MORTIMER, John (d.1446), of Grendon, Northants. and Stoke Goldington, Bucks.
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Family and Education
m. by Easter 1407, Agnes (d. by 1446), at least 1s. 2da.1
Escheator, Rutland and Northants. 14 Dec. 1415-8 Dec. 1416.
Verderer of the royal forest of Rockingham, Northants. to 3 Feb 1433.
Forester of the royal forest of Salcey, Northants. to 28 Nov. 1440; verderer to d.
Although no precise evidence of this Member’s parentage has survived, we know that he belonged to a family which acquired the manor of Eakley in Stoke Goldington early in the 13th century. It is tempting to regard him as the son of Thomas Mortimer, an under steward of the liberty of Bury St. Edmunds for Reynold, 3rd Lord Grey of Ruthin, since he too developed a close connexion with this influential nobleman. John and Thomas both held office as escheators of Rutland and Northamptonshire within the space of a few years, so we may be reasonably sure that they were related in some way. The two men were certainly united in their dislike of a neighbour named William Kyngesman, for between December 1405 and July 1406 they and another member of the Mortimer clan were bound over at the Northampton assizes to keep the peace towards him. Significantly enough in view of his later career, the subject of this biography first comes to notice in 1400 when he served under Reynold, Lord Grey, on Henry IV’s expedition against the Scots. At some point over the next seven years Grey awarded him an annuity of 40 marks, and in return he became closely involved in his patron’s affairs. From 1405 onwards, for example, he acted as a feoffee of a sizeable part of the Grey estates, which was conveyed to him by Sir Gerard Braybrooke II*, then the sole remaining trustee; and when, in 1423, Sir Gerard disposed of his interest in Castle Ashby and Chadstone, Northamptonshire, Mortimer again agreed to hold the land in trust. Needless to say, Mortimer was one of the many witnesses who gave evidence on behalf of Lord Reynold during the latter’s long dispute with Sir Edward Hastings over the right to wear the undifferentiated arms of Hastings (as borne by the earls of Pembroke). Depositions were taken over a two-year period ending in 1407, although no final verdict was reached until much later. Mortimer again stepped forward to help his lord in December 1414, when he was caught up in a complex series of financial transactions arising from the betrothal of Grey’s daughter, Margaret, to (Sir) William Bonville II*. Mortimer was himself bound in joint securities totalling 800 marks on behalf of the bride’s father, although the latter had first guaranteed his position by offering him bonds worth £1,000.2
It is by no means clear how Mortimer acquired the manor of Grendon, which at the very beginning of the 15th century still belonged to Thomas Brownflete. Whether by marriage or purchase, the property had, however, come into his hands by July 1406, at which time the above-mentioned William Kyngesman took his revenge against Mortimer by bringing a vexatious action against him at the Northampton assizes. Our Member faced another lawsuit over property at this time, although his persistent failure to appear in court seems eventually to have silenced the plaintiff. During the Easter term of 1407, Mortimer and his wife sold off some land in the Northamptonshire village of Harlestone. This left them with two major blocs of property, one in Grendon and the other, across the county border, in Stoke Goldington: together these are said to have produced about £20 a year in 1412, although they may well have been worth rather more. The MP also became involved in certain conveyances of land in Turvey, Bedfordshire, but we cannot now be certain that he actually owned it. For some now unknown reason, Mortimer appears to have antagonized (Sir) William Trussell* and a group of his neighbours at Easton Maudit in Northamptonshire, for shortly before December 1413 they broke into his home at Grendon and carried him off forcibly as a prisoner. A royal commission of inquiry was set up to investigate the matter, but Trussell sued out a writ of supersedeas and thus contrived to hold up proceedings. Because of this Mortimer addressed a petition to the Leicester Parliament of April 1414, which recommended that commissioners of oyer and terminer should be appointed with power to resume the investigation.3
Mortimer was himself a Member of the second Parliament of 1414, although his experience as both a petitioner and a shire knight did not, evidently, encourage him to pursue a career in the Lower House, and he never sat again. Nor, apart from his year in office as escheator of Rutland and Northamptonshire, was he inclined to devote much time to the demands of local government. He may, perhaps, have spent a brief period in the service of the duchy of Lancaster, for in December 1417 a mandate was sent to him under the duchy seal with orders not to molest or distrain the abbot of St. James’s in Northampton, but no more is now known of any such connexion on his part. Two years later Mortimer attended the parliamentary elections for Northamptonshire and stood surety for John Bosenho, whom he had helped to return. Not much else is known about him at this time, although he appears fairly regularly as a witness to local property transactions, most notably in August 1425, when he attested one of the first endowments of the college of Higham Ferrers made by its founder, Archbishop Chichele. He sometimes acted as a trustee for neighbouring landowners such as Ralph Parles*, who settled a substantial part of his Northamptonshire estates upon him and other prominent figures in the county.4 At some now unrecorded date, Mortimer took up office as verderer of Rockingham forest, a post which he held until his removal in February 1433 on the ground that he lacked the proper qualifications. His replacement as forester of Salcey, seven years later, was ordered because of his evident preoccupation ‘with divers business of his own in Northamptonshire’, but he continued to discharge his duties as royal verderer there until his death. Meanwhile, in April 1439, Henry VI rewarded him with a grant of free warren on his estates at Quinton (Northamptonshire) and Stoke Goldington, all of which passed, together with his manor of Grendon, to his son, John.5
Mortimer died shortly before 4 May 1446, and was buried beside his wife in the parish church of Grendon. Their daughters, Eleanor and Joan, both married into the Haldenby family, while their son, who died in 1453, took as his first wife Joan atte Hill, the heiress to a sizeable estate in and around Grendon. His second wife was Anne, the daughter of George Longville*, of Wolverton in Buckinghamshire, who also helped him to consolidate his patrimony.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variant: Mortymer. This MP can easily be confused with his namesake and contemporary, Sir John Mortimer of Hatfield in Hertfordshire, especially before 1417, when the latter was knighted. Mortimer was captured by the French in 1406, and subsequently played a prominent part in both the Agincourt campaign and Henry V’s second invasion of Normandy. He suffered a dramatic reversal of fortunes in 1422, however, being charged with treason and executed two years later (E101/69/2/310; E404/21/73, 32/275; N.H. Nicolas, Agincourt, 103n, 382; CPR, 1416-22, pp. 74, 141; DKR, xli. 715, 765, 782; xliv. 547, 563, 566, 587; E. Powell, Kingship, Law and Society, 256-8; Issues ed. Devon, 373, 377, 384).
- 1. CP25(1)178/91/59; Mon. Brasses ed. Mill Stephenson, 384; Early Lincoln Wills ed. Gibbons, 187.
- 2. R.I. Jack, ‘Greys of Ruthin’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1961), 164, 167, 326; VCH Bucks. iv. 468; CP25(1)178/93/4; JUST 1/1514 rot. 5; J. Bridges, Northants. i. 342; CAD, iii. B3892; CPR, 1405-8, p. 85; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 198-200.
- 3. VCH Northants. iv. 249; JUST 1/1514 rot. 24, 25; CP25(1)178/91/59; SC8/125/6240; Feudal Aids, vi. 495; CPR, 1413-16, p. 115; Northants. RO, Stopford Sackville mss, 548, 1454.
- 4. C138/53/107; C219/12/3; DL42/17, f. 576; CPR, 1422-9, pp. 473-4; CCR, 1429-35, pp. 29, 32, 229; 1435-41, p. 357; Add. Ch. 21639; VCH Bucks, iv. 513.
- 5. CCR, 1429-35, pp. 197, 229; 1435-41, p. 400; 1441-7, p. 339; CChR, vi. 4.
- 6. Mon Brasses, 384; CCR, 1441-7, p. 339; CPR, 1446-52, pp. 151-2; Early Lincoln Wills, 187; VCH Bucks. iv. 468.