HERLE, Sir John (d.1418), of Tywardreath, Cornw.

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



Family and Education

2nd s. of John Herle of West Herle, Northumb.1 m. by 1388, Margaret, da. of William Polglas by Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir William Champernowne (d.1353) of Tywardreath, Cornw. and Ilfracombe, Devon, 1s. John. Kntd. by Aug. 1392.2

Offices Held

Commr. of oyer and terminer, Cornw. Sept. 1393, Devon Sept. 1412; to conscript fishermen for service in Ireland, Cornw., Devon Nov. 1394; of inquiry, Cornw. Feb., Dec. 1395 (wrecks), Devon, Cornw. Feb. 1396 (wastes), Cornw. June 1396 (wastes at Tywardreath priory), Devon, Cornw. Oct. 1397 (concealments), Bristol, Som., Cornw., Devon Dec. 1399, May 1400 (non payment of customs on tin and regarding the personal property of Richard II and his adherents), Cornw. Aug. 1400 (concealments), Cornw., Devon Mar. 1401 (claims to lands of (Sir) Thomas Shelley*), Devon July 1401 (concealments); weirs, Cornw. June 1398; array Dec. 1399, July 1402, Nov. 1405; to proclaim the King’s intention to govern well May 1402; of arrest July 1413.

Sheriff, Cornw. 7 Nov. 1393-11 Nov. 1394, Devon 8 Nov. 1401-29 Nov. 1402, 5 Nov. 1406-30 Nov. 1407.

J.p. Cornw. 18 June 1394-Feb. 1400, Mar.-July 1410.

Steward of estates of John Holand, duke of Exeter bef. the latter’s death in Jan. 1400.3


The family of Herle originated in Northumberland. There is also reason to connect John Herle with a namesake of Worcestershire, the man who stood surety for him in May 1384 when he was granted custody of the Cornish lands of John Trevarthian*, an outlaw. Herle had evidently settled in Cornwall some time before 1382, when, at the local elections to the second Parliament of that year, he provided guarantees for the attendance of one of the knights of the shire, Sir Richard Cergeaux*. He was to act similarly on behalf of Sir Henry Ilcombe in 1388. By this time he had also formed what was to be a long association with the Botreaux family of Boscastle. Indeed, he shared with William, Lord Botreaux, custody of lands in Yorkshire.4

It was at least partly by dint of some shady dealings that Herle managed to obtain a substantial landed estate in Devon and Cornwall. Elizabeth, the eventual sole heir of her father, Sir William Champernowne, had lost her wits. Herle entered into negotiations with her second husband, John Cergeaux (Sir Richard’s brother), and for a sum of money secured the hand of her daughter, Margaret Polglas, and the custody of the latter’s brother, who was also an idiot. Then, when Cergeaux died in 1388, Herle took his invalid mother-in-law, Elizabeth, into his custody and induced her to grant him her property. These disreputable facts came to light in 1396, although the jury involved was ignorant of the whereabouts of Elizabeth’s son, whom Sir John had secreted away. However, such was Herle’s influence that, despite these machinations, he was able to retain all the property, though not without being condemned to pay a punitive fine of £400 and an annuity of 50 marks for his mother-in-law’s maintenance. Half of the fine was still in arrears in 1405, though he was then paying it off at the rate of £40 a year. The estate was, no doubt, worth all the trouble, for it had a value estimated at 400 marks a year (or even as much as £422). It included, in Devon, the manor and advowson of Ilfracombe, the manors of Colridge, Heath, Clyst St. George, Spittle and ‘Pole’, the advowson of Stockleigh English, and also property in Exeter; and in Cornwall were the manors of Tywardreath, Trelawney, Pennarth and Week St. Mary and the advowsons of Jacobstowe and Marhamchurch. Independently, Herle farmed Pelynt as tenant of the abbey of Newenham.5

Possession of these properties goes some way to explain Herle’s standing in Cornwall, but he also owed much to his position as steward to John Holand, duke of Exeter, Richard II’s half-brother. It is not known when he was appointed to this office. Indeed, he is only so recorded in the findings of an inquest held in July 1401, when royal commissioners, making inquiries into concealments, heard of the sum of 500 marks which had been paid to Herle on 8 Jan. 1400 (by one of (Sir) Thomas Shelley’s servants) as wages for men raised to support Holand in his recent rebellion against Henry IV. However, Herle escaped the possible consequences of Holand’s downfall. Admittedly, he was removed from the commission of the peace, but he attended a great council in August 1401, was twice sheriff of Devon and continued to serve on commissions of array and inquiry, including those which concerned the estates and possessions of other of Holand’s supporters. Moreover, a jury which finally met to consider the question of the 500 marks in April 1410 (when Herle’s only Parliament was in progress), declared that he was innocent of the former charge of concealment. Although he was only elected to one Parliament, Herle did attend the elections held in Cornwall in 1411 and 1416.6 He died on 11 Apr. 1418, when he was succeeded by his son, John, who, aged 21, was then on military service in France.7

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421


  • 1. According to evidence given in 1436 and attested by the prior of Durham: Vis. Cornw. (Harl. Soc. ix), 94.
  • 2. CPR, 1396-9, pp. 15-16; Reg. Brantingham ed. Hingeston-Randolph, 122; Devon and Cornw. N. and Q. xxi. 114-15; C139/74/26.
  • 3. E143/20/2, nos. 19-20.
  • 4. C219/8/7, 9/4; CFR, x. 37, 78, 80; xii. 165; CPR, 1381-5, p. 479; CCR, 1389-92, p. 438; 1396-9, p. 49; 1413-19, p. 115; Huntington Lib. San Marino, Hastings ms HAD 212/3491.
  • 5. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 161; CPR, 1389-92, p. 205; 1396-9, pp. 15-16; 1405-8, p. 167; CFR, xiv. 250; CIMisc. vi. 85, 127; Feudal Aids, vi. 417; Reg. Brantingham, 123, 137; Reg. Stafford, 194; E159/169, recorda, Trin., 172, recorda, Trin.; E143/19/6, nos. 210-13; C138/33/34; C260/104/1; Cornw. Feet of Fines (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. 1950), 826.
  • 6. E143/20/2, nos. 19-20; PPC, i. 163; C219/10/6, 11/8.
  • 7. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 219; C138/33/34.