PENSAX, John, of Oakham, Rutland.
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Family and Education
J.p. Rutland 28 Nov. 1399-Feb. 1407, 12 Feb. 1422-July 1423.
Sheriff, Rutland 10 July 1400-8 Nov. 1401, 23 Nov. 1419-16 Nov. 1420.
Commr. of array, Rutland Dec. 1399, Sept. 1403, Mar. 1419; inquiry Feb. 1402 (claim by the dowager countess of Oxford to the manor of Market Overton); to raise and collect a royal loan Nov. 1419, Jan. 1420.
Despite his long period of involvement in the business of local government, the subject of this biography remains a shadowy figure about whom little evidence has survived. He is first mentioned in July 1378, when William Pensax, the vicar of Oakham, who was almost certainly a near relative, chose him to execute his will. He was assisted in this task by his neighbour, William Flore†, whose son, Roger*, appears to have been one of his closest friends. Probably because of their earlier complicity with William Pensax in the seizure of an estate in the Nottinghamshire village of Sutton, at least four of our Member’s kinsmen spent part of the early 1390s in prison, both in the Tower of London and at Nottingham castle, although he himself did not share their misadventure.1 Indeed, his life during this period passed quite conventionally: between June 1383 and March 1386 he made three appearances in Chancery as a mainpernor, and in 1395 he attended the parliamentary elections held at Oakham castle for the county of Rutland. He also witnessed the return of Members to the Parliaments of 1399, 1402 and November 1414, undertaking each time to stand bail for Roger Flore as one of the two shire knights; and after an interval of some eight years he once again attended elections in 1422, 1423, 1426 and 1427. On the last occasion he offered securities on behalf of John Culpepper*, who was sitting for the third and final time.2 Pensax’s regular appearance at the county court was probably due to the fact that he lived in Oakham and could thus attend without any inconvenience.
Although he did not derive as much personal benefit as his friend Flore from the Lancastrian usurpation, Pensax clearly prospered because of the change of regime. Within less than one year of Henry IV’s coronation he obtained a seat on the local bench, began to serve on royal commissions and became sheriff of Rutland. His first return to Parliament followed in January 1404, and in the same year he and Thomas Thorpe, his colleague in the House of Commons, agreed to act as trustees of some Essex property in which Sir Thomas Oudeby* had an interest. Shortly afterwards, Roger Flore made Pensax a feoffee-to-uses of certain land which he had just acquired in Oakham. At some point before June 1409, he became involved in a dispute which appears to have taken a violent turn, for he was then bound over in sums of £10 to keep the peace towards a Londoner named Richard Yonge.3 Not much else is known about his private affairs. In December 1414 he and three others were instructed by the Crown to deliver a writ of summons to Edward, duke of York, who was then trying without much success to defend his title to the lordship of Oakham against a rival claim by the countess of Stafford. His friendship with Flore (who was himself one of York’s leading retainers) continued over the years, and in 1422 they were both parties to a property transaction in Leesthorpe, Leicestershire. Nothing more is heard of Pensax after the autumn of 1427, by which date he must have been over 70 years old.4 He does not appear to have left either a widow or any children, but we cannot be certain on this point.
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. Early Lincoln Wills ed. Gibbons, 65; CCR, 1389-92, pp. 133, 145, 409; 1392-6, p. 166; CPR, 1391-6, p. 356; CIPM, xvi. no. 600.
- 2. CCR, 1381-5, p. 391; pp. 126, 141; C219/9/11, 10/1, 2, 11/4, 13/1, 2, 4-5.
- 3. CP25(1)192/8/4; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 241; CCR, 1401-5, p. 354; 22, p. 78; CPR, 1401-5, p. 354.
- 4. CPR, 1413-16, p. 270; CCR, 1422-9, p. 48; C219/13/5.