WALSALL, William (d.1414), of Rushall, Staffs.
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Family and Education
m. prob. by Nov. 1385, Margaret ?da. of Nicholas Zouche of Codnor, Derbys., wid. of Sir Rhys ap Gruffyd (d.1380), 1da.2
Escheator, Salop, Staffs. and the Welsh march 3 Nov. 375-26 Nov. 1377, 3 Nov. 1378-25 Oct. 1381, 1 Nov. 1383-11 Nov. 1384, Staffs. 29 Nov. 1402-12 Nov. 1403.
Sheriff, Salop and Staffs. 26 Nov.-8 Dec. 1377, Staffs. 1 Nov. 1381-3, 15 Nov. 1389-7 Nov. 1390, 1 Dec. 1396-3 Nov. 1399, 5 Nov. 1406-30 Nov. 1407.
Commr. of inquiry, Staffs. July 1379, Feb., Mar. 1384, July 1386, Sept. 1393; to seize the goods of outlaws Apr. 1380; survey and take custody of crown property, Staffs., Warws. Apr. 1385 (temporalities of the bp. of Lichfield), Staffs. Sept. 1391 (estates of Nicholas, Lord Audley);3 arrest malefactors June 1397, Staffs., Warws. Feb. 1399; of array, Staffs. Dec. 1399, Sept. 1403; oyer and terminer Aug. 1411.
Assessor of taxes, Salop, Staffs. Dec. 1380; collector, Staffs. Dec. 1384.
Constable of Stafford castle and keeper of Stafford park 19 July 1392-c. Mar. 1399; constable of Carmarthen castle it June 1395-19 May 1399, Dynevor castle, Carm. 28 June 1397-29 Nov. 1403.4
Marshal of the hall to Richard II by 11 June 1395-c. Oct. 1399.
Keeper of the King’s hay at Teddesley in Cannock Chase, Staffs. 31 Jan. 1398-?d.
J.p. Staffs. 12 June-Nov. 1413.
Walsall is said to have been either the illegitimate son or nephew of William Coleson, who settled upon him the wardship and marriage of William Grobbere, heir to the manor of Rushall, although no concrete evidence about his background and early life appears to have survived. Since he represented Staffordshire in Parliament while still a comparatively young man, his family cannot have been without influence in the county. In the long term, however, he owed his success to royal patronage, and, judging by his long series of official appointments, an obvious talent for administration. For most of his adult life he was actively employed as an officer of the Crown in the north Midlands, Shropshire and Wales, where his usefulness was recognized and rewarded, irrespective of changing political circumstances.5
During his second term as escheator of Staffordshire, in November 1380, Walsall was involved in the assignment of dower properties in Tunstall and Newbold to Margaret, the widow of Sir Rhys ap Gruffyd. Margaret also held the manors of Alrewas and Wichnor in the same county, as well as land in Orby, Lincolnshire, the manors of Stockton, Warwickshire, and ‘Anneysburton’, Yorkshire, and unspecified estates in Nottinghamshire. Walsall was not himself a landowner of any consequence at this time: his home at Rushall had come to him not by inheritance but through the generosity of William Coleson in releasing to him his young ward, who actually owned the manor. He therefore seized the opportunity to extend his possessions through marriage, and Margaret was perhaps already his wife when, in November 1385, he stood surety for her at the Exchequer as farmer of the rest of her late husband’s estates. Unfortunately, this grant, which would have proved most lucrative for the Walsalls, was revoked not long afterwards because the King’s half-brother, Sir John Holand, to whom the award had originally been made, suffered only the briefest period of forfeiture before being pardoned for the murder of Sir Ralph Stafford.6 In April 1388 Walsall and Margaret bound themselves in recognizances of 205 marks to John, Lord Neville, joining three years later with Sir Nicholas Stafford* to make a similar undertaking in the sum of 1,000 marks. Both obligations were promptly and fully discharged, and may well have been made as part of a settlement by, or upon, the couple, whose marriage had taken place without permission from the Crown.7
It is unlikely that Walsall was ever fined for this breach of royal prerogative, as he then stood high in favour with the King, and was already the recipient of several substantial rewards. In September 1391, for example, he and John Delves* were given custody of the castle and lordship of Redcastle in Shropshire together with seven Staffordshire manors which had escheated to the Crown on the death of Nicholas, Lord Audley; and in the following November he obtained an annuity of £20 from Delamere forest in Cheshire.8 Just a few days after the death of Thomas, earl of Stafford, in July 1392, Walsall was made constable of Stafford castle during the next earl’s minority, and, no doubt as a result of his wife’s connexions in Wales, the constableships of Carmarthen and Dynevor castles were also granted to him. Meanwhile, in August 1394, he received royal letters of protection pending his departure on Richard II’s first Irish expedition, and at some point over the next year he rose to occupy the post of marshal of the hall in the royal household. His loyal service both at Court and in the country was recognized in January 1398 with a second annuity of ten marks and the keepership of the King’s hay at Teddesley, Staffordshire, and in the following April with a grant of the temporalities of the vacant see of Coventry and Lichfield. Furthermore, in August 1398, the fee initially granted to him from the forest of Delamere was replaced with another payable from the revenues of the alien priory of Langley in Staffordshire—an exchange which must have made the money easier to collect. Finally, in March 1399 Walsall received a supplementary pension of £10, awarded to him for life from the manor of Rowley in Staffordshire, which belonged to the abbey of Halesowen.9
Walsall’s career has already been cited as an example of the way in which Richard II consolidated his influence in the country by having members of his household kept in office as sheriffs far beyond the statutory term. The royal pardon accorded to him in June 1398 was clearly little more than a formality, yet although he was in many ways a royal placeman, and indeed spent the summer of 1399 in Ireland with King Richard, Walsall suffered nothing worse than the loss of his shrievalty as a result of the Lancastrian usurpation.10 His rapid, and evidently convincing, change of allegiance, together with his experience as an administrator, led Henry IV to retain him in office as constable of Dynevor and confirm his annuities. Although evidently prevented by ‘certain infirmities’ from taking part in Henry IV’s expedition against the Scots in the summer of 1400, Walsall did send a man-at-arms and two archers to serve on his behalf, and was duly excused by the King. His indisposition (if such it was) proved only temporary. The assignment of revenues from alien priories for the upkeep of the royal household prompted Walsall to petition the Parliament of January 1404 for help in obtaining compensation for some of his lost wages; and as he was then sitting in the Commons his appeal quickly received the royal assent.11 By this time he was well on the way to recovering both his health and his former authority, having been made a commissioner of array in December 1399, and an escheator in November 1402; in November 1406 he once again held office as sheriff of Staffordshire; and finally, four years later, he sat upon the local bench. Meanwhile, in March 1403, Walsall (who named John Joce II* as one of his sureties) and two others became keepers of the alien priory of Monk’s Kirby in Warwickshire, at an annual farm of £100, payable at the Exchequer. Such was his local standing that by September of the following year he had been instated as the first master of the newly founded guild of St. John the Baptist at Walsall parish church, a body notable for its strong connexion with the Beauchamp earls of Warwick. It is interesting to observe that he himself presided as escheator over the inquisitions held in Staffordshire to determine if Sir Thomas Aston, his colleague in the Parliament of 1393, might endow the chantry from his own estates.12
Comparatively little is known of Walsall’s private affairs. He quite often acted as a mainpernor in the royal courts at Westminster and in Chancery, most notably for Sir John Bagot (who was returned with him to Parliament in 1391) during the course of his dispute with the Gresleys.13 In December 1384 he and John Bromley of Staffordshire bound themselves in 200 marks to Robert Braybrooke, bishop of London, but their reason for doing so is not recorded. Surprisingly for a man of his position, Walsall does not seem to have been greatly involved in the property transactions of others: only once, in July 1382, is he mentioned as a feoffee, holding land in Kinver, Staffordshire, to the use of Richard Hampton.14 Towards the end of his life he appeared quite often as a litigant. In March 1406, for example, a Lichfield jury found that he and his wife had been unjustly disseised of the manor of ‘Myners’ by Richard Mynors and others, although since the defendants recovered it and the manor of Blakenhall three years later, the action may have been collusive. During the Trinity term of 1413 Walsall began two suits for the payment of debts of £40 and 40 marks respectively, but he did not live to bring them to a conclusion.15 He died intestate at some point between Apr. and 16 July 1414, and was survived by his widow, Margaret, for the next seven years if not longer. In order to retain control of Rushall after his ward, William Grobbere, came of age, he had married the young man to his daughter, Katherine. She was evidently his only child, and may, just possibly, have been the issue of an earlier, otherwise undocumented, marriage.16
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Walsale, Walshale, Walshalle.
- 1. Walsall is named on the return, but John Delves takes his place on the writ de expensis (CCR, 1392-6, p. 115).
- 2. CIMisc. vi. no. 38; CIPM, xv. no. 234; CFR, x. 110; A. Gross, ‘Adam Peshale’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1989), 89, 157. The pedigree of Margaret Walsall is given in ‘an old ms.’ cited in S. Shaw, Staffs. ii. 63, but the source for this information remains unknown, save that it was probably composed by a member of the Harper family, descended from Walsall’s daughter, Katherine.
- 3. Walsall subsequently denied ever having received this commission (CCR, 1413-19, p. 76).
- 4. R.A. Griffiths, Principality of Wales, i. 198-9. 248-9. Walsall was briefly replaced as constable of Dynevor castle at the beginning of November 1399, but was out of office for less than a fortnight.
- 5. Shaw, i. 122; ii. 63; CIPM, xv. nos. 234, 352-4; CCR, 1377-81, pp. 410, 419; Gross, 89, 157.
- 6. CPR, 1377-81, pp. 492, 526; CFR, x. 110. Sir John received an annuity of 250 marks from the Gruffyd estates, which probably produced even more in clear profits.
- 7. CCR, 1385-9, p. 484; 1389-92, p. 515; CIMisc. vi. no. 38.
- 8. CFR, xi. 10-11; DKR, xxxvi. 503; CPR, 1388-92, p. 520.
- 9. CPR, 1391-6, p. 451; 1396-9, pp. 293, 405, 481; CFR, xi. 255.
- 10. Griffiths, 198; CPR, 1396-9, p. 546; C67/30 m. 11.
- 11. CCR, 1399-1402, p. 261; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 116; 1401-5, pp. 383-4; 1413-16, p. 42; SC8/23/1101; Cal. Scots Docs. (supp.) v. no. 887; RP, iii. 544. His fee of Â£10 p.a. from Rowley was cancelled in March 1404 (CPR, 1399-1401, p. 122).
- 12. CFR, xii. 204; CPR, 1401-5, pp. 350, 420; Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss, 1049-50.
- 13. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xiv. 138; CCR, 1377-81, pp. 133, 201; 1385-9, p. 123; 1389-92, p. 290; 1392-6, p. 113; 1399-1402, p. 319.
- 14. CCR, 1381-5, pp. 153, 597; 1385-9, p. 72; CIPM, xv. no. 703.
- 15. JUST 1/1515 m. 10; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xi. 219, xv. 121, xvi. 49, xvii. 44-46.
- 16. Wm. Salt Arch Soc. xvii. 54, 59, 78; Reg. Chichele, iii. 320; Shaw, i. 122; E404/64/158; Gross, 89, 157.