BONET, John, of Ockley, Surr.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
Commr. of array, Surr. Jan. 1400.
Tax collector, Surr. Dec. 1401.
Bonet was probably the son of the John and Alice Bonet who, in 1342, had acquired land in Walton, Cobham and Wisley, Surrey, from Henry Brugeford. There was certainly some connexion between them, for in 1378, about 19 years after the elder Bonet’s death, John Bonet obtained a quitclaim of exactly the same property from William Robyn, a citizen and shoemaker of London. Members of the Bonet family had played a prominent part in local government from the late 13th century onwards, and John may also have been more distantly related to Nigel Bonet (d.s.p. 1358), a wealthy landowner with estates in both Hampshire and Sussex.1
That Bonet was a prosperous and influential figure in his own right is beyond question. In August 1379 he was suing a local man for debt and some months later, described as ‘of Ockley’, he recovered from him a recognizance of £7, leviable in Surrey. This was the first of many such bonds (two being for sums as high as 100 marks and 200 marks respectively) surrendered to him over the years, although it is not known whether these were also the result of successful litigation on Bonet’s part. As might be expected, he soon became involved in the legal and financial affairs of his neighbours and fellow MPs; and there is good reason to believe that he had benefited from some formal legal training. In November 1383, for example, he witnessed a settlement made by Thomas Chicche of Beverley, Kent, upon John Gatyn* who, like him, was first returned to Parliament in 1385, and some months afterwards he appeared at the Guildford assizes as an attorney for the abbot of Chertsey, Surrey.2 Together with John Harleston and Thomas Overton, two clerks from Sussex, Bonet was given custody of the late Thomas Charlton’s† young son in June 1388, paying an annual rent of £50 at the Exchequer for the farm of the boy’s estates, wardship and marriage. These were sold in the following February to John Knightley†, and in 1392 Bonet acquired a messuage in Guildford from Henry Jop, perhaps with the profits of the earlier sale. He was at this time one of the four defendants in an action of novel disseisin brought at the Guildford assizes over a messuage and 42 acres of land in Shakleford, Surrey, although his failure to appear in court led to a series of postponements, and it is unlikely that his own territorial interests were immediately at stake. He continued to occupy the manor of Ockley as life tenant, first of Sir Thomas Hoo and subsequently, after May 1394, of William Battlesford, to whom he then made attornment. His circle of clients was still growing: four months later Thomas Gardner of Rusper, Sussex, made him a feoffee; and in September 1395, he and the other executors of Sir William Croyser† presented a new rector to the living at Fecham, Surrey. Both these men came from influential local families, as did Nicholas Carew*, who, in June 1398, included Bonet among his trustees, having previously been engaged with him in business dealings with Thomas Ickham*.3
Despite his own personal standing in the county of Surrey, Bonet received only two royal commissions and appears to have retired from public life for almost ten years after being made a tax collector in December 1401. It is always possible that the John Bonet who paid the first instalment of a fine of £4 17s.1d. into the Exchequer at Michaelmas 1410 and went on to represent Surrey twice in Parliament was, in fact, his son and namesake, although there is no firm evidence to suggest that we are dealing with two people at this point. Indeed, then and on two later occasions payment was made on Bonet’s behalf by Nicholas Slyfelde† of Great Bookham, Surrey, an old associate with many shared legal and financial interests, from which we may infer that the elder Bonet was almost certainly still alive, albeit perhaps temporarily indisposed. The nature of this particular impost is not recorded, but the fine itself did not place any undue strain upon his financial resources and had been met in full within the next two years. At some point before this date Bonet had acquired property in Stepney, Middlesex, whose revenues of 60s. a year alone could easily have discharged the debt.4
Bonet (or, just possibly, his son) was present at the Guildford county court for the election of the shire knights to the Parliaments of 1413 (May) and 1415; and was himself returned again twice for Surrey towards the end of his life. The precise date of his death remains unknown, although it must have taken place before 29 Aug. 1425, when he and all the other feoffees of Nicholas Carew were pronounced dead. His son, John, extended the family estates by purchase, and in 1429 attested the return of the county representatives to Parliament.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Bonett, Bouer, Bover, Bovet, Bowet, Bowett.
- 1. Surr. Arch. Colls. (add. vol.), i. 111, 146; Surr. RO, Cal. Kingston deeds, 90; CCR, 1349-54, p. 23; 1354-60, pp. 467-8; CFR, vi. 111, 173, 223, 264.
- 2. CCR, 1377-81, pp. 324, 372; 1385-9, p. 421; 1389-92, p. 282; 1392-6, pp. 233, 427; 1402-5, p. 476; JUST 1/1498, rot. 9.
- 3. CPR, 1385-9, p. 484; CP25(1)231/64/3; JUST 1/1503, rot. 51v; CCR, 1392-6, pp. 233, 286, 359; 1402-5, pp. 22-23, 51; 1435-41, p. 45; CAD, vi. C5355-6; O. Manning and W. Bray, Surr. i. 486.
- 4. E401/652, 654, 656-7; Feudal Aids, vi. 490.
- 5. C219/11/2, 7, 14/1; E164/25; CCR, 1422-9, p. 384; 1435-41, p. 45.