KENTWOOD, Sir John (d.1393/4), of Kentwood in Tilehurst, Berks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Oct. 1377
Nov. 1380
Jan. 1390

Family and Education

m. by 1364, Alice, prob. da. of Sir Gerard Braybrooke (d.1359) of Colmworth, Beds., sis. of Sir Gerard Braybrooke I*, and wid. of John Carbonel of Burston, Bucks., ?1s.2 Kntd. by 1368.

Offices Held

J.p. Berks. 15 Feb. 1375-May 1380, Cornw. 28 Aug. 1378-July 1389, Wilts. July 1391-d.

Commr. of arrest, Oxon. Oct. 1375, Som., Dorset, Devon, Cornw. Feb. 1382, Cornw. Nov., Dec. 1382, Feb., May, July 1383, Feb., July 1384, Mar. 1388; array, Berks. Apr., July 1377, Aug. 1378, Cornw. Jan. 1379, Mar. 1380, Feb. 1385, Berks. Apr. 1385, Mar. 1392; kiddles, river Thames May 1377; to lease out duchy lands, Cornw., Devon Jan. 1379; of inquiry, Cornw., Som., Devon, Glos., Bristol Jan. 1379 (theft of merchandise), Cornw. Mar. 1380 (wrecks), Sept. 1380 (crimes), Plymouth Apr., Aug. 1381 (seizure of a ship), Cornw. May 1382 (piracy), Dec. 1382 (wastes at Trematon), Mar. 1383 (damages in a case of trespass at sea), May 1383 (concealments), Devon May 1383 (expenditure on ships keeping the sea), Cornw. May 1383 (breach of truce at sea), Nov. 1383 (evasion of dues to the King’s mother), May 1384 (services at Trematon), Oct. 1385 (Fitzwalter estates), Dec. 1385 (wrecks), Devon, Cornw. Jan. 1386 (piracy), Cornw. Mar. 1386 (theft of whales), May 1386 (concealments), June 1386 (wastes at St. Michael’s Mount priory), Devon June 1386 (St. Aubyn estates), Cornw. Jan. 1387 (crimes by King’s officers), Devon, Cornw., Hants, Wilts. Mar. 1387 (piracy), Cornw. Oct. 1387 (wrecks), Nov. 1387 (theft of tin), Devon Dec. 1387 (concealments at Sutton Pool), June 1388 (herbage, Dartmoor), Bucks. Feb. 1390 (wastes on Queen Anne’s manor of Salden), Cornw. Feb. 1390 (Tresilian’s estates), Lincs. May 1390 (liberties of Grimsby), Notts. June, Dec. 1391 (complaints by Queen Anne); oyer and terminer, Cornw. Feb. 1381, Dorset Nov. 1389, Feb. 1390 (Queen Anne’s lordship of Gillingham), Berks. May 1393; to put down rebellion, Cornw. June, Dec. 1381, Mar., Dec. 1382; survey and lease out lands held in dower by the princess of Wales, Cornw., Devon, Sept. 1385; perambulate the boundary between Cornw. and Devon, July 1386; take oaths of allegiance, Cornw. Mar. 1388; evaluate a ship, Devon Mar. 1388; of sewers, Holderness, Yorks. Feb. 1390.

Steward of the duchy of Cornw. in Cornw. 26 Aug. 1378-Nov. 1388.

Surveyor of a tax, Cornw. Aug. 1379, Devon, Cornw. Mar. 1381.

Surveyor of the estates in Devon, Cornw., Som. and Dorset variously forfeited in the Merciless Parliament Mar. 1388; steward of the same 13 May 1388-c.1389.

Justiciar of S. Wales 25 May 1389-17 Oct. 1390.3


John Kentwood’s career was that of a loyal servant of Edward, the Black Prince, and then of his son, Richard II. He was a member of the prince’s expedition to Gascony in 1355, and at Poitiers it was he who, with Sir Edmund Wauncey, took captive the King of France’s son, Philip. Prince Edward bought the prisoner from them for 4,000 marks, and from March 1359 small sums were being paid to Kentwood by the prince’s receiver-general in discharge of this debt. However, by the summer of 1362 these disbursements had amounted to less than £200, and so, on 20 Nov. by an indenture between them, the prince granted Kentwood, his ‘yeoman’, £100 a year from the issues of the duchy of Cornwall until he received in full his half-share. In September 1364 it was decided that these annual payments should be increased by £33 6s.8d., on condition that Kentwood joined the prince in Gascony within 18 months. This provision must have been acceptable, and in April following the receiver in Cornwall was informed of the new payment of 200 marks. Kentwood probably campaigned with Prince Edward overseas during the next four or five years, for, although he was a member of the prince’s retinue based at Northampton at some point in 1368, he is not otherwise mentioned as being in England until 1369 (when he witnessed an indenture at London). His new rank as a knight and the £40 annuity which, also charged on the issues of Cornwall, he was granted for life by Edward on 22 Jan. 1370, were no doubt rewards for recent military service.4

If payments of the Poitiers ransom money had been regular, Kentwood would have been only a few hundred marks short by 1370. Possibly his annuity was in lieu of further payment. But however this may be, he had more than enough money to spend on land. By 1376 he had acquired outright the former Carbonel manors of Burston in Aston Abbots and Addington, Buckinghamshire, Bainton, Oxfordshire, and ‘Bradelegh’ near Glastonbury, Somerset (in all of which his wife had an interest for life); while in Berkshire he had property worth £10 a year in Cholsey as well as the manors of Kentwood in Tilehurst and West Shefford.5 From 1375 until his appointment as steward of Cornwall Sir John was active on behalf of the Crown in the local administration in Berkshire, and he also represented the county in Parliament three times during these years. In 1376 he was one of the two knights sitting in the Good Parliament who (according to one chronicle) took captive the Dominican friar whose magical gifts Edward III’s mistress, Alice Perrers, was supposed to have employed, and brought him before the magnates. This action led to the banishment of Alice from the King’s Council, yet Kentwood’s motives remain obscure, and there is no direct evidence to suggest that he had acted on orders of his master, the Black Prince, who died only a few months later. In August 1378 Edmund Stonor, the sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire, entertained the local justices, Kentwood among them, at Stonor; and Kentwood was a mainpernor for the Berkshire landowners, Sir Adam Loches and Joan, the widow of Sir Nicholas Tamworth, in 1376 and 1377, respectively, so his place among the county gentry was well established.6

This new career in Berkshire was cut short in the autumn of 1378 when Kentwood was made steward of Cornwall, with 40 marks a year as his fee. The centre of his activities now changed completely and immediately — thus, although in September he was elected to Parliament for both Berkshire and Cornwall, it was the latter county which paid him his expenses. During the next 10 or 12 years he worked hard and continuously: 30 commissions of inquiry alone were addressed to him, and on many of these, being steward, he was to the forefront. Of commissions of array, of arrest and of the peace, there were many, too. Indeed, after being made a j.p. in Cornwall within a few days of his appointment as steward, he was placed on virtually every regional commission of any importance until his dismissal. The more routine labours of his position apart, he had to make defensive arrangements against enemy raids by sea, for instance in 1380, 1383, 1386 and 1388.7 He was also employed as a royal emissary on a number of occasions, both locally and abroad. Before February 1379 he was sent to the bishops and magnates of the West Country in order to elicit a loan for a military expedition; for two months from 20 Mar. 1381 he was in Brittany, supervising the forces of the earl of Buckingham, and on his return to England he took on the responsibility for reviewing the earl of Cambridge’s army assembled at Dartmouth and Plymouth prior to embarkation for Portugal. For the voyage to Brittany Kentwood was paid at the rate of £1 per day, and for his other tasks that summer he received 10s. a day, making a total of £73. Then, in July 1383, he was assigned with Martin Ferrers to supervise the musters of the retinue of William le Scrope, seneschal of Acquitaine, and in February 1385 that of the chancellor of Portugal. In 1386 he was instructed to expedite the embarkation of John of Gaunt’s army for Castile. (For the next five years he was regularly paid 20 marks p.a. from the duchy of Lancaster, although there is nothing to suggest he was a permanent retainer of Gaunt’s.)8 Kentwood was frequently a member of more unusual commissions, too, for example, one appointed in March 1388 to survey the estates of the victims of the Lords Appellant in the Merciless Parliament. He and William Horbury, the King’s clerk, who was also engaged on this task, received £50 from the Exchequer for their trouble, and throughout the spring and summer of that year they were busy collecting the goods and money of three of the condemned men: Sir Robert Tresilian, Sir John Cary and John Blake. In addition, he had, in May, been appointed steward of all the lands of Robert de Vere, Tresilian, Cary, Blake and Sir Robert Bealknap situated in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.9

Although Kentwood’s office as steward of Cornwall had been confirmed to him for life in December 1385, and he had been one of those assigned to keep safe the south of England during Richard II’s absence in the north in the preceding summer, all that he had received in addition to his normal salary and payments for special services were two grants of lands in Cornwall, temporarily in the King’s hands. Even though one of these was of the borough of Lostwithiel, the administrative headquarters of the duchy, it would seem that Kentwood was not among the young King’s especially favoured ministers.10 His duties in Cornwall no doubt kept him far from the centre of power and influence. True, his £40 annuity had been confirmed in 1380 and continued to be paid until his death, yet this was an old grant; new, substantial perquisites did not come his way in the 1380s, despite his hard work. Furthermore, Kentwood’s energetic pursuit of the business of inquiry concerning the lands forfeited in the Merciless Parliament may not be interpreted as an indication that his sympathies were with the Lords Appellant, for, far from rewarding him, they replaced him as steward of Cornwall in November 1388 with their own nominee, Sir Philip Courtenay*. Subsequently, as Richard II recovered initiative in government, duties were found for Kentwood elsewhere. By now he was evidently a man of considerable legal and administrative experience: and not only was he appointed to hold pleas in South Wales, where he presided as justiciar from May 1389, but he was also put on commissions as far afield as Nottingham, Yorkshire and Buckinghamshire (notably on matters concerning the administration of Queen Anne’s estates); and in July 1390 he was called to the King’s Council to advise on the situation in Gascony. A few months earlier he had returned to parliamentary service after an absence of eight years.11

Even so, the last records of Kentwood do not reveal that he was in any way loaded with honours. The only notices we have of him are of his continuing administrative work, his participation in a recognizance (curiously as Sir John Kentwood ‘of Derbyshire’), his standing surety, and his alienation in June 1392 to the priory of Wallingford of three acres of land in Clapcot, Berkshire. Indeed, the period after 1388 was one of greatly reduced activity: he was no longer busy at all sorts of tasks as he had been in Cornwall. This may have been in part due to old age; he must have been well over 50 by 1388, having seen much military and governmental duty in 30 years. Kentwood died within a year of receiving his last commission, dated May 1393. His widow was still alive in October 1404.12 Reynold Kentwood, afterwards dean of St. Paul’s, would appear to have been their son.

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Cornwall paid his expenses (CCR, 1377-81, p. 221).
  • 2. CCR, 1377-81, p. 333; VCH Bucks. iii. 329; Reg. Chichele, ii. 660.
  • 3. R.A. Griffiths, Principality of Wales, i. 119.
  • 4. Reg. Black Prince, ii. 198-9, 208, 209, 214; iv. 285, 364, 389, 442, 477; H.J. Hewitt, Black Prince’s Exped. 134, 158, 206; CCR, 1369-74, p. 68; CPR, 1377-81, p. 457; E101/29/24.
  • 5. VCH Bucks. iii. 329; iv. 139; CCR, 1377-81, p. 333; VCH Berks. iii. 298, 331-2; iv. 239; VCH Oxon. vi. 317.
  • 6. Chron. Angliae 1328-88 ed. Thompson, 98-99; Stonor Letters (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, xxix), 14; CCR, 1374-7, p. 471; 1377-81, pp. 43, 45; G.A. Holmes, Good Parl. 137-8.
  • 7. CPR, 1377-81, pp. 388, 455; 1385-9, pp. 174, 456; CCR, 1381-5, p. 270.
  • 8. E101/318/32, 33; E403/481, 11 Mar., 484, 2 Aug., 512, 5 May; Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, i. 172; ii. 148; Foedera ed. Rymer (orig. edn.), vii. 305, 462; DL29/738/12104; DL43/15/3.
  • 9. CPR, 1385-9, pp. 446, 469, 493, 502, 547; CFR, x. 229; CCR, 1385-9, pp. 414, 490, 503, 514; 1389-92, pp. 4, 97; Issues ed. Devon, 236.
  • 10. CPR, 1385-9, pp. 57, 80; CFR, x. 34, 126.
  • 11. E101/319/37; CPR, 1385-9, p. 525; 1388-92, pp. 37, 435; Dip. Corresp. Ric. II (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, xlviii), 221.
  • 12. CCR, 1389-92, pp. 320, 324, 498; CPR, 1391-6, pp. 99, 444; VCH Bucks. iii. 329.