BESFORD, Alexander (d.c.1400), of Besford, Worcs.
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Family and Education
?s. of Alexander Besford by his w. Joan. m. (1) ? a coh. of Lench of (Rous) Lench, Worcs.,1 1da.; (2) bef. July 1386, Beatrice (d.1403/4), wid. of Thomas Bassingbourne† of Hoddesdonbury in Broxbourne, Herts. and Manuden, Essex, 2da.
Commr. to take custody of two royal wards, Glos. June 1373; put down rebellion, Worcs. Dec. 1382; of arrest, Glos. Feb. 1386; array, Worcs. Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399.
Alnager, Worcs. 1 Mar. 1377-Feb. 1379.
J.p. Worcs. 20 Dec. 1382-c.1383, 27 Apr. 1386-July 1389, 14 Mar. 1393-June 1394.
Steward of the liberties of Westminster abbey, western parts prob. by May 1383-c.1400.
Verderer, Feckenham forest, Worcs. bef. June 1393.
The family derived its name from Besford (near Pershore), and by Alexander’s death had acquired the manors of Flyford Flavell, ‘More’ and Hill near Fladbury, as well as property in Worcester. Alexander Besford was probably the grandson of the Worcestershire MP of the same name who had sat in 1313, 1315 and 1324. He inherited the family property by 1376, when Joan Corbet, relict of Sir Robert Harley of Willey, Shropshire, made a quitclaim to him of certain lands at Pershore and Besford.2
Besford’s career as a lawyer had begun by 1368, in which year he had acted as a feoffee of Sir John Trillow’s† property in Warwickshire. It was not long before he came to the attention of government officials at Westminster, and in January 1373 he obtained at the Exchequer the farm of the cloth subsidy in Worcestershire, collection of which was subsequently brought under his personal control when he was appointed alnager in the county. The farm was renewed to last until 1382, but three years before then it was granted instead to Hugh Cook of Worcester. However, as Besford provided securities on Cook’s behalf, it is clear that he had no objections to the change, and, indeed, may have reached a private financial agreement with the new farmer. Meanwhile, he had been involved in other transactions calculated to increase his income. In June 1373 he had been commissioned to take custody on the Crown’s behalf of the two daughters and heirs of Sir John Hastang of Grafton. Having done so, on 20 Aug. Besford purchased the marriage of the elder girl, Maud, for 125 marks, promptly selling it only two days later to Sir John Stafford’s† widow for double that amount. Furthermore, this substantial profit was greatly increased in October when the King exonerated him from all payment for the marriage in recompense of his expenses and labour on his behalf in suing for the recovery of the wardship. It is possible that Besford owed these signs of royal favour to his connexion with Sir John Beauchamp† of Holt, then a member of the King’s household. In 1375 he became a feoffee of the estates in Oxfordshire and Warwickshire which Beauchamp had acquired by marriage, and he was also a trustee and tenant of certain properties in Worcestershire with which Sir John wished to endow a chantry.3
But Beauchamp was not the only person at Court with whom Besford was connected. He was at least also on good terms with William Mulsho, the keeper of the King’s wardrobe, for whom in 1375 he stood surety as lessee of Tickford priory (Buckinghamshire). Four years later he acted similarly for the farmers of the alien priory of Beckford (Gloucestershire). This interest in monastic houses suggests that Besford may already have entered the employ of Westminster abbey as steward of the abbey’s western estates. The appointment was no doubt the outcome of many years’ acquaintance with the abbey’s officials in Worcestershire, for the Besfords held Flyford and other property directly of the abbey and Besford itself indirectly (the earls of Warwick being intermediary landlords). As steward, Besford received an annual fee of £4 and other perquisites such as a lease of the site of the old manor house in Pinvin (Worcestershire). His importance in the administrative hierarchy of the abbey is indicated by the grant in May 1383, to him and two others, of the guardianship of all the temporalities during a vacancy in the abbacy. But Besford by no means limited his legal business to the abbey’s affairs, as is made clear by his appearances in the Exchequer and Chancery on behalf of other clients, and there is evidence to suggest that, like one of his close associates and fellow lawyers Richard Ruyhale* of Birtsmorton, he was from early on in his career a member of the circle of legal advisers employed by Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick. He was returned to Parliament for the second time in 1388, when the earl, as one of the Lords Appellant, was in control of the government, and he himself profited in a small way from the forfeitures initiated by the previous Parliament, being enabled in February 1389 to purchase for 18 marks rents from property in Worcester confiscated from Sir John Beauchamp of Holt. Another important client was Bishop Wakefield of Worcester: in July 1391 Besford was on hand to give advice in the dispute between Wakefield and the prior of the cathedral church arising from an indult conceded by Boniface IX which permitted the prior’s use of episcopal insignia, and in February following he witnessed the final accord made between them. His kinsman, John Besford, the rector of Fladbury, was later named as one of Wakefield’s executors.4
Besford’s connexions with the earl of Warwick were reinforced by his friendship with a neighbour of his at Fladbury, Thomas Throckmorton*, who married his daughter Agnes, and also by his association with others of the Beauchamp affinity such as Guy Spyne* (whose daughter was later to marry his grandson John Throckmorton*). The removal of Besford from his sinecure as verderer of Feckenham forest in June 1393 ‘for causes specially moving the King and Council’ may well have had something to do with his link with Warwick, whose relations with the King were deteriorating still further, for two others of that circle, Thomas Hodyngton* and William Spernore*, lost their posts at Feckenham at the same time. Besford stood surety for Spernore, one of Warwick’s most trusted esquires and perhaps still chief steward of his estates, at the Worcestershire elections to the Parliament of 1394. He was dropped from the local bench that same year, and received no further appointments to royal commissions until after Richard II’s deposition. At the time of the judgement against Warwick in the Parliament of 1397 (Sept.), Besford was receiving an annuity from him and was lessee of the Beauchamp manor of Earl’s Croome. Nevertheless, he seems to have come through this crisis unscathed: in October that year he acted as the King’s attorney for the recovery of seisin of certain lands in Worcestershire granted to the Crown, and in the following May he took the precaution of obtaining a royal pardon, which specifically indemnified him for the support he had given to the Lords Appellant.5
In the meantime, Besford’s second marriage, to Beatrice Bassingbourne, had provided him with an interest in substantial properties in south-east England, including the Bassingbourne manors of Astwick and Hoddesdonbury in Hertfordshire and Manuden and Hyde Hall in Rettendon in Essex; and various of the transactions of his later years concerned these holdings. Thus, in 1389 he and Beatrice had settled on Elizabeth, Lady Clinton, an annual rent of £70 from property in London which Beatrice was holding for life of the inheritance of her son Thomas Bassingbourne, and in about 1396 Besford purchased for 100 marks the wardship of the heir. Apparently attempting to repeat the financial coup of his early years, he then sold the wardship to Ralph Hamelyn for 200 marks, but he died before the transaction was completed and Hamelyn had to resort to removing the child forcibly from Besford’s feoffees or executors (who included Robert Whittington* of Pauntley, Richard Ruyhale and Thomas Throckmorton). Besford was survived by his widow and three daughters. These latter were Agnes Throckmorton and her half-sisters Margaret, who married firstly John Dixton of Dixton, Gloucestershire, and then Thomas de la Hay, and Joan, who married Sir William Clopton, another retainer of the earl of Warwick.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
Variants: Befford, Besseford, Refford.
- 1. He was not the Alexander Besford who married Margaret, sister of Thomas Hodyngton* of Huddington, Worcs., for after her husband’s death and before 1390 she married John Morant (father of Thomas Morant*): CP25(1)289/56/210. Margaret Hodyngton may, however, have been the shire knight’s stepmother.
- 2. Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 5), vi. 295-300; CP25(1)260/21/7, 25/56; VCH Worcs. iv. 20-21, 84-85, 149, 158; CAD, iii. B4198.
- 3. Warws. Feet of Fines (Dugdale Soc. xviii), no. 2155; CCR, 1369-74, pp. 424, 546, 584, 590-1, 608; 1374-7, p. 522; 1377-81, p. 218; 1385-9, p. 569; CPR, 1370-4, pp. 299, 335, 348, 356; 1374-7, p. 427; CP, vi. 344; CIMisc. v. 152, 157, 162; CAD, iv. A9774.
- 4. CFR, viii. 305; ix. 127, 156, 366; B. Harvey, Westminster Abbey Estates, 290; CCR, 1385-9, p. 262; CPR, 1388-92, p. 12; Reg. Wakefield (Worcs. Hist. Soc. n.s. vii), p. xlv, nos. 680, 683.
- 5. T.R. Nash, Worcs. i. 452a; Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 5), vi. 234-5, 296; CCR, 1389-92, p. 349; 1392-6, pp. 71, 154; C219/9/10; Egerton Roll 8769 m. 1d.; CIMisc. vi. 302; CPR, 1391-6, pp. 561, 600; 1396-9, p. 206; C67/30 m. 19.
- 6. Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 5), vi. 296; Corporation of London RO, hr 118/50, 56-57; VCH Herts, iii. 101, 434-5; C1/69/11; C138/39/46.