WHITELEGH, Richard, of Osborn Newton in Churchstow, Devon.

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

m. by 1364, Ismania, 2s. ?inc. John.

Offices Held

Tax collector, Devon Mar. 1380; surveyor Dec. 1380.

Sheriff, Devon 20 Oct. 1385-18 Jan. 1387.

Commr. to confiscate goods stolen from a Genoese vessel, Dartmouth Feb. 1386.


Richard came from the Whitelegh family of Efford in Egg Buckland, and was a kinsman, perhaps father, of the John Whitelegh who sat in Parliament for Tavistock in 1380. In 1364, following a settlement on them both in jointure, he and his wife took possession of lands in Churchstow (near Kingsbridge), and it was there, in their manor-house at Newton, that they later had their own oratory, by virtue of licences granted by Bishop Brantingham of Exeter in 1379 and 1387.1 Meanwhile, in July 1364, a royal commission of over and of oyer and terminer had been set up to investigate Whitelegh’s complaint that Peter Besiles and his followers had, in separate incidents, assaulted him at Churchstow and tried to kill him at Thurlestone. Five years later he himself was indicted, with ‘others of his confederacy’, for a trespass committed against Katherine, widow of Reynold Ferrers, and was tried under a commission headed by Guy, Lord Bryan. It was in association with his elder son, Richard, that Whitelegh came to the attention of the diocesan in July 1385 for allegedly committing sacrilege in the church at Churchstow during mass and for locking out the rector and chaplain. Despite this history of violent behaviour, he was appointed sheriff of Devon that autumn and was thus responsible for making the returns which recorded his own election to Parliament for Dartmouth in the following year. In the spring of 1387, after the end of his term of office, he appeared in the Exchequer as mainpernor for John Pasford*, both as farmer of the estates of the alien priory of Abergavenny and lessee of lands in Alderford, Devon.2

In 1391 Whitelegh purchased lands in Buckland-in-the-Moor, situated on the river Dart to the north of Ashburton, and in West Buckland near Kingsbridge. It seems most likely that it was he rather than his son of the same name who was returned to the Parliament of 1394 for Totnes, for he had acquired property in that town three years previously. He is last recorded in July 1395 when he, his wife and their heir obtained a third licence allowing mass to be celebrated in their home.3 The date of his death is not known.4

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Trans. Devon Assoc. lxxi. 155-6; Devon Feet of Fines (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. 1939), ii. 431; Reg. Brantingham ed. Hingeston-Randolph, 393, 649.
  • 2. CPR, 1364-7, p. 64; 1367-70, p. 263; Reg. Brantingham, 577; CFR, x. 173, 179.
  • 3. CP25(1)44/66/101; Add. Roll 27279; Reg. Stafford, 282.
  • 4. The son is described as Richard Whitelegh ‘junior’ in 1393 and 1394 (Sel. Cases in Chancery, (Selden Soc. x), 12; CCR, 1392-6, p. 290), but is not so called after 1395. He was living at Churchstow with his wife, Joan, in 1408, and four years later his estates in Devon were valued at £40 p.a.: Reg. Stafford, 282; Feudal Aids, vi. 418.