BEVILLE, Robert (1342-c.1409), of Wood Walton, Hunts.
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Family and Education
Commr. of array, Hunts. Apr., July 1377, Mar. 1380; to suppress the insurgents of 1381, June, Dec. 1381, Mar., Dec. 1382.
Surveyor and controller of a tax, Hunts. Feb. 1381, Mar. 1404.
The date of Robert Beville’s baptism at St. Andrew’s church in Wood Walton was firmly impressed in the memory of another member of the family, who had been assigned the unenviable task of collecting taxes from the baby’s father. The latter then threatened his unfortunate kinsman in such a way ‘that he dared not approach the house for a fortnight’; and it is thanks to this incident that we now know our MP’s age and place of birth. His ancestors had lived at Wood Walton for many years (as feudal tenants of the earls of Stafford), although he was heir to a far more impressive estate comprising land and manors as far afield as Sussex and Warwickshire. The death of his father in about 1349 was followed just over a year later by that of his kinswoman, Laura Beville, thus making his wardship well worth the having.2 From his father he inherited the Huntingdonshire manor of Chesterton as well as the two manors of Le Northend and Walton Bevilles in Wood Walton, together with a considerable amount of farmland around the neighbouring village of Conington. His patrimony also included one third of the manor and advowson of Ovingdean and the whole manor of Little Perching in Sussex; while from Laura Beville he acquired several messuages in Wappenbury and rents worth £5 a year in Easenhall, Warwickshire. Until his coming of age in 1363, these estates were farmed by William Peck, a royal clerk (who obtained a lease of the Warwickshire properties), and the abbot of Ramsey. One of Beville’s first acts on reaching his majority was to release the abbot from any actions for waste, since he had evidently taken good care of the young man’s inheritance in Huntingdonshire.3
The Bevilles were a prolific family, and our Member had many kinsmen, one of whom, named John, lived near him at Wood Walton and held office as a tax collector and alnager of Huntingdonshire.4 Robert himself married young, for his elder son, who bore the same name, was betrothed to Alice, the daughter of John Ryslee, either in or before the autumn of 1373. It was then that he settled his property in Ovingdean, Chesterton and Wappenbury upon the couple at a rose rent, although he could only promise them the reversion of the Ovingdean estate, which was held for life by a tenant farmer. Robert Beville the younger appears to have died by 1391, when his father granted his interests in Ovingdean to John Broke and his feoffees. Broke (who was the son of the influential lawyer, John Broke*) may have been distantly related to the Bevilles, but, even so, this settlement was the cause of a long dispute between his daughter and our Member’s second son, Thomas II, who subsequently advanced his own title to the manor.5 Meanwhile, at some point between 1372 and 1383, Beville was retained by John of Gaunt as one of his esquires at a fee of 20 marks a year, and for a brief period, in 1373, he actually campaigned with him in France. This influential connexion could well account, in part at least, for his first return to Parliament in May 1382, although it is important to remember that Beville had already served on a number of royal commissions in Huntingdonshire (including four for the suppression of the Peasants’ Revolt) and was also well known as a local landowner. His colleague in this Parliament was Sir William Moigne*, for whom he and his kinsman, John Beville, subsequently witnessed a number of deeds. He was already on fairly close terms with Moigne’s influential relatives, the Styuecles, whose property in the Huntingdonshire villages of Yelling and Hemmingford Abbots was held by him in trust for a five-year period ending in 1384.6 It is now difficult to discover the extent of his involvement in the affairs of other leading figures in the county, but we know that once, in 1386, he acted as a trustee of the manor of ‘Raulynes’ in Great Stukeley with the judge, Sir John Holt, and that he was also friendly with Robert Waryn*. He chose the latter to be his attorney for the delivery of certain lands and rents in Wood Walton which in 1391 formed an endowment made by him upon Sawtry abbey. Having but recently been confirmed in possession of the manor of Le Northend by a distant kinsman who had previously had an interest in this particular property, Beville probably decided to dispose of some of his new revenues as an act of piety consequent upon the death of his eldest son.7
Although he received no more royal commissions after 1382, and had nothing at all to do with local government during the rest of Richard II’s reign, Beville none the less considered it expedient, in June 1398, to sue out a royal pardon. This was no doubt a mere formality, yet it is interesting to note that he was returned to the first Parliament summoned by Henry IV, the son of his former patron, John of Gaunt. He also emerged from retirement to help collect the subsidy of 1404, although he was by then over 60, and may well have been reluctant to embark upon a new career as a crown servant. He was dead by 1409, since the manor of Le Northend had then passed to his son and heir, Thomas II. References to Joan, ‘lady of Walton’ suggest that he left a widow, who still held dower lands worth £6 13s.4d. three years later. On drawing up his will, in 1436, Thomas bequeathed money to the Augustinian friars of Huntingdon so that masses might be said for his father’s soul.8
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. VCH Hunts. iii. 237-8; VCH Suss. vii. 229; Vis. Hunts. (Cam. Soc. xliii), 117; CCR, 1360-4, p. 485; CIPM, ix. no. 539; xi. no. 550; CFR, vi. 126.
- 2. Laura, widow of Richard Beville, was not our Member’s mother as stated in CIPM, ix. no. 539. The original inquisition post mortem makes it plain that Robert Beville was her ‘next of kin and heir’, and does not specify a more precise relationship (C135/108/53).
- 3. VCH Hunts. iii. 148, 237-8; VCH Suss. vii. 229; VCH Warws. vi. 176; CAD, i. A1290; Hunts. Feet of Fines (Cambridge Antiq. Soc. xxxvii), 67; CIPM, xi. no. 550; xvi. no. 611; CCR, 1349-54, p. 553; 1360-4, p. 485; CFR, vi. 126, 263, 264-5.
- 4. CFR, x. 74, 218, 267; xi. 192, 264; xii. 116, 284; CCR, 1402-5, p. 234.
- 5. Warws. Feet of Fines (Dugdale Soc. xviii), no. 2227; VCH Suss. vii. 229.
- 6. Reg. Gaunt, 1379-83, i. 12; S.K. Walker, ‘John of Gaunt and his retainers, 1361-9’ (Oxf. Univ. D.Phil. thesis, 1986), 268; CCR, 1385-9, p. 444; 1392-6, pp. 255-6, 483; 1399-1402, p. 112; Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. xvii. 143-4.
- 7. C143/414/10; Hunts. Feet of Fines, 92-93; Add. Ch. 34065, 34172; Vis. Hunts. 119.
- 8. C67/30 m. 11; VCH Hunts. iii. 238; Vis. Hunts. 117; Feudal Aids, vi. 464.