FARNHURST, William, of Chichester, Suss.

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



Mar. 1416
May 1421

Family and Education


Offices Held


In about 1402 Agnes, widow of Richard Bales, petitioned the chancellor regarding the difficulties she had encountered while attempting to take ship from Chichester harbour to cross to Friesland to join her late husband. William Farnhurst and Thomas Hayne* (perhaps acting in the capacity of bailiffs of Chichester) had prevented her from taking passage and seized her possessions, valued at £40, which they then placed for safe-keeping in the custody of Thomas Fry, vicar of West Wittering, only for the latter to purloin the goods and refuse all requests for their return. She asked that Farnhurst and the others be summoned to Chancery to answer. More serious charges were to follow. At Whitsun in 1409 Farnhurst was sent by the mayor of Chichester along with John Dolyte* and Robert Stryvelyne* to recover from the chapel at Colworth a bag of gold hidden in the doorway there by one Thomas Knight, who was currently under arrest for abusing his master the prior of Hayling. The bag, sealed by the three men after they retrieved it, was found to contain 101 marks when opened in the mayor’s presence, which sum the bishop of Chichester and the Crown both promptly claimed. The three delegates and the mayor all saw fit to procure general pardons from the King on 19 July, but in November a local jury alleged that the bag had in fact contained £223, and, furthermore, that Farnhurst had made off with a silver belt belonging to Knight. The following Hilary term they were all summoned to the Exchequer to explain their actions.1

Presumably, Farnhurst was exonerated, and his four subsequent elections to Parliament for Chichester indicate that the citizens continued to hold him in respect. He served on a jury in the city in June 1418 called to value the property of Geoffrey Hebbe*, a fellow member of the mercantile community, who was being sued for debt. However, he himself was currently facing charges, in the court of common pleas, for failing to account for a period when he had acted as receiver for one of Hebbe’s relations, John Hebbe, a London draper, although he obtained a royal pardon of outlawry in the following month. Farnhurst attended the shire elections held at Chichester in March 1425, but is not recorded thereafter.2

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


Or Varnhurst. According to VCH Suss. iii. 92 he was mayor of Chichester in Mich. 1417-18, but the source cited (CPR, 1416-22, p. 163) merely refers to him as ‘of Chichester, merchant ’.

  • 1. C1/3/71; E159/186 communia Hil. rot. 11; CPR, 1408-13, p. 99.
  • 2. C131/60/1; CPR, 1416-22, p. 163; C219/13/3. Henry Farnhurst, mayor of Chichester in 1431, may have been his son.