BODILLY, John (d.1394), of Bodilly in Wendron, Cornw.

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

Clerk in KB by Jan. 1379-Easter 1383, keeper of the rolls, KB by June 1383-Feb. 1388.1

Offices Held


Bodilly came from the parish of Wendron near Helston, where Sir Robert Tresilian† had property (and doubtless influence), and it was in Tresilian’s service as his clerk and the receiver of his estates that he spent at least ten years of his life, years in which he was returned to all eight of his Parliaments. Tresilian was appointed as a judge in the King’s bench in May 1378, the very month and year that Bodilly is first recorded at Westminster (acting as a mainpernor in the Exchequer for the keeper of lands in Benallick, Cornwall). Later that year he brought a suit in the King’s bench for a trespass committed on his property at Bodilly, and in or before Hilary term 1379, no doubt with Tresilian’s help, he secured a place as one of the clerks of the court. Bodilly was given responsibility for recording on the plea rolls the suits from Cornwall and Devon, and he also occasionally acted as an attorney on behalf of litigants from those counties. During this period of office in the King’s bench, which lasted about four years, Bodilly was returned to four Parliaments by the Cornish borough of Launceston, whose burgesses, perhaps with an eye to cutting expenditure, no doubt saw the advantage of electing a man who had to spend his time at Westminster and who clearly had friends in high places. In other respects, however, Bodilly’s election was very much out of the ordinary. In 1381 Tresilian had presented him as rector of the parish of St. Ewe, and it seems clear that he was considering an alternative career in the Church. In November 1381 and May 1383 the diocesan, Bishop Brantingham of Exeter, granted him special licences for non-residence in his parish so that he might stay in Sir Robert Tresilian’s company, and it is likely that he was already acting as receiver of the judge’s estates. Bodilly was ordained acolyte in the spring of 1383 (after his fourth Parliament) by Brantingham, and as sub-deacon and deacon later in the same year by Bishop Braybrooke of London.2 There is no evidence, however, that he ever actually entered the priesthood.

By 1383 Tresilian had been chief justice of the King’s bench for two years, and it was no doubt by his nomination that Bodilly came to be promoted to the keepership of the rolls of the court in Easter or Trinity term that year. As part of his duties, in June he was instructed to requisition carts to provide for the carriage of the rolls prepatory to the court’s removal to Cambridge. And it was during his keepership, and despite the fact that he was now in clerical orders, that he was returned to four more Parliaments (two for Helston, close to his home at Bodilly, the others for Launceston and Liskeard). Bodilly was present in the church at Mursley, Buckinghamshire, in May 1386 when Chief Justice Tresilian’s daughter was married to John Arundell I*. This personal attachment to Tresilian rendered his position all the more precarious when, in November 1387, his patron was appealed of treason and went into hiding. Following his disappearance, a pipe and a ‘clothsake’ containing rolls, books and other memoranda of the King’s bench had been placed for safe-keeping in Reading abbey, and on 12 Jan. 1388 Bodilly was sent to the abbey to fetch them and bring them to the King and his council at Westminster. The abbot was instructed, however, to hand over the records only in the presence of certain esquires in the service of Thomas, duke of Gloucester, Richard, earl of Arundel, and Thomas, earl of Warwick, who had already taken control of the government. In pursuance of the ‘appeal’ made by these lords in the Merciless Parliament, which met three weeks later, Tresilian, having been taken prisoner, was condemned and executed, and his estates were declared forfeit. Shortly afterwards, Bodilly was required to hand over to the Crown charters and accounts pertaining to the deceased’s property, along with the revenues collected on Tresilian’s behalf which were still in his keeping.3

Despite his patron’s disgrace and death and the consequent loss of his own post in the King’s bench, Bodilly somehow managed to salvage part of his livelihood: in May 1388, while the Merciless Parliament was still in progress, he secured ratification of his rectorship of St. Ewe, and in July 1389 the King, now restored to power, granted him the prebend of St. Nicholas Penffoes in the cathedral church of St. David’s. Bodilly also found a new lord in the person of Richard’s half-brother, John Holand, earl of Huntingdon. Early in 1391 the King gave the earl and his feoffees, including Bodilly, the manor of Melton by Gravesend, Kent, which had been forfeited by Sir Simon Burley (another victim of the Merciless Parliament); and in the following year Bodilly stood surety for Holand when he was granted the wardship of Sir Robert Luton’s* estates. He also served as a trustee of a manor of his in Berkshire.4 But a successful career in the Church or as a royal servant was not to be: on the night of 21 Apr. 1394 Bodilly was murdered at Exeter by William Hampton of Stafford and his accomplices. The fact that two of the Lords Appellant (Henry, earl of Derby, and Thomas, earl of Nottingham) took the trouble to obtain royal pardons for the murderers strongly suggests that this was no accidental crime and that Bodilly’s attachment first to Tresilian and then to Holand had made him powerful enemies.5

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Sel Cases King’s Bench (Selden Soc. lxxxviii), pp. xviii, lxviii, 30; KB27/472 m. 32, 501 m. 29.
  • 2. CFR, ix. 39; CCR, 1389-92, p. 501; KB27/471 m. 38d, 472-87; Reg. Brantingham ed. Hingeston- Randolph, 456, 496, 838, 888.
  • 3. CPR, 1381-5, p. 288; 1385-9, p. 518; CCR, 1385-9, p. 387; 1389-92, p. 115; CIMisc. v. 110; E159/173 Hil. Rec. rot. 5, 6.
  • 4. CPR, 1385-9, p. 444; 1388-92, pp. 72, 418; 1391-6, p. 20; CIMisc. vii. 22.
  • 5. KB27/537 rex m. 13; CPR, 1391-6, p. 577; 1396-9, p. 70; Reg. Brantingham, 134.