BRETON, John I, of Bodmin, 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



Jan. 1380
Oct. 1382
Oct. 1383
Apr. 1384
Apr. 1384
Nov. 1384
Sept. 1388
Jan. 1390
Sept. 1397

Family and Education

s. of William Breton† (d.c.1388), of Bodmin by his w. Mariota.1

Offices Held

Mayor, Bodmin 4 Oct. 1393-4.2


Breton’s father had left his native Brittany early in the 14th century and settled in Cornwall, where he became a landowner of substance, holding property valued at nearly £15 a year. A figure of importance in Bodmin, he was elected mayor in 1375 and accompanied his son to the first Parliament of 1384. Two years before, shortly after the dissolution of his second Parliament, John Breton had stood surety at the Exchequer for the widow of a Cornish landowner, John Whalesborough. Before his father’s death he acquired land in Treburrick in the parish of St. Eval, some 15 miles from Bodmin, but the rest of his holdings, situated for the most part in Bodmin itself, came to him by inheritance. Early in 1388 Walter Bloyowe* transferred to him various properties in Bodmin which he had probably been holding as William Breton’s feoffee, but John was less fortunate with regard to the bulk of the estate: this was confiscated by the Crown on the ground that William Breton, as an alien, had acquired it during a period of war with France without first securing the necessary royal licence. John sent a petition to Richard II protesting that he himself had been born in England, and that his father had always been a loyal subject and, indeed, had served in ‘diverse offices’ in Cornwall under Edward III. But it was not until he had paid 20 marks as relief that he recovered seisin. A further blow occurred in the very same year when two messuages of his were seized on the pretext that he was one of the mainpernors for Roger Juyl*, in whose accounts as receiver of the duchy of Cornwall a discrepancy of some £179 had been discovered. The summons sent to Breton in February 1389 to appear in Chancery to answer what should be laid against him very likely had something to do with the Juyl affair.3

At the assizes held at Launceston in 1394, during Breton’s year of office as mayor of Bodmin, he was bound over to keep the peace by recognizances for 500 marks. This incident followed local disturbances in which the burgesses of Bodmin had refused to render customary suit of mills at the manor of Kirland, which belonged to Sir Henry Ilcombe*. According to Ilcombe, Breton and others had broken down enclosures on his land, felled trees worth £100 and besieged him in his house at Bodardle.4 Breton is last recorded on the occasion of his 11th election to Parliament, in 1397.

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


It is unlikely that he was the John Breton who served the Black Prince and his son Richard II in the capacity of a yeoman of the chamber. In the course of his career, between 1374 and his death in 1398/9, that John was granted annuities amounting to 25 marks, charged mostly on the duchy of Cornw. He discharged the offices of bailiff-itinerant of the honour of Wallingford (1382-6), porter of Wallingford castle (1385) and forester and tin bailiff of Dartmoor (1392); and he shared with Richard Breton (who also filled posts by appointment of the Black Prince) a grant of the houses within the Tower of London.

  • 1. JUST 1/1492 m. 22d.
  • 2. J. Maclean, Trigg Minor, i. 682.
  • 3. CFR, ix. 342; Cornw. Feet of Fines (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. 1950), 761; CCR, 1385-9, pp. 635, 642-3; CIMisc. iv. 407; Maclean, i. 235; CPR, 1388-92, p. 2; E364/23 m. H.
  • 4. JUST 1/1502 m. 190; CPR, 1391-6, p. 651.