CHAMBER, Roger de la (d.c.1400), of Spratton, Northants.
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Family and Education
m. (1) 1s.; (2) by June 1382, Elizabeth (1359-c.1404), da. and h. of Sir John Swynford (d.1370), of Spratton by his w. Joan Ardern, wid. of Sir Thomas Broughton† (d. by 1374) of Broughton and Newington, Oxon., and William Adderbury, at least 1s. Thomas†.1
Escheator, Northants. and Rutland 25 Oct. 1381-12 Dec. 1382.
Sheriff, Northants. 24 Nov. 1382-1 Nov. 1383, 11 Nov. 1384-20 Oct. 1385, 18 Nov. 1387-1 Dec. 1388.
Commr. of inquiry, Northants. Jan. 1384 (custodianship of the royal forest of Whittlewood), Oct., Nov. 1386 (extortion by crown officials); to make arrests, Mar. 1390 (persons impugning the King’s right to present to the wardenship of St. John’s hospital, Northampton); of oyer and terminer Dec. 1391 (attack on Sulby abbey); to hold a special assize of novel disseisin Feb. 1392 (property dispute in Stratford).2
Tax collector, Northants. Dec. 1384.
J.p. Northants. 12 July 1388-90, 20 Sept. 1392-June 1394.
Alnager, Northants. and Rutland 20 July 1394-11 Nov. 1395.
Nothing is known for certain about our Member’s early life, although he may well have been the Roger de la Chamber who, in September 1376, owned a tenement in the London parish of All Hallows, Bread Street. That he and his son, Sir John, had some interests in the City is clear from two deeds of February 1397, whereby the latter released his title to other dwellings there. No evidence has, however, survived to connect Chamber with Northamptonshire before the summer of 1382, by which date he had married the rich and influential Elizabeth Swynford, and was attempting to recover certain unspecified property of hers across the county border in Bedfordshire. Elizabeth was not only heir to her mother’s manors of Spratton and Holdenby in Northamptonshire, but also the occupant of land in the Oxfordshire villages of Broughton and Newington which had been settled upon her as dower by her first husband, Sir Thomas Broughton. She probably acquired other interests through her second marriage to William Adderbury, who had helped her to recover part of these estates. Chamber also seems to have been married before, since his son was old enough to be engaged in business transactions of his own at about this time.3
Chamber quickly assumed a prominent place in Northamptonshire society, and was soon actively engaged in the business of local government. Within a few years he had held office as both sheriff and escheator, as well as representing the county in Parliament and sitting on the bench. His untiring efforts in this field did not prevent him from acquiring an unenviable reputation for violent and high-handed behaviour: indeed, in 1384, the year of his first return to the House of Commons, he was twice accused of complicity in acts of extortion. In February a commission of oyer and terminer met to investigate the charge that he and the abbot of Croyland had conspired to obtain £200 by kidnapping and threatening a local merchant; and not long afterwards one of the earl of Derby’s tenants from Lillingstone alleged that Chamber had incited a group of men to assault and imprison him on various occasions. He was, on the other hand, a party at this time to the settlement by arbitration of a property dispute between Roger Dayrell* and one of his neighbours, being named as a mediator on Dayrell’s behalf. Chamber was again involved in legal proceedings some six years later, although on this occasion he was clearly not the guilty party. In the course of a suit in Chancery against his former guardian, William Breakespeare, one John Willington claimed that his marriage had been sold illegally to Chamber for the sum of £100, of which £20 had already been paid. At a somewhat later date in 1393, and again in 1394, the MP was summoned to appear at the Northampton assizes as a co-defendant in two actions of novel disseisin, but it seems likely that he was a feoffee-to-uses rather than the owner of the property in question.4
Comparatively little evidence has survived to illuminate the rest of Chamber’s career, for despite his involvement in administrative affairs, he seems to have established very few personal connexions in Northamptonshire. He twice presented to the living at Holdenby in the right of his wife; and in 1386 he witnessed two deeds for his neighbour, Sir John Seaton. Of rather more interest are the letters of pardon issued to him in June 1398 by Richard II, but it is now impossible to tell if these were more than a formality. His finances were growing uncomfortably strained, and he may already have been faced with the prospect of several actions for debt. Litigation was in fact begun against his widow, Elizabeth, and his son, Sir John, in their capacity as executors of his will, although between November 1401 and January 1404 they managed to avoid paying at least five of his creditors. The two of them had by then obtained royal pardons for outlawries incurred because of their failure to defend suits for the recovery of debts totalling £53 5s.4d., all of which were owed to London tradesmen and merchants.5
Chamber’s widow died in, or slightly before, 1404, and her estates passed to her son, Thomas, who followed his father’s example by becoming sheriff of Northamptonshire and representing the county in Parliament. He also played a distinguished part in the wars with France, and was able further to consolidate the family holdings through marriage.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: del, de la or atte Chambers, Chambre, Chaumbre, Chaumbur.
- 1. VCH Bucks. iv. 101-2; VCH Oxon. ix. 88; JUST 1/1494 rot. 49v, 50v; J. Bridges, Northants. ii. 527; CIPM, xiii. 174; CCR, 1381-5, p. 309; 1385-9, p. 78; CFR, viii. 204-5; CPR, 1401-5, pp. 74, 338.
- 2. C66/334 m. 20d.
- 3. CPR, 1374-7, p. 345; Corporation of London RO, hr 125/73, 96; CIPM, xiii. 174; VCH Oxon. ix. 88; VCH Bucks. iv. 101-2; Bridges, i. 527; CCR, 1381-5, p. 309; 1385-9, p. 78; JUST 1/1494 rot. 49v, 50v.
- 4. CPR, 1381-5, pp. 421-2; Sel. Cases in Chancery (Selden Soc. x), 105; C1/6/89; Huntington Lib. San Marino, STG Grenville evidences, box VIII; JUST 1/1501 rot. 22, 23v, 25, 27.
- 5. Bridges, i. 528; Add. Chs. 2219-20; C67/30 m. 17; CPR, 1401-5, pp. 74, 171, 338.
- 6. VCH Bucks. iv. 101-2; J.S. Roskell, Commons of 1422, pp. 163-4.