FRENINGHAM, John (1345-1410), of Farningham, Loose and West Barming, Kent.
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Family and Education
b. and bap. East Farleigh 26 Dec. 1345, 1st. s. of Sir Ralph Freningham† (d.1364) of Farningham by his w. Katherine. m. c.1365, Alice, da. of Sir Thomas Uvedale† of Titsey, Surr. and Wickham, Hants, s.p.
Commr. of array, Kent Apr., July 1377, Mar. 1380, Mar., May, July 1381, Jan., Apr. 1385, May 1386, Aug. 1388, Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399, Jan. 1400, July 1402, Aug. 1403, May 1406; inquiry Mar. 1378 (a death), Jan. 1380 (escape of a felon), Oct. 1381 (names of the principal insurgents), July 1388 (property of St. Stephen’s chapel, Westminster), Mar. 1390 (lands forfeited by Sir Simon Burley), Kent, Mdx. Dec. 1390 (defaults of a former escheator), Kent Feb. 1391 (trespasses), May, Aug. 1392, Suss. Feb. 1393 (de Vere estates), Kent June 1393 (salmon poaching), May 1394 (shipwreck), Feb. 1401 (petition from King’s tenants at Eltham), June 1406 (concealments); to survey ports and coast for defence Oct. 1380, Feb. 1381; of oyer and terminer July 1381, Sept. 1393, Dec. 1401; to put down rebellion July, Sept. 1381, Mar., Dec. 1382; of sewers Aug. 1382; to audit pontage, Rochester bridge Nov. 1384, June 1385; of arrest, Kent Nov. 1385; to remove obstructions in river Medway Sept. 1393; seize estates of the rebel earls, Kent, Suss. Jan. 1400; raise royal loans June 1406.
J.p. for the Lathes of Aylesford and Sutton-at-Hone and the Lowy of Tonbridge 1 Apr. 1378-c.1379, Kent 18 Oct. 1383-d.
Sheriff, Kent 25 Nov. 1378-5 Nov. 1379, 7 Nov. 1393-11 Nov. 1394.
Tax surveyor, Kent May 1381.
Jt. keeper of the temporalities of the see of Canterbury 5 Sept.-21 Oct. 1399.
Member of Henry IV’s council 1 Nov. 1399-10 Mar. 1401.
John was a direct descendant of Ralph Freningham who in 1270 had received a royal charter for a market and fair at his manor of Farningham (to the south of Dartford). This property, together with the family’s substantial holdings at West Barming, Loose and in other places, all near Maidstone, John inherited when he was 18, on his father’s death in 1364. His mother retained a large portion of his inheritance as her dower and jointure, and although the Crown released possession of those lands held in gavelkind tenure to which he was coheir with his younger brother, the rest were withheld on account of his minority. However, in May 1365 he was himself granted the wardship of certain of his properties in return for a payment at the Exchequer of £22 5s.11d. a year (at which sum the premises had been valued).1 In the following month Sir Thomas Uvedale purchased his marriage for 200 marks, and promptly wedded the young man to his own daughter, Alice.2 Freningham made proof of age on 20 Jan. 1367 and took formal seisin of his landed inheritance shortly afterwards.3
Freningham’s long and busy career commenced in 1369 when he received letters of protection as going to Ireland on royal service in the company of Sir William Windsor, the King’s lieutenant. His employment on royal commissions in Kent began in 1377 and continued almost without break until his death 33 years later, despite an exemption obtained so soon as 1380. In his formative years he was closely attached to Hugh, earl of Stafford, from whom he held land in East Barming, and with whom his father-in-law was connected on a similar basis. (His neighbours the Pympes were also tenants of the earl, and in 1375 Freningham acted as a feoffee of the estates of Sir William Pympe†, whose son Reynold* married his sister.) In June 1380 Freningham headed the list of esquires mustered in the retinue of Earl Hugh for service in France. The strength of their relationship was confirmed by Stafford’s successive grants to his retainer for life of a lease of the manor of Brasted (Kent) at an annual rent of 40 marks, of property in Hartwell (Staffordshire) rent-free, and, most important, of an annuity of £20. When, in the spring of 1386, the earl, still grief-stricken following the murder of his eldest son, Ralph, in the previous year, set off on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he appointed Freningham not only as one of his attorneys while he was overseas, but also as an executor of his will, trustee of his estates and guardian of his goods and chattels. For a month from January 1387, following Stafford’s death at Rhodes, Freningham shared with his fellow executor, Sir Nicholas Stafford*, and the young earl, Thomas, custody of all the latter’s estates, but the grant was cancelled when the wardship was bestowed on Thomas, earl of Warwick. The administration of Earl Hugh’s will involved Freningham in the prosecution of several lawsuits in the course of the next few years; and the new earl retained his services, too, in 1391 naming him among those to whom he entrusted all his moveable goods as well as the supervision of his London residence. Such was Freningham’s regard for the Staffords that nearly 20 years later, when founding a chantry at East Farleigh, he requested that requiem masses should be said there for the souls of Earls Hugh and Thomas and for the latter’s elder brother, Ralph.4
In the meantime, Freningham had been one of a group of prominent Kentish men taken captive by the rebels led by Thomas atte Raven† of Rochester in June 1381, at the start of the Peasants’ Revolt, and held prisoner until they took an oath to support their rebellious assemblies. Nor was this the end of his troubles in that disturbed period, for his death was plotted at Linton on 30 Sept. by other insurgents, whose principal aim was to compel Richard II to confirm the liberties and pardons conceded in the summer and since retracted. This particular band of malcontents was discovered because one of their number, Thomas Bordefeld of Hunton, having abandoned their conspiracy, revealed it to Freningham himself, who was thus able to arrest a great part of their company. Freningham appeared at Bordefeld’s trial in the following year, in order to stand bail for him. Such close dealings with the disaffected peasantry of the region may well have tempered his views on the correct measures needed for the restoration of order, as debated in the Parliament of 1381-2, of which he was a Member. In May 1384 Freningham was granted, ‘of the King’s special grace’, a charter for a weekly market and annual fair at Farningham, but he is not known actually to have become attached to the royal household before five more years had elapsed. Then, as a ‘King’s esquire’, he received Richard II’s livery from Michaelmas 1389 until 1396 or even later in the reign. During that period of service, in 1390, royal pardons for homicide were issued to two men of Kent on Freningham’s making a personal plea for mercy to the King.5
While the earldom of Stafford suffered successive minorities, Freningham looked elsewhere for patronage, first, as already noted, to King Richard, and then to William Courtenay, archbishop of Canterbury, who named him as an executor of his will in 1396, bequeathing him 20 marks and a gilded silver cup ‘suo statui congruenter’. Weighted against these attachments was Freningham’s longstanding association with the influential Kentish family of Cobham (one of whose members had been his godmother); and not only did he on occasion witness deeds for John, 3rd Lord Cobham of Cobham, but also, in 1395, he agreed to act as a feoffee of the latter’s most important estates.6 The judgement of banishment for treason passed on Lord Cobham in the Parliament of 1397-8 (his membership of the commission which had been given control of the government by the Wonderful Parliament of 1386 had earned him the enmity of Richard II), may have contributed to Freningham’s readiness to leave the royal household and lend his support to Henry of Bolingbroke when the time came. That he was quick to show Henry sympathy is clear, for it was expressly ‘by the advice of the duke of Lancaster’ that, on 5 Sept. 1399, he and William Makenade were granted custody of the temporalities of the see of Canterbury completely rent-free, which estates they retained for more than six weeks, that is, until Archbishop Arundel was fully re-instated. During that brief period, Freningham was elected to Parliament after an absence of 18 years, and there witnessed the abdication of Richard II and the acclamation of Bolingbroke as King. Fully assured of his loyalty, on 1 Nov., while Parliament was still assembled, the new King made him a member of his Council, in company with just two of his fellow shire knights (the Speaker, John Doreward, and the latter’s companion from Essex, Thomas Coggeshall). Freningham was paid wages for his attendance as a councillor at the rate of 100 marks a year until March 1401, when he resigned. Shortly before his resignation, on 22 Feb., he obtained a second exemption from holding royal office against his will, with additional clauses exonerating him from re-election as a knight of the shire and from being required to take up knighthood. Nevertheless, he was summoned to a great council in August 1401, and to another about two years later; and when, in October 1402, the King urgently needed funds for payment of the garrisons in South Wales, it was to Freningham and Sir Arnold Savage I*, the former Speaker, to whom he wrote to request benevolences from Kent.7
Freningham’s charitable works were confined to his native county. In 1392 he and William Makenade had obtained a royal licence to grant lands in Boxley, Upchurch and Hoo St. Werburgh to Boxley abbey for the maintenance of certain works of piety. He was an early benefactor of the new stone bridge at Rochester, to which he gave 20 acres of freshwater marsh in Dartford together with the sum of £2; and when Lord Cobham founded his chantry next to the bridge Freningham and his wife were listed among those for whose welfare the chaplains were to pray. Freningham, moreover, was a trustee of the manor of Nashenden which, in 1401, was granted to the wardens of the bridge to provide for its maintenance in face of continuous threat of destruction owing to the excessive flow of water; and at the same time he and his wife received a settlement of certain properties in Dartford which they wished the wardens to have in mortmain after their deaths.8
In his will, which has not survived, Freningham left the manor of East Barming and certain other properties to support two chaplains, one of whom was to serve at the altar of St. Stephen in Boxley abbey (where the testator was to be buried next to his wife and parents), the other to offer prayers in the newly built chapel of St. Mary in East Farleigh church for 24 years for the souls of the Freninghams and the Staffords. He died childless on 22 Dec. 1410, leaving as his heir Roger Isle of Sundridge, the grandson of his great-aunt. But, as it happened, Isle only received a small part of his estates, for he had earlier arranged for the bulk of his holdings to pass to his nephew, John Pympe, in tail male.9
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
Variants: Fremyngham, Frennygham.
- 1. CChR, ii. 155; E. Hasted, Kent, ii. 514; CIPM, ix. 401, 630; xi. 587; CFR, vii. 286, 307; CCR, 1364-9, pp. 10-11.
- 2. CPR, 1364-7, p. 132; Surr. Arch. Colls. iii. 77, 84, 86, 185. This Alice Uvedale should not be confused (as she is in ibid. 89, 190) with her niece and namesake, the Alice who married (1) c.1396, William Wykeham, great-nephew to William of Wykeham, bp. of Winchester; (2) Reynold (d. 1407), s. of James Peckham*, and who died in 1407; Lambeth Pal. Lib. Reg. Arundel, i. ff. 250-1.
- 3. CCR, 1364-9, p. 320; CIPM, xii. 89.
- 4. CPR, 1367-70, p. 227; 1377-81, p. 435; CCR, 1374-7, p. 270; 1389-92, pp. 492, 494; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc., xiii. 203; xiv. 232, 244; xv. 9, 80; CIPM, xvi. 439; Lambeth, Reg. Courtenay, ff. 220-1; CFR, x. 167.
- 5. CPR, 1381-5, pp. 159, 409; 1388-92, pp. 176, 197; Arch. Cant. iv. 72-82; CChR, v. 292; E101/402/5, f. 33, 403/10, f. 44, 22, f. 12d.
- 6. CCR, 1377-81, p. 511; 1392-6, p. 498; Arch. Cant. xxiii. 63, 66.
- 7. CPR, 1396-9, p. 594; 1399-1401, p. 433; EHR, lxxix. 5, 8; TRHS, ser. 5, xiv. 43, 61; PPC, i. 161; ii. 74, 87; E404/16/630.
- 8. CPR, 1391-6, p. 108; 1401-5, pp. 22, 398; M.J. Becker, Rochester Bridge, 15, 38-39, 55; Reg. Roffense ed. Thorpe, 555-6; CP25(1)111/248/1007; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 85.
- 9. C137/81/15; Arch. Cant. xxviii. 218-19; CFR, xiii. 189, 206; Kent Chantries (Kent Rec. Ser. xii), 125-7; CPR, 1408-13, p. 324.