CHALERS (DESCHALERS), Thomas (1383-1443), of Whaddon, Cambs. and Wyddial, Herts.
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Family and Education
Commr. of arrest, Cambs. May 1412.
Sheriff, Cambs. and Hunts. 12 Dec. 1426-7 Nov. 1427.
Thomas Chalers was aged four when his father died during the Merciless Parliament of February 1388. The Lords Appellant permitted his mother, Margery, and Sir William Castelacre to have custody of the estates of his inheritance, but his marriage was granted for £20 to an esquire of Thomas, duke of Gloucester, named John Corbet, who promptly sold it to the former Speaker, Sir Richard Waldegrave, and others including John Rokell. It was Rokell who had personal charge of the boy when in October an agreement was reached whereby his mother and her new husband, Sir John Heveningham*, were given the Hertfordshire manor of Wyddial as well as annual rents of £4 from property at Reed in lieu of her dower portion. These were probably the properties which, still in Heveningham’s possession in 1412, then provided him with an annual income estimated at £20; and Chalers was not recorded as holding this part of his patrimony until after his stepfather’s death in 1425.1 Meanwhile, in December 1404, he had made formal proof of attaining his majority,2 and had been awarded livery of his father’s Cambridgeshire estates (worth at least £30 a year). He made his home at the family seat at Whaddon, where in 1407 he and his wife established a private oratory by licence of Bishop Fordham of Ely.3
In 1415 Chalers enlisted for service on the expedition to France as a man-at-arms in the retinue of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester; but he fell ill at the siege of Harfleur and was probably among those sent home in October, before Gloucester’s depleted force marched on to Agincourt. Although his name was on the list of 12 men returned from Cambridgeshire to the King’s Council in January 1420 as being best qualified for military service in the defence of the realm, he was never put on royal commissions of array, and it was not until the spring of 1421 that he again embarked for France, once more under Gloucester’s command. Whether through personal choice or simply as a result of his failure to distinguish himself in the field, he was never knighted. Chalers’s participation in local administration was similarly hardly worthy of remark, save for his single term as sheriff, during which he held elections to the Parliament of 1427.4 It may be that Chalers lacked sound character; certainly he did not always abide by the law. About two years before his shrievalty began, it had been alleged in Chancery that he and a ‘grand nombre’ of his followers had broken into the manor of Orwell where they had threatened and oppressed the tenants of John Beaufort, earl of Somerset. A certain high-handedness manifested itself in other of Chalers’s activities, too: in 1433 he and the vicar of Whaddon incited a gang to set upon the villagers of Bassingbourn when they were beating the bounds of the hamlet of Kneesworth according to custom, his aim being to force the inhabitants of Kneesworth to pay tithes to Whaddon church. Chalers was among the gentry of Cambridgeshire required to take the general oath in the following year not to maintain those who broke the peace, but whether this had any effect on his behaviour in future is uncertain. Subsequently, both he and his son John were outlawed for failing to appear in the central courts to answer a London tailor for debts amounting to nearly £9, but both were able to obtain royal pardons in November 1436.5 Chalers was rarely placed in positions of trust; indeed only two such instances have been traced, and both concerned members of his family. With his stepfather, Heveningham, he had been made a feoffee of the manor of Sotherton, Suffolk, possibly acting on behalf of Nicholas Wichingham, esquire, and in 1434 his half-sister Margaret, widow of Sir Walter de la Pole*, had enfeoffed him of the estate she had for life in the de la Pole manors at Sawston.6
Chalers died on 7 Feb. 1443 and was succeeded by his son John, then aged 29. Described shortly afterwards as a ‘King’s knight’, Sir John was to represent Berkshire in the Parliament of 1447.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. CIPM, xvi. 529-33; CFR, x. 227; CPR, 1385-9, p. 441; CCR, 1385-9, pp. 486, 553; C146/9850; Feudal Aids, vi. 460.
- 2. C137/51/48 gives his date of birth as 17 Sept. 5 Ric. II (1381), but the date given at his father’s death — 1383 — seems more likely.
- 3. CCR, 1402-5, p. 409; Ely Diocesan Remembrancer, 1901, p. 67; Feudal Aids, vi. 409.
- 4. E101/44/30 (pt. 1), 45/13; E28/97 m. 4; DKR, xliv. 625; C219/13/5.
- 5. CPR, 1429-36, p. 385; 1436-41, pp. 5, 6; C1/6/177; VCH Cambs. viii. 53.
- 6. CCR, 1429-35, p. 277; CPR, 1429-36, p. 465.
- 7. C139/108/20.