LEEK, John (d.c.1449), of Hickling, Notts. and Sutton-in-the-Dale, Derbys.
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Family and Education
s. and h. of Ralph Leek. m. by Nov. 1403, Alice (c.1380-1459), da. and coh. of John Grey (d.1403) of Sutton-in-the-Dale and Hickling by his w. Emily (d.1435), 1s.1
Verderer, Sherwood forest, Notts. bef. 8 Feb. 1401.
Commr. to raise a royal loan, Derbys. Nov. 1419.
Collector of a royal loan, Derbys. Jan. 1420, of a tax Sept. 1431.
J.p. Derbys. 12 Feb. 1422-July 1429.
Coroner, Notts. bef. 1 July 1435-aft. 21 Nov. 1447.
This MP was probably a nephew of the influential Nottinghamshire landowner, Sir John Leek*, who, in October 1399, went surety for his father as farmer of the manor of Mansfield. In common with other members of his family, he was a loyal supporter of the Lancastrian cause, and in July 1400 Henry IV granted him a fee of ten marks p.a. from the confiscated estates of one William Hamsterley while allowing him to farm the rest of the property for the next ten years. Leek had already by then been made an esquire of the royal body (along with Sir John’s younger brother, William*), and a few months later he obtained an exemption from serving as verderer of Sherwood forest because so much of his time was spent on the King’s business. His fortunes improved even further on the death of his father-in-law, John Grey, whose estates in Sandiacre, Kirk Hallam and Sutton-in-the-Dale in Derbyshire and Hickling and Langford in Nottinghamshire were partitioned in November 1403 between his two daughters and coheirs, Alice and Isabel. Even after the customary assignment of dower to the widowed Emily Grey, who lived on for over 30 years, Alice’s purparty greatly augmented Leek’s income, bringing him revenues of at least £20 p.a. from Derbyshire, and assuring them of a further £15 p.a. from their joint holdings in Nottinghamshire. His growing influence as a landowner, coupled with his position at Court and important family connexions, ensured his return to the first Parliament of 1404, although so far as we know he made no further attempt to pursue a career in the Lower House.2
In the following July Leek acted as a trustee of the manor of Kilvington for his kinsman, Sir John, with whom he maintained cordial relations throughout this period. In 1405 the latter’s son, Simon*, became involved in his unsuccessful attempt to retain some of the Hamsterley estates against a rival claimant, and three years later they appeared together as parties to a conveyance of land in the Nottinghamshire village of Wiverton. Leek also held a reversionary interest in the property of his uncle, William, as well as that of another member of his prolific family, Thomas Leek of Bathley, to whom he subsequently made an enfeoffment of the holdings in Unstone, Derbyshire, which his wife inherited from one of her late father’s relatives.3 He meanwhile attended the Nottinghamshire elections to the Parliaments of 1411, 1413 (May), 1414 (Nov.), 1420 and 1421 (May); and in December 1419 he was named as one of the county representatives considered best able to perform military service in defence of the realm. He had by then purchased for £24 the wardship and marriage of the young Humphrey Skevington, although he did not otherwise actively seek to consolidate his position as a rentier.4 For the next 20 years he pursued the life of a country gentleman, sitting on the Derbyshire bench and occasionally assisting his neighbours as a trustee and witness to property transactions. In March 1432 he agreed to arbitrate in a dispute between Sir William Plumpton† (to whom he was distantly connected by marriage) and Ralph, earl of Westmorland; and two years later he was required, as a leading member of the local gentry, to take the general oath that he would not assist anyone who disturbed the peace. That Leek was held to be a man of more than purely regional influence is evident from his inclusion at this time among the trustees of (Sir) John Bertram’s* estates at Bothal in Northumberland, these having for years proved a bone of contention between Bertram and his brother, Sir Robert Ogle*.5Circumstances certainly favoured Leek at this time, for the death of his mother-in-law shortly before February 1435, followed just over a year later by that of his wife’s sister, Isabel (who had by then married the Staffordshire landowner, Humphrey Haughton*), left him and Alice in sole possession of the Grey estates, as well as extensive holdings in Harston and Halton (Leicestershire), Dalderby and Gunthorpe (Lincolnshire) and Crowneast and Rugg’s Place (Worcestershire), which had belonged to the old dowager in her own right.6
Although himself well advanced in years, Leek continued to serve as coroner of Nottinghamshire until November 1447, when he was removed on the grounds that he lived too far away (‘on the uttermost borders of the county’) and was too preoccupied with other matters to perform his duties properly. He died at some point over the next two years, and in January 1450 his widow, Alice, conveyed her Derbyshire estates in trust to two of his kinsmen. Her decision to place these and all her other valuable holdings in the hands of feoffees proved a wise one, for on her death, in 1459, she was succeeded by a young grandson, aged eight, whose inheritance would otherwise have escheated to the Crown.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. C139/175/18; CP25(1)186/37/38, 38/10; CFR, xii. 237-8; xvi. 232-3.
- 2. CFR, xii. 8, 69, 237-8; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 321; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 247; R. Thoroton, Notts. ed. Throsby, i. 144; J.C. Cox, Notes on Churches Derbys. i. 371; E179/159/48; Feudal Aids, i. 263, 289; iv. 134; vi. 414.
- 3. Notts. RO, Staunton ms F5; CCR, 1402-5, p. 409; CPR, 1401-5, p. 487; CP25(1)186/37/28, 38; Derbys. Chs. ed. Jeayes, nos. 2448, 2462; Thoroton, i. 248-9.
- 4. C219/10/6, 11/2, 5, 12/4, 5; E28/97/7; CFR, xiv. 266.
- 5. C139/139/27; CP25(1)186/38/10, 39/16; Add. Ch. 27477; Belvoir Castle deed 4947; CPR, 1429-36, pp. 411, 595; CCR, 1441-7, p. 29; 1447-54, p. 209; Plumpton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. iv), p. li.
- 6. C139/74/7; CFR, xvi. 232-3, 291; CCR, 1429-35, p. 333; 1435-41, p. 23.
- 7. C139/175/18; Derbys. Chs. no. 2294; CCR, 1447-54, p. 9; CFR, xix. 245.