ST. CLER, Thomas (d.1416), of East Grinstead and Preston Capes, Northants.
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Family and Education
b. aft. 1366, yr. s. of Sir John St. Cler† (1328-87) of Jevington, Suss., Chiselborough, Som. and Preston Capes prob. by his 1st w.1 m. bef. 1394, Margaret (d. 18 Sept. 1438), da. of Sir John Philipot† (d.1384) of London, grocer, prob. by his 1st w. Joan Stamford, and wid. of John, s. of Sir John atte Hale† of Tarrant Rushton, Dorset, 3s.
Commr. of array, Suss. July 1402, Aug., Sept. 1403, May 1415.
St. Cler’s father, probably the most important tenant of the duchy of Lancaster in Sussex, also held substantial estates in four other shires. For the most part these passed on his death in 1387 to his elder son, Sir Philip, who by marrying the Lovein heiress became one of the most prominent landowners in south-east England.2 Sir Philip’s younger brother, Thomas, inherited no more of the family estates than a fourth part of 116 acres of land in Kemsing and a moiety of 80 acres nearby in Woodland (Kent), which descended in gavelkind. Added to these was the distant manor of Preston Capes in Northamptonshire, which his brother allowed him to have by a gift completed in 1394. St. Cler’s holdings in Northamptonshire were to be estimated as worth £20 a year in 1412, at the same time as those he had purchased at East Grinstead in Sussex were assessed at £10. The value of the house nearby at Lingfield in Surrey which he had also bought before this date, is not known.3 Nor is the total worth of the property he acquired through his marriage to the only daughter of the London grocer, Sir John Philipot, who in his day had been numbered among the richest men in the City. In his will made in 1381 Philipot had stipulated that after his widow’s death this daughter, Margaret, should inherit certain tenements in Old Change, other premises once belonging to John Stodeye†, the vintner, and his place outside the City at Stepney. Margaret’s stepmother lived on (as wife and widow of Adam Bamme*) for many years after St. Cler’s own death, yet he and his wife did nevertheless come to hold property in Stepney worth at least £10 a year. Margaret’s first marriage to John atte Hale had left her in possession for life of the valuable atte Hale lands, spread along the valley of the river Tarrant in Dorset, as well as of a manor in Hampshire. These, she and St. Cler leased out in 1409 to the future Speaker, William Stourton*, for an undisclosed sum.4 At the time of his only known return to Parliament, St. Cler was therefore in receipt of an annual income from land well in excess of £40.
Thomas had followed his brother, Sir Philip, into the circle of local gentry attached to the earls of Arundel, and it was doubtless for this reason that they both purchased royal pardons in 1398, a few months after Earl Richard’s condemnation and execution for treason. Sir Philip’s death in 1408 and the minority of his son, John, then the principal heir to the St. Cler estates, left Thomas as the adult head of the family. However, he could exert no control over his nephew’s landed inheritance, custody of which was sold by the Crown for 1,000 marks to (Sir) John Pelham*, the new earl of Arundel’s rival for political hegemony in Sussex. It is quite clear where St. Cler’s loyalties lay; and before long he was in receipt of an annuity of £20 charged on Earl Thomas’s lordship of Lewes. In the autumn of 1409 he was made a prisoner in the Tower, apparently because of a serious dispute involving the earl; and the order issued for his release on 21 Oct. coincided with that for the release of his fellow Fitzalan retainer, Richard Wayville*, imprisoned at Nottingham castle. St. Cler doubtless owed his election to Parliament in 1414 to the influence of his lord, then at the height of his power as treasurer of the Exchequer. In May 1415 when the earl was making preparations to go to France on Henry V’s expedition, he named St. Cler among the trustees of his lordships and manors in Sussex and Surrey; furthermore, the force which was mustered under his banner on 1 July prior to embarkation included this retainer among the men-at-arms. It is uncertain whether St. Cler returned home from Harfleur early in October in the company of Arundel, then dying of dysentery, or continued on campaign with the depleted English army to win victory at Agincourt.5
St. Cler survived the earl of Arundel by just a year: having made his will on 5 Oct. 1416, he died three days later. He was buried in the parish church at East Grinstead, to which he left £2 for repairs and new paving. Other bequests went to the church at Lingfield, while a priest was to be paid eight marks to pray for his soul. He left three sons, about whom, however, nothing more is heard. His widow later married John Nelond, whom he had named as her fellow executor of his will.6 The Nelonds continued to hold Margaret’s landed interests in Dorset for her lifetime, and they also retained the St. Cler properties in Northamptonshire, with reversion to the MP’s nephew, Thomas (1402-35), who after 1419 became heir to the main St. Cler estates as well. In the 1420s young Thomas demised to the Nelonds for their lives the manors of ‘Aldeham’ in Ingtham and Woodland (Kent), and in 1430 he formally quitclaimed to them the property his late uncle had once held in Surrey and Sussex. Margaret died in 1438 and was buried in Greyfriars church, London.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
Variants: St. Clair, Seinteclere, Sencler.
- 1. The name of Sir John’s first wife, the mother of his heir Sir Philip, is not known. He m. (2) 1376, Katherine (d.1381), wid. of Sir John Talbot of Richard’s Castle, Herefs.; (3) Mary (d.1392), wid. of Sir Roger Bellers† of Leics.: CP, xii. (1), 631; CIPM, xvi. 1082-3.
- 2. CIPM, vii. 686; xvi. 458-60, 761.
- 3. Suss. Arch. Trust, Lewes, Firle Place mss, box 36/1; Feudal Aids, vi. 492, 526; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 323, 328; Suss. Feet of Fines (Suss. Rec. Soc. xxiii), no. 2782; C138/19/25.
- 4. Cal. Wills ct. Husting London ed. Sharpe, ii. 275-6; Cal. Letter Bk. London, K, 56; Feudal Aids, vi. 490; Dorset Feet of Fines 168, 241, 263.
- 5. C67/30 m. 18; Lambeth Pal. Lib. Reg. Arundel, i. f. 254v; CFR, xiii. 111-12; CCR, 1409-13, p. 7; Feudal Aids, vi. 526; CPR, 1413-16, p. 336; E101/47/1.
- 6. Reg. Chichele, ii. 97; C138/19/25.
- 7. CCR, 1422-9, pp. 212, 323, 345; 1429-35, pp. 64, 171, 173; Coll. Top. et Gen. v. 287.