HARROWDEN, John, of Heyford and Great Harrowden, Northants. and Chislehampton, Oxon.

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. 1380
Feb. 1383
Oct. 1383
Sept. 1388

Family and Education

s. and h. of John Harrowden (d.1381/2) of Sibson, Hunts. and Great Harrowden. m. by 1389, Alice.1

Offices Held

Commr. to make an arrest, Axon. July 1378, Northants. May 1393; of inquiry, Bucks. July 1379 (a murder at West Wycombe), Oxon. Apr. 1383 (dispute over grazing rights at Warborough), Northants. Dec. 1392 (liability for repairs to the highway at Towcester); to restore confiscated goods, Oxon. Jan. 1381, May 1383; suppress the rebels of 1381, Dec. 1381, Mar. 1382; of array Apr. 1385, Mar. 1392; oyer and terminer, Northants. Dec. 1391 (attack on Sulby abbey).

J.p. Oxon. 8 July 1382-Nov. 1383, Northants. 20 Sept. 1392-Mar. 1397, 28 Nov. 1399-May 1401.

Collector of a tax, Hunts. May 1384, Mar., Oct. 1393.

Escheator, Northants. 12 Dec. 1390-13 Feb. 1391.

Sheriff, Northants. 11 Nov. 1394-9 Nov. 1395.


This Member’s family probably took its name from the manor of Great Harrowden, where his ancestors are said to have lived from the early 13th century onwards, if not before. They also owned estates at Sibson, just across the county border in Huntingdonshire, and it was here, in October 1381, that his father and namesake drew up his will. John Harrowden the elder could then look back on a long and distinguished career, during the course of which he had represented Huntingdonshire in at least five Parliaments and had sat for many years on the Northamptonshire bench. He had also served for a time as verderer of the royal forest of Rockingham until his removal from office in 1371 on the ground that he lacked the proper qualifications. Harrowden died not long after making his will, and was buried at Peterborough abbey, a house with which he had always maintained a close connexion. His two sons, the younger of whom was then rector of Tydd in Lincolnshire, were named as his executors, acting under the supervision of his ‘faithful master’, Richard Tretton, the keeper of the writs and rolls of the court of common pleas. After the implementation of certain charitable bequests, the residue of his goods was shared between the brothers, although John, the subject of this biography, inherited all the family estates.2

We do not know how John Harrowden the younger acquired his other property at Chislehampton in Oxfordshire, but it had evidently come into his hands before his father’s death. As early as 1373 he became involved in the affairs of John James, who owned a considerable amount of land in the county, and for whom he continued to act as a trustee for many years. He began serving on various local commissions in 1378, and was returned to Parliament for the first time by the electors of Oxfordshire two years later. Within a few months of his father’s death he was also named as a commissioner in Northamptonshire, although it was not until 1388 that he represented the county in the House of Commons. His appointment as sheriff, escheator and j.p. followed early in the next decade and may, perhaps, have owed something to the support of one or other of the Lords Appellant. His abrupt removal from the Northamptonshire bench in March 1397, together with his re-instatement shortly after the Lancastrian usurpation certainly suggests that he had few sympathies with the court party, which, in turn, regarded him with considerable mistrust. Harrowden was one of the small group of political suspects who, in April 1398, were ordered under pain of a £200 fine to submit to interrogation before the royal council at Westminster ‘for particular causes specially moving the King’; and although a royal pardon was accorded to him two months later, we may assume that he had to pay heavily for rehabilitation. It is interesting to note that his stepmother lost all her dower properties at about this time because of the treasonous activities of her second husband, John Fraunceys, who accused Richard II of having been present at the murder of his uncle, the duke of Gloucester.3

Most of the surviving information about Harrowden’s career concerns his relations with other members of the Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire gentry, which were by no means always cordial. In March 1389, for instance, he and his wife were being sued for debt; and at various points over the next 15 years he was arraigned at the Northampton assizes as a result of local disputes about land and rents.4 His most celebrated quarrel was undoubtedly with the two Northamptonshire knights, Sir Giles Mallory* and Sir John Trussell*, both of whom were bound over in January 1399, in securities of 1,000 marks each, that they would do no further harm to him, while he and his mainpernors offered similar guarantees of good behaviour. Harrowden had previously been made a trustee of one of Sir John’s manors, but it is now impossible to tell if this had anything to do with their disagreement. Despite the seriousness of the incident, the two men were sufficiently reconciled by July 1406 to stand together as mainpernors for one of their neighbours who then faced an action for assault at the local assizes. They again offered bail together two years later, so we may assume that the breach was eventually healed.5 Not all Harrowden’s affairs were so fraught with incident, however: at least once, in 1384, he acted as an arbitrator, being called upon along with Roger de la Chamber* and John Rede* to settle a quarrel between Roger Dayrell* and one of his neighbours. He was also in great demand as both a witness to local deeds and a feoffee-to-uses; and he thus acquired an interest in the estates of such notable figures as Sir Baldwin Berford and Sir Edmund Malyns, not to mention other, less notable landowners. These transactions brought him into almost continuous contact with Thomas Barantyn* (Malyns’s presumed brother-in-law), who seems to have been one of his closest friends.6

The MP is last mentioned at the beginning of 1410, when he and one William Harrowden were said to owe certain services for the land which they held in both Great and Little Harrowden. William had by then acquired the manors of Stoke Bruerne and Morton Pinkney, together with extensive farmland in Northamptonshire through his marriage to Margery, the daughter and heir of Sir Giles St. John of Plumpton, and it was to him that John Harrowden’s estates eventually passed before his own death in 1433. The two men may have been father and son, but we cannot now be certain on this point.7

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


Variants: Harendone, Harewdon, Haroundon(e), Harowden, Haruedoun, Harwdoun, Harweden.

  • 1. Early Lincoln Wills ed. Gibbons, 49-50; CCR, 1385-9, p. 658. The genealogy of the Harrowden family compiled by G. Baker (Northants. ii. 96-97) is largely inaccurate where our MP is concerned. It is now impossible to tell if his reputed marriage to Elizabeth Stodley ever took place, but we can be certain that his father was called John, not William.
  • 2. Baker, 96-97; VCH Northants. iv. 183; Early Lincoln Wills, 49-50; CCR, 1369-74, p. 236; SC10/32/1561; CPR, 1377-81, p. 1.
  • 3. CCR, 1377-81, pp. 327, 360; 1385-9, p. 93; 1396-9, p. 277; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 547; C67/30 m. 12.
  • 4. CCR, 1385-9, p. 658; JUST 1/1501 rot. 21, 1514 rot. 11v, 13v, 14-14v.
  • 5. CCR, 1396-9, pp. 434, 497; C139/110/43; JUST 1/1514 rot. 6, 7.
  • 6. CP25(1)178/91/61; CPR, 1388-92, p. 466; 1389-92, p. 334; 1399-1402, pp. 384-5; CIPM, xvi. nos. 268, 270, 271; Huntington Lib. San Marino, STG Granville evidences, box VIII; Northants. RO, Knightley ch. 120.
  • 7. CP25(1)178/91/79; C1/10/191; CFR, xii. 129; VCH Northants. iv. 183. According to Baker (loc. cit.), William Harrowden was the MP’s nephew, but (as we have seen) his findings are most unreliable. Indeed, he gives the wrong death date for William, whose memorial brass is dated 1433 (Mon. Brasses ed. Mill Stephenson, 384).