PAYN, John I, of Swaffham Prior, Cambs.

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. bef. Easter 1384, Edmunda.

Offices Held

Commr. of inquiry, Cambs. May 1380 (homicide), Sept. 1381 (trespass and robbery by insurgents), Feb. 1391 (repairs to the great bridge at Cambridge), May 1392 (waste on crown lands); array, Cambridge June 1380; to put down rebellion, Cambs. Dec. 1381, Mar., Dec. 1382; of oyer and terminer Oct. 1387.

J.p. Cambridge 26 May-Sept. 1380, Cambs. 8 Feb. 1384-c.1385.


Payn probably came from Thriplow, some seven miles south of Cambridge, where before 1368 he and his brother Walter owned a messuage. Although he never became involved in the affairs of the shire town as a burgess proper, he established his practice as a lawyer there, and invested in local property. Thus, in the 1370s he was associated in the purchase of two messuages and some 24 acres of land in the fields of Cambridge and Barnwell, although in 1380 he relinquished possession of a plot elsewhere in the town. As his career developed, so did he become a landowner with wider interests in the shire, centred on Swaffham Prior, a few miles to the east. This process began in 1384 when he and his wife acquired a number of holdings including several acres of farmland, to which he added, seven years later (shortly before his only return to Parliament), all the lands and services previously held by Richard Skylman of Quy, by an agreement which involved his entering into recognizances with Skylman in the sum of £40. The culmination of Payn’s material prosperity was reached in 1393 with his purchase of the manor in Swaffham Prior which had once belonged to Alan Fitzjohn.1

It was doubtless Payn’s earnings as a man of law which enabled him to become a country landowner. He had finished his training by May 1371, for he then undertook at the Exchequer to be a mainpernor for the prior and convent of Ely touching their farm of extensive royal escheats in Cambridgeshire. This resulted several years later in demands being made on Payn himself for the issues of certain of the premises, although the Exchequer was ordered in 1387 to cease its harrassment for the time being, pending a judicial decision as to whether the property pertained to the Crown or to the priory. In the meantime, Payn had built up a practice as an attorney at the assizes held at Cambridge, and had made himself useful on behalf of clients from Cambridgeshire by completing legal formalities in the court of common pleas at Westminster with regard to their landed estates.2 On occasion, Payn was asked to act as a trustee of such property: in 1380 he did so at the nomination of John Wombe of Hempstead (Essex); in 1387 he was party to the conveyance of holdings at Swaffham Bulbeck, possibly on behalf of John Cotton*, the former mayor of Cambridge; and early in 1391 he was made a trustee of land in Chesterton.3 He often witnessed property transactions in this and neighbouring counties.4

Payn may have owed his relatively frequent appointment to royal commissions in Cambridgeshire and especially his brief spell as a j.p. to qualities of trustworthiness and reliability. His experience of such employment, which took him to Cambridge early in 1391 to supervise repairs to the great bridge, no doubt commended him to the burgesses as a man capable of representing them in Parliament that winter. He is not recorded after Easter 1393.

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: E.M. Wade


  • 1. CAD, vi. C6565; Cambridge antiq. Soc. xxxi. nos. 297, 353, 376; CP25(1)29/88/48, 30/90/114; CCR, 1389-92, pp. 331, 333.
  • 2. CFR, viii. 120; CCR, 1385-9, p. 440; CP25(1)29/85/95, 30/90/102; JUST 1/1505 m. 11.
  • 3. CCR, 1413-19, p. 508; CP25(1)29/89/83, 30/90/100.
  • 4. CCR, 1381-5, pp. 221, 294; 1385-9, pp. 141, 465; 1402-5, p. 134.