FITZRICHARD, Ralph, of Newbury in Silsoe, Westhey and Faldo, Beds.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
m. by Mich. 1389, Alice, prob. da. of Roger Foliot by his w. Alice (b.1304), aunt and coh. of William Keynes (d.1336) of Westhey and Faldo.1
Collector of a tax, Beds. Mar., June 1371, Dec. 1384; assessor Aug. 1379.
Commr. of inquiry, Beds. Nov. 1379 (oppressions and extortions), Oct. 1390 (champerties, conspiracies, maintenances); array Mar. 1380, Apr. 1385, Apr. 1386, Mar. 1392; to suppress the insurgents of 1381, Mar., Dec. 1382.
J.p. Beds. 26 May 1380-Apr. 1385, 15 July 1389-June 1390.
Sheriff, Beds. and Bucks. 18 Nov. 1387-1 Dec. 1388.
Although nothing is known for sure about his immediate ancestry, we can be reasonably certain that Ralph belonged to a Bedfordshire family of some antiquity which had settled in Silsoe by the very beginning of the 13th century, if not before. As time passed, the Fitzrichards enlarged their holdings in the parish, and by 1284 they had acquired the sub-manor of Newbury. The most distinguished of their number was undoubtedly Sir Ralph Fitzrichard†, a supporter of Edward II, on whose side he fought at the battle of Boroughbridge. Sir Ralph held a variety of administrative posts in his native Bedfordshire, which he also represented in at least three Parliaments. He may well have been our Member’s grandfather, and probably also had some connexion with the Robert Fitzrichard who died in 1365, leaving a messuage, land and rents in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, to a son named Richard; but insufficient evidence has survived for us to obtain a clear picture of the family genealogy. Ralph, the subject of this biography, first appears in November 1360, when he offered Thomas Bray of Stagsden £10 for the reversion of land in the Bedfordshire villages of Pulloxhill and Silsoe, and also promised to pay an annual rent of 1s. for the immediate lease of a windmill. Two years later he and one Richard Fitzrichard (who may later have inherited the above-mentioned estate at Aylesbury) witnessed a deed for Bray. No more is then heard of him until, in 1371, he began his administrative career as a tax collector.2 Not long afterwards he and a group of local clergy became involved in a legal dispute with the Crown over the payment of a rent of £20 from the manor of Everton, which they seem to have held in trust. The King agreed to suspend all further charges until an inquisition could be held, but the outcome is not recorded. Fitzrichard numbered several churchmen among his friends, and in February 1377 he was a party to the endowment of St. Leonard’s hospital in Bedford. He appears once again to have been acting as a feoffee-to-uses, a function which he often performed over the next four years, and which, on one occasion, in 1378, led to his being summoned as a defendant at the Bedford assizes. He and his co-trustees were accused of having illegally evicted the owner of certain land in Clophill, but the case dragged on and a settlement was evidently reached out of court.3
Fitzrichard entered Parliament for the first time in 1379, and not long afterwards began to serve as a j.p. in Bedfordshire. His association with Sir Gerard Braybrooke I* began during this period, and in November 1383 Sir Edward Boteler† made them both trustees of his manor of Pulverhatch in Shropshire. Some years later, in 1391, the two men joined with Sir Gerard’s son and namesake* and Reynold, Lord Grey of Ruthin, to act in the same capacity for the latter’s kinswoman, Elizabeth Grey, lady of Stoke d’Abernon, who settled upon them her manor of Pavenham in Bedfordshire. Interestingly enough, the last known piece of evidence about Fitzrichard concerns his activities as a feoffee of Lord Grey’s manor of Camelton in Bedfordshire, which he held in trust for the owner until the beginning of 1407. He also played an important part in the property transactions of other local figures, most notably Thomas Pever†, in whose manors of Chelgrave and Toddington he exercised a fiduciary interest, and Robert Digswell*, the claimant through his wife to a substantial estate in Hertfordshire which was the subject of several enfeoffments, including one upon Fitzrichard and his neighbour, William Terrington*. The latter again joined with Fitzrichard in February 1389 to stand surety for Eleanor, the widow of Sir Giles Daubeney, who had just then obtained custody of her young son Giles’s* estates. Four years later our MP offered joint pledges of £2,000 on behalf of a man impeached on a charge of usury before the royal council, although these bonds were cancelled almost at once because of the defendant’s death. Throughout this period Fitzrichard attested a large number of Bedfordshire deeds, usually, but not always, near his own home at Silsoe.4
By contrast, comparatively little information has survived about Fitzrichard’s more personal affairs. His parliamentary career was already over, when, in November 1387, he began a term as sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, an appointment which probably explains how he came into possession of the goods of Sir Robert Tresilian†, a victim of the Merciless Parliament of 1388. An inquiry held in March of that year revealed that he then held 147 of the late chief justice’s sheep (worth over £7) and various utensils including 12 dishes of ‘pewtour garnasshed’. Fitzrichard’s financial position must have improved considerably at the time of his marriage, since his wife was heir to the whole manor of Faldo. In the Michaelmas term of 1389 the couple conveyed this property to trustees, although it was not until January 1397 that Fitzrichard made a similar settlement of his own manor of Newbury and its appurtenances. Eight years later, in the summer of 1405, he consolidated his estates in Silsoe by acquiring 100 acres of farmland there. He was still alive on 31 Jan. 1407 when he relinquished his trusteeship of the manor of Camelton, but nothing more is heard of him after this date, and we cannot even discover if he left any children.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. The VCH Beds. (ii. 346) states that Fitzrichard married Alice, the aunt and coheir of William Keynes, with whom he joined, in 1389, in making a settlement of her two manors of Faldo and Westhey. Chronological evidence suggests, however, that Fitzrichard married Alice’s daughter or next female heir, since she herself was allegedly born in 1304, and must therefore have been 85 years old when the conveyance was made. At the time of Keynes’s death, in 1336, Alice was married to Roger Foliot, who was probably Fitzrichard’s father-in-law (CIPM, viii. no. 35; CP25(1)6/70/11).
- 2. VCH Beds. ii. 329-30; Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. xxix. 39-40; CFR, vii. 320; Beds. RO, DD L90, 94.
- 3. CCR, 1369-74, p. 466; CPR, 1374-7, p. 433; JUST 1/1489 rot. 16.
- 4. CP25(1)6/70/7, 9; E326/B4395; CPR, 1381-5, p. 336; CCR, 1389-92, p. 516; 1392-6, p. 131; CFR, x. 281; Beds. RO, DD L97-98, 100, 332-4, 448, 645.
- 5. CP25(1)6/70/11, 74/5; CIMisc. v. no. 103; VCH Beds. ii. 346; CCR, 1396-9, p. 72; 1399-1402, p. 394.