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WODEHOUSE, John (d.1431), of Roydon, Norf. and Crowfield, Suff.
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Family and Education
m. bef. 1407, Alice (d.1448), 5s. 5da.
Constable of Castle Rising, Norf. by appointment of Henry, prince of Wales, 26 Aug. 1402-d.; steward of the same lordship 19 Feb. 1403-d.
Commr. of oyer and terminer, Devon, Cornw. Aug. 1410; array, Norf. May 1415, Apr. 1418, Mar. 1419, June 1421; inquiry Feb. 1418, Mar. 1421 Sir John Oldcastle’s* estates), Cambs. Dec. 1420, Essex, Lincs., Norf., Suff. Dec. 1421 (concealments), Suff. Sept. 1421 (unlawful disseisin); sewers, Cambs., Hunts., Lincs., Norf. May 1418; to raise royal loans, Norf. Nov. 1419, Norf., Suff. May 1421, Mar. 1422, May 1428, Mar. 1430.
Chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster 4 Apr. 1413-June 1424.1
J.p. Norf. 12 Dec. 1414-Nov. 1423, 20 July 1424-d.
Steward of duchy of Lancaster estates, Norf., Suff., Cambs. 1 Jan. 1415-30 June 1425.2
Chamberlain of the Exchequer 6 July 1415-d.
Chancellor to Henry V’s queen, Katherine de Valois c. Feb. 1421-?d.3
Steward of the liberties of Bury St. Edmunds abbey bef. Mich. 1422-aft. Oct. 1423.4
Amobyr, Carm., Card. bef. d.
The evidence of a 17th-century rhyming pedigree of the Wodehouse family, endowing John Wodehouse with a distinguished Norfolk ancestry, has been proved to be as fictitious as the Jacobean legend of his valourous conduct at the battle of Agincourt.5 In fact, Wodehouse was the first of the name to have any connexion with Norfolk, and this he owed to no other agency than his own ability as an administrator, developed to the full through service to the house of Lancaster. Wodehouse’s background is obscure, although it is not unlikely that he was the person of this name employed by Henry of Bolingbroke as a tutor for his sons, Thomas and John, who after Henry’s accession to the throne was rewarded, in November 1399, with an annuity for life of ten marks charged on the honour of Pontefract, and, in February 1401, specifically for services to Prince Henry, with livery of the Lancastrian ‘SS’ collar and another annuity of a similar amount.6 There is no doubt that the John Wodehouse who was later to sit as a knight of the shire was in receipt of an annual fee of £2 charged on the estates of the duchy of Lancaster at the time of Henry IV’s accession, nor that his successful career was to be founded on an intimate association with Henry of Monmouth. Attached to the household of Prince Henry as early as Easter 1400, he was soon granted by him life annuities of £20 from the revenues of South Wales and Isleworth, Middlesex, and in 1402 Henry appointed him, also for life, to the offices of constable of his castle of Rising near Bishop’s Lynn and keeper of the chase there. Further benefits soon followed: in 1403 Wodehouse’s wages of 5d. a day at Rising were supplemented by yet another pension (of £10), he was made steward of the lordship for life with an additional fee of £2, and his emoluments from South Wales and Isleworth were compounded for in a grant of £20 a year from the same Norfolk estate. During this period, Wodehouse was a member of the prince’s personal entourage, thus seeing military action in the marches of Wales in the campaign against Glendower, and when, early in July 1403, the King on his way north wished his council to be informed of the prince’s movements, he sent Wodehouse to deliver a report. Wodehouse was again in Wales in the summer of 1404. Owing to the prince’s generosity, he retained a financial interest in the principality for the rest of his life, for in February 1409 Henry gave him the farm of the town of Dryslwyn for 20 years (a period which was to be extended for a further eight years in 1429); and in later times he also farmed the amobyr profits in the south-west. Wodehouse was returned to Parliament as shire knight for Norfolk in 1410, at a time when Henry of Monmouth was virtually in charge of the government. His companion, John Wynter, was already well known to him as a colleague, being receiver-general of the prince’s estates, and the two of them no doubt helped promote ministerial policies in the Commons.7
When Henry of Monmouth succeeded to the throne he promptly appointed his trusted retainer Wodehouse as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster and an ex officio member of the duchy council at an annual fee of £40, and it was while occupying this important position that he sat in at least five more Parliaments. Subsequently, he was also given the stewardship of the duchy estates in East Anglia. Yet more royal favours followed. From June to September 1413 Wodehouse shared the guardianship of the temporalities of the bishopric of Norwich. In July that same year he alone was granted the estates of the alien priory of Panfield, Essex, together with its cell at Well Hall near Lynn, with special licence to negotiate for their outright purchase from Caen abbey; furthermore, in June 1415, following the confiscation of the non-conventual alien priories, Henry V was to grant the Panfield priory estates to him to hold of the Crown at a quit rent of a rose and free from all clerical and parliamentary taxation. In July 1415 he was appointed as royal chamberlain of the Exchequer for life, with a fee of 8d. per day.8 That summer, Wodehouse, as an important civil servant, was naturally much involved in the military, financial and legal preparations for the resumption of hostilities across the Channel. Certain members of the duchy of Lancaster council made personal loans in aid of the expedition, and he himself advanced £100. Then, on 22 July at Southampton, he was made a feoffee of a large part of the duchy estates placed in trust in order that the King’s will (made two days later) might be fulfilled. In the will itself he was named as an executor, and bequeathed a gold cup. Wodehouse probably remained in England not only during Henry V’s absence overseas in 1415, but also throughout the period of the conquest of Normandy. As one of the King’s feoffees he was concerned during those years not only with transactions relating to the former de Bohun estates, but also to Henry’s purchase of the Fitzalan lordship of Chirk and Chirklands.9
Despite his preoccupation with the running of the duchy of Lancaster and the Exchequer, Wodehouse was included on a number of local commissions in East Anglia, and in June 1418 he received a special reward for riding into Wales with Judge Hill to conduct an inquiry into recent insurrections in the principality. At the Exchequer he was well placed to secure lucrative perquisites: in 1417 he secured shares in the wardships and marriages of the heirs to the families of Fouleshurst, Peyton and Tuddenham, and promptly married off the last of these, Thomas Tuddenham† of Eriswell, to Alice, one of his own daughters.10 Following Henry V’s return to England early in 1421, he naturally attended the coronation of Katherine de Valois, and it was probably during the spring that he was made her chancellor. In the course of the previous year the council of the duchy of Lancaster had been involved in negotiating a partition of the de Bohun estates between the coheirs—the King and his cousin, the countess of Stafford—and as a Member of the Commons in the Parliament of May 1421 Wodehouse no doubt eased the passage towards the ratification of its conclusions. On 10 June, before embarking for France once more, Henry V made another will, in which Wodehouse’s position as an executor and administrator was confirmed. Only two days earlier the King had granted a personal request of his, that he might found a perpetual chantry in a subterranean chapel (called ‘le Charnell’) in Norwich cathedral, where prayers would be offered for Henry himself and his queen and for the souls of John of Gaunt and Henry IV, endowing the same with the rectory of Gayton, Norfolk, once parcel of Panfield priory. Patronage was to be vested in Wodehouse and his successors in the chamberlainship of the Exchequer.11
Following the death of Henry of Monmouth, whom he had loyally and conscientiously served for over 20 years, Wodehouse secured election for Suffolk to the Parliament of 1422. As the late King’s feoffee and executor, it was a direct concern of his that Parliament should authorize provisions for the administration of Henry’s will, while as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster he was still interested in the de Bohun partition, which was to come up before Parliament for final settlement. The problems relating to Henry V’s affairs were to take up much of his time over the next few years, and although he retained his chamberlainship of the Exchequer and the sinecure posts at Castle Rising for the rest of his life, he resigned from the chancellorship of the duchy in 1424 and from the stewardship of the duchy estates in East Anglia a year later (relinquishing the latter office in favour of his son-in-law, Tuddenham).12
Wodehouse’s influential position led to his frequently being asked to act as a feoffee-to-uses of estates in East Anglia; his private and official acquaintance was considerable. Among those for whom he undertook trusteeships were Sir Simon Felbrigg KG, Sir John Colville, Sir William Phelip* and John Lancaster II*. William Kinwolmarsh (d.1421/2), the treasurer of the Exchequer, named him as an executor of his will and left him a silver drinking cup which had once belonged to Henry V’s grandmother, Joan, countess of Hereford. The dignitaries of the region were wont to do him favours: Bishop Wakering of Norwich conferred on him and his dependant, Robert Holley, the keepership of North Elmham park, and by 1422 he was in receipt of an annuity of ten marks charged on the issues of the lordship of Hanworth, Norfolk, by grant of John Mowbray, the Earl Marshal. No doubt tasks performed as steward of the liberties of Bury St. Edmunds abbey and as proxy for the abbot in the Parliament of 1423 also went well rewarded. Furthermore, every year from 1418 to 1427 the city of Norwich gave him a fee of five marks.13
Made rich from the many fees and annuities he accumulated over the years, Wodehouse had invested in no fewer than 18 manors (two in Cambridgeshire, four in Suffolk and the remainder in Norfolk, clustered for the most part around Castle Rising). He had bought a ‘mansion’ in Norwich, and at Roydon he was reputed to have spent more than 2,000 marks in constructing a manor-house described later as ‘sumptuose edificatum in magna quantitate et spacio cum domibus officinis’. These properties were to be shared out after his death between his five sons, in accordance with the terms of the will he made on 15 Jan. 1431. Bequests of livestock, in which no fewer than 2,000 sheep, not to mention lambs and hoggets, were enumerated, reveal the testator’s interest in the wool trade, an interest confirmed by the presence of Henry Barton*, the London skinner, and William Estfield†, the merchant stapler, among his executors. Wodehouse’s conciliar and official connexions were represented in the overseers of the will’s administration, who included William Alnwick, bishop of Norwich (the keeper of the privy seal)—to whom he bequeathed a gold plaque of the Trinity given him by Bishop Wakering—the Lords Hungerford* (then treasurer) and Cromwell, and Nicholas Dixon (the under treasurer). To Hungerford he left a brooch with two great pearls, and to Cromwell a valuable pendant containing relics, which the testator always wore around his neck. To his eldest son, Henry, then in Bishop Alnwick’s service, he left a large gold seal decorated with pearls and other precious stones, and his five daughters were to split up between them the coral rosary given him by Queen Katherine. To each of his three unmarried daughters he left a dowry of 200 marks. Wodehouse died a few days later, on 27 Jan., and probate was granted on 2 Mar. He was buried in the chantry he had founded in Norwich cathedral. Wodehouse’s widow married Edmund Wynter* of Barningham (son of his one-time colleague), and lived on until 1448. The impressive manor-house at Roydon, symbol of his spectacular rise to wealth and prominence, was to be razed to the ground six years later by order of his son Henry’s patron, Thomas, Lord Scales.14
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Authors: J. S. Roskell / L. S. Woodger
- 1. Somerville, Duchy, i. 389.
- 2. Ibid. 594.
- 3. DL28/5/8, f. 13d.
- 4. E368/195; SC10/47/2347.
- 5. F. Blomefield, Norf. ii. 542-9; W. Rye, Norf. Fams. ii. 1016.
- 6. DL42/15, ff. 5d, 85d.
- 7. CIMisc. vii. 62; DL28/4/1; R.A. Griffiths, Principality of Wales, i. 137; CPR, 1422-9, p. 68; PPC, i. 207; E101/404/24, ff. 8, 16.
- 8. CFR, xiv. 12; CPR, 1413-16, pp. 52, 57, 336, 340.
- 9. DL28/4/8; CPR, 1413-16, pp. 356, 404; 1416-22, pp. 106, 172, 363; Foedera ed. Rymer (orig. edn.), ix. 289-93.
- 10. E403/636; CFR, xiv. 190, 202, 205; CPR, 1416-22, p. 134. In 1436, some ten years after committing adultery with her father’s chamberlain, Alice Tuddenham was divorced: Norf. Arch. xxxiv. 406-7.
- 11. E101/407/4, f. 34d; CPR, 1416-22, pp. 376-7; EHR, xcvi. 97.
- 12. CPR, 1422-9, pp. 64, 68; RP, iv. 172-3.
- 13. CCR, 1419-22, p. 41; 1441-7, p. 21; DKR, xli. 696; Reg. Chichele, ii. 236-7; Add. Ch. 17209; Norf. Arch. xxxiv. 413, 418; Norf. RO, Norwich treasurers’ rolls 6 Hen. V-6 Hen. VI.
- 14. Reg. Chichele, ii. 436-45; C139/49/34; William of Worcestre, Itins. ed. Harvey, 253; Norf. RO, Reg. Wylbey, f. 150.