BISPHAM, William (d.1408), of Leicester.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

m. c.1405, Elizabeth (d.c.1415), da. and h. of Sir John Waleys (d.1363) of Swithland, wid. of Sir John Walcote (d.c.1404) of Walcote. s.p.

Offices Held

Duchy of Lancaster feodary in Northants. by Jan. 1387-aft. Mich. 1395, Leics. and Warws. 1399-d. 1

Duchy bailiff, Leicester 1391-1403.2

Dep. steward, duchy honour of Leicester 1392-3, 1401-2, in Daventry 1401.3

Dep. receiver, Leicester 1401-2.

Collector, Northants., Leics., Warws. of the aid for the marriage of Blanche, the King’s daughter 1401-2.4

Commr. to repair Leicester castle July 1402; of array, Leics. July 1403; inquiry Oct. 1405 (wastes); to raise forces against the Welsh rebels Mar. 1406.

Escheator, Warws. and Leics. 1 June-1 Dec. 1405.


A Lancastrian careerist, Bispham is first recorded in 1387 when already the duchy feodary in Northamptonshire. He was to serve as bailiff of Leicester by John of Gaunt’s appointment from 1391, if not earlier, until 1403, throughout that period being resident in the borough, where he witnessed some 50 and more transactions. In 1397 he stood surety for the attendance of Thomas Wakefield at the January Parliament. Meanwhile, in 1392-3 and probably at other times, he had acted as deputy to Sir Thomas Walsh*, steward of the honour of Leicester. Service to Duke John earned him as reward an annuity of £5 for life.5

During the crisis of 1399, Bispham appears to have at first remained at Leicester, but to have joined Henry of Bolingbroke with a body of supporters later, perhaps when the duke passed through the town in mid July. He was back in Leicester on 5 Sept. but went to London, again with his men, to serve in the first Parliament of the new reign. During the session he was granted a second annuity of 1s. a day for life, and shortly afterwards he was made duchy of Lancaster feodary in Warwickshire and Leicestershire, which office he held until his death. It was doubtless in this capacty that he attended the Leicestershire parliamentary election in 1407.6 Bispham continued as bailiff of Leicester, as well as serving as deputy to the then steward of Leicester ( Sir Thomas Rempston I*), to the receiver of that honour and to the steward of the manor of Daventry. By the end of April 1402 his dependable service had earned him promotion as ‘King’s esquire’, and thereafter he was appointed to several royal commissions. For six months he also discharged the office of escheator of Warwickshire and Leicestershire.

Having become a person of some consequence by virtue of his official position, in about 1405 Bispham entered the ranks of the local gentry through his marriage to Elizabeth, daughter and by then only heir of Sir John Waleys of Swithland, an estate ten miles north of Leicester. In her right he held not only the manor of Swithland but also property in Dalby-on-the-Wolds, Barrow-upon-Soar and Mountsorrel, elsewhere in Leicestershire, and the manor of Thrumpton in Nottinghamshire. While he was married to her, Elizabeth revived her claim to the manor of Dalby, which her father had exchanged for Thrumpton with the prior of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem; but despite his impressive connexions he was unsuccessful. In 1406 Bispham placed his wife’s holdings in the hands of trustees, namely John Leventhorpe*, the receiver-general of the duchy of Lancaster, and three other Lancastrian officers.7

Bispham died at an unknown date between May and November 1408. All his goods (which were valued at more than £40) were confiscated by the King in part-payment of his arrears in the office of duchy-feodary, but his widow, who claimed to be destitute, subsequently recovered them after petitioning for redress. Elizabeth took as her third husband, before 1413, John Mapilton the younger, who so starved and ill-treated her that she sought refuge at the home of her daughter Alice. She died before Michaelmas 1415.8

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Authors: Charles Kightly / L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Leicester Mus. Archs. Ferrers mss, 26 D53, no. 2047; Somerville, Duchy, i. 590; E159/171 adhuc communia Trin. recorda.
  • 2. Leicester Bor. Recs. ed. Bateson, ii. 408-13; Wyggeston Hosp. Recs. ed. Thompson, nos. 559-70.
  • 3. Leicester Bor. Recs. ii. 205; DL28/3/4, 4/2-5, 7; DL29/212/3248, 729/11995.
  • 4. DL28/4/2.
  • 5. C219/9/12; CPR, 1401-5, p. 87.
  • 6. Wyggeston Hosp. Recs. nos. 567-8; DL29/212/3248; CPR, 1401-5, p. 87; C219/10/4. Somerville (i. 134-7) states that Bispham landed with Bolingbroke, but the records make clear that he joined Henry afterwards. He and his men were paid £6 13s.4d. for their wages for service to Henry ‘after his last coming into England’ and ‘in his Parliament at London’. Payment was made ten days after the dismissal of the Commons on 20 Nov.
  • 7. J. Nichols, Leics. iii. 1051; Leics. Med. Peds. ed. Farnham, 113-16, 142; CPR, 1405-8, p. 477; CIMisc. vii. 366; Wyggeston Hosp. Recs. ii. no. 586; CP25(1)126/71/17.
  • 8. CPR, 1408-13, p. 35; Leics. Med. Peds. 142. The Waleys inheritance was divided between her two daughters by her first husband.