STRANGE, Sir John (c.1347-1417), of Hunstanton, Norf. and Thorpe Morieux, Suff.
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Family and Education
b.c.1347, s. and h. of Hamon le Strange of Hunstanton by Katherine, da. of Sir John Camoys. m. bef. Mich. 1384, Eleanor (c.1356-1418), da. and coh. of Sir Richard Walkfare† (d.1370) of Dersingham and Great Ryburgh, Norf. by his 2nd w. Mary, da. of Sir Thomas Morieux† and niece and h. of Sir Thomas Morieux of Thorpe Morieux, 3s. Kntd. bef. June 1378.
Commr. of arrest, Norf. June 1378; to make proclamation that the tenants of Ramsey abbey should perform customary services, Norf., Suff., Herts. July 1381, against unlawful assemblies, Norf., Suff. Sept. 1387, of Henry IV’s intention to govern well, Norf. May 1402; of inquiry, Norf., Suff. Oct. 1390 (concealments), Norf. Dec. 1401 (oppressive conduct by the bp. of Norwich towards the townspeople of Bishop’s Lynn), Norf., Suff., Cambs. Apr. 1402, Suff. Feb. 14101 (concealments), Norf. Jan. 1412 (contributors to a subsidy); array Dec. 1399, Aug., Sept., Nov. 1403, July 1405; to determine an appeal in the admiral’s ct. Aug. 1401.
J.p. Norf. 10 Mar. 1401-Feb. 1407.
Chief usher of the King’s hall 9 Jan. 1402-c. Sept. 1405.
Escheator, Norf. and Suff. 12 Nov. 1403-1 Dec. 1405, 30 Nov. 1407-7 Nov. 1409.
Controller of Henry IV’s household by 30 Sept. 1405-Mar. 1413.
The Strange family of Hunstanton was a cadet branch of that of Strange of Knockin, seated in Shropshire. In the reign of Edward II, John, 2nd Lord Strange (d. 1311) had vested the Hunstanton estate in his younger brother, Hamon (d.1316), in return for the latter’s promise never to lay claim to the principal family holdings. Hamon was succeeded by a son named after him, who, dying in 1361, left a son and heir under age. This minor was presumably John, the future knight of the shire. The Black Prince claimed the wardship by virtue of the Strange tenancy of certain lands at Castle Rising, Norfolk, but his council was unable to establish his right to the issues of Hunstanton itself. John came of age before 1378, when he had possession of five knights’ fees in Hunstanton, Tottington, Ringstead and Holme, as well as of lands in Snetterton and East Winch. All of these properties were in Norfolk.2 Strange extended his territorial interests into other parts of East Anglia through his marriage to Eleanor, daughter of Sir Richard Walkfare, a distinguished soldier who had died in 1370. He had served under Walkfare on the Black Prince’s campaigns in Guienne, and may well have become his son-in-law while he yet lived. Even so, until June 1383 the Walkfare manors in Dersingham, Great and Little Ryburgh and Ingoldisthorpe (Norfolk) remained in the possession of Strange’s distant kinsman Sir Thomas Felton KG (d.1381) and his widow Joan, who was probably Eleanor’s half-sister, and in 1384 the Stranges formally relinquished their title to the same to Joan Felton, in return for a payment of 500 marks. (Shethen granted Great and Little Ryburgh to Walsingham priory.) On her mother’s side, Eleanor was the next heir to her uncle Sir Thomas Morieux, constable of the Tower of London and son-in-law to John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster. Following his death in 1388 on the duke’s Castilian campaign, she inherited manors in Felsham and Thorpe Morieux in Suffolk, which were to have an estimated annual value of 40 marks at the time of the death of her son, John.3
Stranges marriage may, alternatively, have come about through an acquaintance formed with Morieux during the period in which he, too, was of Lancaster’s affinity. As an esquire, he had been retained on 13 May 1373 to serve the duke for life in peace and war, receiving from him while on campaign an annuity of 20 marks. This connexion was further strengthened when, a few years later, another member of his family, Hamon Strange, was similarly retained by John of Gaunt. He himself was knighted before the summer of 1378, then being appointed to his first royal commission. This was to secure the arrest of Sir Robert Howard, who had been charged with the abduction of Margery Narford, grand daughter and heir to Alice, Lady Neville. Such was the serious nature of the offence that Howard was not only sent to the Tower but also bound under substantial recognizances to do no harm to Lady Neville and his captor, Strange; furthermore, his case was brought to the attention of Parliament. But such animosity as possibly remained between Strange and Howard did not, in the following year, prevent Richard, earl of Arundel, from having both men act as witnesses to one of his transactions. Strange did, in fact, hold property at Hunstanton as a feudal tenant of the earl, to whom, moreover, he was distantly related. It was to John of Gaunt, however, that he remained most closely attached: he was described as his ‘bachelor’ in 1380 when ordered to bring before the ducal council in London evidences concerning Gaunt’s dispute with the prior of Holy Trinity, Norwich; and on one occasion his lord granted him the goods of an outlaw, said to be worth as much as 360 marks. He served under Lancaster not only on the military expedition which Richard II led into Scotland in 1385, but also on his campaigns to press his claim to the throne of Castile in 1386-7.4
In January 1386, following upon Strange’s seizure, off the Norfolk coast near Bishop’s Lynn, of a ship he believed to be Flemish and therefore to be accounted hostile, he had been summoned before the King’s Council. This was to justify his actions, for the owner of the cargo (John Gisorf, a Genoese merchant) had protested not only that he came from a friendly state, but that the merchandise had been destined for London. Although the ship’s crew were released when found to be natives of Zeeland, in April it was decided that the vessel itself, along with its gear, was Strange’s lawful prize. Furthermore, two years later, on 1 July 1388, he was given a handsome reward of £100 for prosecuting the suit against Gisorf.5 At that time Richard II’s opponents, the Lords Appellant, were in firm control of the government, having recently dominated the Merciless Parliament, which Strange had attended as knight of the shire for Norfolk. Judging from his ‘reward’, but possibly also because of his links with the earl of Arundel, and with John of Gaunt’s son Henry, earl of Derby, who had earlier responded sympathetically to a petition of his, it would appear that Strange was an active supporter of the Appellants; and in this connexion it may be noted that after Richard II regained power in May 1389 he did not ever again serve on a royal commission throughout the rest of the reign. Again in July 1388, although no political motivation need be read into this, Strange acted as mainpernor at the Exchequer for Sir William Fulthorpe, who was then busy doing what he could to recover, if only by lease, the estates forfeited by his father, one of the judges impeached and condemned for treason in the same Parliament.
In February 1390 Strange was among those who stood surety in Chancery for the Suffolk lawyer, Robert Hethe*, and other members of his family, all of whom were then engaged in a major dispute with several of the local gentry. The Hethes had been closely linked with Sir Thomas Morieux, and it may be that the quarrel had something to do with the connexion with the duke of Lancaster which they shared.6 By that time, Strange had also built up a friendship with Sir Robert Ufford, son-in-law of the late Sir Thomas Felton. The two men became trustees of each other’s estates; and when Ufford was on his deathbed it was to Strange that he declared his will concerning the inheritance of his youngest daughter. Furthermore, in 1393, Strange acted as a feoffee for Ufford’s widow. Among those entrusted with his own estates, as named two years earlier, was Sir Thomas Erpingham, a favoured retainer of Henry of Bolingbroke, and in 1398, on the eve of Sir Thomas’s departure into exile in Bolingbroke’s entourage, he was among those appointed to supervise the administration of his lands during his absence overseas.7
Bolingbroke’s usurpation of the throne proved to be a turning point in Strange’s career. His sympathies as a former retainer of John of Gaunt and a friend of Erpingham clearly predisposed him to welcome the change of regime, and within three months of Henry’s coronation he could already be described as a ‘King’s knight’. Following the abortive rebellion of January 1400, Henry IV made him a gift of two dozen dishes, six chargers, 12 salt-cellars, two silver candlesticks, some lengths of fur-trimmed cloth of gold, and a breastplate, all taken from the forfeited possessions of the late Thomas Holand, earl of Kent. Two years later, Strange was appointed for life to the office of chief usher of the King’s hall. Thereafter, his name appeared among the dozen or so knights of the chamber and hall privileged to receive an annual fee of ten marks each at the Wardrobe, as well as an allowance for livery. In addition, as he had not been assigned a wage specifically for his services as chief usher, he was granted custody of lands up to the value of 26 marks a year from the estate of the late Robert Ashfield of Suffolk during the minority of his heir, as well as the latter’s marriage, which was worth £50. Then, in July 1402, it was agreed that if Strange paid 300 marks at the Exchequer he might have custody of all the Ashfield estates. However, in the following year, when several claims to the wardship were made in Chancery, the heir was placed in the care of the King’s grandmother, Joan de Bohun, dowager countess of Hereford, pending the court’s decision, and although, in June 1403, Strange was confirmed in possession, he soon granted to the countess the heir’s marriage and also custody of some of the Ashfield lands.8 By September 1405 Strange had been promoted to the office of controller of the Household, heading a select group of eight knights of the chamber. As such, in June 1408 he was granted a life annuity of £40, and two years later he and his wife were given the manor of Westley (Suffolk) valued at £4 18s.4d. p.a. to hold for life in survivorship. Subsequently, in 1412, at Sir John’s request, half of his annuity was bestowed on one of his sons, Christopher, who had recently entered the royal household as an esquire.9
Strange’s position at the court of Henry IV could be used to the advantage of other members of his family. Following the death of his kinsman John, 6th Lord Strange of Knockin, in 1397, and of the latter’s widow in 1400, Sir John had taken an interest in the welfare of the young heir, Lord Richard. In March 1401 he stood surety for the boy’s stepfather and guardian, the ‘King’s knight’ Sir Nicholas Hauberk, in his dispute with John Kynaston, steward of the Strange estates; although four months later he and the heir’s uncle, Sir Roger Strange*, both appeared as mainpernors for Kynaston when he leased certain of the same properties at the Exchequer. Then, in February 1402 he, Hauberk and Sir William Hugford* informed the council of the prince of Wales of the failure of the trustees appointed by Lord John to fulfil the obligations laid on them of paying his debts, supporting his sons and providing for the marriages of his daughters; accordingly, the prince granted them custody of some of the Strange estates for the duration of Lord Richard’s minority, so that his father’s will might be adequately performed.10
It was during the period of Strange’s service in Henry IV’s household that he was summoned personally to attend the great councils of 1401 and 1403, that he was twice appointed escheator of Norfolk and Suffolk (on each occasion holding office for two consecutive terms), and that he sat as knight of the shire for Suffolk in three Parliaments running. There can be little doubt that his place close to the King’s person was an important factor in securing his election to Parliament; and the local gentry must have been aware that his closest friends were of the circle of the influential Sir Thomas Erpingham, first chamberlain and then steward of the Household. Among those with whom he was connected were John Phelip*, Erpingham’s nephew, who was greatly favoured by Henry of Monmouth, and Sir Andrew Butler*, the husband of Erpingham’s niece. Furthermore, he had remained on good terms with Sir Thomas himself, whom he assisted in the purchase of ‘Berney’s Inn’ in Norwich.11
Although Strange was a landowner of substance, he frequently fell into debt, and over the years his creditors, most of whom were London drapers, had made several attempts to bring him to justice. In 1384 and again in 1395 he had obtained royal pardons of outlawry for failure to respond to lawsuits. Nor did the considerable increase in his income from fees granted him by Henry IV make much difference to his penurious state: by 1408 he was once more a debtor and, outlawed again in the following year, he had to seek yet another royal pardon.12 Strange’s employment in the King’s household ceased abruptly at Henry IV’s death, and he was never again appointed to royal commissions. He died shortly before May 1417, and would appear to have been buried at Hunstanton. Several years earlier he had given his manor in Tottington to one of Sir Thomas Felton’s daughters, Mary (d.1394), the prioress of Campsey, to form part of the priory’s possessions, and this gift was now confirmed by his eldest son, John, the heir to the bulk of his estates. Strange left two other sons, Christopher and Leonard, and when his widow, Eleanor, made her will on 13 Sept. 1418 she gave the latter a house in Bury St. Edmunds as well as property in Thorpe Morieux. Eleanor was buried in the great abbey church at Bury.13
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. CIMisc. vii. 414.
- 2. H. Le Strange, Le Strange Recs. 254-71; Reg. Black Prince, iv. 411-12, 422; CIMisc. iv. 76; CCR, 1388-92, pp. 331-2; Feudal Aids, iii. 640; F. Blomefield, Norf. ii. 359; x. 314, 325-6.
- 3. CIPM, xv. 342; xvi. 72; Blomefield, x. 336; CP25(1)168/178/117; J. Copinger, Suff. Manors, iii. 205; vi. 265; CPR, 1401-5, p. 354; Scrope v. Grosvenor ii. 185-6; HMC 13th Rep. iv. 425; C47/6/1 m. 11.
- 4. Reg. Gaunt 1371-5, i. no. 853; 1379-83, i. 8, 12, no. 343; CCR, 1377-81, pp. 204, 226; CPR, 1377-81, p. 299; CP, ix. 471; RP, iii. 39-40; Le Strange Recs. 331-2; S.K. Walker, ‘John of Gaunt and his retainers, 1361-99’ (Oxf. Univ. D.Phil. thesis, 1986), 214-15, 286; Add. Ch. 14713; C47/6/1 m. 11.
- 5. CCR, 1385-9, pp. 17, 46, 48, 56, 73; E403/519 m. 15.
- 6. CFR, x. 241; CCR, 1388-92, p. 107; Add. Ch. 14713.
- 7. CCR, 1388-92, pp. 331-2; 1396-9, p. 399; 1399-1402, pp. 332, 496-7; Harl. Ch. 84B 10.
- 8. CPR, 1399-1401, p. 193; 1401-5, pp. 35, 37, 104; E101/404/21 f. 44d; CCR, 1402-5, pp. 87-88, 299.
- 9. Harl. 319, f. 46; CPR, 1405-8, p. 444; 1408-13, pp. 162, 396.
- 10. Le Strange Recs. 339; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 320; CFR, xii. 129; DKR, xxxvi. 455-7.
- 11. PPC, i. 158; ii. 86; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 392; Norf. Arch. vi. 144; CFR, xiii. 145.
- 12. CPR, 1381-5, p. 430; 1391-6, p. 547; 1408-13, p. 122; CCR, 1405-9, p. 377.
- 13. Blomefield, ii. 359; x. 314, 317, 325-6; CFR, xiv. 199; C139/82/52; Copinger, iii. 205; Suff. RO (Bury St. Edmunds), Reg. Osbern. f. 149.