BODRUGAN, William I, of Markwell in St. Erney, Cornw.
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Family and Education
illegit. s. of Otto Bodrugan† (d.1389) of Bodrugan, Cornw.
?Sheriff, Cornw. 6 Oct. 1402-22 Oct. 1403.
Tax collector, Cornw. Mar. 1404.
The Bodrugans, ‘an ancient, eminent and opulent Cornish family’, had a long tradition of parliamentary service for the boroughs and shire of Cornwall. They were placed among the more substantial landowners of the county: by the mid 14th century their landed holdings had grown to include the manors of Restronguet, Tremodret, Tregrehan and Bodrugan, four hamlets, the borough of Looe, and six advowsons, and in 1362 as much as £52 was required as payment in relief fines after the death of this William Bodrugan’s uncle, Sir William Bodrugan†. But the integrity of the estate was jeopardized by the failure of the male line: although William’s grandfather, Sir Otto Bodrugan† (d.1331) had left three sons, none of them produced legitimate male children. Thus, in the 1380s possession of the Bodrugan estates was divided between Otto Bodrugan (William’s father) and Sir Richard Cergeaux*, whose first wife had been Otto’s niece, Elizabeth. Because of his illegitimacy William could not have expected to inherit much of the family property; yet by settlements made by his father in 1382 he did obtain the reversion of land at Markwell, Carburrow and elsewhere in Cornwall after the deaths of Cergeaux and John Beville*, and these arrangements were respected when Cergeaux died 11 years later. The settlement of the rest of the inheritance was governed by an entail made in 1386, whereby it was decided that following the deaths of Otto Bodrugan and Sir Richard Cergeaux the estates were first to pass to a group of feoffees to hold for William’s half-brother, Otto (who seems to have been an idiot and, in any case, died before 1389), and then to go to the children of his half-sister Joan, at that time the wife of Ralph Trenewith I*. William himself fared badly: his share was restricted to a reversionary interest in the manor of Tregrehan in St. Blazey. It was not until after the deaths of his father and Cergeaux (which occurred in 1389 and 1393 respectively) that he made any attempt to improve his lot. Then, joining forces with his nephew and namesake, William Bodrugan II* (born Trenewith), he challenged the distribution of the lands, first by disputing the claims of Joan Bodrugan’s third husband, John Trevarthian* (in 1394 the two William Bodrugans were required to provide securities before the justices at Launceston that they would not molest Trevarthian and his father), and then, in 1398, ‘with a great multitude of men of their covin’, by entering the manors of Tremodret and Trevelyn by force, in an attempt to displace Cergeaux’s widow and daughters. Although they were required to appear before the King’s Council, William Bodrugan ‘senior’ persisted in bringing an assize of novel disseisin regarding these manors against Sir John Cornwall (who had married Cergeaux’s widow), and the suit was still pending at Easter 1399. Bodrugan also started legal action against Cergeaux’s daughters, but when, in 1402, independent arbiters were called in, it was found that his case rested on a forged document, and he was made to seal a formal disclaimer to the manors of Tremodret and Trevelyn. In the same year he handed over the manor of Markwell to his nephew for a term of 40 years.1
Bodrugan’s parliamentary and public career is difficult to trace accurately. His appearance in Parliament for two boroughs is more an indication of the local influence of his father than of outstanding ability on his own part. In this connexion it is interesing to note that in the April Parliament of 1384 his father represented the county, and also that at the time of his return for Launceston four years later his father was still active in local affairs. It remains uncertain whether it was he or his nephew who was elected to Parliament by the shire in 1401 and who served as sheriff in 1402-3; but circumstantial evidence favours the older man. It was probably William senior, too, who in 1396 had appeared in Chancery on behalf of Thomas Cary, undertaking that the latter would return to the court certain charters relating to the estates forfeited by his father Sir John Cary†, the chief baron of the Exchequer impeached in the Merciless Parliament.2
The date of Bodrugan’s death has not been traced, but there is no doubt that he lived longer than his nephew and namesake (who died in 1416), for in the summer of 1420, described as William Bodrugan ‘bastard’, he made a personal appearance in the court of the Exchequer, having refused to pay relief fines long overdue for the manor of Tremodret. It had been thought that he was an executor of his father’s will, but he denied this and stated, furthermore, that he had inherited nothing whatsoever from him. Bodrugan informed the court that those now responsible for paying the fines were his nephew’s eldest son, Sir William Bodrugan,* and the descendants of Sir Richard Cergeaux. In the same year, 1420, he was sued by another kinsman, John Trenewith, for a debt of £40 which he had incurred in 1404.3
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
Contemporary variants: Bodrigan, Botrygan, Brodrygan.
- 1. J. Maclean, Trigg Minor, i. 548-55; SC6/817/8; Cornw. Feet of Fines (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. 1950), 723, 757-60; JUST 1/1502 m. 171d; CCR, 1392-6, p. 512; 1396-9, pp. 268, 321, 371; CFR, xi. 254; C146/9343, 10469, 10579; CAD, iii. 5953; E175/3/9.
- 2. CCR, 1392-6, p. 517.
- 3. E368/192 mm. 88, 89, 141d; C241/214/10.