CURSON, John (d.1405), of Kedleston, Derbys.
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Family and Education
prob. s. and h. of Roger Curson (d. by 1370) of Kedleston. m. Joan, 2s. 1da.1
Commr. to make arrests, Derbys. Apr. 1369, Nov. 1391, Notts. Nov. 1401; of inquiry, Staffs. Feb. 1385 (disorder at Colton), Derbys., Cheshire, Staffs. Nov. 1399 (cattle thefts), Notts. June 1403 (estates of the late Sir Hugh Annesley); oyer and terminer, Derbys. Nov. 1391 (persons charged with felonies), Feb., July, Sept. 1401 (appeals against judgements in the constable’s ct.), Notts., Derbys. May 1402 (settle a dispute between the burgesses of Nottingham and Derby over tolls), Derbys., Leics., Staffs., Warws. June 1402 (treasons), Lancs. Nov. 1402 (trespasses on crown property), June 1404 (treasons generally); gaol delivery, Nottingham castle Nov. 1391;2 to execute the statutes on weirs, Derbys. Sept. 1398; of array Dec. 1399, Sept. 1403; to suppress treasonous rumours May 1402.
Surveyor of a tax, Derbys. Aug. 1379.
J.p. Derbys. 23 Jan. 1383-Dec. 1387, 28 Jan. 1397-d.
Escheator, Notts. and Derbys. 24 Nov. 1394-18 Nov. 1395.
Steward of the duchy of Lancaster lordship of Tutbury, Staffs. bef. 26 Jan. 1395-d.3
Member of the council of Hen. IV c. Nov. 1399-d.4
Keeper of Horston castle, Derbys. 18 Jan. 1400-d.
Treasurer of wars for Hen. IV’s expedition to Scotland c. Aug. 1400.5
Ambassador to supervise the holding of love-days on the Scottish march 30 Sept.-6 Nov. 1400; to treat for a marriage between the Princess Blanche and Louis, the son of the King of the Romans 13 Feb. 1401; to witness the signing of the treaty with the Scots 17 Mar.-30 June 1401.6
John Curson may already have succeeded his putative father by 1369, when he received his first royal commission, but he was certainly in possession of the family seat at Kedleston by the following year as he then presented to the living there. In May 1372 he gave his support to a chaplain named Geoffrey Chaddesden who was involved in a dispute over the mastership of the hospital of Burton Lazars in Leicestershire, and he consequently played a significant part in the ensuing settlement by arbitration. His precise relationship with the John Curson who had been a follower of Henry Grosmont, duke of Lancaster (d.1360), and who was subsequently granted a modest pension by the latter’s son-in-law, John of Gaunt, cannot now be determined. Nor do we know the degree of kinship which bound him to Sir John Curson, one of Gaunt’s household knights whose estates lay in the Derbyshire village of Croxall, although it was thanks to Sir John’s intervention that he was pardoned, in November 1372, for poaching deer from the duke’s chase at Duffield. A few months later he himself enlisted under Gaunt’s banner for an expedition to France; and, his former peccadiloes forgiven, he eventually rose to occupy the important office of steward of the duchy of Lancaster lordship of Tutbury. Meanwhile, in June 1383 (by which date he had become a j.p. in Derbyshire), he and Sir John Curson offered a joint bond worth £106 to one John Shakelle. Curson found himself in considerable demand as a trustee, and quite often performed this service during Richard II’s reign, most notably for Richard, Lord Grey of Codnor, and John Tuchet, the future Lord Audley. Several of the property transactions in which he played a part were undertaken in association with other prominent supporters of the house of Lancaster. During the late 1380s, for instance, a group of these men (including Sir Thomas Wensley*, his colleague in the Parliament of October 1382) appeared with him as the feoffees of land in and around the Derbyshire village of Radbourne; and in 1396 he and Sir Walter Blount* began a collusive suit over the ownership of land in Croxall at the Derby assizes. Their fellow plaintiff was Sir Nicholas Montgomery I* of Cubley, whose daughter eventually married Curson’s elder son. A good deal of the MP’s time was in fact taken up with matters of this kind, and from 1396 onwards he also had to deal with litigation arising from the administration of the estate of Sir John Gresley (grandfather of Sir Thomas*), who had made him an executor of his will. Somewhat surprisingly, however, he showed no real desire to extend his own holdings, being content simply to acquire rents worth £5 p.a. at Wingerworth.7
As a loyal employee of the duchy of Lancaster, Curson naturally enough opposed the arbitrary behaviour of Richard II, who first sent Gaunt’s son, Henry of Bolingbroke, into exile, and then, on the duke’s death, in February 1399, confiscated his entire inheritance. In common with many other Derbyshire gentlemen, Curson mobilized a private force of retainers in support of Bolingbroke, who landed at Ravenspur in July 1399 to an enthusiastic reception from his followers. The allowance of £100 subsequently made to Curson for his expenses in providing a bodyguard then and at the Parliament which met later at Westminster suggests that his retinue was a large one. Bolingbroke’s seizure of the throne, with its promise of further patronage and preferment, left Curson in an even stronger position than before. The electors of Derbyshire were certainly anxious to display their sympathy with the new regime, which they did by returning Curson and his old friend, Sir Walter Blount, to the House of Commons. At the very close of the session, on 19 Nov. 1399, Curson received an annuity of £20 in gratitude for his past services both to Henry IV and his father; and as an even greater mark of confidence he was appointed one of the few commoners to sit on the royal council, which he did intermittently until his death. In point of fact, the wide range of duties assigned to him by the King gave him little time for conciliar business. As treasurer of wars during Henry’s campaign against the Scots in the late summer of 1400, he was responsible for the payment of wages which alone exceeded £6,587; and far larger sums actually passed through his hands, as, for example, on 4 Aug. when he took receipt of £8,210 at Newcastle-upo-Tyne. The diplomatic missions which he then had to perform made him something of an expert on Scottish affairs, and he spent the following autumn on the border supervising the settlement of various local disputes. When, in February 1401, the earl of Douglas complained to King Henry about breaches of the truce by members of the Percy family, Curson was one of the councillors promptly summoned to advise the King; and it was on his recommendation that a royal commission of inquiry began to investigate the allegations. He himself travelled north again soon afterwards to witness the signing of a treaty with the Scots, his companion on this occasion being Douglas’s sworn enemy, the earl of Northumberland.8 In the meantime, the Commons of 1401 showed some concern over the composition and responsibilities of the royal council, which, they felt, should be appointed in Parliament. This was all part of a wider criticism of the royal household and the conduct of the government generally, although Curson clearly escaped censure since he continued to attend the newly constituted council on a rather more frequent basis than before. The outbreak of rebellion in Wales led him to change his theatre of operations, and in June we find him acting as a messenger between Henry IV (who was then at Worcester) and his advisors in London. He was, moreover, still employed by the King on a variety of purely local administrative tasks, for which his important position in the Derbyshire community made him particularly suitable. His appointment in 1402 as one of the arbitrators chosen to settle a trade dispute between the burgesses of Derby and Nottingham serves as a case in point, and shows that he remained in close contact with the county of his birth. Indeed, in the following year he used his influence at Court to obtain royal permission for the endowment of a chantry by the guild of St. Mary, Chesterfield. It was in 1403 that Curson was summoned as a representative for Derbyshire to attend a great council at Westminster. His last return to Parliament, in January 1404, assumes particular significance in view of the fact that another attempt was then made by the Commons to secure the formal appointment of councillors sanctioned by Parliament in the hope that this might lead to improved standards of government. Once again, however, Curson himself was included in the list of 22 approved royal advisors acceptable to the Lower House, and he continued active on royal business until his death. In the following July he witnessed an exchange whereby Henry IV acquired the castle of Berwick-upon-Tweed from the earl of Northumberland, and not long after he assumed responsibility for the payment of troops campaigning in Wales. He died in the spring of 1405, having previously been summoned to yet another great council.9
John Curson was buried at Kedleston church in a tomb which depicts him in full armour, wearing the Lancastrian ‘SS’ collar of livery. His elder son and heir, John, was then about 12 years old. The boy’s wardship did not, however, revert to the Crown, since Curson had earlier taken the precaution of settling all his estates on trustees. His widow, Joan, retained the customary third of the manor of Kedleston as dower; and in 1406 she was permitted by Henry IV to occupy the estates of the young Edward Foljambe free of rent, as her husband had done in his lifetime. By August 1411, John Curson the younger had married Margaret, a daughter of Sir Nicholas Montgomery I, while Joan herself became the new wife of the Nottinghamshire landowner, Sir Hugh Hussey* of Flintham. According to one local source, Curson’s only daughter, Margaret, took as her husband Thomas Okeover*, another Derbyshire landowner whose family was noted for its attachment to the house of Lancaster.10
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. J.C. Cox, Notes on Churches Derbys. iii. 171-6; C137/52/4; DL42/16 (pt.2), f. 24; Derbys. Chs. ed. Jeayes, no. 1505; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. n.s. vii. 180-2.
- 2. C66/333 m. 6v.
- 3. Somerville, Duchy, i. 381, 539.
- 4. TRHS (ser. 4), xiv. 43, 50, 53, 62, 63; EHR, lxxix. 8-9; 30; E404/17/741; RP, iii. 530.
- 5. J.H. Wylie, Hen. IV, iv. 248, 251; Cal. Scots. Docs. iv. no. 556.
- 6. E101/320/23; E404/16/708, 17/318; Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 181; Cal. Scots. Docs. iv. no. 589; Wylie, iv. 191, 193.
- 7. JUST 1/1501, rot. 81, 82; Cox, iii. 171-6; Reg. Gaunt 1371-5, nos. 49, 154, 739, 750-1; CCR, 1369-74, pp. 432-3, 437-8; 1381-5, p. 389; Feudal Aids, vi. 592; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xv. 74, 97; xvi. 87-88; Feudal Hist. Derbys. ed. Yeatman, ii (4), 450; Belvoir Castle deeds 2131-4, 6222; Huntington Lib. San Marino, Hastings ms HAD 124/1992; Derbys. Chs. nos. 1924, 1984, 1985.
- 8. DL29/738/12100; DL42/15, ff. 8v, 70v; E404/16/354, 378; Letters Hen. IV ed. Hingeston, i. 61; TRHS (ser. 4), xiv. 43, 50, 53, 62, 63; Wylie, iv. 191, 193, 248, 251; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 351.
- 9. Hist. Studies Eng. Parl. ed. Fryde and Miller, ii. 32-41; C143/434/15; PPC, i. 135; ii. 88, 99; CPR, 1401-5, pp. 89, 346, 412; Issues ed. Devon, 303; Cal. Signet Letters ed. Kirby, no. 67.
- 10. C137/52/4; DL42/16 (pt. 2), f. 24; Somerville, i. 539; Cox, iii. 178-9; Derbys. Chs. no. 1505; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. n.s. vii. 180-2.