BETTENHAM, William, of Elvington in Eythorne, Kent.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
m. bef. June 1389, Alice.
Commr. of gaol delivery, Canterbury castle Sept. 1383; array, Kent Jan. 1400.
The records have little to say about William Bettenham. He was presumably a relation — perhaps a brother — of Stephen Bettenham (d.1415) of Cranbrook, with whom he was sometimes associated. Yet while Stephen’s successful legal practice enabled him to acquire landed holdings in Kent estimated as worth more than £100 a year,1 and led to his attaining a place on the commission of the peace, William never became a landowner of any consequence and played no more than a minor role in local administration. The only property he is known to have held was a tenancy in Eythorne (by 1387) and some 130 acres of land in Staplehurst, the latter apparently coming into his possession through marriage.2
Further references to Bettenham offer little help in providing an explanation as to why he was twice elected knight of the shire. On occasion he acted as a feoffee of property for his neighbours — as he did in 1380 on behalf of John Monyn* of Dover — and it may be speculated that he had some sort of training in the law, for those employed as commissioners of gaol delivery were often qualified in this way. In November 1385 he had dealings with Sir Richard Stury, knight of the King’s chamber, with whom he entered into recognizances for 100 marks; but nothing has been discovered about the background either to this transaction or to a similar one of two years later, which entailed his being bound to Thomas Hartridge and Henry Perot in the sum of 1,000 marks. It was in association with Stephen, his presumed kinsman, that he stood surety in 1394 for the good behaviour of another Kentish man. Three years later Bettenham and his wife successfully petitioned Pope Boniface IX for permission to have their own portable altar.3
Bettenham is not recorded alive after February 1400.4
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. Feudal Aids, vi. 468. He was Abp. Chichele’s bailiff of Maidstone by June 1414: Reg. Chichele, i. p. lxxxvi; iv. 5.
- 2. CIPM, xvi. 51; CP25(1)110/234/665.
- 3. CP25(1)108/214/156, 110/244/918; CCR, 1385-9, pp. 96, 451; 1392-6, p. 259; CPL, v. 60.
- 4. CCR, 1399-1402, p. 117. He is not mentioned in the will Stephen Bettenham made in 1412: Reg. Chichele, ii. 33-36.