CROYSER, William (d.1415), of Fetcham and Stoke Dabernon, Surr.
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Family and Education
yr. s. and h. of Sir William Croyser† (d.1387) of Stoke Dabernon by his 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. and h. of William Dabernont† (d.1358) of the same. m. by Jan. 1403, Edith (d.26 Apr. 1418), kinswoman of William of Wykeham, bp. of Winchester, 1 da.1
Commr. to report on persons liable for taxation, Surr. Jan. 1412.
The Croysers were an influential Bedfordshire family, and it was not until his marriage (at some point after 1347) to Elizabeth Dabernon that our Member’s father acquired interests in Surrey. Sir William Croyser was a prominent figure in both national and local affairs, for besides serving as sheriff and escheator of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, sitting on many royal commissions, and representing first Bedfordshire and then Surrey in Parliament, he also held office as coroner of the Marshalsea and clerk of the market in Edward III’s household. Croyser owed much of his success in later life to a longstanding connexion with John of Gaunt, in whose affairs he played a notable part. He was steward of Gaunt’s household during most of the 1370s and sat on his council for many years, probably until his death in 1387. His eldest son, Sir John, whom he chose to execute his will, was also one of Gaunt’s retainers, but he appears to have died soon after his father, thus leaving his younger brother, the subject of this biography, heir to the family estates.2
William Croyser the younger had no claim to the extensive Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire property of his father’s first wife, Alice Pavenham, but he could, none the less, look forward to a substantial landed income from the Surrey manors of Stoke Dabernon, Fetcham and Albury which, together with rents in the villages of Apps Court and Headley, belonged to his mother, Elizabeth Dabernon. We do not know if Croyser eventually inherited her share of the manor of Drewsteignton in Devon, but the Surrey properties alone were worth over £40 above whatever revenues he derived from other holdings in Great Bookham left to him by his father.3 The years immediately following the latter’s death were, even so, a difficult time for our MP, in part because his mother, from whom he stood to inherit the bulk of his estates, lived on until 1395, if not later; but chiefly as a result of the burden of debt which both of them had to bear. Despite her remarriage to John Grey, a kinsman of Reynold, Lord Grey of Ruthin, the widowed Lady Croyser faced serious financial problems, incurred, perhaps, in her capacity as executrix of her first husband’s will.4 In June 1388, she conveyed her manor of ‘Brettesgrave’ (probably Bridesgrave) in Surrey, together with securities of £200 to the goldsmiths Henry and Adam Bamme*, who may well have been advancing her some kind of mortgage. Four years later William Croyser acted as a mainpernor on her behalf during the course of an action for debt brought against her by Roger Wangford, a London draper, and in March 1393 both mother and son joined with John Squiry in offering bonds worth £60 to two members of the Mercers’ Company. In July 1394 Elizabeth and William Croyser undertook to pay £200 to another city merchant named John Sandhurst, who successfully sued them for defaulting upon their agreement and was assigned the money from the manor of Albury, which Croyser then occupied. It was specifically as Elizabeth’s son (and probably as her executor) that Croyser received royal letters patent in October 1396 pardoning him two separate sentences of outlawry incurred for his failure to appear in court when being sued for further debts totalling £40. In November 1398 he offered a recognizance in the same amount to John Cobham* of Hever in Kent, who had been given an annuity of £5 for life from Albury by our Member’s father, and had probably insisted upon some form of compensation once the reassignment of the manorial revenues began to take effect. Croyser had, meanwhile, been given a general pardon by Richard II, which, although largely a matter of routine, must have proved a great help to him in light of his rather tortuous financial affairs.5
Most of the surviving evidence about Croyser’s career concerns his involvement in litigation. In December 1399, for instance, he obtained a writ of supersedeas while being sued for threatening behaviour; and at some date before May 1406 he was charged once with trespass and twice with failing to pay debts, which on this occasion came to £48. During the Trinity term of 1408 he was arraigned on an assize of novel disseisin at Croydon, although he himself subsequently went to law for the recovery of unspecified land or rents in Surrey.6 Of Croyser’s other activities rather less is known. He had clearly taken possession of his mother’s estates by July 1400, since it was then that he presented to the living at Fetcham. He married Edith, a kinswoman of William of Wykeham, bishop of Winchester (d. Sept. 1404), who left her a welcome bequest of £100 in his will. She appears to have owned property in Cambridgeshire, but it is now impossible to tell how far Croyser benefited as a result of the match. On the strength of his own landed income alone he was certainly eligible for a knighthood, and in October 1411 he was distrained for not taking up the rank. Given his background and position as a landowner it is surprising that he did not become more closely involved in local government, although his financial problems may perhaps have occupied him to the exclusion of other matters. His indebtedness probably continued until the end of his life, for in December 1412, Thomas, earl of Arundel, received a bond of £500 from him as security for the performance of certain unrecorded conditions.7
Croyser evidently spent his last years in retirement. He made a gift of a pike to Henry V at the time of his coronation in April 1413, and two years later he settled his manor of Albury upon the two feoffees who were later to become his executors. He died on 9 Dec. 1415 and was buried at the parish church of Stoke Dabernon, near to his father. His widow, Edith, took Sir Maurice Bruyn as her second husband, and on the day she died (26 Apr. 1418) Anne, the only surviving child of her marriage to Croyser, was married to Bruyn’s son, Ingram. The girl was then only 13 years old, and she outlived Ingram to become the wife of Sir Henry Norbury†, son and heir of John Norbury*, sometime treasurer of England.8
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. C131/44/7; C138/12/37, 32/30; Lambeth Pal. Lib. Reg. Courtenay, f. 222; VCH Surr. iii. 286; Surr. Arch. Colls. x. 283-7; li. 92; CFR, vii. 67-69; Test. Vetusta ed. Nicolas, ii. 771.
- 2. PRO List ‘Escheators’, 6; ‘Sheriffs’, 2; CFR, vi. 387; Somerville, Duchy, i. 364; Reg. Gaunt 1371-5, passim; 1379-83, pp. 9-10; Reg. Courtenay, f. 222.
- 3. C138/12/37, 32/30; CFR, vii. 67-69; CPR, 1346-9, pp. 242-3; VCH Surr. iii. 286; CIPM, xiv. 209; xv. 10; Feudal Aids, vi. 517; Add. Ch. 5609.
- 4. Reg. Courtenay, f. 222. Elizabeth Croyser had married John Grey by the autumn of 1391, and with him she held the reversion of the manor of Wrestlingworth in Bedfordshire, which her stepdaughter, Elizabeth, occupied as tenant. The latter, our Member’s half-sister, married successively Sir Ralph Camoys, Sir Edward Kendale and Sir Thomas de la Barre* (CCR, 1369-74, p. 575; 1374-7, p. 156; 1419-22, pp. 180-1; CPR, 1374, p. 208).
- 5. CCR, 1385-9, pp. 497-9; 1389-92, p. 546; 1392-6, p. 132; C67/30 m. 12; C131/44/7; CPR, 1396-9, pp. 128, 408.
- 6. CCR, 1399-1402, p. 104; CPR, 1405-8, p. 134; JUST 1/1521 rot. 47v, 1528 rot. 31v.
- 7. O. Manning and W. Bray, Surr. i. 486; Test. Vetusta, ii. 771; E401/656; Add. Ch. 5615.
- 8. J.H. Wylie, Hen. V, i. 4; Add. Ch. 5616; C138/12/37, 32/30; Surr. Arch. Colls. x. 283-7; li. 92; CFR, xiv. 270-1.