SEWARD, Thomas (d.c.1406), of Shaftesbury, Dorset.
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Family and Education
Coroner, Shaftesbury 1389.1
Seward is first recorded in 1365, when, as ‘of Shaftesbury, merchant’, he was party to a commercial transaction in the mayor’s court at Southampton. Several years later, in 1380, Roger Harewell† formally ceased all legal actions entered against him respecting an instrument drawn up before the mayor of the Staple of Westminster for payment of £100. Three years later he entered the Commons as MP for Shaftesbury. He was again elected to the first Parliament of the following year (April 1384), being immediately paid his expenses for the short journey to Salisbury, but the sheriff of Dorset, Sir John Stretch*, believing that he ‘suereit et moevereit on le dit Parlement pur le profit et avantage nostre ... seigneur le Roy’, returned Thomas Cammell* instead. This was against the wishes of the burgesses, who made formal complaint about this electoral malpractice. It seems unlikely that Seward was indeed in royal employment at this time (even though he was to serve as coroner of Shaftesbury later), for on 2 Sept. of the same year he had to find bail when impleaded at suit of the Crown for various trespasses committed in Wiltshire. Some time after May 1385 he joined with two other leading burgesses of Shaftesbury, William Anketill† and Thomas Pyjon, in addressing a petition to the King and Council for a grant to them of the town at farm for 40 years. They offered to pay £13 6s.8d. p.a., namely two marks more than the sum currently paid by the abbess of Shaftesbury, and requested that the letters patent conferring the privilege on the abbess be replaced as not only having been granted without due process of law, but also as causing the oppression of the townspeople. Their plea, however, met with no success.2
Seward sat as a juror at Shaftesbury at an inquiry held in the spring of 1390 into the administration of St. Anne’s chantry in the conventual church. During the last years of his life he appeared as defendant in two lawsuits: in 1393 the widow of the Dorset landowner, Sir William Lucy, accused him of trespass, and later Sir John Lisle* of Wootton (Isle of Wight) brought an action against him in the court of common pleas for debts amounting to £40. He died shortly after obtaining, on 15 Feb. 1405, a royal pardon of outlawry for not answering the latter charge.3 It was doubtless debts of such magnitude which placed his daughter and heir, Alice, in financial difficulties after his death: in 1408 she sold his 17 messuages and eight torts in Shaftesbury to Robert Frye II*, the clerk of the royal council.4