WHARTON, Richard, of Wharton, Westmld.
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Family and Education
Although little is known for certain about his early life, the subject of this biography was probably a close relative of the William Wharton who served as a tax collector in Westmorland on several occasions during the late 14th century, and who was still living at Wharton in 1403, when orders went out for his arrest. He may also have been a kinsman of Henry Wharton, whom John, Lord Clifford (d.1422), the hereditary sheriff of Westmorland, retained for two lengthy terms as his deputy. Henry was actually in office at the time of Richard’s election as MP for Appleby in 1419, and, being thus responsible for returning the writ of summons, was well placed to intervene on his behalf. The family certainly exercised a good deal of influence in the area around Wharton and Tebay (which they occupied as feudal tenants of the Cliffords); and it has even been suggested that Richard himself was responsible for building an impressive new tower and hall at Wharton during this period.1
It is now impossible to date precisely the three lawsuits which were brought against Richard and his associates in the court of Chancery at Westminster, but two, at least, evidently coincided with his period of parliamentary service, and quite possibly led him to seek election in the Commons so that he could win support for his case. These were brought by the lawyer, John Helton*, who accused Richard and other ‘graundez meyntenours et maleffesours’ of attempted arson, mayhem and murder, and of other crimes committed at the behest of Thomas Warcop II*, another notorious lawbreaker. The outcome of the quarrel is not recorded, although it is unlikely that Richard received much sympathy from his colleagues in the Leicester Parliament of 1414, whose avowed aim was to curb such outbreaks of local violence. By about 1426 Richard was again in trouble, this time for launching an armed raid on an estate at Brampton, near Appleby. In collaboration with William Blenkinsop*, his son, Thomas†, and other members of this powerful Westmorland family, he had allegedly terrorized the area with ‘grandez assemblez, riottes et routez de gentz’. It seems unlikely that Richard was ever called to account for his misdeeds, but he did not again fall foul of the law, and disappears from the records after this date.2
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Quarton, Querton, Qwarton, Wherton.