LILLING, Sir Nicholas (d.1417), of Abington and Great Billing, Northants.

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

Family and Education

m. (1) by Oct. 1373, Isabel, wid. of Sir John Brocas (d.1365) of Clewer in New Windsor, Berks., 1da.; (2) bef. Feb. 1411, Mary (d.c.1460). Kntd. by June 1373.

Offices Held

Commr. to make proclamation against the rebels, Northants. July 1381, of Henry IV’s intention to govern well May 1402; put down rebellion Dec. 1381, Mar., Dec. 1382; of inquiry Aug. 1382 (felonies at Pitsford), Warws. July 1384 (administration of Coventry), Northants., Warws. Dec. 1384 (wastes), Herefs., Warws., Worcs. July, Dec. 1390 (concealed goods of Sir John Beauchampof Holt), Northants., Rutland June 1406 (concealments); array, Warws. Apr. 1385, Mar. 1392, Northants. Dec. 1399, Sept. 1403; gaol delivery, Worcester castle Nov. 1392; to raise royal loans, Northants., Rutland June 1406; hold special assizes, Northants. c. May 1410.

Sheriff, Northants. 1 Nov. 1383-11 Nov. 1384.

J.p. Worcs. 5 Feb. 1386-July 1389, 24 Dec. 1390-Mar. 1393, Warws. 5 Feb. 1386-July 1389.

Parker of Moulton park, Northants. 20 Nov. 1390-d.

Chief steward of the estates of Thomas, earl of Warwick by July 1391-bef. Mich. 1392.


The family of Lilling took its name from a village in the North Riding of Yorkshire, but Sir Nicholas himself is not known to have inherited any land there or elsewhere, and all of his holdings in Northamptonshire were acquired by purchase. He had settled in the county by 1367 and not long afterwards took an important step when he married Isabel, widow of Sir John Brocas, master of the horse to Edward III and a prominent figure at the Court at Windsor. Although prestigious, the marriage did not bring Lilling substantial estates: even though Brocas had settled on Isabel the manor of Pollingfold in Ewhurst (Surrey) and dower in property at New Windsor, she subsequently assigned these to her stepson, Sir Bernard Brocas*, for the support of her own sons, John and Oliver, whom she had entrusted to his care. However, this connexion was to lead later (in 1390) to Lilling’s acquisition from Brocas of the manor of Guilsborough in Northamptonshire. In the meantime he had purchased Abington (in 1386) and Little Brington (in 1389), while Great Billing (estimated in 1412 to be worth as much as £100 a year) was to come into his possession later. There is no evidence that Lilling ever held estates of any substance in Worcestershire, the county he represented in seven of his ten Parliaments; indeed, the only properties he is known to have owned there were the manor of Hadzor, granted to him for life by the earl of Warwick, and land in Powick called ‘Clyvelodes’, which he bought from Sir William Beauchamp* after his parliamentary service had ended. Something of his personal standing is suggested by the fact that by 1391 he was employing his own priest, a man who, being also rector of Notgrove, required a licence from the bishop to leave his parish to travel with the knight’s household.1

Lilling owed his emergence as a substantial landowner and figure of considerable influence in the Midlands almost entirely to his close connexion with Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick. This had begun by the summer of 1373, when Sir Nicholas was mustered in the earl’s retinue for the expedition to France under the command of John of Gaunt, but was by no means limited to service in a military capacity, for within a few years he became Warwick’s most trusted councillor and constant companion. When the earl was admitted to the fraternity of St. Albans abbey in 1377 Lilling was too; and in the 1380s and 1390s he was party to many transactions concerning the administration and settlement of Earl Thomas’s estates, all the while being intimately involved in the affairs of others of the Beauchamp affinity. Thus, in the 1380s he was present at meetings of the earl’s council held in ‘La Salle’ in Warwick castle and at the chapter-house of St. Paul’s in London, where John Catesby’s* claim to the Warwickshire manor of Ladbroke was one of the subjects for discussion; in 1381 he stood surety at the Exchequer for Sir Henry Arderne, one of the earl’s retainers; and on other occasions he was linked with Sir Giles Mallory*, Guy Spyne*, William Spernore* and John Daniel (the earl’s chamberlain). In April 1380 Lilling had obtained a formal exemption from being made to hold royal office against his will, but, nevertheless, over the period of his parliamentary service he was almost continuously active as a commissioner and j.p., not only in Northamptonshire, where his estates lay, but also in Warwickshire, where the earl of Warwick’s influence was strongest, and in Worcestershire. There can be little doubt that Lilling owed his involvement in the administration of Worcestershire and, more important, his many elections to Parliament for that county, to the local influence of Earl Thomas, who, being sheriff there by hereditary right, was formally responsible for making the parliamentary returns. It is especially interesting to note that Sir Nicholas was elected to three successive Parliaments in 1386 and 1388 in which Warwick, with his allies Gloucester and Arundel, successfully removed from power the King’s friends. Following the condemnation in the Merciless Parliament of Sir John Beauchamp of Holt, and the forfeiture of his estates, a syndicate composed of Warwick’s retainers purchased Sir John’s interest in the lordship of Kidderminster (Worcestershire), which they soon (in 1390) conveyed to Lilling and one of the earl’s estate officials, initially to hold to their lord’s use but later for settlement on his brother William, Lord Beauchamp of Abergavenny.2

It was during Lilling’s eighth Parliament, in 1390, that he obtained from the Crown for life the parkership of Moulton. But this was the only mark of appreciation for his services he was ever to receive from Richard II, for his fortunes were too closely bound up with those of his lord the earl of Warwick, who, following the events of 1387-8, could never hope to gain Richard’s friendship. It seems likely that the King’s animosity towards Warwick and possibly a quarrel between the latter and John of Gaunt, Richard’s uncle, were behind certain accusations made against Lilling in the Parliament which met at Winchester on 20 Jan. 1393 (the last Parliament that he attended). Then, Sir John Russell* of Strensham, formerly one of Warwick’s retainers but now Richard II’s master of the horse, alleged that Lilling had come to Defford (Worcestershire) with 500 armed men and prevented him from entering his house; that he had failed in his duty as a j.p. and chief steward of the earl of Warwick in neglecting to arrest the murderers of Russell’s bailiff of Dormston, and that when John Blount II* of Sodington had, with some justification, carried off three of Warwick’s bondmen to Gaunt’s castle at Tutbury, he had retaliated by holding Blount’s priest and son hostage in Wales. Lilling’s failure to answer these charges satisfactorily led to his imprisonment at Windsor on 9 Feb. (the day before the dissolution), there to remain until 1 Mar. when he was brought before the King’s Council. He was required to find sureties in £1,000 for his future good behaviour and to undertake on pain of £2,000 to keep the peace and to pay the fines demanded for his misdemeanours. That he was subsequently able to secure a full pardon, on 20 May, may have been due to the influence of his mainpernors, who included Bishop Braybrooke of London, Bishop Gilbert of St. David’s, John, Lord Cobham, and two of Warwick’s retainers, namely Sir Alfred Trussell* and John Hermesthorp, clerk, as well as John Wydeville*, who did business for the earl from time to time. However, removed from the Worcestershire bench, he evidently remained in disgrace, for he was appointed to no further royal commissions until after Richard’s deposition.3

Warwick’s reliance on Lilling grew even greater with time. Sir Nicholas was made a feoffee to the earl’s use of estates in Cornwall and of the manors of Haselor (Warwickshire) and Panworth (Norfolk); and the accounts of the receivers of Warwick’s estates between 1394 and 1397 clearly reveal that few administrative matters of any importance were effected without Lilling’s authorization as the leading member of the earl’s council. Thus, he received loans on Warwick’s behalf, gave instructions for payments to his retainers, made journeys from his own home at Billing to Warwick, Worcester, Norfolk and London on the earl’s business, and himself contributed to his coffers with personal loans of £150 and £100. In return his lord granted him for life the manors of Cosgrove (Northamptonshire)—worth £13 6s. at his death—and Hadzor—valued at £8 a year in 1397. Warwick was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower in July 1397, and in the following month royal commissioners were sent to seize not only his goods but also those of his principal supporters: Lilling, John Catesby, William Spernore and Robert Walden*. Whether Lilling himself suffered imprisonment at this time is unclear, although it seems very likely that he did. He purchased royal pardons both in October 1397 (after the first session of the Parliament in which Warwick’s estates were declared forfeit) and in June 1398; and then lay low until the triumphant arrival of Henry of Bolingbroke in London in August 1399 secured his lord’s release.4

Under Henry IV Lilling resumed his participation in local administration. The King confirmed him in his office at Moulton, warranting payment to him of £5 for an enclosure made there in 1400, and Lilling attended great councils in 1401 and 1403 as one of those summoned personally from Northamptonshire.5 He again took up his role in the counsels of the earl of Warwick: thus, in November 1399 he had been made a feoffee of certain manors for the purpose of effecting an entail; he witnessed important settlements made on the earl’s son and heir, Richard; and he acted as patron of livings in the Beauchamp gift. When Earl Thomas made his will at Warwick on 1 Apr. 1400, Sir Nicholas was the first person he mentioned after members of his family, and one of the very few people to whom he made bequests—in his case ‘un gipaan de damask noir, hernoisez ove les anels dor’. The executors were the Countess Margaret, Lilling and other intimate members of Beauchamp’s household. After the earl’s death in the following year, Lilling maintained contact with the widowed countess (from whom he farmed the manor and warrens of Moulton), and with the young heir: in 1403-4 the countess’s receiver rode to Billing to consult with him about her dower interest in Cosgrove; and it was at Earl Richard’s supplication that in 1406 the King formally promised him that during his lifetime no purveyor or other royal officer would take victuals from him or his tenants for the use of the Household.6

Lilling’s later years were devoted largely to personal affairs, although in the Parliament of 1410 he was named on a commission to hold special assizes to investigate the alleged seizure of a manor in Northamptonshire by John, Lord Lovell. He married for the second time, and in 1411 he entailed Great Billing on himself and his young wife Mary for life, with remainder to Margaret Holand, the former countess of Somerset and then wife of Thomas of Lancaster, the King’s second son. Perhaps Mary, whose parentage is unknown, was in same way related to the countess. Settlements made in 1415 and 1416 ensured the descent of Abington and Little Brington to Thomas Bernard, the younger of Lilling’s grandsons (being the son of his only daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband, Robert Bernard of Isleham, Cambridgeshire).7

Lilling died on 8 Feb. 1417. His widow survived him by over 40 years, eventually dying shortly before March 1460.8

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. M. Burrows, Fam. Brocas of Beaurepaire, 79, 153-4, 299-300, 427, 450-1; CCR, 1364-8, p. 394; 1385-9, p. 638; 1389-92, p. 168; CPR, 1385-9, p. 139; Feudal Aids, vi. 499; Reg. Chichele, iii. 340; Reg. Wakefield (Worcs. Hist. Soc. n.s. vii), nos. 377, 645; VCH Worcs. iv. 187; VCH Northants. iv. 66, 70; G. Baker, Northants. i. 101.
  • 2. CCR, 1399-1402, p. 231; 1409-13, p. 145; E101/32/39; CPR, 1377-81, p. 460; 1388-92, p. 307; CFR, ix. 276, 285; x. 172; Reg. Wakefield, no. 119; VCH Worcs. iii. 160; Med. Legal Recs. ed. Hunnisett and Post, 311, 315, 317-19; Cott. Nero DVII, ff. 129d, 132.
  • 3. CCR, 1392-6, pp. 43, 49, 113; CPR, 1388-92, p. 325; 1391-6, p. 269.
  • 4. VCH Warws. iii. 111; SC6/1123/5; Egerton roll 8769; CFR, xi. 227; CIMisc. vi. 252, 298, 302; C67/30 mm. 3, 6; CPR, 13969, p. 544.
  • 5. PPC, i. 158; ii. 88; CPR, 1399-1401, pp. 2, 343; E404/15/181; CIMisc. vii. 259.
  • 6. Reg. Sede Vacante (Worcs. Hist. Soc. 1887), 378; CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 92, 113; 1405-9, p. 184; CAD, i. A658; Lambeth Pal. Lib. Reg. Arundel, i. f. 180; Egerton rolls 8770-2; CPR, 1405-8, p. 219.
  • 7. RP, iii. 634; CP25(1) 179/91/97; Baker, i. 10, 101; CPR, 1413-16, pp. 31, 297.
  • 8. C138/28/47; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 415-16; CP25(1)179/93/10; J. Bridges, Northants. i. 402; CFR, xix. 246.