GILDESBURGH, Sir John (c.1331-1389), of Wennington, Essex.

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



Jan. 1380
Nov. 1380
Feb. 1383
Feb. 1388

Family and Education

b.c.1331. educ. Oxf. m. (1) bef. Mich. 1361, Margery (c.1333-c.1365), da. and coh. of Sir Henry Garnet Sir Henry Garnet (d.1345) of Wennington by his w. Joan, wid. of John Darcy and John Sawtre, 2da. d.v.p.; (2) bef. July 1366, Elizabeth (d.c.1399), da. and event. h. of William Pembridge (d.1392) of Gedding, Suff. by his w. Margaret. Kntd. 14 Aug. 1378.

Offices Held

Commr. of sewers, Thames estuary Feb. 1362, Feb. 1370, Mar. 1374, July, Oct. 1375, May 1377, Feb. 1385; array, Essex July 1377, Sept. 1380, Apr. 1385, May 1386; inquiry Mar. 1380 (repairs, Havering-atte-Bower); to receive parliamentary subsidies allocated for the army in Brittany June 1380; review poll tax assessments, Essex Mar. 1381; put down rebellion Dec. 1381, Mar., Dec. 1382; of gaol delivery, Rayleigh Dec. 1383; to administer oath of support for the Lords Appellant, Essex Mar. 1388.

J.p. Essex 29 May 1376-July 1377, 26 May 1380-July 1389.

Speaker 1380 (Jan.), 1380 (Nov.)

Parlty. cttee. to investigate the administration of the King’s household Mar. 1380.1


Gildesburgh’s antecedents are obscure, but he was certainly related to John Gildesburgh, a London fishmonger of illegitimate birth who died in 1349 possessed of property in the parish of St. Mary Somerset, and to the latter’s ‘uncle’ (?father) Peter Gildesburgh, clerk. Peter had long been in the service of the Burghersh family, and when Bartholomew, Lord Burghersh (d.1355), became ‘magister’ of the Black Prince, he too joined the prince’s entourage, rising to be one of his most prominent officials. He was treasurer of his household 1341-4, clerk of his privy seal 1344-6, head of his exchequer and receiver-general 1347, and in the meantime a member of his council.2 John, the future Speaker, was also to be attached to the Lords Burghersh. After attending school at Oxford, his career as a soldier began in the campaign which culminated at Crécy in 1346, and before long he joined, as a squire, the retinue of Bartholomew, 2nd Lord Burghersh (d.1369). This connexion brought him in 1355 custody at the Exchequer of the Somerset manor of Brimpton near Yeovil, which he was allowed to farm for life for £20 a year. Shortly afterwards he again left for France with Burghersh, in the company of the Black Prince, serving there until 1357, when he fought at Poitiers. In 1358 he was in Brabant, and he subsequently took part in Edward III’s campaign which resulted in the treaty of Brétigny in 1360.3 While in Prince Edward’s service Gildesburgh formed a friendship with Sir John Berners, who granted him for life his manor of Berners in Berwick, Essex, and he also obtained possession of Sir John’s properties at Barnston and Berners Roding. After Berners’s death in 1361 the wardship of his heir was contested between the prince and Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford, and for a year Gildesburgh managed to farm Icklingham, Suffolk, undisturbed.4

During a respite from campaigns overseas, Gildesburgh made an opportune marriage whereby he substantially increased his landed holdings in Essex. Margery Garnet shared her father’s estates equally with her sister, Maud, wife of Sir Thomas Charnels, but after her death Gildesburgh persuaded Maud to let him have the whole of the manor of Wennington and lands at Aveley, Rainham, High Easter and Barnston in Essex, and the manor of Hinxworth and lands at Ashwell in Hertfordshire, to hold for the rest of his life.5 Gildesburgh’s second marriage, to Elizabeth Pembridge, was designed to acquire for him substantial lands in west Suffolk, but in the event these never came into his possession, for his father-in-law outlived him by three years.6

In 1364 Gildesburgh acted as an attorney for Lord Burghersh’s cousin, Sir Walter Paveley KG, while he travelled overseas, and from 1365 he served as a trustee of Burghersh’s estates in Sussex, Herefordshire, Wiltshire and elsewhere. In return for his support, Burghersh granted him for life the Essex manor of Bexfields in Chelmsford, and when, in 1366, he personally presented to Urban V at Avignon a petition for the privilege of plenary remission of sins for certain named friends of his, they included Gildesburgh, his second wife and her parents. Three years later Gildesburgh was named as an executor of Burghersh’s will, and he was long engaged with Paveley on that business. He remained a friend and counsellor to the widowed Margaret, Lady Burghersh, acting on her behalf in a bid to persuade Sir Thomas Hungerford* to stay in her service and to cease his suspicious dealings with regard to the Burghersh lands in Wiltshire. His friendship with Paveley, who died in 1375, led to a concern for the interests of his son, another Sir Walter (d.1379).7

Certain of the properties Gildesburgh had acquired through marriage were held of Humphrey de Bohun, and after the death of Burghersh he entered that nobleman’s service. Having taken part in the naval expedition led by Hereford in the summer of 1371, he evidently caught the earl’s personal attention, for he was then granted by him for life the manor of Nuthampstead (Hertfordshire) and, probably on a short lease, the de Bohun manor of South Fambridge (Essex) as well. Furthermore, in December 1372 he was named as an executor of Earl Humphrey’s will; and two years later he obtained custody at the Exchequer of Pleshey castle and other de Bohun properties in Essex during the minority of the late earl’s two daughters. Others of the circle of former de Bohun retainers with whom he long remained on intimate terms were Sir Thomas Mandeville and the brothers Sir Henry and Thomas Coggeshall*.8

After Hereford’s death Gildesburgh found a new lord in Thomas of Woodstock, earl of Buckingham, who married Eleanor, one of the de Bohun heiresses. He was knighted in August 1378 while serving under Walter, Lord Fitzwalter, in Woodstock’s retinue on the expedition to Brittany. When first returned to Parliament in 1380 he was thus a seasoned veteran of the French wars and he had some experience of local government (even though he had taken out letters patent exempting him from such employment in 1366 and 1378). That, despite his lack of familiarity with the workings of the Commons, he was elected Speaker may be attributed to his acquaintance with former retainers of the Black Prince who were prominent in Richard II’s household, although he more probably owed the Speakership to his position as a retainer of the earl of Buckingham, whose expedition to France was to cause the House in both this and the next Parliament much concern, not least because of the necessity for taxes to finance the army. Before the dissolution and in response to the Commons’ demands, a commission was set up to investigate the state of the royal household. Gildesburgh was one of six of their number appointed to this body, and in June he was among those appointed to act as receivers of the parliamentary subsidies allocated for the wages of Woodstock’s soldiers. When another Parliament was assembled in November he was re-elected as Speaker and as such asked for a clear statement of the amount needed for the army then about to spend the winter in Brittany. Eventually the Commons granted a poll tax and subsidies assigned specifically for the earl’s support.9 It was this poll tax which triggered off the Peasants’ Revolt of the following year, and, in view of Gildesburgh’s part in the grant of the tax and the situation of his property in the county where the insurrection began, he did well to escape with his life. In March he was appointed to the Essex commission to review the collectors’ schedules of names in order to detect evasions, and on 30 May, when news came of the first rising he, John Bampton and others were sent to Brentwood to restore order. Three of Bampton’s clerks were killed, but Gildesburgh escaped, fleeing to London and leaving his manors to be plundered by the rebels. It was while Richard II was at Chelmsford in July that Gildesburgh obtained from him a licence to recover ‘howsoever he pleased’ the goods stolen by the insurgents, and he probably assisted Woodstock in suppressing the revolt in those parts.10

In 1384 Gildesburgh accompanied Woodstock on John of Gaunt’s unsuccessful expedition into Scotland. He continued to be closely associated with other members of his lord’s circle, acting as feoffee of the estates of Woodstock’s adherent, Lord Fitzwalter (d.1386), as surety for his lieutenant as constable of England, Sir Matthew Gournay, and as co-feoffee of property in Essex with his mother-in-law, Joan de Bohun, countess of Hereford. He was also recorded in the company of Thomas Feriby, archdeacon of Ely, who was Woodstock’s chancellor. In 1387 Gildesburgh shared a grant at the Exchequer of the keeping of Hornchurch rectory and other property in Essex, Kent and London, belonging to the hospital of Montjoux in Savoy. His return to his fifth Parliament, the Merciless Parliament of 1388, probably owed much to his connexion with Woodstock (now duke of Gloucester) who as one of the Lords Appellant then had control of the government. His fellow shire knight and friend, Thomas Coggeshall, was also of that affinity. Among those executed by judgement of the Parliament was Sir James Berners* (in whose estates Gildesburgh had long had an interest). During the recess he was appointed with the sheriff of Essex to take from the local notables oaths in support of the Appellants.11

It was now, and probably owing to failing health, that Gildesburgh made settlements of his estates. Among his feoffees were Sir Thomas Hungerford, his one-time fellow retainer of Lord Burghersh, as well as Thomas Feriby and Thomas Coggeshall, both retainers of his present lord, Gloucester. In February 1389 he applied for a royal licence to grant land to Barking abbey, but by the time inquiries were held locally, on 10 Oct., he was dead. He was buried with his first wife and their two daughters in Wennington church. Gildesburgh’s widow, Elizabeth, obtained confirmation from his stepson, Henry Sawtre, of her interest for life in Wennington and other properties pertaining to the Garnet inheritance,12 but she was subsequently involved in litigation with rival claimants to that estate. She inherited the Pembridge properties from her father in 1392, married Sir John Deyncourt (d.1393), steward of the household of John of Gaunt, and at her death in about 1399 was buried with Deyncourt in the church of the Grey Friars in London.13

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Authors: J. S. Roskell / L. S. Woodger


  • 1. RP, iii. 73; CPR, 1377-81, p. 459.
  • 2. CIPM, ix. 52; xi. 268; CIMisc. iii. 326; T.F. Tout, Chapters, v. 319-20, 325-6, 434, 438, 440; CPR, 1340-3, p. 174; 1345-8, p. 14; CCR, 1343-6, pp. 91-92.
  • 3. Scrope v. Grosvenor, i. 217-18; H.J. Hewitt, Black Prince’s Exped. 203; CFR, vi. 433; CIMisc. iii. 326, 376; CPR, 1358-61, p. 55.
  • 4. CIPM, xiv. 246; CPR, 1388-92, p. 150; Reg. Black Prince, iv. 482.
  • 5. VCH Essex, vii. 182-3; CIPM, viii. 577; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 132, 149; VCH Herts. iii. 202; CCR, 1374-7, p. 244.
  • 6. Procs. Suff. Inst. Arch. vii. p. xxiii; J. Copinger, Suff. Manors vi. 274; CCR, 1392-6, pp. 252-4.
  • 7. CPR, 1361-4, p. 489; 1364-7, p. 160; CPL, i. 531-2; CIPM, xii. 322; xv. 407; CCR, 1364-8, pp. 42, 178-9; 1369-74, pp. 74-75, 281; 1377-81, pp. 452-3; CFR, ix. 219; RP, iii. 110; Lambeth Pal. Lib. Reg. Whittlesey, f. 98v; Reg. Sudbury, ff. 104-5.
  • 8. CIPM, xiii. 167; xiv. 104; xv. 202, 886-7; CPR, 1370-4, p. 93; Early Lincoln Wills ed. Gibbons, 34; CFR, viii. 245; E101/31/5, 32/20.
  • 9. E101/38/2; CPR, 1364-7, p. 243; 1377-81, p. 288; RP, iii. 73, 89-90; J.S. Roskell, Speakers, 24, 72, 124-7.
  • 10. E. Furber, Essex Sessions (Essex Arch. Soc. occ. pprs. iii), 7, 9; Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. (ser. 2), i. 218; CPR, 1381-5, p. 24.
  • 11. CFR, x. 168, 188, 261; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 190, 203, 207; CCR, 1381-5, p. 401; 1385-9, p. 214; A. Goodman, Loyal Conspiracy, 43, 98-99.
  • 12. CCR, 1385-9, pp. 632-3, 638, 645; 1389-92, p. 71; C143/409/15; J. Weever, Funeral Mons. 362.
  • 13. CCR, 1392-6, pp. 252-4, 450; Peds. Plea Rolls ed. Wrottesley, 185; Coll. Top. et Gen. v. 286.