ERDESWYK, Sampson, of Sandon and Pillatonhall, Staffs.
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Family and Education
Most of the evidence which has survived about the subject of this biography concerns his involvement in the various vendettas waged by his elder brother, Hugh, against a number of eminent local figures during the early years of the 15th century. According to the long list of indictments filed against the four Erdeswyk brothers in the presence of Henry V at the Lichfield assizes of 1414, Sampson first took up arms in about 1407 when he joined in an attack on Hugh’s confirmed enemy, Sir John Bagot*. Not long afterwards he is reputed to have broken into a house at Uttoxeter and assaulted the owner. He was accused of other acts of violence, the most notable being an attempt to disrupt a session of the peace at Hawkstone, Staffordshire, in September 1413.3 By this date the Erdeswyks’ celebrated feud with Edmund, Lord Ferrers, had assumed serious proportions. Although never reluctant to use physical violence against their adversaries, the family also sought redress in the courts, and in this they were greatly assisted by Sampson, who, a member of the legal profession, had by January 1414 achieved the rank of apprentice-at-law. His zealous pursuit of the quarrel in the court of Chancery, where he appeared as his elder brother’s counsel, created such animosity between the rival factions that on one of his journeys to Westminster a group of Lord Ferrers’s retainers attacked and multilated him. Hugh Erdeswyk’s petition to the Parliament of April 1414 spares no detail of the gruesome injuries inflicted on Sampson by Ferrers’s men, who, it was claimed,
lui bateront, naufreront orriblement mahemeront, c’est assavoir articles de ses pees trencheront ses jambes, brais & mains par divers horribles plaies couperont & debrusseront, par ount ses nerves sount devenuz secchez, & il claudant mahemez a toutz jours, & ses articles issint coupes misteront en le bouche de dit Sampson, & apres ovesque eux asporteront, & luy pur mort lesseront.4
Erdeswyk’s petition (which was countered by one from Lord Ferrers) suggests that the royal commission set up in February 1414 to investigate the attack on his brother had been as ineffective as those previously empowered to discipline members of his own family. Evidence of such blatant disorder in Staffordshire did, however, prompt Henry V to visit the Lichfield assizes during the Trinity term of that year, and hear in person the many charges laid against the Erdeswyk brothers. Even so, none of the chief protagonists were denied the royal pardon (Sampson obtained his in May 1415), and none appear to have been punished in any way for their riotous behaviour.5 On the contrary, Sampson Erdeswyk, now sufficiently recovered from his wounds, was returned to the Parliament of November 1414 while still facing charges of assault and robbery. The electors of Stafford may perhaps have been under some pressure to support the Erdeswyk interest at this time, since although Sampson then lived quite near the borough, in Sandon, he was one of the few non-residents of Stafford to be sent to Parliament during our period. Yet against his position as an ‘outsider’ and his lack of parliamentary experience must be set his legal knowledge and the fact that he belonged to one of the most powerful of county families.
Even though he sat only once in Parliament, Erdeswyk attended the county elections of May 1423 and 1426, on the last occasion heading the list of electors.6 Because of their position in the community both Sampson and Hugh Erdeswyk were recruited by the influential Derbyshire landowner, Sir Richard Vernon, who wished to consolidate his power base in Staffordshire and accordingly made Sampson steward of his manor of Acton at some point before 1436. The latter’s growing importance in local society was, quite clearly, due not only to his close relationship with his elder brother, but also to his own influence as a lawyer and landowner. He acted as a surety at least twice during the early years of his career, and in May 1434 he was among the leading residents of Staffordshire who were required to take oaths not to assist persons breaking the peace. Some time later, in 1451, he and Hugh were called upon to arbitrate in a property dispute between their neighbours, but, unlike his brother, he did not generally become involved in such matters.7 The date of Sampson’s marriage is not known, although there is strong circumstantial evidence to support the family tradition that his wife, Eleanor, was the daughter of the Leicestershire landowner, John Flandres, and the widow of John Hardwick. The latter’s estates lay chiefly in Oxfordshire, but he held other property in the Midlands. It was probably as part of her inheritance that Eleanor obtained the manor of Lindley in Leicestershire, which she and Erdeswyk conveyed to feoffees in 1456, and which passed (together with the Warwickshire manors of Hardwick and Flanders) to her grandson, John Hardwick, at some point over the next three years.8 While a young man, Erdeswyk had lived at Sandon with his brothers, but by 1440, if not before, he was farming land in Penkridge and had settled in the neighbouring village of of Pillatonhall. It was then that Sir Robert Harcourt began a lawsuit against him and one Henry Erdeswyk for an armed robbery which he alleged had taken place in the village. Save for this single incident, the MP’s last years seem to have passed peacefully enough. Indeed, although he probably died in the late 1450s the precise date of his death cannot now be established with any degree of certainty.9
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Ardeswyk, Herdeswyk, Ordeswyk.
- 1. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. n.s. xii. 130-1; CCR, 1419-22, pp. 130-1, 134; 1422-9, p. 55; 1454-61, p. 381.
- 2. S.M. Wright, Derbys. Gentry (Derbys. Rec. Soc. viii), 68, 249.
- 3. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xvii. 5, 11, 21.
- 4. RP, iv. 32-33.
- 5. CPR, 1413-16, p. 180; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xvii. 21.
- 6. C219/13/2, 4, 5.
- 7. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xvi. 89; n.s. (1928), 147-8; CCR, 1409-13, p. 228; 1429-36, p. 399.
- 8. C138/61; CCR, 1405-9, p. 409; 1419-22, pp. 130-1, 134; 1422-9, p. 55; 1454-61, p. 381; Wright, 68, 249; Wm. Salt Lib. Stafford, Chetwynd mss, bdle. 9.
- 9. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xvii. 11; n.s. iii. 151, 155.