CHARLTON, Thomas (d.1445), of London and Hillingdon, Mdx.
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Family and Education
e. s. of Thomas Charlton† (d.1410), of Hillingdon by his w. Alice Cornwall (d. 1416), wid. of Henry Frowyk† (d.1386) of South Mimms. m. by 1415, Elizabeth (d.1451), da. and coh. of Sir Adam Francis* by his 1st w. Margaret Osterle, 1s. Thomas†, 1da. Kntd. by May 1421.1
Commr. of array, Mdx. May 1418; to raise a royal loan Nov. 1419; of kiddles, Essex, Herts., Mdx. Oct. 1436.
J.p. Mdx. 14 Nov. 1418-Feb. 1433.
Tax collector, Mdx. Jan. 1420; assessor Jan. 1436.
The Charltons were a distinguished and well-connected family of Middlesex landowners, whose position owed much to two highly advantageous marriages. Thomas’s mother, Alice Cornwall, was the great-grand-daughter and coheir of the affluent London goldsmith, Henry Gloucester (d.1332/3), and, of more immediate importance for the Charltons, the widow of Henry Frowyk, who died in 1386 leaving her an impressive dower of property in London and Middlesex.2 The bond thus set up between the Charltons and the Frowyks was maintained throughout the 15th century, giving both families the opportunity to strengthen their influence in Middlesex and the City. Thomas’s half-brothers, Thomas* and Henry Frowyk†, both achieved eminence in their own right: Thomas, the elder, inherited his father’s estates and became a leading figure in the county, while Henry, a mercer, was twice elected mayor of London. Between them, the three kinsmen sat in an impressive number of Parliaments: in November 1422 and again in 1427 Charlton and Thomas Frowyk were returned together as shire knights for Middlesex, and they were frequently present at the county elections to vote for each other. Henry Frowyk was also a Member of the Commons in November 1422, although being a Londoner he had less contact with his half-brother where local politics were concerned.3 Charlton’s own marriage to Elizabeth, the younger daughter and coheir of Sir Adam Francis, was of even greater consequence, since it not only made him far wealthier, but also added appreciably to his standing in the home counties. Elizabeth’s grandfather, Adam Francis† the elder, one of the richest city merchants of his day, had built up an extensive estate in and around London which had been further enlarged by his son. On the latter’s death in April 1417 the inheritance was partitioned between Elizabeth and her elder sister, Agnes, then the wife of the courtier and soldier, (Sir) William Porter II*. Elizabeth numbered Thomas Montagu, earl of Salisbury, among her cousins, but Porter, a trusted servant of Henry V, was in a far stronger position to further his brother-in-law’s career.
Family tradition as much as newly-acquired territorial interests led Charlton to become involved in local government from an early date. His father was active as a commissioner and j.p. in Middlesex from 1380 onwards, and twice represented the county in Parliament. He died in 1410, one year before Thomas (who had not yet been knighted) attended the Middlesex parliamentary elections to witness the return of his father-in-law, Sir Adam Francis. At this time his inheritance comprised a fairly modest estate in Colham, Ikenham and Uxbridge, worth about £17 a year, together with rents and tenements in London assessed at a further £11 14s. (but perhaps somewhat reduced by the sale of a messuage in the Walbrook to William Burton I* in June 1412). His mother then enjoyed a far greater annual landed income in the order of £71 from other property in Middlesex and the City.4 On her death in 1416 a substantial part of this descended to Charlton, who was also heir to the manors of Burston in Hertfordshire and Little Greenford, Cowley Hall, Cowley Peachey and Hillingdon in Middlesex. These manors were subject to a series of enfeoffments made by him over the years to his half-brothers and other trusted friends, such as Robert Skerne*, and, with the exception of Burston, all appear to have been sold or otherwise alienated well before he died.5 On the other hand, the partition of the Francis estates in 1417 may have more than doubled Charlton’s rental. Although his wife had at first to share her father’s property with her mother and sister, she outlived them both to gain sole possession of land, houses and wharves in nine London parishes and the manors of Eyworth in Bedfordshire and Edmonton in Middlesex. Even before they had complete control of the Francis inheritance, Charlton and his wife derived at least £100 a year from their various holdings and were among the wealthiest landowners in Middlesex.6 Perhaps understandably, in view of all this good fortune, Charlton is not known to have acquired much property himself, although in November 1413 he joined with his kinsman, Sir Robert Francis, in farming the lands of a royal ward from the Exchequer. As might be expected, he was often called upon to act as a feoffee-to-uses, most notably by John Walden, his neighbour and colleague in the Parliament of November 1414.7
Charlton attended at least 12 of the parliamentary elections held in Middlesex between 1411 and 1442 (when his own son, Thomas, was returned), and twice stood surety with his half-brother Thomas Frowyk for the shire knights for whom he had voted.8 His official activities followed a conventional pattern, with his inclusion on a number of local commissions, including appointment to the county bench. In April 1420 he took out royal letters of protection with a view to departure overseas in the retinue of John, duke of Bedford. It was almost certainly in France that he received the knighthood bestowed upon him before his second return to Parliament in May 1421. He again planned to go abroad in January 1430 — presumably for Henry VI’s coronation visit to France — but returned to England in time for the Parliament of January 1431, when he again represented Middlesex.9 The rest of his life appears to have passed without incident, save for his quarrel with Ralph, Lord Cromwell, over common rights in the manor of Edmonton. It was once believed that Sir Thomas’s animosity towards Cromwell initially resulted from an earlier disagreement with the widow of Henry Somer*, sometime chancellor of the Exchequer, who had revoked the marriage planned between her daughter and Charlton’s son, Thomas, and had conveyed the girl’s property in Edmonton to Lord Cromwell instead. Such a marriage may well have been arranged, especially as Somer and Charlton were near neighbours and sat together in the Parliament of May 1421, although since Somer outlived him by five years his widow clearly cannot have been the chief protagonist in the affair. Whatever the background to the dispute, Charlton and his kinsmen offered strong opposition to Cromwell’s attempts to enclose land in Edmonton, and in August 1438 assembled a large following of local farmers and landowners to defend their rights. Violence was, however, averted, as Cromwell admitted (with uncharacteristic frankness) that he had been wrongly advised and reopened the fields to common use.10 Charlton had, meanwhile, found a suitable husband for his daughter, Joan, who married William†, the son and heir of William Freville* of Little Shelford, Cambridgeshire, at some point before October 1437. Thomas Charlton the younger was not betrothed until November 1441, when he offered sureties of £1,000 as a guarantee of his readiness to settle land worth £40 a year upon Benedicta, the daughter of Sir Richard Vernon*. The latter, for his part, promised to pay him £320 upon his marriage, and to convey other property to him at a later date.11
Charlton died on 24 Feb. 1445, and was buried in the parish church of Edmonton. His estates passed to his son, who succeeded to his mother’s extensive inheritance and dower properties on her death six years later. A man of even greater influence than his father, he became Speaker of the Commons in 1454, and also served a term as sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire.12
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Charleton and Scherlton.
- 1. PCC 22 Marche; F.C. Cass, South Mimms, 70b; C139/118/21, 126/18, 143/33; CPR, 1436-41, p. 95; CCR, 1413-19, p. 394; OR, i. 297.
- 2. Cass, 75-78; Peds. Plea Rolls ed. Wrottesley, 169; Corporation of London RO, hr 60/152.
- 3. See S. Thrupp, Merchant Class Med. London, 342-4, for a genealogy of the Frowyks.
- 4. Feudal Aids, vi. 488; Arch. Jnl. xliv. 61, 64; VCH Mdx. iv. 105; Corporation of London RO, hr 140/17, 24; CCR, 1409-13, p. 348.
- 5. C139/126/18; C143/448/26; CP25(1)152/89/40; CCR, 1429-35, p. 124; J.E. Cussans, Herts. (Cashio), 273-4; VCH Mdx. iii. 173; iv. 124, 209.
- 6. C139/143/33; VCH Mdx. v. 149; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 392-4; CFR, xiv. 200; xvii. 335; Feudal Aids, iii. 382; EHR, xlix. 638.
- 7. CFR, xiv. 40; CPR, 1416-22, p. 151; 1422-9, pp. 386, 483; CCR, 1422-9, pp. 209-10, 286, 297, 382, 389; 1429-35, p. 346; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 266; Cat. Archs. All Souls Coll. ed. Martin, 133.
- 8. C219/10/6, 11/7, 12/2-3, 6, 13/2, 4, 14/1, 3, 5, 15/1, 2.
- 9. CPR, 1416-22, pp. 250, 455; DKR, xliv. 617; xlviii. 267; C219/12/5.
- 10. Edmonton Hundred Hist. Soc. n.s. xxvii. 12; VCH Mdx. v. 150.
- 11. CPR, 1436-41, p. 95; CCR, 1441-7, pp. 42-43.
- 12. C139/126/18, 143/33; D. Lysons, Environs London, ii. 264; Guildhall Lib. London, 9171/5, f. 23; CFR, xviii. 178, 198; PRO List ‘Sheriffs’, 2.