WYKES, Thomas (d.c.1430), of Stechworth, Cambs.
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Family and Education
m. Elizabeth, 1da. 1s. illegit.
Thomas came from a family established at Newmarket in Suffolk, but close to its border with Cambridgeshire, of which Ralph Wykes, the sheriff of 1379-80, was a member. The latter had a son called Thomas, who in the early years of Richard II’s reign had dealings with the earl of Oxford’s uncle, Sir Aubrey de Vere (in connexion with the de Veres’ estate at nearby Dullingham). The shire knight would seem, however, to have been a different person.1 Whether or not this was the case, he was certainly closely related to John Wykes, esquire, who in 1391 was granted for life the office of marshal of the marshalsea of the King’s bench. The two men, who may well have been brothers, both held land in the same area to the south of Newmarket. Thomas’s holdings in Stechworth and Dullingham provided him with a rather modest annual income of £6 13s.4d., according to the assessments made for purposes of taxation in 1412. It was as Thomas ‘junior’ that in 1402 he had been party to a conveyance to his kinsman and others including the vicar of Stechworth, of lands and tenements in Newmarket, Ditton, Cheveley and elsewhere.2 But his career as a lawyer had begun at least ten years earlier. From appearing as an attorney at the Cambridgeshire assizes, he had made sufficient progress in the profession to have established a practice of sorts in the central courts at Westminster, although his relation’s position as a court official seems to have given him no obvious advantages. In the autumn of 1394 both John Wykes and Sir John Colville, an influential Cambridgeshire landowner, asked him to act as their attorney and safeguard their interests at home while they were absent in Ireland with the royal army. Over the next few years, however, no other clients of note are known to have sought his services. Indeed, Wykes himself fell foul of the law in 1401, for ‘at the procurement of his enemies’, so it was said, he was indicted for harbouring a certain man from Cheveley who was facing charges of felony. Entering a plea that the Statute of Westminster allowed those indicted for harbouring alleged criminals to be replevisable until the principals had been convicted, he none the less managed to secure a writ of supersedeas and an order to the sheriff to release him on bail if arrested. In 1403 and again in 1405 he stood surety in Chancery on behalf of his kinsman, the marshal of the King’s bench. Wykes occasionally witnessed deeds relating to property in Cambridgeshire, and in 1409 he was associated with other lawyers and members of the local gentry as a feoffee of holdings in Babraham and Swaffham Bulbeck. This, like a later trusteeship of land at Bottisham, brought him into contact with Thomas Priour*, who named him as an executor of his will in 1412.3
Wykes was present at the shire court at Cambridge to attest the indentures of election for the Parliament of 1413 (May), and he himself was returned for the county three years later. His Membership of the Commons seemingly failed to bring him to the attention of the government, for he was never appointed to royal commissions. Following the death in September 1416 of his kinsman, John Wykes, Thomas was drawn into the struggle of John’s widow, Agnes, to retain possession of an estate in the Isle of Thanet, Kent, which her husband had acquired through his first marriage, to a member of the Kyriel family. The widow married William Goodred the elder, and it was in association with his son, William* the younger, another lawyer, that Wykes was bound over in February 1419 to keep the peace towards Hugh Strauley, esquire, who was also a claimant to the disputed estate. The title of the Wykes family appears to have been proved satisfactorily for a while, for in February 1427 the property was granted out, on an Exchequer lease, for the duration of the minority of John Wykes’s son, John. Thomas provided securities for the lessees, only to take over custody himself just three months later, when he agreed to pay the Crown an annual farm of 20 marks. This transaction led to his involvement in a lawsuit four years later, when Sir Thomas Kyriel† tried to gain possession of the property. In the meantime, Wykes had attended the Cambridgeshire elections to the Parliament of December 1421, and in the following May he had appeared in Chancery as a mainpernor, under penalty of £100, that a local esquire would keep the peace.4
In the 1420s Wykes moved to Kent, where he settled at Nackington near Canterbury and farmed Nether Court, a manor adjacent to the one in the parish of St. Lawrence on the Isle of Thanet which he was currently disputing with Kyriel. In a will made on 27 Sept. 1425 he left his daughter, Joan, his lands in the county, together with 100 marks as her dowry, stipulating that in the event of her death without issue her heirs should be the three daughters of his kinsman, Edmund Wykes, to whom he left 20 marks each for their marriage portions. Only if all four girls died childless was his son, another Edmund (quite likely a bastard), to inherit the estate, although the latter was to receive certain moveable goods if he made no trouble over the will. Wykes’s property in Newmarket and Exning was to be sold for pious uses. He asked to be buried in St. Augustine’s abbey, Canterbury, to which he donated 20 marks. A further sum of 20 marks was to be doled out to the poor attending his funeral, while £4 was bequeathed to St. Sepulchre’s priory to pay for a window dedicated to St. Ethelbert. Wykes, who in July 1426 joined with John Deken* the London grocer in offering sureties to John, duke of Bedford, for the payment of £177 in damages owed by the abbot of St. Augustine’s to certain foreign merchants, died at an unknown date between the following January (when he was discharged of his obligations) and February 1431.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. CCR, 1377-81, p. 91; 1381-5, p. 113; 1385-9, pp. 466, 665, 682; CFR, ix. 239.
- 2. CPR, 1388-92, p. 489; Feudal Aids, vi. 407; Add. Ch. 15536; VCH Cambs. vi. 172-3.
- 3. JUST 1/1506 m. 30d; CCR, 1391-6, p. 270; 1399-1402, p. 412; 1402-5, pp. 144, 416; 1409-13, pp. 77, 97, 235; CPR, 1391-6 pp. 474, 506; PCC 25 Marche.
- 4. C219/11/1, 12/6; C138/19/32; Peds. Plea Rolls ed. Wrottesley, 344; CCR, 1413-19, p. 515; 1419-22, p. 259; CFR, xv. 160, 172-3.
- 5. CCR, 1422-9, pp. 276, 323-4; Canterbury Cathedral, City and Diocesan RO, consist. ct. wills, i. ff. 19d-20; CPR, 1429-36, pp. 109-10.