DREW, Laurence (d.1417), of Seagry, Wilts. and Southcote, 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
Sept. 1388
Nov. 1414

Family and Education

s. and h. of Thomas Drew of Seagry. m. c.1379, Lucy, prob. da. and h. of Thomas Restwold of Southcote, 3s. inc. Thomas†, 3da.1

Offices Held

Commr. of array, Berks. Mar. 1380, Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399, Sept. 1403; to make proclamation against unlawful assemblies, Hants, Wilts. June 1381; of arrest Nov. 1381, Jan. 1387; inquiry Oct. 1382 (money spent on Marlborough castle),2 Berks. Dec. 1382, Wilts. Mar. 1387 (confederations at Salisbury), Oxon. Mar. 1391 (rights of the King’s tenants), Berks. Dec. 1397 (concealments), Cornw. Dec. 1398 (criminal flooding of a tin mine), Berks. May 1400 (wastes on royal lordship of Crookham), Feb. 1414 (treasons and felonies); gaol delivery, Old Sarum Mar. 1384, Oct. 1385, Winchester castle Mar. 1386, Reading Aug. 1386, Old Sarum Jan. 1387, Aug. 1389, Windsor July 1390, May 1391, Aylesbury Aug. 1391, Wallingford Mar. 1392, Oxford castle July 1392, Reading July 1393, Oxford Feb. 1394, Windsor July 1394, Reading Nov. 1394; oyer and terminer, Wilts. Apr. 1387, Berks. May 1393, Aug. 1401, Oct. 1404, July 1416; to prepare shipping for the passage of Richard II’s army to Ire. Oct. 1394; determine the dispute between Sir William Bagot* and the authorities at Coventry, May 1396; determine appeals in the constable’s ct. Dec. 1396, July 1397; survey estates forfeited in Parliament, Surr., Suss. Oct. 1397; of weirs, Berks. June 1398; to govern Amesbury priory May 1400; collect an aid, Berks. Dec. 1401; make proclamation against sedition May 1402; raise royal loans Sept. 1405; assess contributions to a subsidy Jan. 1412.

J.p. Berks. 26 May-Dec. 1380, 15 July 1389-d., Wilts. 8 Mar. 1386-July 1389, Dec. 1390-July 1391.

King’s attorney, ct. c.p. 9 Sept. 1381-8 July 1382.3

Member of Richard II’s council 18 Feb. 1394-July 1399.

Commr. for truce with Scotland Nov. 1398, 22 Mar.-May 1399.

Tax collector, Berks. Mar. 1404.

Parlty. cttee. to audit accts. of the treasurers of war June, Dec. 1406, engross the Parliament roll Dec. 1406.4

Collector of customs and subsidies, Southampton 20 Feb. 1407-July 1408.


Laurence was the son of a locally distinguished father, Thomas Drew of Seagry, steward of a number of liberties in Wiltshire in the 1360s and 1370s and a j.p. there between 1362 and 1382.5 His own career was to have much wider significance, as a lawyer to whom Richard II looked for advice as a member of his council in the last five years of his reign.

Drew’s inheritance from his father apparently consisted of property at Littleton Drew and Grittleton, in Wiltshire, and land at Bentworth in Hampshire. This gave him an annual income which was to be assessed in 1412 for the purposes of taxation at £26 6s.8d. (At that time the paternal estate at Seagry itself, worth £30 a year, was held by Emma Drew, perhaps his father’s widow, although it reverted into his possession not long afterwards.) Drew’s Berkshire manor of Southcote (assessed at £15 a year) had come to him through marriage to the Restwold heiress. The match had probably been made by May 1379, when Drew was party with Thomas Restwold (the then owner of Southcote) in a bond of 200 marks to two citizens of London and a royal serjeant-at-arms; and he shortly afterwards acted as mainpernor for Restwold’s occupation of the royal bailiwick of Rye. Southcote passed to Drew within a few years; and in 1387 he was amerced for failing to repair a causeway and ditch there as well as the nearby ‘Stokyngbrugge’. In addition, he acquired an interest in the manor of Horton in Buckinghamshire.6

Drew was introduced to parliamentary affairs in 1379 when the abbot of Malmesbury appointed him as a proxy in the Parliament due to assemble in April, and, as he evidently performed the task satisfactorily, he was nominated again for the session of January 1380. His impressive service on royal commissions, including those of the peace, began immediately after this Parliament’s dissolution, and in the following year, while still a young man, he was made King’s attorney in the common pleas, earning a fee of £10 a year. Although he did not occupy this post for long, throughout the 1380s he was kept busy on commissions in Wiltshire and Berkshire, and as time went on he also became increasingly involved in official duties at the centre of government. He began, too, to make influential acquaintances: for example, just after the close of the Parliament of 1391 (Drew’s fourth as a Member of the Commons), he stood surety at the Exchequer for Sir William Sturmy, knight of the shire for Devon. Drew’s diligence in administration led to his being retained by Richard II as a King’s esquire, with an annuity of 40 marks for life, and, from the very same day — 18 Feb. 1394 — as a permanent member of the King’s Council, with a substantial salary of 100 marks a year. All manner of tasks were allotted to him as a consequence. That autumn he was involved in organizing the equipment of the fleet at Milford Haven for transporting Richard’s forces to Ireland. He himself was intended to stay at home (he agreed to act as attorney for John, Lord Lovell, and Sir William Drayton during their absence), but in December he did himself sail for Ireland, as bearer of £16,000 of the King’s treasure for financing the campaign, and returned to England early in 1395 with letters from Richard requesting further funds. In February he made a formal report to the Council about the King’s progress against the rebels in the province, and it seems very likely that it was he who then declared the news to the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament. He was present at a meeting of the great council held at Eltham in July 1395, following the King’s return home.7

In the course of the next four years Drew continued to be active as a councillor, and his talents were put to use in the arbitration of disputes, such as the confrontation between his fellow councillor Sir William Bagot and the civic authorities at Coventry. Indeed, even though in the autumn of 1397 his position on the Council was redefined, limiting his attendance ‘en cas coursables de la ley et non pas autrement’, he nevertheless continued to be employed in a wide variety of conciliar matters, and to be among the most assiduous attenders of meetings of the Council in Richard II’s last years. His tasks included surveying the estates in Surrey and Sussex forfeited by the King’s enemies by judgement of the Parliament of September 1397, and he naturally came into close contact with others on the Council engaged similarly in the furtherance of Richard’s ambitious policies. (For instance, in April 1398 he stood surety at the Exchequer for Sir Henry Green*.) Yet, unlike his fellows, Drew did not benefit directly from the extensive confiscations made by the Crown in 1397-9, in the way of grants by royal letters patent; indeed, save for his annuities his work went largely unrewarded, and it may have been for this reason that he escaped vilification by the chroniclers. In June 1398 in the prevailing atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion, he saw fit to take out a royal pardon, presumably as an insurance against prosecution for any misdemeanours committed in the course of his official duties. In October he was summoned to come to the Council with all possible haste, respecting certain affairs of the kingdom. This may well have been in order to prepare for a journey in the company of Sir Henry Green and Sir John Bussy* to the borders of Scotland, where, on 6 Nov., as commissioners for England, they were to agree with their Scottish counterparts on certain articles for observance of the truce. On 3 Dec., following his return south, Drew was given a wide-ranging brief to tour the ports of England in order to make a thorough investigation into fraud in the collection of customs and subsidies, to remove incompetent officials and compel delinquents to reform. Having received £20 as an advance on his wages, he began his arduous task with a journey to Cornwall. Then, in March 1399, he was empowered, along with Edward, duke of Aumâle, Green and Bussy, to treat for peace with Scotland, and on 14 Apr. received £26 13s.4d. as payment prior to travelling north again, this time in Aumâle’s retinue. The truce with Scotland was renewed in May, and Drew, having parted company with the duke (who crossed to Ireland to join the King), returned home on 16 June. As had happened five years earlier, he again agreed to act as Lord Lovell’s attorney during his absence overseas with the royal army, and once more he himself was instructed to assist in the government of the realm while the King was away. It was while he was at St. Albans with fellow members of the Council that, on 11 July, the treasurer, William Scrope, earl of Wiltshire, authorized a grant to him of the wardship of the lands of a deceased tenant-in-chief, Brian Windsor, during the minority of the heir. When, at the end of the month, the duke of York, the guardian of the realm, made an accommodation with Henry of Bolingbroke, Drew was among those who refused to join in the general defection and prepared to fight for the King. He was accordingly committed into custody at Berkeley while Bolingbroke advanced on Bristol.8

Drew was fortunate to escape the fate of Scrope, Bussy and Green; indeed, it was not long before Bolingbroke set him at liberty. Yet although he was appointed to the commission of array set up by the new King, Henry IV, in the following December, and was kept on as a j.p., he was too closely associated with the old regime to expect further rehabilitation. He lost his annuities (140 marks) as a royal retainer and councillor, and Henry never saw fit to employ him in an advisory capacity. All the same, he did not entirely lose influence at Court: he proved able to recover custody of the Windsor wardship which one of Henry’s esquires had wrested from him, and to have the value of this wardship augmented in a series of royal grants at the Exchequer; furthermore, he won a sympathetic response to his petition to the Parliament of 1401 for release from proceedings in Chancery and at the Exchequer stemming from his investigation of the customs service (on the ground that his extensive reports had been lost when the house of the former treasurer, the earl of Wiltshire, had been pillaged ‘en la pursuite de Roy Richard’). When, in October 1402, the King sent out letters requesting benevolences, Drew was one of two men to whom these were directed in Berkshire. As a member of Richard II’s council, he had no doubt attended the Parliaments of the late 1390s ex officio; his election in 1406 came, however, after an absence from the Commons of 15 years. It is the report of proceedings in this particularly long Parliament that reveal him as a prominent figure in the Lower House, and, moreover, one who took a major part in deliberations. On 3 Apr. he was named on a delegation of six Members (headed by the Speaker) sent to discuss with the King’s Council various provisions in the agreement recently concluded between the government and the merchants, regarding the safeguard of the sea. Then, on 19 June, he and Thomas Childrey, his companion from Berkshire, were among the six shire knights appointed as auditors of the accounts of the retiring treasurers of war (Thomas, Lord Furnival, and (Sir) John Pelham*). That same day four members of the Lords were named as arbitrators in the dispute between the heirs of the late Lady Mohun and Sir Hugh Luttrell* over the lordship of Dunster (Somerset), and when, on 22 Oct., one of them (the bishop of Exeter) was excused attendance in Parliament, the King, with the assent of the parties to the suit, appointed Drew in his place, under oath ‘de faire [son] loial poair et diligence en la matire’. Finally, on 22 Dec., Drew was put on the committee of 12 commoners delegated to oversee the engrossment of the Parliament roll. Two months after Parliament was dissolved, he secured office as collector of customs at Southampton. Even though he was permitted to appoint a deputy for routine business, he evidently took the task of augmenting royal revenues seriously, for in February 1408 he was given a reward of £20 for so doing.9

Drew’s official concerns left him little time for private business. Nevertheless, those qualities which had turned him into an efficient and hard-working administrator, unsullied by the charges of corruption levelled at his fellows, were appreciated by a number of his acquaintances, who asked him to serve as executor of their wills. In 1405 Robert Bullock’ entrusted him with all his moveable goods, and it was no doubt in order to perform Bullock’s testamentary depositions that two years later he took possession of the deceased’s manor of Arborfield (which his eldest son was to return to the Bullocks after his death). Drew was on good terms with Richard Metford, bishop of Salisbury (sometime secretary to Richard II); in 1406 and 1407 he occasionally dined with the bishop’s household and in April of the latter year he took on the executorship of Metford’s will. At the time that Sir William Langford* composed his last testament, in August 1411, Drew had in his safekeeping a coffer belonging to him, and as executor and trustee of Langford’s estates he was to carry out his final wishes.10

In the course of his career Drew had shown little interest in religious foundations, save for two small grants, both made in association with others: namely, in 1383 in a conveyance of lands worth £2 a year to Amesbury priory; and in 1392 in a gift of rent to the monastery at Edington. His will, drawn up on 18 Jan. 1417, displayed a similar indifference to the established Church. Although he made small bequests to Salisbury cathedral, Reading abbey and the parish church at Seagry, he asked simply to be buried ‘in the ground’, and with no more ceremony than was strictly in keeping with the occasion. To each of his three daughters, who were left in the care of his widow, he bequeathed £100 for her marriage. Thomas Drew, his eldest son and executor, was to have the livestock at Seagry, and his two younger sons certain specified items of furniture. He died before 7 Feb., the date of probate.11

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. PCC 26 Marche. Genealogist (ser. 2), xiii. 149, which is in error about his father’s name, gives his wife as da. of Henry Restwold; Thomas is more likely.
  • 2. CIMisc. iv. 224.
  • 3. Sel. Cases King’s Bench (Selden Soc. lxxxii), p. lxxxvi.
  • 4. CPR, 1405-8, p. 351; RP, iii. 585.
  • 5. VCH Wilts. v. 62.
  • 6. Feudal Aids, vi. 402, 451, 538; CFR, ix. 133; CCR, 1377-81, p. 250; VCH Berks. iii. 365; Pub. Works in Med. Law (Selden Soc. xxxii), 17-18; VCH Bucks. iii. 283.
  • 7. SC10/33/1604, 1633; E403/493 m. 6, 549 m. 16; CFR, xi. 22; CPR, 1391-6, pp. 391, 486-7, 524; DKR, xxxvi. 158; PPC, i. 57; Anglo-Norman Letters and Pets. ed. Legge, 157-8; J.F. Baldwin, King’s Council, 142, 504.
  • 8. E28/453; PPC, i. 76; 15th Cent. England ed. Chrimes, Ross and Griffiths, 28; CPR, 1396-9, pp. 332, 506, 541, 588; C67/30 m. 13; Issues ed. Devon, 268; Cal. Scots. Docs. iv. nos. 512, 515-17, 520; E364/34 m. Dd; Chron. Traison et Mort Ric. II ed. Williams, 292-3.
  • 9. CPR, 1399-1401, p. 275; 1405-8, p. 346; RP, iii. 480, 569, 577, 585; CFR, xii. 244, 296; xiii. 49, 67, 75; PPC, ii. 74, 76; E404/23/238.
  • 10. PCC 11 Marche; CP25(1)12/80/2, 13/81/34; Harl. 3755, ff. 2d, 3d, 28d, 58d; Lambeth Pal. Lib. Reg. Arundel, i. f. 238d; Reg. Hallum (Canterbury and York Soc. lxxii), no. 701; CPR, 1408-13, p. 302; CCR, 1409-13, p. 256.
  • 11. CPR, 1381-5, p. 290; 1391-6, p. 156; PCC 36 Marche.