THORPE, Thomas, of Pilton, Rutland.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
Collector of a tax, Rutland bef. Oct. 1399, a royal loan Jan. 1420.
Sheriff, Rutland 12 Feb. 1404-5 Mar. 1405.
Commr. to raise a royal loan, Rutland Nov. 1419; of inquiry Feb. 1422 (counterfeiting of weights).
Although we cannot be absolutely certain about this MP’s early life and ancestry, it seems probable that he was a kinsman of the eminent Northamptonshire landowner, Sir William Thorpe† (d.c.1391), sometime keeper of the royal forest of Rockingham and knight of the body to Richard II. Sir William was in turn related to John Wittlebury*, whose mainpernors at the time of his election as a shire knight for Rutland to the Parliament of 1372 included a local man named Thomas Thorpe. The latter may well have been our Member’s father; and he possibly numbered Simon Thorpe, the warden of the hospital of St. John the Evangelist and St. Anne at Oakham, among his other children. Thorpe’s own estates lay at Pilton, almost exactly half-way between Oakham and the forest of Rockingham, which lends support to the idea of this dual connexion.1
Nothing is known of Thorpe’s career before his appointment, towards the end of Richard II’s reign, as a tax collector for the county of Rutland. He and his colleagues seem to have concealed part of these revenues, and in October 1402 he was ordered by the Crown to surrender the £20 which still remained in his hands. A Thomas Thorpe of Northamptonshire and a namesake described as living near Leicestershire appear at about this time in the records of central government, but it is now impossible to tell if these references (all of which concern the offer of bail of sureties for other people) are to the subject of this biography.2 There is, however, no doubt that he was the victim of an unsuccessful attempt by the sheriff of Rutland to falsify the return made by the county electors to the first Parliament of 1404 and thus deprive him of his rightful place in the Commons. John Arblaster’s machinations on behalf of the rival candidate, William Oudeby*, gave rise to a storm of protest in the Lower House, and as a result of complaints about this flagrant disregard of established electoral procedure, a committee of the House of Lords was set up to examine the affair. Arblaster, whose guilt appears to have been a foregone conclusion, not only lost his post as sheriff, but also spent some time in the Fleet prison under threat of a heavy fine. Appropriately enough, under the circumstances, Thorpe replaced him in office on 12 Feb. 1404, and during the latter part of the parliamentary session was thus technically in breach of the statute which forbade the return of sheriffs.3 Against all expectations, his relations with his rival’s kinsman, Sir Thomas Oudeby* of Stoke Dry in Rutland, remained cordial throughout the course of this dispute, and in the following summer he and his parliamentary colleague, John Pensax, acted as feoffees-to-uses of certain property in Essex which had been settled in reversion upon Oudeby’s daughter.4
No more is heard of Thorpe until June 1409, when he witnessed a conveyance of property in Whipsnade, Bedfordshire. He attended the elections held at Oakham in April 1413 to the first Parliament of Henry V’s reign when his old friend, John Pensax, was successful; and he once again witnessed the indenture of return of shire knights made in November 1422, just after the accession of Henry VI. Sir Henry Pleasington*, who was chosen on the last occasion together with his father-in-law, Roger Flore*, the Speaker, may well have been another of our Member’s kinsmen, since he was certainly related to Sir William Thorpe. We do not know if Thomas Thorpe himself left any immediate heirs, or, indeed, if he ever married, although there is a strong possibility that he died shortly after his last appearance in the county court.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
It is now impossible to tell what connexion, if any, existed between our MP and the Thomas Thorpe who, by October 1395, had become a yeoman of the butlery to Richard II, and was then, and later, the recipient of various gifts from the King (CPR, 1396-9, pp. 224, 254, 625). Another man of the same name served Henry V first as a yeoman and then as a sergeant of the Household: he took part in the Agincourt campaign and was subsequently rewarded with the bailiwick of Rodman (altera pars) in Staffs. (DL42/15 f. 94; E404/31/326; Somerville, Duchy, i. 547; CPR, 1413-16, p. 106; 1422-9, pp. 78, 80). Once again, however, the problem of identification remains unsolved.
- 1. C219/7/23; CPR, 1405-8, p. 265; Early Lincoln Wills ed. Gibbons, 79-80; CFR, ix. 109.
- 2. CFR, xii. 16; CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 316, 486; CPR, 1401-5, p. 165.
- 3. RP, iii. 530; CCR, 1402-5, p. 366; PRO, List ‘Sheriffs’, 112.
- 4. CPR, 1401-5, p. 354; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 241.
- 5. CAD, i. C363; C219/11/1, 13/1.