TIRWHIT, William (d.1451), of Wrawby, Lincs. and Thorngumbald, Yorks.

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



Mar. 1416

Family and Education

s. and h. of Robert Tirwhit (d. 6 Jan. 1427), of Kettleby, Lincs., j.KB, by Alice. da. of Sir Robert Kelk of Kelk, Yorks. m. (1) by Nov. 1410, Constance, poss. da. of Sir Anselm St. Quentin of Brandsburton, Yorks., 1s.; (2) by Jan. 1450, Cecily. Kntd. by 22 July 1418.1

Offices Held

Bailli of Mantes, Meulan and Poissy and capt. of Montjoie, St. Germain en Laye and Poissy, France 18 Jan. 1421-aft. 30 Aug. 1422.2

Commr. to take musters, Mantes May 1421, Meulan Aug., Dec. 1421, Mantes Feb., Apr., Aug. 1422;3 of array, Lincs. (Lindsey) Jan. 1436; sewers Feb. 1428, (Holland) July 1423, (Lindsey) Mar. 1446; to raise royal loans May 1428, Mar. 1430, May 1431, June 1446, Sept. 1449; of oyer and terminer Feb. 1430 (assault at Kirkton), July 1432 (attack on property of Croyland abbey), Feb. 1439 (flooding of land at Heckington); to make an arrest Aug. 1433.

J.p. Lincs. (Lindsey) 12 July 1432-d.

Sheriff, Yorks. 7 Nov. 1435-8 Nov. 1436.

Collector of a tax, Lincs. (Lindsey) Aug. 1450.


The Tirwhits owed much of their importance in Lincolnshire to the successful career of Robert Tirwhit, the distinguished lawyer, who became a King’s serjeant in 1399 and a j.KB nine years later, being also then retained as a councillor for the duchy of Lancaster. That he was in a position greatly to advance his own son’s interests seems certain, for at the time of the latter’s first return to Parliament in 1416, he was active on the bench in both Kesteven and Lindsey (as well as elsewhere) and thus probably played no small part in influencing the electors.4 William Tirwhit was, however, already a figure of some consequence in his own right, notwithstanding his early involvement in the unsuccessful rebellion led by the Percys against Henry IV in 1403. Royal letters of pardon had been granted to him two years later (probably through the intercession of his father), and, somewhat chastened by the experience, he returned to live quietly for a while at Kettleby, acting occasionally as a witness and feoffee for local landowners, including Sir George Monbourcher and his wife Elizabeth, the heir of Gilbert Umfraville, titular earl of Angus. It was during this period that he married his first wife, Constance, and received from his father an estate in the Yorkshire village of Thorngumbald. Despite the mediation of his maternal uncle, Roger Kelk, a dispute with one of his neighbours led, in November 1410, to a violent affray, as a result of which the judge himself went to law, claiming damages of £40 from his son’s assailants. The case never reached a verdict, presumably because pressure was brought on the defendants to settle out of court; and in April 1412 William was confirmed in possession of these holdings, together with the manor of Wrawby in Lincolnshire, which also appears to have been settled upon him when he married. It is uncertain whether William took part in his father’s celebrated attack upon William, Lord Roos, which incurred the wrath of the 1411 Parliament and led to the public humiliation of the judge, but he may well have been one of the armed men who attempted to ambush Roos ‘in manner of war’ His rather belligerent temperament found a more legitimate outlet once Henry V’s plans for an invasion of France got under way, and in April 1415 he was retained by the King to serve with three archers for the forthcoming campaign.5

Shortly after his return from France, Tirwhit entered Parliament for the first time. A year later, in the spring of 1417, he and Sir Richard Hansard* (who was one of Justice Tirwhit’s leading supporters in his dispute with Lord Roos) were arraigned at Lincoln on an assize of novel disseisin, but they managed to avoid appearing in court. The prospect of foreign conquests took him abroad once more in the following July as a member of King Henry’s second expedition to Normandy. On this occasion he served with one mounted lance and three archers in the retinue of Robert, Lord Willoughby, for whom he was later to act as a trustee. The next four years were spent in France where he distinguished himself sufficiently to receive a knighthood and be made captain of three captured enemy castles.6 He apparently relinquished his command soon after the death of Henry V, and was back in England by September 1423, when he once again stood for Parliament, along with his old friend, Sir Richard. Although he was returned for the third (and last) time in 1426, Tirwhit clearly remained somewhat under the shadow of his father, and it was not until the latter’s death, while still in office, that he came to occupy a dominant position in the county community. This was largely because of the dramatic improvement in both his finances and his territorial influence which followed his succession to the remaining family estates. Some of the judge’s property was inherited, but the rest had been acquired through the shrewd investment of the perquisites and profits of a lifetime spent in the courts of law. He was able to leave his son no less than 14 manors, as well as extensive appurtenances, in Lincolnshire, the manors of Higham in Essex, Brockholes in Northamptonshire and Dowthorpe, Beswick and Grovehill in east Yorkshire, and an inn in London. These properties, together with the land already settled upon him when he married, gave Tirwhit an income conservatively estimated at £130 a year in 1436, and probably worth far more. Over the year he made various settlements and enfeoffments of his inheritance, notably in the months preceding his death, by which time he had married his second wife. He engaged the services of an impressive range of trustees, including the ubiquitous Sir Richard Hansard, his neighbour, (Sir) Thomas Cumberworth*, the judges, (Sir) John Fortescue* and John Portington, and Peter Ardern, the chief baron of the Exchequer.7

Throughout this period Tirwhit was himself in some demand as a witness and feoffee-to-uses, attesting deeds for, inter alios, William, Lord Zouche, and Sir John Grey of Ingoldby. He was, moreover, involved in the property transactions of Sir William Oldhall and his wife, Margaret (Lord Willoughby’s sister), and he also became a trustee of the London jeweller, Lambert Waghtree.8 Tirwhit had other dealings in the City: in the summer of 1437, for example, he offered a bond of £20 as security for a debt of £17 18s.d. which he owed to Ralph Holand of London, while the merchant, Thomas Walsingham*, took from him securities totalling £55, the nature of which is not disclosed. It is unlikely that he experienced more than temporary financial embarrassment at this time, since in 1439 his landed income was further augmented with revenues from land in Beverley and Drifield (Yorkshire) which had been partioned between him and his kinsman, John Tirwhit, on the death of Lucy del See. Indeed, by November 1441, he was prepared to alienate lands worth £43 p.a. for the implementation of an ambitious scheme of pious and charitable works which was to include a hospital at Glanford Brigg in Wrawby (with two chaplains and facilities for the support of seven poor men), one chantry in a chapel already built by him at Higham and another at the altar of the Holy Trinity in Beverley Minster. All these foundations were to be dedicated to the King and in memory of his parents. In addition to the royal licence permitting him to go ahead with this scheme, Tirwhit also obtained two sets of letters patent (dated February and October 1441) which exempted him from holding any offices of the Crown or discharging routine administrative responsibilities such as jury service. He none the less continued to serve as a j.p. until his death, ten years later, besides sitting on a few more royal commissions.9

Sir William’s last years were marked by two serious disputes as well as a lawsuit brought by him shortly before 1448 against a local man for trespass. Although hitherto perfectly amicable, his relations with (Sir) Thomas Cumberworth (who, as we have seen, was one of his trustees, and whom he likewise assisted in the same capacity) deteriorated somewhat as a result of rival claims to a watercourse which ran between their respective properties in Bigby. These claims were submitted, in 1447, to the arbitration of John, Viscount Beaumont, who recognized that despite the essentially trivial nature of their quarrel there was every likelihood of ‘debate and hevynes’ growing between the parties. The arbiter made an interim award, which was followed, three years later, by a more lasting compromise then achieved through the mediation of Bishop Lumley of Lincoln. Tirwhit was party to another private settlement reached at about this time, although the outcome proved far less satisfactory. On this occasion, he offered securities of 40 marks as a guarantee of his readiness to accept the award of four men who met at Beverley to determine the rights and wrongs of a quarrel with which he was then preoccupied. The arbitrators, who were evidently partial to his opponents, met secretly without informing his proxy, and then refused to surrender the bond he had given them. He sought redress in the court of Chancery, but the outcome is not recorded.10 He died, not long afterwards, on 7 Oct. 1451, leaving a son named Adam as his next heir. The latter did not live long enough to derive much benefit from his inheritance, and within the year he was succeeded by his own 22-year-old son, Robert.11

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


Variants: Thirwhit, Tyrwhit(t), Tyrwhyt.

  • 1. C139/43/2; CPR, 1436-41, pp. 41-42; Belvoir Castle deeds, 5826-7; DKR, xli. 716; Lincs. Peds. ed. Maddison, 1018-19; Sel. Cases King’s Bench (Seldon Soc. lxxxviii), 200-3.
  • 2. DKR, xlii. 397, 431, 433, 438, 448, 452; Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, i. 353.
  • 3. DKR, xlii. 427, 431, 433, 438, 448, 452.
  • 4. Somerville, Duchy, i. 450; PPC, iii. 283; CPR, 1413-16, pp. 420, 422, 424-6.
  • 5. Sel. Cases King’s Bench, 200-3; CP25(1)144/152/47, 154/4; E101/69/4/402; E404/31/388; CPR, 1405-8, p. 77; CCR, 1409-13, p. 189; Belvoir Castle deeds, 4870, 5692, 5823.
  • 6. JUST 1/1524 rot. 3; Gesta Hen. V ed. Williams, 268; DKR, xli. 716; CPR, 1422-9, p. 543; Harl. Ch. 561 49.
  • 7. Belvoir Castle deeds, 1259-60, 5693, 5776-7, 5825-7; Feudal Aids, iii. 255, 264, 267, 270-1, 277, 281, 293, 295, 307, 309, 344-6, 352, 354, 356, 358, 363; VCH Yorks. (E. Riding), ii. 299; CCR, 1435-41, p. 474; EHR, xlix. 635; CP25(1)145/177/6.
  • 8. CP25(1)/145/57/6, 11; SC8/181/9007; PCC, iv. 326; CCR, 1435-41, pp. 244, 253; 1441-7, pp. 379, 475; 1447-54, p. 44; CPR, 1446-52, p. 457; W.O. Massingberd, Ormsby-cum-Ketsby, 85; Lincs. AO, FL 3156.
  • 9. C143/449/3; CPR, 1436-41, p. 514; 1441-6, pp. 6-7, 41-42; CCR, 1435-41, pp. 132-3, 246.
  • 10. C1/68/115; C139/143/29; Belvoir Castle deeds, 1758-9, 3137; CPR, 1446-52, p. 99.
  • 11. C139/144/44, 147/22. Maddison’s belief that Tirwhit had a daughter named Mary, who married Sir Walter Tailboys* (Lincs. Peds. 945) is obviously mistaken, on chronological as well as factual grounds. Sir Walter’s grandson and namesake did, however, have a wife called Mary.