413-19, pp. 400, 405; CFR, xv. 313, 315.
  • 13. PCC 23 Marche; Reg. Chichele, ii. 144; Norwich Recs. ii. 58; C219/10/5, 12/5; Norf. RO, Norwich treasurers’ rolls 9 Hen. IV-9 Hen. VI.
  • 14. CPR, 1413-16, p. 402; 1422-9, p. 163; CCR, 1441-7, p. 222.
  • 15. Paston Letters ed. Gairdner, i. 14-15; CAD, i. C506; vi. C6016; C1/10/324; CPR, 1429-36, p. 406.
  • 16. PCC 32 Luffenham. The younger Thomas Derham died at Crimplesham in 1473, leaving ‘Wesenham’s’ and other property as well as 530 acres of land there and at Bexwell and Stow Bardolf to two infant sons, Thomas and Baldwin (C140/45/39).