ENDERBY, John (d.1457), of Stratton, Beds.

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. and h. of Richard Enderby (d. by Oct. 1405) of Stratton by his w. Alice. m. (1) by c.1406, Alice, 1s.; (2) by Dec. 1420, Agnes; (3) prob. by Mich. 1427, Maud (d. 5 Feb. 1474), da. of John Sewell (fl. 1436) by his w. Margaret (fl. 1446), at least 1s.1

Offices Held

Commr. of array, Beds. Mar. 1419; to raise royal loans Jan. 1420, Mar. 1430, Mar. 1431, June 1446, Sept. 1449; of inquiry, Beds., Bucks., Hunts., Leics., Lincs., Notts., Oxon. July 1425 (wastes on the temporalities of the bp. of Lincoln), Beds., Bucks., Cambs., Hunts., Norf., Suff. July 1434 (concealments), Beds. Nov. 1435 (concealments), Dec. 1446 (petition for the reduction of the Bedford fee farm); to distribute a tax allowance Jan. 1436, Mar. 1442, June 1445, July 1446; of gaol delivery, Huntingdon Apr. 1441, Dunstable Oct. 1450, Bedford May 1453; to assign archers, Beds. Dec. 1457.

J.p. Beds. 20 July 1424 Mar. 1439, 26 June 1448 55.

Tax collector, Beds. Aug. 1450.


It was in 1391 that Enderby’s father first acquired an estate in Stratton, although he soon consolidated his holdings there, first by leasing the whole manor and then buying it outright. He died in, or just before, October 1405, while still in office as coroner of Bedfordshire, and was promptly succeeded by the subject of this biography. Enderby had probably just come of age, since he first appears in the previous July among the mainpernors who offered securities in Chancery for the good behaviour of Sir Edmund Boteler†. Nothing is known for certain about him over the next few years, perhaps because he was still training as a lawyer. By 1412 he was in possession of an estate worth £20 in and around the Bedfordshire village of Kempston, but this may well have been held by him in trust for Reynold, Lord Grey of Ruthin, since he does not otherwise appear to have owned any land in this area himself.2 The most striking feature of his career is without doubt his long and devoted attachment to Lord Grey, the most important landowner in Bedfordshire, with whom he had already established a firm connexion before first entering the House of Commons. As early as May 1407 Enderby was chosen by Grey to be one of his proxies in the court of chivalry, where his bitter and protracted dispute with Edward, Lord Hastings, over their respective right to bear the arms of the earls of Pembroke was then being heard. Two years later he witnessed a conveyance of land for Lord Grey; and when, in March 1413, the latter’s son, Sir John, became involved in a quarrel with John Mowbray, the Earl Marshal, over the repair of certain houses on the manor of Weston, Enderby acted as one of his attorneys. He also played an important part in the arrangements for the marriage of Grey’s daughter, Margaret, to Sir William Bonville II*, which were finalized in December 1414 with an exchange of substantial securities binding him personally in sums of at least 800 marks. We cannot now tell how far Enderby owed his long and successful parliamentary career to Grey’s patronage, since in later life, at least, he clearly enjoyed considerable influence in his own right. There can be little doubt, however, that the support of so powerful a nobleman greatly enhanced Enderby’s position in the local community, and he remained loyal to his first patron. In July 1416 and again in February 1421 he was appointed to supervise Grey’s affairs in Ireland, albeit through the exercise of deputies. He actually remained in England for most of this period, and in July 1421 he and Lord Grey acted together as trustees of John Green’s manor of Luton Hoo in Bedfordshire. Some years later, in 1431, Grey decided to endow St. Albans abbey with Beadlow (Beaulieu) priory in Bedfordshire in return for the celebration of obits after his death. Enderby was responsible for effecting the necessary legal provisions, and so impressed the abbot that he received a reward of £3 6s.8d. together with the promise of £1 a year for life from the abbey funds.3 The growing rivalry between Lord Grey and the parvenu John, Lord Fanhope, for political domination in Bedfordshire was naturally a matter of great concern to Enderby, not least because the county bench, on which he sat from 1424 onwards, was itself split into two factions. Matters reached a head in the spring of 1437 with the appointment of a royal commission of inquiry which Grey believed to be acting in Fanhope’s interest. The commissioners’ decision to hold one of their sessions at the latter’s manor of Silsoe led Grey to moblize his retainers and an armed confrontation was narrowly avoided through the mediation of (Sir) Thomas Waweton*, another of his followers. Alarmed at this potentially violent turn of events, the royal council held an investigation into the affair. Enderby’s personal following was variously (but unreliably) estimated by eye witnesses at between 50 and 120 men, ‘somme of hem with bowes et grisarmes’, although it was generally agreed that only six of them constituted his own ‘meyny’ or bodyguard. His readiness to take up arms on Grey’s behalf was again put to the test in January 1439 with far more dramatic result. Fanhope’s attempt to have him and Waweton excluded from the Bedfordshire commission of the peace led them to sue out a special commission, and it was thus that two separate groups of justices met at Bedford town hall to hold the sessions of the peace. Whether or not Enderby himself began the ensuing brawl by leaping upon the table with a drawn dagger and threatening Fanhope’s life we shall never know, but he was certainly one of the chief protagonists in a full-scale riot. Once again, the royal council summoned those present to undergo a particularly searching examination, but despite the thoroughness of the inquiry nothing was done to discipline either party. On 7 Mar. letters of pardon were issued to Fanhope’s supporters, and at the end of May Grey’s adherents were likewise excused their part in the affray. Lord Grey died in the following year, having made Enderby one of his trustees. A dispute subsequently arose between the MP and his patron’s younger son, Sir Edward, who claimed that he and his co-feoffees had repeatedly refused to pay him the annuity of £20 which had been settled upon him in his father’s will, retaining revenues well in excess of £180 for their own use instead. Be this as it may, Enderby’s relations with Lord Grey’s grandson and heir, Edmund (the future earl of Kent), remained extremely cordial; and in February 1441 he was a party to several recognizances drawn up on the latter’s marriage to the earl of Northumberland’s daughter, Katherine.4

Although he is now chiefly remembered for his longstanding connexion with the Greys, Enderby attracted a wide range of clients who engaged his services as a feoffee, attorney and witness. It is not clear when he was first retained by John Holand, earl of Huntingdon, but the two men appeared together, along with John Mowbray (now duke of Norfolk) as plaintiffs in an action brought on behalf of Hugh Hasilden* at the Bedford sessions in 1428. The mayor, Thomas Kempston*, was charged by them with ‘raising the town of Bedford’ against Hasilden, but the jury failed to return a verdict. Enderby may already by then have been in receipt of the fee of £3 6s.8d. which the earl was definitely paying him eight years later. Among those whose estates he held in trust were such notable figures as Sir Gerard Braybrooke II*, John Cheyne* and John Fray*, chief baron of the Exchequer, as well as several local landowners and yeoman farmers of lesser rank.5 He evidently kept up an association with the duke of Norfolk, too, since in 1441 he acted as his attorney and throughout his life he witnessed innumerable deeds conveying property across the south Midlands and home counties. He also appears to have been in demand as a witness to marriage contracts, as, for example, that between William Cockayne and his wife, whose wedding took place at Biggleswade in Bedfordshire.6 Understandably enough, Enderby played a notable part in public affairs, for besides representing Bedfordshire in at least 11 Parliaments, he also attended the county elections to those of 1417, 1420, 1421 (May), 1425, 1432, 1433 and 1447, being the first person to attest the return on the four last occasions.7 Although he was removed from the local bench in 1439 because of his part in the Bedford riots and did not sit again until 1448, he none the less served for over 22 years as a j.p.; and, from 1419 onwards, he held several other royal commissions. On the personal level, his career was no less eventful, for over the years he became involved in a variety of lawsuits, at least four of which (in 1416, 1434, 1436 and 1444) were brought for the recovery of debts ranging from ten to 110 marks. In about 1425 he was himself sued in Chancery by John Lardiner, the captain of Eye castle in Suffolk, who alleged that Enderby had abused his influence with Lord Grey no less than his position as a j.p. to force him to enter bonds for the performance of an arbitration award while, at the same time, deliberately making it impossible for him to do so. The MP had himself to invoke the help of the chancellor some years later, when John Botiller* and the other trustees of one John Breton, who had left him an estate in the Bedfordshire village of Meppershall, refused to surrender the property. He evidently won his case, since in January 1445 he made an enfeoffment-to-uses of this and other farmland in the neighbouring manors of Nether Hoo, Clifton and Polehanger, all of which had previously belonged to Breton.8 Given the extent to which he enlarged his original patrimony, Enderby was, even so, remarkably successful in avoiding litigation over property. His skill as a lawyer clearly worked to his advantage, for by his death he had peacefully — but not always ethically — acquired additional land in Stratton together with an estate of ten messuages and 200 acres nearby in Biggleswade and the three manors of Astwick, Millo in Dunton and Edworth. We know from his widow’s inquisition post mortem of 1474 that these holdings alone bore a current valuation of over £82 a year. Most were in Enderby’s hands by the autumn of 1427, and some may have belonged to his third wife, Maud, whom he appears to have married at about this time. Between then and November 1431 he settled almost all of his possessions in trust upon his new father-in-law, John Sewell; and when, in 1436, he consolidated his estates with further purchases in Biggleswade, Stratton and Astwick, these fresh acquisitions were also conveyed to Sewell. As befitted a man of his position, Enderby was able to call upon the resources of an impressive group of feoffees which, at various times, included Thomas Manningham*, William Flete*, John Goldington II* and the above-mentioned John Fray, as well as Thomas Kent, the clerk of the royal council. Most of his estates were in Bedfordshire, but in about 1447 he obtained seisin of the manor of Ledburn in Mentmore and part of the manor of Oving, both of which lay across the county border in Buckinghamshire, and were entailed upon Richard, the child of his third marriage.9

Meanwhile, in December 1420, Enderby and his second wife, Agnes, obtained a licence from Bishop Fleming of Lincoln allowing them to celebrate mass privately anywhere in the diocese. He and his third wife received an even higher mark of favour, with the award, in March 1430, of a papal indult to make use of their own portable altar. Four years later his name appeared on the list of Bedfordshire gentry who were required to take the general oath that they would not support persons breaking the peace, although, as we have already seen, this did not inhibit him when dealing with Lord Fanhope’s men at Silsoe and Bedford. That he was rich as well as influential is evident from the two loans of £20 and £40 made by him in, respectively, 1435 and 1436, towards the cost of the war with France. He was certainly in a strong position to arrange suitable marriages for his two sons, the elder of whom, named John, was born in about 1406, and must have been Richard’s half-brother. John’s marriage to Alice, the daughter of William Furtho of Furtho in Northamptonshire, enabled Enderby greatly to enlarge his holdings in Edworth, since her portion comprised the manor itself with extensive appurtenances. Although he was a younger son, Richard Enderby made a far more lucrative match, being betrothed in March 1453 to Sir Walter Trumpington’s daughter, Eleanor. Trumpington then agreed, under securities of £1,000, to settle upon them the reversion of his four Bedfordshire manors of Moggerhanger (alone worth over £26 a year), Thorncote, Beeston and Caldcote, together with an annuity of ten marks rising to £20 on the death of his own mother. Four years later he also conveyed the manor of Berwick in Shropshire to Enderby’s widow, but this may have been done to make up the revenues which he had already promised to pay.10

Enderby was already well advanced in years when, in September 1450, he drew up a will which shows all the care and attention to detail one would expect from a successful lawyer. He wished to be buried in the chancel of Biggleswade church, ‘under a marbyll stone nexte the body of Alyce sum tyme my wife’; and he made fairly generous provision for the saying of masses in churches and religious houses throughout Bedfordshire. Guilt rather than genuine piety seems, however, to have lain behind certain of his bequests, and the document contains some tantalizing allusions to persons whom he appears to have wronged or cheated. The same motives may have led him to provide for the performance of charitable works for the souls of former neighbours, most notably Sir Baldwin Pigot*, whose speedy passage through purgatory merited a bequest of nine marks. Enderby’s eight executors, among whom was his third wife, were not required to perform their duties for some time, as he lived on for another seven years. He died on 5 Sept. 1457, and was succeeded by his elder son, who was himself well into middle age. His widow retained all the above-mentioned Bedfordshire estates as a jointure, and subsequently married Robert Booth†, a local lawyer with whom, in October 1473, she founded a chantry at Stratton church dedicated to the memory of her first husband. She died in the following February, leaving her son Richard Enderby as her next heir.11

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


Variant: Endyrby.

  • 1. C139/166/27; C140/46/46; VCH Beds. ii. 211; Add. Chs. 35065, 35237-43, 35245; Lincs. AO, Reg. Flemyng, xvi. f. 214v; CCR, 1405-9, p. 2; CPR, 1467-77, p. 400; CPL, viii. 184.
  • 2. CP25(1)6/70/14; VCH Beds. ii. 211; CCR, 1402-5, p. 522; 1405-9, p. 2; Feudal Aids, vi. 395.
  • 3. Beds. RO, DD L463, W1; CCR, 1409-13, p. 434; 1413-19, pp. 198-200; 1416-22, pp. 37, 317; J. Amundesham, Chron. S. Albani ed. Riley, ii. 267; Grey v. Hastings, 7.
  • 4. Sel. Cases before King’s Council (Selden Soc. xxxv), pp. cxi-cxiv, 104-6; PPC, v. 35-39, 57-59; CCR, 1435-41. pp. 466-7; CPR, 1436-41, pp. 282-3; C1/17/81A, B.
  • 5. E163/7/31(2) m. 30; E326/6052; CPR, 1429-36, p. 284; 1446-52, pp. 184-5; Harl. Ch. 49 G48; CCR, 1435-41, p. 319; Beds. RO, DD L335, TW347, W21; R.E. Archer ‘The Mowbrays’ (Oxf. Univ. D. Phil. thesis, 1984), 261.
  • 6. CCR, 1409-13, p. 111; 1422-9, p. 465; 1429-35, pp. 59, 251, 307-8; 1435-41, pp. 121, 242, 436, 439; 1441-7, pp. 54, 58, 63, 215; 1447-54, p. 98; Sel. Cases in Chancery, (Selden Soc. x), no. 142; Harl. Chs. 45 I28, 52 D48.
  • 7. C219/12/2, 4, 5, 13/3, 14/3, 4, 15/4.
  • 8. C1/6/206, 10/169; CPR, 1416-22, p. 17; 1429-36, p. 313; 1436-41, p. 3; 1441-6, p. 216; CAD, iv. A8508.
  • 9. C140/46/46; VCH Beds. ii. 204, 210, 220; iii. 399; iv. 87; CCR, 1447-54, p. 170; Add. Chs. 35065, 35237-43; CAD, vi. C6187.
  • 10. CPL, viii. 184; Lincs. AO, Reg. Flemyng, xvi, f. 214v; PPC, iv. 327; CPR, 1429-36, pp. 373-4, 467; 1452-61, p. 363; VCH Beds. ii. 224; iii. 230; J. Bridges, Northants. i. 297; Add. Chs. 35063-4, 35246.
  • 11. Add. Ch. 35245; C139/166/27; C140/46/46; CPR, 1467-77, p. 400; HP ed. Wedgwood 1439-1509, Biogs. 93.