FURSDON, John, of Fursdon in Liskeard, Cornw.
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Family and Education
s. of James Fursdon of Fursdon by his w. Margaret. m. (1) bef. 1400, Joan;1 (2) bef. 1423, Margaret, ?wid. of John Lanyein.
Tax collector, Cornw. Nov. 1416.
John Fursdon’s family may be traced back to the mid 13th century when members of it first became involved in the affairs of the borough of Liskeard, which was near their home. One of John’s ancestors served as portreeve of the borough in 1284, another represented it in the Parliament of 1315, and others leased farmland on the manor of Liskeard from the duchy of Cornwall. His father, James, obtained licences from Bishop Brantingham of Exeter for religious services to be held in the oratory in his manor-house at Fursdon in the presence of himself and his wife, and when, in June 1400, he secured a similar licence from Bishop Stafford, John’s name was also included in the concession. James probably died shortly afterwards, for a fourth licence, granted in September the same year, mentioned only John and his first wife and referred to Fursdon as being ‘their’ manor. John’s inheritance was substantial, albeit made up of small properties scattered through central and eastern Cornwall.2
In 1402, while still a young man, Fursdon was brought before the justices of assize sitting at Launceston and bound over to keep the peace, specifically not to molest Thomas Collan (a former coroner), under pain of £100. He attended the shire elections held at Grampound in 1407, Launceston in 1411, and Lostwithiel in 1413, 1414 and 1417. In the meantime he was appointed to collect the subsidies granted by the second Parliament of 1416. On 29 May 1420 he took out royal letters of protection as preparing to go to France in the retinue of William, Lord Botreaux, and he was actually mustered as a man-at-arms at Southampton with the rest of Botreaux’s contingent that same month. But his military service can only have been of limited duration, for he was back home in time to be elected for Liskeard to the Parliament which met on 2 Dec. Three weeks later, shortly after the dissolution, he was required to enter formal undertakings on pain of £200 that he would present himself in Chancery in the following law term. John Lawhire (MP for Bodmin in the same Parliament), and Nicholas Treambolle, a Cornish merchant, stood surety for him, and it may well have been in order to repay Treambolle for his financial support that, four years later, Fursdon granted him and his heirs all his property in Rosemellin in Roche and lands in Kelynack in St. Just in Penwith. The nature of the misdeed for which Fursdon was summoned to court has not been discovered, but it could hardly have been for the quite common offence for which he underwent outlawry at about this time, namely, for failing to appear in the court of common pleas to answer a suit for debt. After his only known Parliament, Fursdon witnessed two more shire electoral indentures for Cornwall: those for the Parliaments of 1421 (May) and 1423.3
In the course of his life, if he himself is to be believed, Fursdon suffered several assaults on his person and depredations of his property. On more than one occasion he brought suits in the King’s bench claiming that bands of armed men had forcibly evicted him from his land, and in the Parliament of 1423-4 he ‘suyst une bille’ against Richard Trevanion* of Carhayes and his kinsmen who, he alleged, on 29 June 1423 had come to his house at Fursdon with 121 malefactors, broken down fences, gates, doors and windows, stolen goods worth £40, along with muniments and £9 in cash, assaulted him and his wife (nearly killing the latter and causing her to suffer a miscarriage), and abducted his stepdaughter, Joan (heiress, he claimed, to lands worth 100 marks a year). At other times, so Fursdon said, the Trevanions had lain in wait for him and had so threatened his life that he dared not go about his business except with a great ‘posse’, whereby he suffered much trouble and expense. This bill awaited the attention of the King’s Council with other ‘billes de Riottis’ for several months, and it was only after Fursdon appealed to the chancellor that in June 1424 a commission of oyer and terminer was set up to investigate the affair. But this was by no means the end of Fursdon’s difficulties. In 1427 he enfeoffed John Cork of Paderda (his fellow MP of 1420) of a substantial part of his Cornish estates for the purpose of effecting an entail, but after the transaction had been completed Cork, without his knowledge, brought a suit of novel disseisin against him at the Launceston assizes and not only recovered possession of the lands but also obtained an award of £40 in damages. Not content with this Cork then sent two armed gangs to Fursdon’s place: the first stole livestock worth £40, assaulted Fursdon’s servants, and held them to ransom for £6 14s.8d., and the second (in April 1434) violently attacked Fursdon and his long-suffering wife and made off with jewels, money and clothing to the value of £200. It was only with the help of the sheriff of Cornwall that Fursdon was able to escape with his life. But all this was Fursdon’s side of the story. It should be remembered that Cork was a man of good reputation in the shire and, moreover, was then a j.p. Furthermore, Fursdon is known to have owed Cork 100 marks, after breaking an agreement made at Lostwithiel in 1428. It may be indicative of both the cause and the outcome of the quarrel that in 1436 Fursdon and his wife formally acknowledged that Cork’s kinsman by marriage, Nicholas Aysshton*, was to inherit much of their property at Fursdon and ‘Polcarowe’ after their deaths.4 The cost of litigation and the theft of his moveables probably accounts for Fursdon’s sale, in 1434, of property which had been in his family’s possession for almost a century; but even here he was unfortunate, for the purchaser, William Hervy of Lanwithan, still owed him £20 some nine years after the transaction.5
Fursdon died at an unknown date after April 1443 and before 1451. In the latter year land worth £5 p.a. was in his widow’s possession.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
Variants: Fersdon, Forsdon.
- 1. Reg. Brantingham, ed. Hingeston-Randolph, 491, 643; Reg. Stafford, 275.
- 2. J. Allen, Hist. Liskeard, 256; Caption of Seisin (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. xvii), 66, 67; Feudal Aids, i. 223, 232, 235; C1/71/58.
- 3. JUST 1/1513 m. 49d; C219/10/4, 6, 11/1, 4, 12/2, 5, 13/2; E101/49/34; DKR, xliv. 618; CCR, 1419-22, pp. 133; 1422-9, pp. 119, 142; CPR, 1416-22, p. 351.
- 4. KB27/607 rex m. 10; C1/5/41, 12/55-56; C241/228/132; CPR, 1422-9, p. 229; Cornw. Feet of Fines (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. 1950), 972, 1018; JUST 1/1540 m. 84d; SC8/48/2354; CCR, 1435-41, p. 49.
- 5. C241/230/71; Cornw. Feet of Fines, 1016; Cornw. RO, Rashleigh mss, DDR/1610, 1612-15.
- 6. E179/87/92.