ZOUCHE, Sir John (d.1445), of Kirklington, Notts.
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Family and Education
2nd s. of William, 3rd Lord Zouche of Harringworth (c.1341-1396), by his 1st w. Agnes (d. by 1393), da. of Sir Henry Green, c.j. K.B; nephew of Thomas*. m. by Nov. 1399, Margaret (d. 23 May 1451), da. of Sir John Burgh (1328-93) of Swinton, Yorks., Borough Green, Cambs. and Kirklington, by Katherine (d.1409/10), da. of Sir John Dengaine† of Teversham, Cambs.; half-sis. and coh. of Thomas Burgh (d.s.p. 1411), wid. of Sir John Lowdham (d.s.p. Aug. 1390) of Lowdham, Notts., 1da. Kntd. by Dec. 1400.1
Commr. of inquiry, Notts. Jan. 1412 (liability to pay taxes), Notts., Derbys. Jan. 1414 (lollards at large); to make arrests, Notts. July 1413; of array, Derbys. May 1415, Notts. Oct. 1417, Apr. 1418, Mar. 1427; to raise royal loans Nov. 1419, Mar. 1422, July 1426, May 1428, Mar. 1430, Mar. 1431, Feb. 1436, Mar. 1439, Mar. 1441; treat for the payment of a subsidy Feb. 1441; distribute a tax rebate Mar. 1442.
Collector of royal loans, Notts. Jan. 1420; assessor of a tax Jan. 1436.
Sheriff, Notts. and Derbys. 15 Jan.-12 Dec. 1426.
Zouche is first mentioned in December 1391, when his father, the 3rd Lord Zouche of Harringworth, conveyed to him a reversionary interest in the manor of Westoning in Bedfordshire. He was evidently of age by 1397, when he confirmed his elder brother, who had just come into the family title, in possession of what was left of his patrimony after at least five other siblings had been generously provided for. So far as we can tell, John’s own inheritance included the manor of King’s Worthy in Hampshire (which must have reverted to him later, in 1404, on the death of his uncle Thomas), as well as land in and around Wrotham, Kent, and Amesbury, Wiltshire. These together produced well over £63 a year, in addition to other, unspecified property in Hampshire, Suffolk and Hertfordshire.2 By November 1399, if not before, Zouche consolidated his position as a rentier by marrying Margaret, the widow of Sir John Lowdham, who had settled upon her an unusually handsome jointure comprising almost all his own estates. Besides the two manors of Bilsthorpe and Lowdham, the ownership of which enabled Zouche to establish himself in the Nottinghamshire community, she brought with her a life interest in the manors of Winterton and Marton in Lincolnshire, and land in the Derbyshire village of Walton, which last she occupied as dower. According to her inquisition post mortem of 1451, these holdings were then valued at £20 p.a., but they were clearly worth at least twice as much again. Indeed, Margaret’s Nottinghamshire manors alone were assessed at £25 p.a. for taxation purposes in 1412; and at a later date the property in Walton, which constituted only a small part of the whole, produced £9 a year or more in rents.3
No doubt as a result of his wife’s territorial claims in the area, Zouche became involved in at least three cases heard before the Nottingham assizes at the very beginning of the 15th century; and by 1407 he was well enough known to be returned by the county electors to Parliament. Perhaps he was already then in receipt of the annuity of £20 which was being paid to him by the Crown some five years later from Ilkeston in Derbyshire, but his impressive family background was enough to recommend him. His wife, Margaret, could also boast some interesting connexions, for one of her two sisters was married to Sir John Ingoldisthorpe*, while the other took as her first husband Thomas Hasilden I* of Guilden Morden, and as her second the influential (Sir) William Asenhill*. The death without issue of their only surviving half-brother, Thomas Burgh, in 1411, led to a partition between them of the widespread estates which he had inherited from their father, Sir John; and Margaret was thus able further to augment Zouche’s landed income. Her purparty included the Yorkshire manors of Bolton upon Dearne and Wildthorpe, and their extensive appurtenances in Barnbrough and Mensthorpe, which were later settled upon an influential group of trustees including Zouche’s friends, Sir Thomas Chaworth*, Peter de la Pole* and Simon Leek*. Margaret also came into land in Norfolk and Suffolk at this time, but the most important of her new possessions was the manor of Kirklington in Nottinghamshire, where she and Zouche made their home.4
In other respects, Zouche proved rather less fortunate, becoming drawn, in August 1411, into a property dispute between two Nottinghamshire gentlemen, Alexander Meryng and John Tuxford, both of whom were anxious to enlist the support of their more powerful neighbours. Tuxford prevailed upon his ‘good lord’, Sir Richard Stanhope*, to evict Meryng from the land in question, but the latter turned to Zouche and Sir John Leek* for help, and they promptly reinstated him with the assistance of a large force of armed men. A full-scale riot was narrowly avoided by the arrival of William, Lord Roos, yet it was not until 1414 that presentments were actually laid against Stanhope and Zouche, who were both indicted as ‘common maintainers and sustainers of quarrels’. Practical steps do, however, seem to have been taken to restrain the chief protagonists in the meantime, as they were briefly committed to the Tower in the autumn of 1411, along with three other distinguished local figures, each of whom had also recently fallen foul of the law. The detention of this influential group of landowners from the north Midlands has been seen as a political act, intended to punish them for supporting Prince Henry’s attempt to secure his father’s abdication, but the ailing Henry IV clearly did not have to search far for a pretext for their arrest. After less than a month spent cooling their heels in prison the miscreants were released, and none appears to have suffered any permanent disgrace. In point of fact, Zouche began to serve as a crown commissioner almost at once, and continued to receive his annuity of £20 just as before. His return to the first Parliament of Henry V’s reign in May 1413 might, perhaps, be seen as evidence of some earlier personal attachment, but he never obtained high office or advancement at Court—unlike his brother, the 4th Lord Zouche, who was appointed lieutenant of Calais by the new King. Although he acted as a mainpernor at the Exchequer in the following October for Sir Roger Trumpington, a member of the royal household, Zouche seems on the whole to have made no consistent attempt to exploit the connexions which birth and marriage had brought him as a means of gaining preferment. His only daughter, Elizabeth, none the less became the wife of Sir Nicholas Bowet of Ripingale, a kinsman of Henry Bowet, archbishop of York, and it may be that the sum of £266 13s.4d. which he owed the latter on his death, in 1423, concerned the marriage settlement. Sir Nicholas was then approached by the archbishop’s executors for an outstanding sum of £40, the second largest which they had to collect.5 Other members of his circle included William, Lord Lovell (for whom he offered substantial securities when he sued out livery of his estates in 1423, as well as acting as a trustee of some of the property involved), but his closest friend remained Sir Thomas Chaworth, who had been imprisoned with him in the Tower in 1411. Zouche did not share Chaworth’s lollard sympathies—he was, indeed, appointed in 1414 as a commissioner to arrest the heretics with whom the latter had been in conspiracy—but their association as co-feoffees of local estates and witnesses to each other’s property transactions continued uninterrupted; and eventually, in the late 1430s, Zouche’s two grand daughters and coheirs married Chaworth’s sons, William and John, uniting their respective families in a permanent alliance. Another of his intimates was Sir Thomas Rempston II*, who had married into the Lowdham family, and who also acted with him as a trustee.6
Having attended the Nottinghamshire parliamentary elections in 1423, Zouche himself conducted those of 1426 in his capacity as sheriff. His load of administrative duties was, otherwise, not particularly heavy, however; and little else is known about his general activities until the spring of 1434, when he sat on one of the two grand juries empanelled to try the case of the maiming of Sir Henry Pierrepont* and the murder of his two companions by Thomas Foljambe the younger. Although connected with the latter by marriage, he took Sir Henry’s part, while his friend, Sir Thomas Chaworth, aligned himself with Foljambe, who, in the end, escaped without punishment. Rather ironically under the circumstances, he and Chaworth were first among the Nottinghamshire gentry to take the general oath required at that time against the maintenance of quarrels and the support of persons disturbing the peace. Over the years Zouche served on several commissions for the raising of government loans, and while preoccupied with his duties, in February 1436, he was himself approached for an advance of 100 marks—a sum which reflects clearly enough his wealth as a landowner. From time to time he attempted to consolidate his and his wife’s estates by purchase, although one particular transaction—for the acquisition of land in Kirklington—appears to have involved an attempted fraud and led him to sue for redress in the court of Chancery.7
In his first will, a short document dated October 1433, Zouche simply instructed his five executors to arrange for his burial in Southwell minster, but on 9 Sept. 1445, shortly before his death, he drew up a more detailed instrument, specifying the design of his tomb (‘cum lapide marmorio altitudinis competentis inserto cum durabus ymaginibus de laton ... et arcus fiat super idem sepulcrum de maeremio’) and listing a number of rich bequests both to the minister and various relatives and friends. His widow, Margaret, who was named as supervisor of his will, lived on until May 1451 in possession of all his estates, which were then partitioned between their two grand daughters. She was buried beside her husband, having set aside the profits of part of her own inheritance for the endowment of a chantry at Southwell minster. A cultivated woman of literary tastes, she left a number of books, including a ‘fair gret Sawter’, a primer and a ‘Franssh boke’, as well as quantities of plate, jewellery and other luxury goods.8
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Souche, Such(e).
- 1. CP, xii (2), 942-5; Coll. Top. et Gen. i. 344; Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xxx. 337, 340-8; CIPM, xiv. no. 1017; C139/141/12; JUST 1/1514 rot. 73v.
- 2. HMC Middleton, 112-14; CPR, 1391-6, p. 2; CCR, 1396-9, p. 404; CP, xii (2), 942-5; Feudal Aids, vi. 455, 477, 535.
- 3. Coll. Top. et Gen. i. 344-5; CIPM, xvi. no. 1017; Feudal Aids, iv. 127, 139; C139/141/12; E179/159/48.
- 4. CP25(1)280/154/43, 44, 156/4, 157/32; JUST 1/1514 rot. 73v, 74, 81; Feudal Aids, vi. 415; Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xxx. 344-5; F. Blomefield, Norf. vii. 126.
- 5. CCR, 1409-13, pp. 243, 244, 261; KB9/204/2 mm. 6-7; CFR, xiv. 33; Historians Church of York ed. Raine, iii. 322.
- 6. Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xxx. 337; Test. Ebor. ii. 156; CP25(1)186/38/4; E326/4611; CCR, 1422-9, pp. 72-73, 75, 315; 1441-7, pp. 29, 91; Add. Ch. 20542.
- 7. C1/11/537; C219/13/2; PPC, iv. 327; CPR, 1429-36, p. 409; S.M. Wright, Derbys. Gentry (Derbys. Rec. Soc. viii), 159.
- 8. HMC Middleton, 112-14; C139/141/12; Test. Ebor. ii. 153-7.