CHEYNE, John (d.c.1447), of Chenies, Bucks. and Cogenhoe, Northants.
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Family and Education
s. and h. of Sir John Cheyne† of Chenies. m. (1) bef. Mar. 1399, Agnes (b.c.1379), da. of William Cogenhoe (d.1389) of Cogenhoe by Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir John Wolverton of Wolverton, Bucks., sis. and h. of William Cogenhoe ( d.1399), 2s.; (2) by Dec. 1420, Isabel (c.1382-4 Sept. 1442), er da. and coh. of John Frome* of Buckingham, wid. of Bernard Missenden (d.1409) of Great Missenden and of Hugh Mortimer* (d.1416) of Weldon, Northants., 1s.
Commr. of array, Bucks. Mar. 1392; oyer and terminer, Bucks., Herts. July 1403; to raise royal loans, Bucks. Nov. 1419, Jan. 1420; of kiddles, Bucks., Herts., Mdx. July 1438; arrest, Herts., Mdx. July 1440.
Tax collector, Bucks. Mar. 1404.
J.p. Bucks. 12 Feb. 1422-July 1424.
Sheriff, Beds. and Bucks. 15 Jan.-12 Dec. 1426, 5 Nov. 1430-26 Nov. 1431.
The manor of ‘Isenhampstead’ Chenies, which had been in the family since the 12th century, descended to John Cheyne through his father, the Sir John Cheyne who had sat in Parliament for Bedfordshire in 1372, and for Buckinghamshire in 1373 and 1381. Sir John inherited from his kinsman, John Lenveysy, moieties of the manor of Great Missenden and the advowson of Missenden abbey, only to vest these properties in a body of trustees, with the intention of donating them to the abbey. John Cheyne entered the remainder of his patrimony on his father’s death, some time after February 1391. He had probably already come of age, for he acted as Sir John’s executor. Among Sir John’s other legacies to his son, was a longstanding and intimate relationship with the Northamptonshire family of Cogenhoe: under the terms of a settlement made as early as 1378 Sir John had taken possession of a moiety of the manor of Wolverton, part of the inheritance of Elizabeth, wife of William Cogenhoe, the coheir to the former barony of Wolverton, which moiety was to revert to the Cogenhoes only at his death; furthermore, he had also acquired an interest in Cogenhoe’s own estate at Cogenhoe, for in the following year he presented to the church there.3 Sir John could not have foreseen that his son John would one day take possession of these same properties as a consequence of his marriage to Cogenhoe’s daughter Agnes, for she was not destined to inherit them until 1399 when her brother died a minor in the King’s wardship. The match provided Cheyne with a small but welcome addition to his income from land: at that time the property at Wolverton was estimated to be worth £6 7s.4d. a year, while that at Cogenhoe (although the manor-house was then in a ruinous condition) later yielded more than £12 annually. In November 1400 he and his wife put Cogenhoe into the hands of trustees, possibly as a preliminary to securing a mortgage, for along with two of the trustees Cheyne subsequently received recognizances in 100 marks from John Styuecle* and Richard Bassingham of Huntingdonshire.4
Cheyne’s career may be said to have begun in 1392 with his first royal commission, and it is just possible that he (rather than a namesake from the Shropshire branch of the family) sailed to Ireland two years later in the retinue of Roger Mortimer, earl of March. There is more certainty that he established links with the earls of Stafford, for in February 1397 he provided securities at the Exchequer for Nicholas Bradshaw, the receiver-general of the Stafford estates, whom he subsquently made one of the feoffees of Cogenhoe. However, connexions such as these can have had little or no bearing on Cheyne’s parliamentary service, since it was not until the beginning of Henry V’s reign that he secured election for the first time. Having again sat in Parliament in 1415, Cheyne attested the electoral indentures drawn up at Aylesbury for the Parliament of 1419.5
On the face of it, Cheyne’s second marriage, to Isabel Mortimer, should have increased his landed holdings substantially and made him a wealthy man. Isabel, as the elder of the daughters of John Frome, erstwhile councillor to Henry IV, had inherited on her father’s death in 1404 his estates in Buckinghamshire, including manors in Buckingham and Bourton, worth some £44 10s. annually. Furthermore, she had been twice widowed: as dower from her first husband (the son and heir of Sir Edmund Missenden*) she held the manor and advowson of Quainton; and such had been Henry V’s appreciation of the services rendered to him by her second husband, Hugh Mortimer (treasurer of the Exchequer at the time of his death in 1416), that he had permitted Mortimer’s relict to retain for life the Crown’s estates at Fordington (Dorset) and Weldon and Little Weldon (Northamptonshire), which had an estimated value of as much as £84 a year. It is, therefore, curious that in a petition sent by the Cheynes to the Papal Curia, Isabel pleaded poverty as well as infirmity; and that it was only after contracting this marriage that Cheyne ran into serious financial difficulties. The petition to the Pope had proved necessary because Cheyne’s first wife, Agnes, had acted as godmother to one of Isabel’s children by a former husband, this constituting an impediment of which, however, the parties claimed to have been ignorant when they married. Eventually, in December 1420, Martin V allowed the couple to remain man and wife and declared legitimate any present or future issue.6
To all appearances, Cheyne remained a respected member of the community of Buckinghamshire. He was elected to Parliament twice more, served for two terms as sheriff (in the course of which he officiated at the elections of 1426 and 1431), and he attested parliamentary electoral indentures in 1432 and 1437. Meanwhile, in the spring of 1434, he had been among the gentry of the shire required to take the generally administered oath not to maintain those who broke the peace.7 Yet there are small but ominous signs that all was not well with his personal affairs. In February 1421 he had gone to William Flete* of Rickmansworth, the merchant-financier, in search of a loan of £125, only to find seven years later that he needed £200 more — which Flete advanced on the security of property. Then, he began to dispose of his patrimony, in 1430 making a quitclaim of Upper Dean in Dean (Bedfordshire), together with land in Huntingdonshire which had all once belonged to his father. Two years later, he conveyed his recently-acquired manor of Ellesborough, Buckinghamshire, to a group of London merchants, headed by William Walton and the brothers Thomas* and Henry Frowyk†, presumably in order to raise a mortgage, and although, a few years later, Ellesborough was formally settled on Cheyne and his wife and their son William, before very long they were forced to relinquish possession to his kinsman, Sir John Cheyne II* of Drayton Beauchamp.8
That Cheyne’s troubles may have been to a large extent occasioned by debts left by his wife’s former husband, Hugh Mortimer, is suggested by the terms of a general pardon issued to the couple in July 1437, which drew particular attention to the deceased’s offices. In the end, Isabel’s own inheritance had to be sold. In 1433 the Cheynes had put her manors of Buckingham and Bourton into the possession of a number of men, including their creditor William Flete; and transactions recorded after Isabel’s death in 1442 indicate that both properties had been sold in the meantime, and her son William Cheyne dispossessed. Although in 1433 John Cheyne had been suing a Bedfordshire yeoman for repayment of a debt of £40, he was more often debtor than creditor, and by 1438 he and his eldest son, Alexander, owed certain London merchants £130 or more. Such was their financial embarrassment that in the following year they mortgaged Alexander’s maternal inheritance (chiefly the manors of Cogenhoe and Weston Underwood) to Henry Frowyk, William Walton and others; and in 1443, when this stopgap proved inadequate, they parted with it entirely to their kinsman, Thomas Cheyne of Chesham Bois, who afterwards himself conveyed it to his brother, Sir John Cheyne II. Even the family seat of Chenies failed to escape the general collapse: first, in 1440, it was mortgaged to Thomas Knolles† and John Welles III*, the London grocers and financial agents, and then alienated to Thomas Cheyne, for eventual settlement on Sir John II.9 The reasons for the collapse of John Cheyne’s fortunes — with its disastrous consequences for his sons Alexander and William, who were deprived not only of the Cheyne family estates but also of their respective mothers’ inheritances — remain obscure. Certainly, no evidence has been found of likely causes, such as an involvement in expensive litigation, or excessive losses in the wars in France.
The precise date of Cheyne’s death is not known, although we may safely assume that he was an old man, well into his seventies, when it occurred. In November 1445, his sons Alexander and William made formal quitclaims to Thomas Cheyne of estates they should have inherited, and William made a further release of his maternal inheritance in January following; but these actions need not necessarily indicate that their father was already dead. It is more likely that he died shortly before July 1447, when he was made the subject of a Chancery writ of diem clausit extremum.10
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. As of ‘Isenhampstead Cheyne’: OR, i. 278.
- 2. G. Lipscomb, Bucks. i. p. xxii.
- 3. VCH Bucks. ii. 349; iii. 200; CIPM, xv. 249-51; CPR, 1377-81, p. 235; J. Bridges, Northants. i. 348-9; CP25(1)21/104/12; CCR, 1377-81, p. 516; 1389-92, p. 145.
- 4. CIPM, xvi. 662-3; CFR, xi. 298; VCH Bucks. iv. 506-7; VCH Northants. iv. 237; Feudal Aids, vi. 497; C136/102/15; CP25(1)179/90/12; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 280.
- 5. CPR, 1391-6, p. 481; CFR, xi. 207; C219/12/3.
- 6. CPL, vii. 208-9; C137/46/14, 70/7; Lipscomb, i. 395-6, 420; CPR, 1416-22, p. 125; 1436-41, p. 540; CFR, xvii. 248.
- 7. C219/13/4, 14/2, 3, 15/1; CPR, 1429-36, p. 397.
- 8. CCR, 1419-22, p. 135; 1422-9, p. 393; 1429-35, pp. 56, 59; VCH Beds. iii. 133; VCH Bucks. ii. 332; E326/9283; CAD, i. B1456-8.
- 9. C67/38 m. 8; CP25(1)22/120/2, 122/2; VCH Bucks. iii. 481; CCR, 1435-41, pp. 172-3, 178, 357; 1441-7, pp. 191, 194, 197, 455; 1447-54, p. 333; CPR, 1429-36, p. 234; VCH Northants. iv. 237.
- 10. CCR, 1441-7, pp. 342-3, 349, 455; CFR, xviii. 45. No inquisition post mortem survives.