IPSTONES, Sir John (d.1394), of Blymhill, Staffs.
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Family and Education
1st s. of Sir John Ipstones (d. by 1364) of Blymhill by Elizabeth, sis. of Sir Nicholas Beck of Hopton, Salop, and Tean, Staffs. m. by Easter 1374, Elizabeth, da. and h. of Thomas Corbet (d. by 1363) of Moreton Corbet and Wattlesborough, Salop, 1s. Kntd. by Jan. 1376.[footnote]
Commr. to administer the revenues of Rochester abbey, Staffs. Feb. 1386; of inquiry Apr. 1388, Staffs., Salop, July 1389, Jan. 1390 (estates of Robert de Vere, duke of Ireland); oyer and terminer, Staffs. July 1388 (disturbances on the bp. of Coventry’s estates).
The Ipstones family was well known in 14th-century Staffordshire, as much for the notoriety of its members as for their social position in the county. Sir John’s paternal grandfather was a violent man, whose feud with his neighbours, the Brumptons, was kept up by his descendants.[footnote] Almost the first surviving references to the subject of this biography concern lawsuits for debt and assault begun against him during the early 1370s by Thomas Brumpton, and his career continued to be marked by incidents of this kind until he was murdered 23 years later.[footnote]
Ipstones’s father appears to have died in or before 1364, leaving him property centred on Ipstones, Blymhill and Creswell in Staffordshire. From his mother, Elizabeth Beck, he inherited a somewhat questionable title to the manors of Hopton and Tean, and it was perhaps through her, rather than his father, that he came into land in Corvedale, Shropshire. Although she was the daughter of Sir Robert Corbet’s† eldest son, Thomas, Ipstone’s wife, Elizabeth, was prevented from inheriting her grandfather’s extensive Midland and marcher estates by a series of entails in favour of her uncles, Sir Fulk and Sir Roger*. In the Easter term of 1374, not long after their marriage, the young couple began a protracted suit in the court of common pleas for the Leicestershire manor of Braunstone which they claimed as part of the Corbet estates, but this remained in the hands of Sir Robert Corbet’s grandson, Thomas Erdington*. Indeed, it seems that Sir John’s acquisitions through marriage were confined to property in Shawbury, Shropshire, and Bausley, Montgomeryshire. He also owned land in Northamptonshire which he held by knight service of the Bassets of Weldon.[footnote]
Meanwhile, during the Hilary term of 1373, Ipstones appeared in person at Westminster to bring a lawsuit for trespass against a Staffordshire man. In the following June he obtained royal letters of protection on going to France in the retinue of Hugh, earl of Stafford, who subsequently sued him for robbery with violence, a crime allegedly committed at some point before Easter 1381 on the earl’s Staffordshire estates. Ipstones was by then a knight, and as such took part in the expedition mounted in the summer of 1386 by John of Gaunt, who hoped to win for himself the throne of Castile. He evidently made a good impression upon Gaunt, who retained him formally one year later at a fee of £10 p.a. It was perhaps through the intervention of his new and powerful patron that Ipstones received a pardon from the Crown in November 1387 for murdering one Richard Thornbury, although by this date his influence in Staffordshire was such as to enable him to challenge the law with impunity. He was, indeed, quite prepared to defy the authority of Gaunt’s own chamberlain, Sir Walter Blount*, who, as a j.p. for Derbyshire, had extracted a bond for good behaviour from one of his tenants. On receiving the latter’s appeal for help, Ipstones promptly mobilized a large following of ruffians, attacked Sir Walter’s manor of Barton Blount, and forced him to surrender the offending document.[footnote]
Ipstones’s even more celebrated quarrel with the Swynnerton family had its origins in his attempt to recover the manors of Hopton and Tean with their extensive appurtenances, which he claimed as nephew and heir of Sir Nicholas Beck. They were held by Sir Nicholas’s grand daughter, Maud Swynnerton, until her eviction by Ipstones, against whom she and her father-in-law, Sir Richard Peshale†, arraigned an assize of novel disseisin at Stafford in September 1381.[footnote] Although his argument that Maud was illegitimate proved legally indefensible, Ipstones managed to retain the manors for the next seven years, by which time Maud had lost her husband and was living in the custody of her widowed mother-in-law at Chetwynd in Shropshire. Relations between the Ipstones and Peshale families had been severely strained since 1346, when Sir Richard’s father had been killed by Sir John Ipstones the elder while trying to resist arrest. Sir Richard’s desire for revenge may well have prompted him to fight on when there was little hope of recovering the property; and in March 1386 he finally accepted the futility of further resistance by offering recognizances in £1,000 to Ipstones, probably as a result of some private settlement. On his death, two years later, the debt had still to be paid. Ipstones was not slow to seize the opportunity thus presented to him: in December 1388 he and a large gang of armed men (including Sir Philip Okeover*, an old comrade-in-arms who had campaigned with him in Spain) abducted the young heiress, forced her to marry his son, William, and, as she later asserted, made her sign away her title to the contested manors. Meanwhile, measures were put in hand for the seizure of Peshale’s own estates so that his obligations might be made good.[footnote] Despite all their efforts, Maud’s relatives found it hard to obtain legal redress against so powerful an opponent. Eventually, in May 1390, Ipstones and Sir Richard’s widow were bound over in sureties of £500 to keep the peace towards each other, and in the following month a royal commission was set up to investigate the affair. As a result of its findings, Ipstones.and his followers were committed for trial at Shrewsbury, but, since the jury was clearly afraid to convict them, they were released shortly afterwards. Final recognition of Ipstones’s fait accompli came in December of the same year, with the award of a papal mandate, absolving his son and daughter-in-law from the sentence they would have incurred through marrying within the three prohibited degrees, and thus, implicitly, condoning the whole enterprise.[footnote]
Comparatively little evidence has survived of Ipstones’s other affairs. He does not appear to have been active as a feoffee-to-uses, and only rarely stood surety for neighbouring landowners. He and his wife were members of the influential guild of the Holy Trinity at Coventry, a fact which suggests that they had either land or connexions in Warwickshire.[footnote] Ipstones is, in fact, best remembered for his death, which occurred in February 1394 as an act of revenge on the part of Roger Swynnerton, one of Maud Swynnerton’s kinsmen. Since it took place while he was travelling unarmed through London on his way to attend Parliament, Ipstones’s murder constituted a serious breach of the royal protection extended to all MPs, and the Commons were quick to demand that Swynnerton should not escape due process of law. Although it was, in one sense, the culmination of a long-running private vendetta, his crime may well have had political overtones, for there is strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that whereas Ipstones rose to prominence as a supporter of the Lords Appellant (he sat in the Merciless Parliament of 1388 and was involved as a crown commissioner in the confiscation of the estates of Robert de Vere, one of its chief victims), Swynnerton had friends at Court. It was one of these friends, Sir Baldwin Raddington†, the controller of the King’s wardrobe, who obtained a pardon for him in June 1397.[footnote]
The years following Ipstones’s death witnessed a long and bitter dispute between various members of his family for possession of the property he had wrested from Maud Swynnerton. The latter was at various times involved in litigation, against her own daughters, her kinsman, Thomas Swynnerton, and Ipstones’s widow, for the recovery of her inheritance, but her adversaries were equally divided among themselves. Her third marriage to John Savage, in, or shortly before, July 1401, was, moreover, the cause of an even worse feud between his descendants and the Peshales, since both families also advanced a title to her estates, and thus remained locked in a perpetual circle of violence.[footnote]
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Hypsconys, Ippstanes, Ipstanes, Ipstone, Ypstanes.