CATTON, William (d.1431), of Winchelsea, Suss.
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Family and Education
m. (1) ?1s.; (2) between May 1410 and Nov. 1416, Joan, da. and h. of John Salerne II* of Winchelsea, all ch. d.v.p.; (3) bef. Mich. 1424, Joan (c.1393-bef. 1441), da. of Thomas Wintershall*, sis. and coh. of Thomas Wintershall (d.1420) of Bramley, Surr. and wid. of William Weston II* of Hindhall, Suss.
Parker of Whinburgh and water bailiff of Wiggenhall, Norf. 14 July 1405-d.
Constable of Caeo and Mallaen, Carm. 23 Sept. 1408-d.1
Bailiff, Rye 25 Nov. 1411-24 Oct. 1413, Winchelsea 23 Oct. 1413-d.
Keeper and clerk of the King’s ships 18 July 1413-3 Feb. 1420.
Commr. of arrest Dec. 1413; to survey the port of Winchelsea Apr. 1416; supervise musters of forces going to France, Southampton Apr. 1419, Winchelsea May 1421.
Collector of customs, Chichester 28 Feb. 1416-22, 8 Feb.-12 June 1423.
Dep. butler, Pevensey to New Romney 22 Nov. 1418-28 Jan. 1423.
Catton, who came from Norfolk, entered the service of Henry IV shortly after his accession to the throne, and, as reward for participation in the royal campaigns in Wales and Scotland, he was given in October 1402 the sum of 20 marks from the forfeited goods of a Dutchman who had fled after murdering the under bailiff of Yarmouth. He was known in the circle of the King’s staunch supporter, Sir Thomas Erpingham KG, being an associate of Sir Thomas’s nephews (Sir) William* and (Sir) John Phelip*, themselves already forging careers in the households of the King and the prince of Wales. The northern rebellion of 1405 brought Catton further gains: he obtained for life two offices in Norfolk forfeited by Thomas, Lord Bardolf. Then, in September 1408, as Prince Henry’s ‘yeoman and servitor’, he secured the raglawship of two commotes in Carmarthenshire. In November 1411 he was made bailiff of Rye for life, receiving all the profits of the town as an annuity, only to exchange this post for the bailiffship of Winchelsea in 1413, and it was in the latter place that he resided for the following ten years or longer.2
During the rebellion of Owen Glendower Catton had been employed, most likely by Henry of Monmouth, in organizing the relief by sea of the besieged castles of Aberystwyth and Harlech, as well as in provisioning Pembroke, and after Henry’s accession to the throne he was promoted to the clerkship of the King’s ships. A few days after this appointment, in July 1413, he was commissioned to supervise extensive repairs to royal vessels. In June 1414 he was granted as reward for his labours a ship from Newcastle-upon-Tyne which had been seized for customs’ evasion. Having represented Winchelsea in the Parliament of November that year, which gave its conditional approval to the King’s plans to invade France, he found himself in the following year assuming considerable responsibility for the successful transportation of the English forces across the Channel. He himself took out letters of protection on 18 June 1415 as intending to sail with the King’s personal retinue, and in the following month he received payment of £2,375 6s.8d. for work done to Henry’s great ship, La Trinitee Roiale de la Tour, when she was being built at Greenwich. Catton’s accounts show that up to March 1416 he received from the Exchequer nearly £2,375, which was supplemented by over £613 from the King’s chamber and £2,465 from the profits of trade. (Henry V was reluctant to have his ships lie idle when not needed for warfare, and it apparently fell to Catton to plan trading voyages and to collect the substantial sums paid for freight.) These revenues were expended partly on equipping the ships, and partly on the wages of sailors. For example, over £300 more was spent completing La Trinitee Roiale, and as much again on despatching her in January 1416 to assist the earl of Dorset at Harfleur. Much went on naval repairs and new tackle, including quantities of rope procured at Bridport. That Catton handled his task competently is clear from his continued employment throughout Henry V’s conquest of Normandy, including the organization of the invasion fleet of 1417. He was instructed to account for his disbursements throughout his tenure of office in August 1419 (at the same time as the King granted him two delapidated ships), but it was not until the following February that he handed over the carracks and other vessels in his keeping to his successor, William Soper* of Southampton.3 Even after he ceased to be clerk of the King’s ships, Catton was kept busy in the royal service, most notably as customer in the Sussex ports. Indeed, his vigilance in this regard led to prosecutions for smuggling against the notorious pirate, William Long II* of Rye, and William Marchaunt II* of Iden.4
Nor had Catton neglected his personal advancement in the district where he had become established by virtue of his bailiffship of Winchelsea. He improved his fortunes principally through marriage to the only child of John Salerne II, who had died in 1410 leaving her the bulk of his landed holdings at Winchelsea, Hastings, Iham and Icklesham. These Catton retained after his wife’s death, by ‘the courtesy of England’.5 He became involved in local affairs: at some unknown date between 1413 and 1415 he went surety in Chancery for two men who were suing his wife’s kinsman John Salerne I*, and he also acted as a trustee of property for Robert Onewyn* of Rye.6
Catton withdrew from royal service in 1423, thereafter retaining only those offices he held as sinecures. His retirement probably coincided with his third marriage, which marked his final acceptance into the ranks of the country gentry, for his wife Joan had recently inherited with her sister the estates of their brother, Thomas Wintershall, situated in Surrey and Hampshire; while as widow of a former knight of the shire, William Weston, she held dower lands in Sussex as well.7 Catton long retained contact with Sir William Phelip, the associate of his youth, and when he came to put his second wife’s inheritance into the hands of feoffees, these included both Phelip and (Sir) William Porter II*, respectively Henry V’s last treasurer of the household and executor. When, on 5 Mar. 1431, Catton died, these particular properties were disposed of as John Salerne II had prescribed in his will, since his daughter’s children by Catton had all predeceased her.8 Catton’s widow was to die about ten years later, leaving her estates to her son, John Weston. Nevertheless, William Catton may have left issue (but if so, by an early and otherwise undocumented marriage), for within a few days of his death he was succeeded in his raglawship in Carmarthenshire by Robert Catton, then a groom of the King’s chamber.9
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Authors: A. P.M. Wright / L. S. Woodger
- 1. R.A. Griffiths, Principality of Wales, i. 390-1.
- 2. CPR, 1401-5, p. 158; 1405-8, p. 67; 1408-13, p. 353; 1413-16, pp. 106-7; 1422-9, p. 51; CCR, 1402-5, p. 128.
- 3. PPC, ii. 339-41; CPR, 1413-16, pp. 69, 114, 201; DKR, xli. 793; xliv. 572; E404/31/448, 35/133; CCR, 1413-19, p. 216; E101/44/24.
- 4. E159/196 Trin. rot. 1, 198 Easter rot. 3.
- 5. CP25(1)240/83/22; Cotton Julius BIV, ff. 42-45.
- 6. C1/6/6; Cat. Rye Recs. ed. Dell, 122/13.
- 7. C138/50/86; VCH Surr. iii. 21, 82; VCH Hants, iii. 486-7; Peds. Plea Rolls, 320-1; Suss. Feet of Fines (Suss. Rec. Soc. xxiii), no. 2967.
- 8. Cotton Julius BIV, f. 45.
- 9. Griffiths, 391.