FULBOURN, William (d.c.1441), of Fulbourn St. Vigors, Cambs.

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



Dec. 1421

Family and Education

poss. illegit. s. of William Fulbourn (d.1391) of Fulbourn clerk, by Alice Whiting of Fulbourn. m. bef. 1396, s.p.

Offices Held

Under sheriff, Cambs. bef. July 1398.1

Tax collector, Isle of Ely Mar. 1404.

Commr. of sewers, Cambs. Mar. 1407, Norf. June 1407, Cambs., Hunts., Lincs., Northants., Norf. May 1418; array, Cambs. Mar. 1419, Jan. 1436; inquiry June 1423 (repairs to the great bridge at Cambridge).

Bailiff of the liberty of the bp. of Ely by Jan. 1410-aft. Feb. 1434.2

J.p. Cambs. 28 Nov. 1417-Mar. 1437, Cambridge 8 Nov. 1423-Jan. 1430, 4 Dec. 1433-5.


This MP was closely related to an older namesake, the William Fulbourn, ‘King’s clerk’, who had been receiver-general of the estates and executor of the will of Richard II’s mother, Princess Joan, and more recently, in 1390-1, served as one of the ‘treasurers of war’. An earlier William Fulbourn had been rewarded for his services as a baron of the Exchequer with a view of frankpledge and other privileges at Fulbourn St. Vigors, and the King’s clerk of this name combined in the final years of his life the rectorship of St. Vigor’s church with a prebendary at St. Paul’s cathedral. Young William, the future shire knight, may just possibly have been the rector’s own illegitimate son, for he was singled out by him to be the heir to his property. As William Fulbourn, son of Alice Whiting, he was associated with the rector in July 1390, when together they secured the reversion of a messuage and other property including a fishery at Fulbourn and Teversham; and two months later Fulbourn senior formally conveyed to him the glebe land at Fulbourn along with the advowson of the church itself. Under the terms of the will which the elder William made in July 1391, the young man, there named as an executor, was to inherit all his lands and tenements and to receive a bequest of £20. Following the rector’s death, Fulbourn made a successful claim to be the new patron of St. Vigor’s, and presented an incumbent to the living that November. An early incident in his career might well have soured his future relations with the local clergy, for in January 1394 it was revealed that he had assaulted a priest and, although Bishop John Fordham of Ely was prepared to grant him temporary absolution, he was required to travel to Rome to obtain the Pope’s blessing for his permanent return to grace. He had evidently done this by January 1396 when the bishop granted him and his wife a licence for a private oratory in their house at Fulbourn. That his transgressions had been entirely forgiven is clear, for from then on he was on good terms with the bishop, coming to be regularly employed not only by him personally but also by several members of his staff in the completion of their business transactions.3

Unlike his namesake, Fulbourn chose to enter the legal profession rather than the Church. From 1395 onwards he was active in the Exchequer and Chancery as a mainpernor for Cambridgeshire men, most notably those from Fulbourn and Ely, who were engaged in lawsuits. An early appointment making him sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire in October 1396 came to nothing after just a few weeks when he was superseded, but not long afterwards he was performing the duties of under sheriff of the same counties as deputy to Andrew Newport*, who had recently, by purchasing a manor in Fulbourn, become a near neighbour of his. Precisely when Fulbourn began to be employed as full-time legal advisor to Bishop Fordham is not known, but as early as March 1399 he was party to an indenture regarding a substantial annual rent which the bishop had granted to Ralph Daniel of Walsoken; and in 1407 he stood surety at the shire court in Cambridge for (Sir) John Rochford, constable of the bishop’s castle of Wisbech, when he was elected as knight of the shire. Certainly by 1410 he had been appointed as bailiff of the episcopal liberties, a post he was to hold for the next 24 years or longer. Acting as attorney for the bishop in all suits concerning the Isle of Ely, during his term of office he made many appearances at the assizes at Cambridge in defence of the bishop’s rights of jurisdiction as granted by royal charters dating back to King Edgar, and on occasion he was summoned to the Exchequer court to put his employer’s case in disputes over the payment of a proportion of the wages of knights of the shire for Cambridgeshire out of levies made in the bishop’s franchise. In 1420 Sir John Colville of Newton, a diplomat of exceptional ability who had played a part in the moves towards church unity at the Council of Pisa (1409), and had been made constable of Wisbech by Bishop Fordham’s appointment, named Fulbourn among the feoffees of his estates in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, a distinguished group headed by the King’s brothers, Clarence and Gloucester. Fulbourn had been appointed as a j.p. in 1417, and was to serve on the bench for nigh on 20 years. His only known return to Parliament occurred at the end of Henry V’s reign, although he showed a continuing interest in parliamentary affairs, at least to the extent of attending the shire elections of 1422, 1425, 1426, 1427 and 1435.4

In the 1420s Fulbourn’s clients included John Colles*, a wool merchant from Huntingdon, who was engaged in litigation over the executorship of the will of John Herries* of Cambridge, and Sir William Lisle*, for whom he acted as a trustee of the Cambridgeshire manor of Great Wilbraham. In the will which Bishop Fordham made in October 1425 Fulbourn was left £10, but his employment on the business of the diocese was far from ended, for Fordham’s successor, Philip Morgan, long retained his services as attorney and bailiff of the episcopal liberties. Fulbourn was named in 1434 among the gentry of Cambridgeshire required to take the oath not to maintain anybody who broke the King’s peace.5 By that time his landed holdings in that county and in Hertfordshire were providing him with an annual income of at least £23, but, perhaps because he had no children to inherit them, he resolved on their sale. This transaction he required his feoffees (who had previously included one of Bishop Fordham’s executors, William Derby, archdeacon of Bedford) to undertake in 1441. Accordingly, the property passed into the hands of Sir James Ormond (afterwards earl of Wiltshire). Fulbourn is not recorded thereafter.6

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. JUST 1/1511 m. 2.
  • 2. E13/126 m. 9; JUST 1/1543 m. 27.
  • 3. T.F. Tout, Chapters, iii. 332, 461; CFR, vii. 81; Cambs. Mon. Inscrips. ed. Palmer, 56-57; CCR, 1389-92, p. 278; E326/4473; PCC 8 Rous; Ely Diocesan Remembrancer, 1897, p. 173; 1900, pp. 34, 74.
  • 4. CCR, 1392-6, p. 409; 1396-9, pp. 296-7, 486-7; 1419-22, p. 107; CFR, xi. 167; JUST 1/1535 m. 3; C219/10/4, 13/1, 3, 4, 5, 14/5.
  • 5. CCR, 1419-22, p. 529; 1422-9, p. 44; Belvoir Castle deeds 338-9, 5641; Reg. Chichele, ii. 328; HMC Rutland, iv. 62; CPR, 1429-36, p. 385.
  • 6. East Anglian, n.s. xii. 361; CCR, 1441-7, pp. 30, 33, 37, 39; E326/12109, 12110.