BREWES, Sir Thomas (c.1356-1395), of Manningford Bruce, Wilts. and Little Bookham and Bramley, Surr.
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Family and Education
b.c.1356, 2nd s. and h. of Thomas, Lord Brewes (1301-61), of Manningford Bruce by his w. Beatrice (d.1383), da. of Roger Mortimer, earl of March (d.1330). m. Margaret (d. Aug. 1444), 1s. 1da. Kntd. by Dec. 1372.1
Commr. of array, Surr. Mar. 1392.
This MP came of a distinguished family, being the second son of Sir Thomas Brewes, whose services as a captain and councillor were rewarded by Edward III in 1348 with the grant of a barony, together with the keepership of all royal forests south of the Trent. The elder Brewes had by this date married Beatrice, one of the seven children of the ill-fated royal favourite, Roger Mortimer, first earl of March, and the widow of Edward, son and heir apparent of Thomas Brotherton, earl of Norfolk. The couple owned extensive estates spread over five English counties: their chief holdings comprised the manors of Bidlington, Sedgwick and Chesworth in Sussex, Little Bookham, Imworth and Bramley in Surrey, Manningford Bruce in Wiltshire, Werthorpe in Yorkshire and Tetbury in Gloucestershire. On his death in 1361, Lord Brewes was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir John, who died childless six years later, leaving his younger brother, the subject of this biography, heir to the family estates. Since his mother possessed a life interest in each of the nine manors listed above, Sir Thomas did not gain control of his inheritance until her death in 1383. His financial circumstances appear to have been so strained until then that in August 1376, while he was still a royal ward, the King granted him an annuity of £40 to support him during his mother’s lifetime. This fee was also bestowed in consideration of Sir Thomas’s services to the Crown, although we are not told what form these took. Indeed, comparatively little evidence has survived to illuminate his career before he obtained seisin of the Brewes estates. During the Hilary term of 1375 he and his mother were arraigned at Southwark on an assize of novel disseisin, but the case was postponed and disappears from the records. It was about four years later that Sir Thomas joined the retinue of Richard, earl of Arundel, with whom he and his kinsman, Sir John Brewes, also campaigned against the French in March 1387. Otherwise his activities remain undocumented.2
Brewes’s prospects improved dramatically in November 1383, when he finally gained entry to an inheritance worth at least £71 a year, and probably far more. Yet he seems to have made no real attempt to exploit the territorial influence thus placed at his disposal, being content to represent Surrey twice in Parliament and serve on only one local commission during the remaining 12 years of his life. Nor, despite his influential connexions and background, did he play a particularly prominent part in the affairs of neighbouring landowners, although he was occasionally involved in their business transactions. In the summer of 1384, for example, he acted as a feoffee-to-uses for William Brantingham*, who had just bought the manor of Catteshull from William Weston I (his future parliamentary colleague) and his wife. Brewes was at this time bound in joint sureties of 10,000 marks on behalf of Thomas Holand, earl of Kent, who had been sold the marriage of Roger Mortimer, earl of March (our Member’s kinsman) by his half-brother, Richard II. The contents of a writ of supersedeas obtained in the previous May in favour of Brewes and two of his servants reveal that he was also then being sued by the Crown in the court of the Exchequer for unspecified ‘contempts and trespasses’, perhaps arising from the administration of his mother’s estate; but again no more is heard of the charges which were presumably dropped. Five years later, in July 1389, the widowed Isabel Brewes offered Sir Thomas, who was her brother-in-law, and thus next heir to the property which she held in dower, sureties of £100 leviable upon her lands in Surrey, perhaps as an earnest of her readiness to compromise in some family dispute. Shortly after his return to the 1393 Parliament, Brewes was granted a second writ of supersedeas, this time to halt an action for debt being brought against him in the court of common pleas. One of his mainpernors on this occasion was the influential Londoner, William Cromer*. Brewes is last mentioned during the autumn of 1393, when he was involved in litigation over the ownership of unspecified property in Surrey, being represented at the Southwark assizes by Robert Bussebrigge*, a popular local attorney.3
Brewes died on 2 Sept. 1395, seven days after the birth of his only son, Thomas. The child’s death, one month later, was followed in a matter of days by that of his infant sister, Joan, and it was thus that the family estates passed to Brewes’s niece, Elizabeth, Baroness Say, and her husband, Sir William Heron†. The widowed Margaret Brewes, who retained possession of her husband’s property in Yorkshire and Gloucestershire, together with the Sussex manors of Chesworth and Sedgwick, married Sir William Burcester*, within four months of Brewes’s death. She outlived a third husband, Sir John Berkeley I* (who had also been married twice before), by over 16 years, but does not appear to have remarried again.4
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Breause, Breaux, Breouse, Brousa.
- 1. C136/86/7; CIPM, xi. 38; xii. 118; xv. 933-8; CPR, 1370-4, p. 227; CCR, 1381-5, p. 344; CP, ii. 308-10. Some doubt exists as to Sir Thomas’s exact date of birth, especially in view of his early knighthood. He was said to be 15 in 1367, although an inquisition of 1383 describes him as being ‘24 or above’ . We know, however, that he was still a minor in 1376 (CPR, 1374-7, p. 334).
- 2. CP, ii. 308-10; CPR, 1334-8, p. 62; 1358-61, p. 543; 1361-4, p. 120; 1370-4, pp. 227, 334; CCR, 1346-9, p. 431; 1360-4, p. 148; 1364-8, pp. 97-98, 325, 329; 1381-5, p. 344; CIPM, xi. 38; xii. 118; xv. 933-8; Add. 5705, f. 321; CFR, vii. 370; JUST 1/1484, rot. 26; E101/36/32, 40/33.
- 3. CP25(1)231/61/73; CPR, 1381-5, p. 452; CCR, 1381-5, pp. 447, 572; 1389-92, p. 51; 1392-6, p. 132; JUST 1/1503, rot. 76.
- 4. Suss. Arch. Colls. viii. 98-103; CP, ii. 308-10; C136/86/7; CPR, 1391-6, p. 702; CFR, xi. 160, 172, 180.