FORSTER, Henry, of Leicester and Hessle, Yorks.

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



Nov. 1414
Dec. 1421

Family and Education

s. of John Arnewey, retainer of Henry of Bolingbroke 1390-3.1 m. bef. 1418, Elizabeth.

Offices Held

Serjeant of the buttery by 26 Oct. 1400; yeoman of the Kings private cellar 1 Apr. 1408-?; serjeant of the pantry by 20 Nov. 1411-aft. Jan. 1413.

Butler of Calais by 20 Apr. 1401-aft. Feb. 1402.2

Bailiff, Sandwich, Kent 1 Apr. 1408-26 Mar. 1413.

Feodary of duchy of Lancaster in Leics., Warws. and Northants. 10 Dec. 1408-3 Dec. 1410; duchy bailiff of Leicester 15 Jan. 1413-c. Nov. 1423.3

Mayor, Leicester Mich. 1423-4.4


The son of a Lancastrian retainer, Forster was himself in the service of John of Gaunt by 1390, and before the duke’s death received from him an annuity of four marks. It is not surprising, therefore, to find his fortunes much advanced by the accession of Henry IV. Soon after that event, on 13 Nov. 1399, he shared with another ‘King’s servant’ a grant of £30 owed to the Crown as a fine, and at the end of the same month he was granted a duchy of Lancaster annuity of eight marks for life. By October of the next year he was discharging the office of serjeant of the royal buttery, receiving as such a third annuity, of ten marks, paid this time by the Exchequer, although he relinquished this particular fee in 1402. How long he retained the serjeanty is unknown, but he possibly gave it up on appointment to the office of butler of Calais, a post worth 20 marks a year which he was occupying by April 1401.5

Forster’s services to the Crown were rewarded in August 1401 by a grant to him and his heirs of the duchy of Lancaster manor of Hessle, near Wakefield: he took possession in February 1403, and thereafter occupied the manor until his death. Little is known of his activities during the next five years, perhaps because of absence in Calais, but he was still employed in the Household in April 1408 when, by this time yeoman of the King’s private cellar, he was granted the office of bailiff of Sandwich, with an annual fee of £20. In December of the same year he obtained a forfeited tenement in Sandwich, and in November 1409 he was confirmed in the bailiffship for life, at an increased fee of £24. He exercised this office by deputy, simultaneously with an increasing number of other posts granted to him in the closing years of Henry IV’s reign. In 1408 he became duchy feodary in three of the Midland counties, which position he maintained for two years. By November 1411 he was serjeant of the royal pantry. A year later he received a share in the goods, worth £40, of three felons, and by January 1413 he was a Kings esquire: in the same month he was granted the office of bailiff of Leicester, to exercise personally or by deputy, ‘all other grants notwithstanding’.6

The end of Henry IV’s reign appears to have marked a turning point in Forster’s career, for, though he was confirmed as bailiff of Leicester by the new King, he soon gave up his far more lucrative office at Sandwich, and was apparently never again employed in the royal household.7 Even though the terms of his grant allowed him to discharge his duties at Leicester by deputy, it is plain that he resided in the borough throughout his tenure. He was confirmed in office for life in June 1415, both because of his ‘good service’ and because he intended ‘to pass with the King to the parts beyond the seas’, probably on the expedition to Harfleur.8 When bailiff, he represented Leicester in Parliament at least three times.

Forster witnessed many local deeds, and in 1418 acquired some 24 messuages, 17 shops and another property in the town, the rent from which he made over to the Newarke college and hospital, which were Lancastrian foundations. In 1422 he witnessed the borough’s parliamentary election, and in the following year was elected mayor, having given up his bailiff’s office as a result of the Council’s decision to lease the bailiwick to the corporation.9 He does not appear in the Leicester records after 1425, and it is possible that he then retired to Yorkshire, where he witnessed a deed in 1435. He was dead by September 1438.10

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: Charles Kightly


  • 1. In 1410 Forster was paid £25 6s.8d. owed to Arnewey, ‘son pier qui mort est’, for service with Bolingbroke. Forster appears also to have been acting as attorney for a number of other former servants of Bolingbroke: E404/26/335, 27/210.
  • 2. DL42/15, f. 89; E404/16/509, 17/417.
  • 3. DL42/16, ff. 10, 85, 121; 17, f. 43; Somerville, Duchy, i. 569-70.
  • 4. Wyggeston Hosp. Recs. ed. Thompson, no. 589.
  • 5. DL42/15, f. 89; E404/18/281; CPR, 1399-1401, pp. 98, 428; 1401-5, p. 162; DL29/212/2348.
  • 6. DL42/15, ff. 25, 51, 89; 16, ff. 41-42; CPR, 1405-8, p. 429; 1408-13, pp. 44, 145, 454; CIMisc. vii. 494.
  • 7. DL42/16, f. 10; CPR, 1413-16, p. 62. The bailiwick of Leicester was worth only £4 a year: DL29/728/11988.
  • 8. DL42/17, f. 43.
  • 9. CP25(1)126/73/22, 24; C219/13/1; Leicester Bor. Recs. ed. Bateson, ii. 232-3.
  • 10. CCR, 1429-35, p. 357; Wyggeston Hosp. Recs. no. 602.