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Members of the Hardhead family had settled in Newcastle by the mid 13th century, and the MP may well have been related to the William Hardhead who obtained the freedom of the borough in 1389.1 Nothing is known of his career before June 1411, when, as a member of John Mynors’s* notorious gang of ruffians, he was involved in a murder at the Staffordshire village of Featherstone. He and the other ringleaders were indicted in the following August; and on their failure to appear in court orders were issued for their arrest and examination before the royal council. These were repeated some four months later, again without success, and in January 1412 further presentments were laid against them at the sessions of the peace in Stafford, leading eventually to proceedings in the court of King’s bench. The charges included murder and a series of armed assaults carried out during what appears to have been a virtual war of attrition against the townspeople of Wolverhampton. The local jury pronounced them notorri latrones et depredatores, insidiatores viarum et depopulatores agrorum; and although they came to court in person six months later, yet another commission had to be sent out for their arrest in December 1412. Henry V’s policy of granting royal pardons to those responsible for the chronic disorder which beset the north-east Midlands during the period seems to have been quite successful in the long term. Hardhead, at least, retired into relative obscurity after being absolved from his various crimes in May 1415.2 His connexion with John Mynors remained essentially peaceful after this date: indeed, it may well account for his election to the Parliament of 1420, one year after Mynors himself represented the borough.
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Hardhered, Hardhed, Herdenhede.