PECKBRIDGE, Sir John, of Spalding, Lincs. and Stanford Rivers, Essex.
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Family and Education
m. (1) prob. by Mar. 1370, Margaret (d.1387), sis. of Sir Nicholas Lovein (d.1375), of Penshurst, Kent, wid. of William Poultney (d.1367) of London and Poultney, Leics.; (2) by Aug. 1392, Joan (1368-1401), da. and h. of Robert Washingley (d.1392), of Washingley, Hunts. by his w. Joan (d.1426), at least 1s. Kntd. by Nov. 1362.1
Commr. of array, Essex Oct. 1366, Mdx. Sept. 1386; to collect a subsidy, Mdx. June 1371.
Assessor of a tax, Mdx. Aug. 1379.
Hardly any evidence has survived about the background and ancestry of this MP, who owed much of his success to two extremely advantageous marriages. He seems to have come originally from Lincolnshire, and he first appears as tenant of certain land in Spalding which had previously been confiscated from a felon. According to instructions issued to the sheriff in January 1355, he had then occupied the property for a year, and was therefore due to account for the revenues. That he owned other land in the county is clear from a series of transactions, effected in November 1362, between him and the London mason, Richard Salyng. By then a knight, he offered Salyng securities of £100, together with the promise of rents worth £10 a year from his estates in Lincolnshire, as a guarantee that he would pay him the purchase price of £173 6s.8d. fixed between them for certain holdings in the Essex townships of Kelvedon and Stanford Rivers. The money was duly handed over as specified, in four instalments spread over the next two years; and we subsequently find Sir John’s name on the witness lists to conveyances of property in this part of Essex, where he also served, albeit only once, as a royal commissioner of array. Meanwhile, in January 1367, Henry Sutton (sometime deputy coroner of London) offered him an obligation worth £50, the conditions of which are not now recorded.2
Sir John’s activities in the City enabled him to make a number of important connexions which led to his marriage with Margaret Lovein, the widow of Sir John Poultney’s† only son, William. One of the richest and most influential Londoners of his day, Sir John had died in 1349 leaving estates in several English counties, as well as rents worth over 100 marks a year in London itself. Most of these properties were held as a jointure by his widow, who married as her second husband Margaret’s brother, Sir Nicholas Lovein. The latter was not himself a landowner of any consequence, but he shrewdly managed to secure a life interest in his wife’s share of the Poultney estates, a substantial part of which had already been entailed in reversion upon his sister at the time of her betrothal to William Poultney. When the latter died without issue in 1367, Margaret received no more than £15 a year in rents, although her title to land in London, Cambridgeshire, Middlesex and Kent remained good; and these long-term prospects added appreciably to her value in the marriage market. Peckbridge appears to have made her his wife by the spring of 1370, since he had then become a member of her brother’s immediate circle. It was, indeed, at this time that Sir Nicholas conveyed most of his goods and chattels to the MP and William of Wykeham, bishop of Winchester, both of whom were also parties to a complex arrangement whereby he leased all the estates in which he had an interest to them and others for a period of up to seven years, or as long as he was absent on a proposed journey overseas. The initial rent of £297 a year fixed in March 1370 was reduced by £53 shortly afterwards, the main purpose of the transaction being to set up a permanent trust on Lovein’s behalf. In order to facilitate this plan, the lessees purchased royal letters patent dated June 1370 allowing them to dispose of their interest to any nominees Sir Nicholas might propose. Lovein was back in England by July 1374, when his ownership of the Poultney estates was confirmed by various people, including Robert Owen (alias Poultney), the next heir. He died two years later, having appointed both Sir John and Margaret Peckbridge as his executors. Since he had by then remarried, there was no longer any obstacle to prevent Margaret’s long-awaited entry into the property settled upon her (for life only) so many years before. It comprised the manor of Poplar and land in Stepney, Middlesex, together with the Cambridgeshire manors of Ditton Camoys and Swaffham Prior, and various scattered holdings in the Woolwich area of Kent. She also gained possession of some more modest plots of land (including two water-mills) and tenements to the east of London, near Tower Hill, although most of the family’s income in the City had already been set aside for charitable and pious uses.
Peckbridge’s ownership of all this estate was, however, conditional upon his wife’s survival, and when she died childless, in June 1387, it was partitioned according to a series of entails recorded by fine in the previous year.3 Together with the bishop of Winchester, John Shorditch* and other local notables, he had at least been assigned a reversionary trusteeship of part of the property, which explains why he and the bishop were still involved in transactions concerning parts of the Poultney inheritance at a much later date. In December 1391, for example, John, Lord Devereux, who had married Lovein’s widow, and thus acquired a title to Poplar, offered them a bond worth £500; and two years later they received an obligation worth 500 marks from Sir William Rikhill, to whom they subsequently conveyed Ditton Camoys. Finally, in December 1395, they received permission to endow the abbey of St. Mary Graces near the Tower (which had already benefited from the generosity of various members of the Poultney and Lovein families) with all the reversions still remaining in their hands.4
There can be little doubt that Peckbridge owed his return to Parliament as a shire knight for Middlesex to his brother-in-law, Sir Nicholas, who, in turn, had his own wife to thank for making him so influential in the county. He first entered the Commons in February 1371, almost a year after becoming both lessee and trustee of the Poultney estates there and elsewhere in England; and these very estates were actually offered by him at this time as security for a debt of £200 which he and two others owed to the Londoner, John Hydyngham. In the following June Peckbridge was summoned to represent Middlesex at a great council held at Winchester, and he then also received an appointment as a local tax collector. He did not, however, become seriously involved in the business of regional government, and whatever interest he ever showed in administrative affairs was confined to Middlesex and Essex. Growing commitments and responsibilities in this part of the country may have prompted his decision, made in the autumn of 1378, to dispose of the property in Lincolnshire which had belonged to him since his youth. His farmland in Spalding, Pinchbeck, Weston and Moulton appears to have been either sold or leased out, although he reserved to himself an annual pension of 40s. settled upon him by the prior of Spalding.
Absence abroad in part accounts for the comparatively slight interest shown by Peckbridge in public life. He may well have spent several years campaigning overseas, but the first reference to such a venture occurs in April 1380, when he obtained general letters of attorney from the King, pending his departure on some unspecified mission. He was back in England by December 1381, since it was then that he acted as a mainpernor for a defendant in an action for trespass. At some point over the next year he contracted to serve in Normandy in the retinue of William, Lord Windsor, the captain of Cherbourg, and was duly accorded royal letters of protection (addressed to him as Sir John Peckbridge ‘of Lincolnshire’). Yet he delayed in setting out, and in January 1383 the letters were revoked on the ground that he was still to be seen in London. Peckbridge did not again sit for Middlesex after the Parliament of 1385, a year which began with his appearance in Chancery as a mainpernor for one of his neighbours in Essex, and ended with the surrender by him of bonds worth £716 on the security of his estates there to John, Lord Bourgchier, and his son, Sir Bartholomew, two important local landowners. He was then preparing to leave England for active service in Ghent, this being the last, and probably one of the least successful, of his military engagements.5
Although the death of his first wife deprived Peckbridge of his territorial influence in Middlesex, and thus made him ineligible to continue representing the county in Parliament, he was able to compensate for his loss of both revenues and seat by a second marriage, which removed the sphere of his interests to Huntingdonshire. At some point before the summer of 1392 he married Joan, the only surviving child of Robert Washingley, who then died leaving her revenues of at least £10 a year from the manor of Washingley and its appurtenances. Joan was neither as affluent nor as well connected as her predecessor, but she enabled Peckbridge to return to the House of Commons in 1393 as MP for Huntingdonshire. He evidently spent some, if not all, of his time on his wife’s estates, since he was available in both February 1394 and November 1395 to witness deeds for Sir William Moigne*, a prominent figure in the county.6 He must then have been over 60 years old, and since no more is heard of him we may assume that he either died at about this time or else spent the rest of his life in complete retirement. He certainly predeceased his second wife, who married again before her death in August 1401. She and Peckbridge had a son, named John, whom the jurors at her inquisition post mortem in the following year described impausibly as then being aged 15. John’s date of birth remains open to speculation, for although, in February 1411, he conveyed his late father’s estates in the Essex village of Lambourne to trustees, he was still said to be ‘within age’ some two years later. It was then that the chancellor of England pronounced him, after due examination, to be ‘a born idiot’, incapable of managing his own affairs; and as a result of this judgement Joan’s son by her second husband, John Drew, inherited Washingley.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Pecbreg, Pekbrig, Pekkebrugg(e).
- 1. C136/79/34; C137/30/9; CCR, 1354-60, p. 114; 1360-4, p. 436; 1369-74, p. 183; 1409-13, p. 201; VCH Hunts. iii. 228; CIPM, xii. no. 162; xiv. no. 172; Yr. Bk. 1388-9 ed. Deiser, 192.
- 2. CCR, 1354-60, p. 114; 1360-4, pp. 436-7; 1364-8, pp. 315, 405; 1369-74, pp. 88-89, 99.
- 3. CCR, 1369-74, pp. 182-4; 1374-7, pp. 107-9, 201, 213, 246, 411; 1381-5, pp. 349-50, 483; CIPM, xii. no. 162; xiii. no. 125; xiv. no. 172; CPR, 1367-70, p. 434; CAD, ii. B2314; London and Mdx. Feet of Fines, 231; Yr. Bk. 1388-9, p. 192.
- 4. CP25(1)289/55; CCR, 1389-92, p. 525; 1392-6, p. 222; CPR, 1391-6, pp. 300, 643.
- 5. CCR, 1369-74, pp. 277, 316; 1385-9, pp. 98, 104-7; CPR, 1381-5, p. 217; 1385-9, p. 123; Rot Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 131; Sel. Cases King’s Bench (Selden Soc. lxxxviii), 27.
- 6. C136/79/34; CCR, 1392-6, pp. 256, 310, 483; VCH Hunts. iii. 228.
- 7. C137/30/9; VCH Hunts. iii. 228; CCR, 1409-13, p. 201.