POMEROY, Sir Thomas (d.1426), of Combe Raleigh, Devon.
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Family and Education
?s. of Robert Pomeroy of Sandridge, Devon. m. (1) 1388, Joan (d. 14 Dec. 1422), da. of Sir James Chudleigh* of Ashton and Shirwell, Devon, by Joan, sis. and coh. of Sir John Pomeroy*, wid. of Sir John St. Aubyn and Sir Philip Bryan†, 1da. d.v.p.; (2) Joan (d.1435/6), da. of Sir John Raleigh† of Nettlecombe, Som., wid. of John Whalesborough* of Whalesborough, Cornw. s.p. Kntd. 1400.1
Sheriff, Devon 24 Nov. 1400-8 Nov. 1401, 29 Nov. 1410-10 Dec. 1411, 6 Nov. 1413-19 May 1414, Som. and Dorset 22 Nov. 1404-5.
Commr. of inquiry, Devon Aug. 1404 (prisoners taken at Black Pool), Devon, Cornw. June 1406 (concealments); array, Devon July 1405, Apr. 1418; to raise royal loans, Devon, Cornw. June 1406; of oyer and terminer, Devon Mar. 1417.
J.p. Devon 1 Oct. 1415-Nov. 1418.
Although he belonged to a cadet branch of the Pomeroy family, Thomas emerged as the most prominent member of the family of his generation, a prominence due, it must be admitted, more to a convenient marriage and dubious financial dealings, coupled with strong Lancastrian sympathies, than to any high standing as a landowner or ability as a public servant. One of his earliest recorded appearances sets the tone of his career. In September 1388, at Chudleigh, the vicar of Berry Pomeroy was summoned before the bishop of Exeter’s court accused of celebrating a clandestine marriage between Pomeroy and the twice-widowed Joan Chudleigh, who had recently, by common fame, been secretly married to William Amadas. A penance was imposed upon the vicar, but Pomeroy had to obtain the King’s pardon, for which, in October 1389, he paid £10 into the hanaper of the Chancery. Certainly, this marriage ‘bore the appearance of enterprise’, for it was contracted very soon after an entail had been devised by Sir John Pomeroy by which the manor of Berry Pomeroy would, in default of children of his own, revert to his sisters and their heirs, of whom Thomas’s bride was one. Thomas was well aware of this arrangement, having assisted in the legal formalities as one of Sir John’s feoffees. Much of his energy was to be spent on converting possibility into reality.2
Pomeroy’s career, however, still had to be made. In February 1395 he was granted royal letters of protection as about to go to Aquitaine in the retinue of John of Gaunt; however, five months later he still tarried at home, being busy with his own affairs. Henry IV’s accession provided the turning point of his public career. Indeed, it was as ‘King’s esquire’ that, as early as March 1400, he was given an annuity of £20 from the royal revenues of Devon, and in December following, ‘for the better maintenance of his knightly estate, to which the King caused him to be exalted at his last voyage in Scotland’, he received a grant for life of lands at Hemyock worth £8 p.a. Meanwhile, in February 1400, he had become farmer of Oakford, Devon, by Exchequer lease, and four years later he was granted a share in the custody of lands at Membury, which, however, he surrendered in 1406. Pomeroy’s annuity was to be confirmed by Henry V and by Henry VI’s council. Such liberality depended upon loyal service, and his standing may also be gauged by the willingness of the Lancastrian kings to exonerate him from the debts he owed as sheriff of Devon. On two occasions he failed to account fully for the issues of the county: owing £56 13s.4d. in 1402, he was at first committed to the Fleet, only to be pardoned ‘for his good service to the King in Scotland and Wales without wages or fees’; and in February 1415, even though he had been told that the exemption of 1402 might not be used as a precedent, he was pardoned payment of £30, in consideration of his great costs and losses in the office. It is notable, however, that he had been removed from the shrievalty in the previous year after occupying it on this occasion for only six months.3
Through his first marriage Pomeroy had acquired a number of properties in the West Country. These included his wife’s dower lands in Somerset, namely one third of the manor and hundred of Frome Branche and the manors of Batheaston and Shockerwick (all demised for an annual rent of £24) which, along with Allerton, fell to her by marriage to Sir Philip Bryan (a younger son of Guy, Lord Bryan), together with the manor of Combe Ralegh in Devon, which had belonged to her first husband, Sir John St. Aubyn. Yet the income from these estates was not sufficient to support Pomeroy’s extravagance. Shortly after his marriage he entered into a recognizance before the mayor of the Staple of Westminster in September 1388 for the sum of £83 10s.8d., and when payment became overdue and Chancery issued a writ to value his property in Somerset, Oxfordshire, Dorset and Devon, it was found that income from the St. Aubyn manor of Alston Sutton, which was worth 12 marks a year, and a rent of ten marks from Frome would help pay off the debt. At regular intervals after this, Pomeroy received royal pardons of outlawry for failure to appear in court to answer his creditors, usually London merchants. Indeed, between 1390 and 1406 he secured six such pardons relating to debts amounting to more than £120 and owed to city vintners, saddlers, drapers, tailors, armourers, a mercer and a fishmonger, as well as to the receiver of the duchy of Cornwall.4
It was perhaps Pomeroy’s shaky finances and extravagant tastes which encouraged him to increase his income from land. His great opportunity came in 1416, when Sir John Pomeroy died without issue. Under the entail of 1387 Sir Thomas stood to come into a share, in right of his wife, of the moieties of Stockleigh, Hurberton and Brixham, and presumably also, on the death of Sir John’s widow, of Berry Pomeroy itself. A settlement of 1414 declaring Edward Pomeroy* to be heir to Berry was set aside by the Crown, and Sir Thomas Pomeroy and John Cole IV* of Nethway were confirmed in possession of the reversion. Then, perhaps by dint of strong persuasion, Sir John’s widow relinquished her life interest in the estate to these same two claimants a few months before her death in 1420. It is uncertain, however, whether Sir Thomas’s tactics succeeded at Tregony in Cornwall: there, he attempted to wrest the manor from Edward and his wife by making an assault on the manor-house and imprisoning and then ousting them. The King’s Council intervened to prevent further damage and riot, and Edward apparently regained possession for a while; even so, after the death of Sir Thomas’s wife in 1422, it was said that she had held Tregony.5
Of Pomeroy’s associates in Devon, little is known, but he was clearly not on good terms with the powerful Courtenays. Sir Philip Courtenay’s* son, Sir John, had married his wife’s stepmother, Joan Chudleigh, and in 1402 they were engaged in a dispute over the latter’s dower lands (six manors in Devon and Cornwall), during which some of the Chudleigh property in Exeter was burnt down. Relations had not improved by 1410 when Sir John was summoned before Parliament to answer charges made in the Commons by Pomeroy himself, sitting for the third time as a shire knight. It is noticeable that Edward Pomeroy, by contrast, was on good terms with the Courtenays, and he may well have sought their support in his struggle to gain possession of the family estates. Sir Thomas Pomeroy later stood surety for another prominent Devon landowner, (Sir) Thomas Brooke*, when the latter obtained the estates of his stepfather-in-law, the heretic and lollard leader, Sir John Oldcastle*.6
After Sir Thomas’s first wife’s death in 1422, he was permitted to retain the Pomeroy estates ‘by the courtesy’, they having had issue, a daughter named Isabel. She, however, died before her father’s death, which occurred on the feast of St. Laurence (either 3 Feb. or 10 Aug.) 1426. Pomeroy’s scheme to bring the family inheritance to his cadet branch failed, for Edward Pomeroy was quick to take possession. In fact, no more was heard of any claim by Joan and Margaret St. Aubyn, the grand daughters and next heirs of Sir Thomas’s first wife. Shortly before his death he had married the widow of a Cornish landowner. She died some time between 20 Nov. 1435 (the date of her will) and 18 Jan. 1436 (when it was proved).7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. E.B. Powley, House of de la Pomerai, p. xxv; C139/9/16, 40/51; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 390; Som. and Dorset N. and Q. xxviii. 120-1; PCC 19 Luffenham.
- 2. Reg. Brantingham ed. Hingeston-Randolph, 673-4; CPR, 1385-9, p. 296; 1388-92, p. 126; CFR, x. 262; HMC 15th Rep. VII, 140; Powley, 63.
- 3. Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed Carte, i. 179; CPR, 1391-6, p. 600; 1399-1401, pp. 241, 390; 1401-5, pp. 44, 48; 1405-8, p. 142; 1413-16, pp. 39, 278; 1422-9, p. 93; CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 451-2, 460; CFR, xii. 44, 240.
- 4. CIMisc. v. 287; CCR, 1409-13, p. 368; Cornw. Feet of Fines (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. 1950), 951; Feudal Aids, vi. 426, 511; C131/36/6; CPR, 1388-92, p. 280; 1391-6, p. 396; 1396-9, pp. 299, 304; 1401-5, pp. 143, 339; 1405-8, pp. 129, 131.
- 5. CFR, xiv. 198, 201, 319; xv. 266-7; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 388, 451; 1419-22, pp. 157-8; 1422-9, pp. 4-5, 83; CPR, 1388-92, p. 269; 1416-22, pp. 135, 318; Powley, 68-69; C138/47/53; C139/9/16, 40/51; Feudal Aids, vi. 417; C1/6/91.
- 6. RP, iii. 488; CCR, 1402-5, p. 133; 1409-13, p. 7; CFR, xiv. 75; SC8/22/1078; E28/11, 23, 27.
- 7. C139/40/51; PCC 19 Luffenham.