MERSTON, Thomas, of Wycombe, Bucks.
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Family and Education
Mayor, Wycombe Mich. 1414-16, 1431-2, 1440-1.3
Tax collector, Bucks. Nov. 1419.
A member of an established local family, Thomas Merston was one of the most important Wycombe burgesses of this period, being influential both in the parliamentary representation of the borough, and in its internal affairs, for more than half a century. He is first mentioned in the records in 1401, when he was among those to whom Richard Sandwell* made over all his lands and tenements in the vicinity. In May 1413 he attended the borough election to Parliament, and thereafter he was present at every election for which information survives until 1437, saving only that of December 1421. He also witnessed the parliamentary indentures of 1449 (Feb.) and 1450.4
Meanwhile, in September 1420, Merston and other burgesses had been granted four marks’ annual rent issuing from a hostelry called the Newe Inn adjoining the rectory close at Wycombe. Five years later, he and his wife sold a house in the town to Thomas Averesdell. By this time, Merston was holding a considerable quantity of agricultural land in the manor of Bassetsbury (the main constituent manor of Chipping Wycombe): this included an area called ‘Kyngeswellmede’, rented for 13s.4d. a year, and 26 acres called ‘Crossfurlong’, formerly held by William atte Halle*, for 26s. p.a. It is thus very likely that, like many of his fellow burgesses, he was a farmer or grazier, probably mainly of sheep. The local court rolls contain several references to straying sheep of his, and in 1427 he was arrested for causing his servant, Richard Coo, to steal 100 ewes from the manor pound. By then Merston had also acquired sole rights over the lands and tenements of Richard Sandwell mentioned above, all the other feoffees having either died or made over their interests to him.5
By now comparatively affluent, Merston was among the 129 men who met in the county court, held at Aylesbury on 31 Aug. 1429, and elected John Hampden† of Hampden and Andrew Sperlyng* as knights of the shire. However, the sheriff, (Sir) Thomas Waweton*, illegally quashed the election and substituted two MPs of his own choice. Eight days later, Merston also attended the Wycombe parliamentary election. Similarly, in 1432, while serving as mayor for the third time, his name appeared on parliamentary indentures for both county and borough. In 1434 he was considered important enough to take the general oath against maintaining breakers of the peace.6
He was still adding to his landed holdings and, in 1438, he took over ‘Brokeslonde’ in Bassetsbury, at an annual rent of 15s.9d. But, in the next decade, he appears to have disposed of some of his property, for in 1443 he gave up ‘Kyngeswellmede’ and ‘Crossfurlong’; and two years later he made over the rent from the Newe Inn, of which he was now the sole recipient, to a number of fellow burgesses, including his own son, John. Nevertheless, in 1451 he is recorded as owning two shops in the market-place, adjoining another belonging to this same son. The last notice of him occurs in 1460, when he released land in Stoke Mandeville and Walton, near Aylesbury, which he had held jointly with John Hampden of Wycombe, now dead. Merston must have been over 75 by this time and probably died soon afterwards.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: Charles Kightly
- 1. CP25(1)21/104/12.
- 2. L.J. Ashford, Hist. Wycombe, 51; HMC 5th Rep. 564; CP25(1)22/118/17.
- 3. Ashford, 89; HMC 5th Rep. 562-3; C219/11/4.
- 4. HMC 5th Rep. 563; C219/11/1, 4, 12/2-5, 13/1-5, 14/1-5, 15/1, 6, 16/1.
- 5. HMC 5th Rep. 562-3; CP25(1)22/118/17; St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, recs. XV/15/1 mm. 4, 6, 10, 12, 14, 19, 20, 24.
- 6. C219/14/1; CPR, 1429-36, p. 398.
- 7. Windsor recs. XV/15/1 m. 20; HMC 5th Rep. 563-4; CAD, iv. A9252.