PERKINS, William (d.c.1448), of Ufton Robert, Berks.
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Family and Education
m. by Feb. 1424, Margaret, 1s.
Escheator, Oxon. and Berks. 17 Dec. 1426-18 Nov. 1427, 5 Nov. 1430-26 Nov. 1431.
Commr. of inquiry, Berks. Feb. 1428 (flooding); array Jan. 1436; to distribute a tax allowance Jan. 1436; of kiddles, Berks., Bucks., Oxon. May 1438; oyer and terminer, Carm., Card., Pemb. Aug. 1440; to raise royal loans, Berks. Nov. 1440, Mar. 1442.
J.p. Berks. 29 Nov. 1436-d.
According to a visitation of Berkshire compiled in the 17th century, William Perkins came from a family retained by the Despensers, being the son of a certain John Perkins, who had served as steward to Thomas Despenser, the earl of Gloucester in the last two years of Richard II’s reign. No contemporary evidence survives to lend credence to these statements (which may, indeed, have owed their origins to a confused memory of William Perkins’s own employment by the duke of Gloucester in the 15th century). All that is certain is that William was living in Berkshire by 1410, acted as patron of the living at Ufton Robert in 1411 and attended the local parliamentary elections in the autumn of 1414. It remains unclear when he acquired the manor of Ufton Robert itself (where lands valued at £5 a year were still in the possession of Alice, the widowed daughter-in-law of Sir Thomas Paynell*, in 1412); and whether he did so as a consequence of a marriage into the Paynell family is also open to speculation. However, in 1424 a settlement of the manor was made on him, his wife and their male issue. The Perkinses also held messuages and land in Buscot, Snowswick and ‘Westonwyke’, entailed in the same way, although these particular properties were subject to an annual payment of as much as £15 6s.8d. for the lifetime of Elizabeth, wife of John Collee.1
Perhaps it was the profits of his career in the law that enabled Perkins to enter the ranks of the land-owning gentry of Berkshire. He completed his training well before 1420, by which date he was an established member of Lincoln’s Inn. (Twenty years later he was to make a payment of 33s.4d. to the society in order to obtain a pardon of all his dues, then greatly in arrears, and re-admission to repasts.) From early on he attracted clients of note: in 1425 he became a trustee of the manor of Lyneham in Oxfordshire, belonging to James Fiennes† (afterwards Lord Say and Sele); before 1431 he was enfeoffed of lands owned by Sir Richard Hankford† (brother-in-law to Thomas Montagu, earl of Salisbury); and he was evidently known to Humphrey, earl of Stafford, for not only did he witness a transaction which in 1431 brought to a close a long lawsuit which the earl had wished ended, but also, two years later, he attested a grant of property in Oxford to Stafford and his half-brother, the future archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Bourgchier (shortly to be made chancellor of the university).2
The corporation of Reading evidently employed Perkins as legal counsel, too. On one occasion, in 1430-1, when the mayor dined at his house, the town paid 1s.8d. to the minstrels of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, for entertaining the guests. For how long previously Perkins had been connected with Gloucester is not recorded. That he was one of the duke’s retainers is indicated not only by his appearance in the Exchequer in May 1431 to act as mainpernor for Gloucester’s custodianship of a manor in Norfolk, but also by his association with the duke and duchess in October 1432 in the acquisition of ‘Child’s manor’ in East Barsham, in the same county, of which he subsequently released all his right to the duke. He evidently continued in Duke Humphrey’s service until the latter’s death, for after Gloucester was made justiciar of South Wales in February 1440, Perkins was named on commissions of oyer and terminer in that region (presumably on his lord’s recommendation), and at some unknown date before 1447 the duke appointed him bailiff of his lordship of Bray.3
Perkins’s important connexions, doubtless a reflection of his ability in legal affairs, made him a person of some consequence in Berkshire. He was able to obtain a papal licence for a portable altar in 1428, and six years later he was among those of the local gentry required to take the generally administered oath not to maintain malefactors. He continued to be placed in positions requiring integrity: thus, in 1438 he was named as an arbitrator in the dispute between John Yevan and Walter Veer†; three years later, he witnessed a conveyance in favour of Gloucester’s cousin John, earl of Huntingdon; and in 1443 he was enfeoffed by William Brocas* of the manor of Aldermaston which Brocas had been holding in trust for Robert de la Mare’s* grandson. During the 1440s Perkins was often recorded in association with John Norrys†, an important royal servant who was keeper of the great wardrobe in 1444-6. Norrys was of the affinity of William de la Pole, earl of Suffolk, and on at least two occasions Perkins was linked with both men: first, in or shortly before 1444, in making a conveyance of land at Windsor to Henry VI for the endowment of his college at Eton, and in 1445 as their co-feoffee of two manors in Cookham, which Norrys was in the process of acquiring.4
Towards the end of his life Perkins was engaged in a suit against certain inhabitants of Semley in Wiltshire, whom he accused of forging deeds in order to undermine his title to land there. Not re-appointed to the bench in Berkshire in February 1448, nor recorded alive thereafter, he died at an unknown date before 1451, when his son, Thomas, was patron of the living at Ufton.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvi), 119; CCR, 1409-13, p. 84; A.M. Sharp, Ufton Court, 39; VCH Bercks. iii. 441; iv. 515; CP25(1)13/82/2, 5, 84/14; C219/11/5.
- 2. LI Adm. i. 3; Black Bk. i. 9; CCR, 1422-9, p. 345; 1429-35, pp. 90, 109, 237.
- 3. HMC 11t Rep. VII, 173-4; CFR, xvi. 38; F. Blomefield, Norf. vii. 62; C. Kerry, Hist. Hundred Bray, 6.
- 4. CPL, viii. 35; CPR, 1429-36, p. 402; 1441-6, p. 176; CCR, 1435-41, pp. 181, 452; 1441-7, pp. 59, 496; CAD, i. A675, 677 (in which last, dated Nov. 1442, he is erroneously stated to be dead); RP, v. 81; CP25(1) 13/85/4.
- 5. CPR, 1441-6, p. 300; Sharp, 42.