TAMWORTH, John, of Winchelsea, Suss.

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

prob. bro. of Henry Tamworth. m. ?2s.

Offices Held

Mayor, Winchelsea Easter 1421-2.1

Commr. of arrest, Suss. Feb. 1422.

Collector of customs and subsidies, Chichester 8 Feb. 1422-6.

Dep. butler Winchelsea 28 Jan. 1423-12 June 1429.

Cinque Ports’ bailiff at Yarmouth Sept.-Nov. 1433, 1437, 1442.2

Bailiff, Hastings May 1435-6, May 1444-17 Aug. 1445, Feb.-May 1446.3


Tamworth’s family may have been brought into Sussex by John Tamworth, the King’s clerk who held a prebend in the royal free chapel of Hastings under Edward III.4 Our John Tamworth witnessed deeds at Winchelsea from 1407 to 1432, and in January 1415 he served there on the jury which provided information to the royal commissioners planning to build new walls within the original perimeter of the town. (His own property was found to be affected by the proposals.)5 As a Portsman, Tamworth could claim exemption from taxation on the. land he held at Icklesham, Pett and Chitcombe. He further extended his landed interests in the course of his career, notably to Battle, where he acquired a house called the ‘Stonehall’ in 1409. He quickly established amicable relations with the monks of Battle abbey, among whom were numbered his kinsman (perhaps son) Hugh Tamworth, who from about 1438 to 1450 served there as almoner. In 1435 he made a deed of covenant allowing the abbot and convent access onto his property known as ‘Feldereslond’ in order that they might repair the conduit pipe passing to the monastery, and three years later he granted them the land itself. He became known as a benefactor to the abbey. Meanwhile, in 1425, he had purchased from William Parker and his wife, Margaret, the latter’s moieties of the manors of Stonelink in Fairlight (Sussex) and Orlaston (Kent), together with the reversion of the other moieties, held for life by Margaret’s brother-in-law. Perhaps as a consequence, six years later he was able to make a claim to the principal tenement in Winchelsea once owned by John Salerne II*, by virtue of an earlier settlement made by Salerne’s kinswoman, Agnes Orlaston (Margaret Parker’s mother).6

At the start of his career Tamworth was said to be joint owner of a Winchelsea ship which, in March 1416, allegedly helped a royal ship to capture and plunder a vessel of Lübeck, and for this offence in breach of the truce he and Roger atte Gate* were, in May 1418, summoned before the King’s Council. In July 1421, while mayor of Winchelsea, Tamworth was ordered by the government to arrange the sale of certain casks of wine which had been captured in a Breton ship and brought into the port over two years earlier. Some of them were claimed by merchants of Abbeville, newly of the King’s obedience, and so that they should not lose by the wine being spoilt while their case was pending, Tamworth was instructed to get the highest price he could for it and guard the proceeds. In May 1422, three months after his appointment as customer of Chichester, he received payments at the Exchequer for organizing transport over to France from Winchelsea for the retinues of Sir Ralph Butler and Sir Thomas Rempston II*, and later that year he was paid nearly £36 for shipping flocks of the King’s sheep from Winchelsea to Dieppe. It was while engaged in royal service, respectively as collector of customs and deputy butler, that he was returned to the Parliaments of 1422 and 1427. A case heard in the Exchequer not long after the latter Parliament was dissolved in the spring of 1428 shows the embarrassments he was likely to incur as a result of the misconduct of his fellow customer at Chichester. Discovery had been made of a discrepancy between the customs accounts and the cockets issued in 1422, an offence which could be punished by fining the customers thrice the value of the wool concealed—in this instance £94. Tamworth defended himself by explaining that, because of the excessive length of the coast for which the Chichester customers were responsible, the area was in practice divided: he himself handled only the merchandise passing through the harbours from Shoreham to Hythe, and had nothing to do with his colleague John Exton’s conduct in the more westerly ports. He seems to have been excused, on these grounds, from contributing to the fine.7

In July 1430 Tamworth witnessed a release to the abbot of Battle by Sir John Pelham (the illegitimate son of (Sir) John*) of land at Hastings, and a few years later he was enfeoffed by Margaret, widow of John Halle II* (the Pelhams’ steward) of her estate at Pebsham in Bexhill. (His subsequent refusal to restore it at Margaret’s request, on her marriage with John Denyssh, led to a lawsuit in Chancery.) These transactions, coupled with his dealings with land at Battle, mark Tamworth’s move away from Winchelsea and his increasing involvement instead in the affairs of Hastings. It was while attending the Brodhull as representative for Hastings in July 1433, that he was named as one of the Cinque Ports’ bailiffs at the autumn herring fair at Yarmouth. On his return he and his fellows presented to the Brodhull held in December a schedule of injuries caused by men of Yarmouth against the liberties of the Ports, whereupon it was decided that he and one other should ride to London to prosecute a suit against those concerned, for which the two men were allowed expenses of £10. Subsequently, Tamworth attended no fewer than ten more meetings of the Brodhull, up to October 1446. At that of May 1444 he was delegated to ‘labour unto the King’, the duke of Gloucester and the chancellor ‘for ayde of shippes for safe garde of the Navye of the sayd Portes’. Elected bailiff of Hastings at least three times, he was holding office when returned by that town to the Parliaments of 1435 and 1445. During his service in the latter Parliament, in May 1445, he was re-elected bailiff, and in December following he successfully cited the Port’s immemorial customs and its ‘magna carta’ to secure the revocation in February 1446 of royal letters patent which, six months earlier, had deprived him of the office by granting it to Thomas Stoughton, the King’s purveyor of fish.8

Tamworth is last recorded in November 1446, when he and his son, another John, were acting as feoffees of a manor in Folkestone, Kent.9

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Authors: A. P.M. Wright / L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Cotton Julius BIV, f. 41.
  • 2. White and Black Bks. of Cinque Ports (Kent Rec. Ser. xix), 1, 9, 16.
  • 3. Ibid. 5, 17, 19; CPR, 1441-6, pp. 358, 427-8.
  • 4. CPR, 1343-5, p. 347.
  • 5. Add. Ch. 20202; Cotton Julius BIV, f. 47; Cat. Rye Recs. ed. Dell, 146/2; CIMisc. vii. 503.
  • 6. E179/225/31, 33, 36, 38, 42; Sale Cat. Battle Abbey Chs. (1835), 97, 101, 102, 106, 109, 111; VCH Suss. ix. 177; Suss. Feet of Fines (Suss. Rec. Soc. xxiii), no. 2915; Cotton Julius BIV, f. 44.
  • 7. C81/1542/10, 30; CPR, 1416-22, p. 135; E28/53 sub 14 July 9 Hen. VI (misdated); E403/655 mm. 3, 8, 18; E159/204 Mich. rot. 15.
  • 8. CPR, 1429-36, p. 245; 1441-6, pp. 358, 427-8; C1/9/308, 11/223; White and Black Bks. 1-3, 5, 8-10, 14-17, 19, 21.
  • 9. Kent AO, Radnor (Folkestone) deeds 111-12.