GOLAFRE, John (d.1442), of Fyfield, Berks.

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



Sept. 1397
Oct. 1404
May 1413
Apr. 1414
Mar. 1416
May 1421

Family and Education

s. of Thomas Golafre (d.1378) of Radley, Oxon. by Margaret (d.1396), da. of Thomas Foxley; nephew of William*.1 m. (1) c.1401, Elizabeth (14 July 1362-14 Dec. 1403), da. of Sir Edmund de la Pole* by his 1st w. Elizabeth, wid. of Sir Ingram Bruyn (d.1400) of South Ockendon, Essex; (2) by Oct. 1404, Nicola (b.c.1361), sis. and h. of Thomas Devenish (d.1382) of Greatham, Hants, wid. of John Englefield* of Englefield, Berks.; (3) aft. July 1434, Margaret (d. 1472/3), da. of Sir John Heveningham*, wid. of Sir Walter de la Pole* of Dernford in Sawston, Cambs., s.p.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Oxon. and Berks. 3 Nov. 1397-9, 29 Nov. 1404-22 Nov. 1405, 10 Nov. 1414-1 Dec. 1415, 6 Nov. 1424-15 Jan. 1426.

J.p. Oxon. 12 Nov. 1397-9, 12 Feb. 1422-July 1423, Berks. 12 July 1404-Nov. 1417, 12 Feb. 1422-d.

Parlty. cttee. to complete the business of Parliament Jan. 1398.2

Verderer, Woodstock park, Oxon. 18 Apr. 1398-d.

Commr. of weirs, Oxon. June 1398; array Dec. 1399, Sept. 1403, Normandy June, July 1418, Mar. 1419,3 Oxon., Berks. Jan. 1436; to suppress sedition, Oxon. May 1402; of inquiry Oct. 1408 (Bardolf estates), Oxon., Berks. Jan. 1414 (lollards), Berks. Feb. 1414, May 1417 (treasons), Feb. 1428 (flooding), Oxon., Berks. July 1428 (treasons and felonies), Oxon., Berks., Bucks. Feb., May 1438 (valuation of lands pertaining to the honours of Wallingford and St. Valery); oyer and terminer, Oxon. Apr. 1410, Berks. Feb. 1430, Bucks. Mar., July 1430, Berks. Aug. 1432; arrest, Caen June 1418; to raise royal loans, Oxon., Berks. Apr. 1421, July 1426, May 1428, Mar. 1430, Mar. 1431, Feb. 1434, Berks. Feb. 1436, Mar. 1439, Nov. 1440; assess liability for a tax Apr. 1431, Jan. 1436; treat for payment of a subsidy Feb. 1441.

Tax controller, Oxon. Mar. 1404.

Escheator, Oxon. and Berks. 7 Nov. 1409-29 Nov. 1410.

Controller and surveyor of Woodstock 5 Sept. 1413-18 Feb. 1438, jt. (with Edmund Hampden) Feb. 1438-d.

Receiver-general duchy of Normandy 20 May 1418-1 May 1419.4

Surveyor of royal deer at Becklay, Oxon. 13 Jan. 1437-18 Feb. 1438, jt. (with Edmund Hampden) Feb. 1438-d.

Jt. keeper (with the earl and countess of Suffolk) of Cornbury park, Oxon. 16 July 1439-d.


The principal estates of the Golafre family were situated at Sarsden, Oxfordshire, and Bury Blunsdon, Wiltshire, as well as at Fyfield, Garford and Frilford in Berkshire. All these were to pass at some stage in his career to John Golafre, but, since he was merely the son of a younger son of Sir John Golafre (d.1363), this was not to happen until after the deaths of his eldest uncle, Sir John Golafre (d.1379), and the latter’s illegitimate son, the Sir John who died in 1396. Indeed, in 1392 he made a quitclaim of Sarsden and Bury Blunsdon to the last named and his wife Philippa de Mohun, and in 1401 Fyfield and Bury Blunsdon were said to be held ‘as dower’ by Philippa’s sister Elizabeth, dowager countess of Salisbury (although how this had come about is unclear). Nevertheless, Fyfield was in John’s possession by 1406, and Bury Blunsdon by 1412 at the latest.5

It was doubtless to his cousin, the bastard Sir John Golafre, that John owed his place in the household of Richard II. This cousin, a favoured knight of the King’s chamber and constable of Wallingford castle, who was eventually to be buried in the royal chapel in Westminster abbey on the King’s express instructions, no doubt encouraged the young man (to whom he left £10 in his will), and by Michaelmas 1395 ‘Janyn’ Golafre was at Court among the esquires of the royal household. On 5 Dec. that year he was granted a substantial annuity of 40 marks at the Exchequer as a fee of retainer for life. His companion for Oxfordshire in his first Parliament in 1397-8 was William Wilcotes, his cousin’s executor, who was then also acting as chief steward of the late Queen Anne’s estates, and John was probably also known to Edward, earl of Rutland (the elder son of the duke of York who, in the course of the first session of the Parliament, was to be created duke of Aumâle), for Edward had married his cousin Sir John’s widow. There can be no doubt that he shared the political attitude of Wilcotes and Aumâle, at a time when Richard II overthrew his enemies by securing the impeachment of Archbishop Arundel and the conviction for treason of three of the Lords Appellant of 1387-8, for during the parliamentary recess he was appointed as sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire and as a j.p. Furthermore, when the Parliament was finally dissolved, after a brief second session at Shrewsbury in January 1398, he was included in the commission (composed of ten lords, two earls as clerical proctors and six Members of the Commons), to whom collectively were given wide-ranging powers to complete the business of the Parliament by determining petitions left unanswered, and to investigate the allegations of treason brought, the one against the other, by Henry of Bolingbroke, duke of Hereford, and John Mowbray, duke of Norfolk. Golafre clearly enjoyed the King’s confidence, and also favour. Not only did he receive in April 1398 a grant for life of the office of verderer of the royal park at Woodstock, together with an annuity of £10 from the profits of the King’s mills at Oxford, and four months later share the wardship of the heir of Thomas Quatremayn, but was also kept on as sheriff for a second term. Although Golafre was not present in March 1399 when members of the parliamentary commission agreed to the King’s revocation of the patent by which the exiled Bolingbroke had been allowed to receive his inheritance of Lancaster by general attorneys, there is every indication that he remained staunchly loyal to Richard II until the end. In July following he used his post as sheriff to raise armed forces on the absent King’s behalf to resist Bolingbroke; and when Richard’s lieutenant, the duke of York, weakly made an accommodation with the invader, he joined with Bishop Despenser of Norwich and a few others, including Laurence Drew*, in refusing to take part in the general defection. Their resistance overcome, they were committed to custody while Bolingbroke advanced on Bristol.6 Nevertheless, after the latter had succeeded to the throne in September, Golafre accepted the change of regime and, unlike Drew, he was soon able to obtain confirmation of his royal annuities. Nor, having done so, did he waver in his allegiance to Henry IV, for in January 1400 he served at Oxford castle as a juror at the trial of Sir Thomas Blount* and other rebels who had conspired to kill the King and reinstate Richard II. It was as ‘King’s esquire’ that, in November following, he shared with Richard Mawarden* the wardship and marriage of the heir of Sir Thomas Poer.7

It had been about the time of his first election to Parliament for Berkshire that Golafre married Elizabeth Bruyn, the widowed cousin of Michael de la Pole, 2nd earl of Suffolk. She had already relinquished to her sister Katherine, wife of Robert James* of Wallingford, her interest in the extensive estates which had belonged to their mother Elizabeth Handlo, but could still offer Golafre an annual income of at least £40 from the dower lands in Essex, Hampshire, Kent and Dorset, left to her by her former husband, Sir Ingram Bruyn. Elizabeth died at the end of 1403, only to be replaced within a few months by another wealthy widow:8 Nicola Englefield not only held for life her former husband’s manor of Englefield; she also possessed of her own inheritance four manors in Hampshire and another in Dorset, which, according to the assessments made for the purposes of taxation in 1412, yielded £65 6s. a year. Since at that time Golafre’s own estates in Berkshire and Wiltshire alone were estimated to be worth £46, his annual income from land must have well exceeded £110.9

Golafre’s association with his former brother-in-law, Robert James, was to have important consequences in the long term, since it introduced him to the circle of Thomas Chaucer* of Ewelme, the prominent Lancastrian retainer and cousin of the Beauforts, whose political influence in Oxfordshire and Berkshire had been dramatically increased on Bolingbroke’s accession to the throne. For the rest of his life, Golafre was to be closely connected with Chaucer and members of his family, although in the early years of Henry IV’s reign their alliance is merely intimated by his appearance in January 1402 as a witness to a charter issued by Henry Beaufort, then bishop of Lincoln. Golafre was one of three men summoned from Berkshire to attend a great council in 1403. In the following February he obtained letters patent clarifying his entitlement to the annuity of £10 which, formerly charged on the royal mills at Oxford, was now made payable out of the farm due to the Exchequer from Osney abbey. During his third term as sheriff (in 1405), he was allowed £40 from the issues of his bailiwick to compensate him for his great expenses in the King’s service both in the north of England and in Wales; and a further mark of favour came his way in January 1406 when the King made him a gift of six deer from one of the duchy of Lancaster estates to stock his own park at Fyfield. Returned for Berkshire to the Parliament summoned to assemble at Gloucester in 1407 (having attested the indenture recording his own election), Golafre also agreed to act there as proctor for the abbot of Reading. On 22 Nov., during the session, he was among several knights of the shire, including the Speaker, Thomas Chaucer, who witnessed an entail made on behalf of Sir Thomas Brooke, then sitting for Somerset. In July 1408 he placed the manor of Tidmarsh, which he had recently purchased, in the hands of feoffees-to-uses: namely, Chaucer, Robert James and Thomas Edward*. All four were to secure election to the Parliament which met in January 1410 — Golafre and James for Berkshire, Chaucer for Oxfordshire and Edward for Taunton, where Chaucer had considerable influence. There can be no doubt that they were linked together by ties of mutual trust, for shortly before the session opened James made Golafre and Chaucer feoffees of his own landed holdings, while Golafre and James had been acting in a similar capacity on Chaucer’s behalf for a year or more. We may assume, therefore, that when in the Commons Golafre lent his sympathetic support to Chaucer, the re-elected Speaker, and to the policies of Prince Henry of Monmouth and his Beaufort advisors, who together dominated the government at that time. This is even more likely in view of the fact that since 1408 he had been in receipt of an annuity of £5 charged on the manor of Harwell, Berkshire, by grant of the prince’s uncle, Henry Beaufort, now bishop of Winchester. While Parliament was still sitting, in April, the knights of the shire for Oxfordshire and Berkshire were appointed to a commission of oyer and terminer procured by Sir John Drayton (then representing Gloucestershire) who complained of a trespass at his mansion at Nuneham, of which Golafre and Chaucer were later, if not already, acting as Drayton’s feoffees.10

Throughout his parliamentary career, Golafre remained on friendly terms with Thomas Chaucer, and on at least nine occasions they were Members of the Commons together. Chaucer called on Golafre to assist him in a number of private transactions, most notably to take on the trusteeship of his recently acquired manors of Kidlington and Hook Norton, Oxfordshire, and, in 1415, to help in his purchase of the estates of Sir Richard Adderbury II*, some of which (including Donnington castle) were then settled on Chaucer’s only child, his daughter Alice, and her first husband, Sir John Phelip*.11

Golafre procured confirmation of his royal annuities from Henry V while attending Henry’s first Parliament in June 1413, and three months later he received a grant for life from the new King of the office of controller of the royal manor of Woodstock (currently being farmed by Chaucer). Golafre’s fourth shrievalty prevented him from taking part in the expedition to France launched in 1415, but he did join the army which crossed the Channel in 1417, doing so as a member of the retinue of Thomas Montagu, earl of Salisbury. He was among the group of trustees in whose hands the earl, shortly before embarkation, placed various of his estates in order to raise money for the expedition and towards the maintenance of members of his family. (Eleven years later he was to be confirmed in this role, to the benefit of the earl and his countess, Chaucer’s daughter Alice, and at an unknown date he was also made feoffee of the lordship of Lambourn, purchased by Salisbury from Robert James, expressly in order to help perform the earl’s will.)12 After spending the winter of 1417-18 with the royal forces engaged in the conquest of Normandy, in May 1418 Golafre was appointed receiver-general of the duchy and of all other conquered territories. He held this office for a year, until William Allington’s* appointment as treasurer-general—a post which combined the offices of receiver-general and president of the Norman exchequer — rendered him superfluous. He was still in France in October 1419, engaged on other royal business, but he returned to England before the following May, when he and Chaucer shared at the Exchequer custody of the manor of Bradfield, Berkshire, during the minority of Sir William Langford’s* grandson. Not long after the dissolution of the Parliament of 1422, Golafre obtained confirmation of his royal annuities and his offices at Woodstock from the infant Henry VI’s council. We may assume from his continued membership of the circle of Thomas Chaucer, that he would lend his support to Bishop Beaufort in his rivalry for leadership of the Council with Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, when such was needed, as, most notably, during the political crisis of the ‘Parliament of Battes’ in 1426, even though direct evidence is lacking. When, in July at the close of that Parliament, negotiations were begun for the marriage of the bishop’s nephew, John Holand, earl of Huntingdon, to Anne, the widowed countess of March, and the earl was bound in recognizances in 1,000 marks to make an enfeoffment of his estates for settlement on his new wife as jointure, Golafre was among the feoffees so named (and he was to continue to act in this capacity when further settlements were made in 1430).13

In 1434 Golafre headed the list of lay gentry of Berkshire required to take the generally administered oath not to maintain those who broke the King’s peace. He had been previously engaged in six royal commissions to raise loans on behalf of the government, and is himself recorded as lending £40 in 1435 and again in 1439, and in the meantime as being sent a request for a loan of 100 marks to help finance the duke of York’s expedition to France in 1436. Early in 1437, as ‘King’s esquire’, he was granted the office of surveyor of the royal deer at Becklay, only to surrender this patent a year later, together with those by which he had long held office at Woodstock, so that the posts might be regranted to him and Edmund Hampden in survivorship. At the same time (in February 1438) a royal licence was issued to enable Golafre and his co-feoffees of the late Thomas Chaucer’s estates to fulfil his last will by making settlements on the deceased’s daughter and heir, Alice, now countess of Suffolk. Golafre’s association with Alice’s third husband, William de la Pole, earl of Suffolk, probably dated from the time of their marriage seven years earlier. Certainly, he had been a trustee of Suffolk’s estates in Yorkshire since 1434, and of others elsewhere in the interim. Furthermore, his own third marriage firmly re-established a link with the de la Poles broken decades earlier by his first wife’s death, for Margaret, his third wife, wasy the widow of the earl’s cousin, Sir Walter de la Pole (half-brother of Golafre’s first wife). It was to be in association with the earl and countess of Suffolk that, in July 1439, Golafre shared a royal grant of Cornbury park, specifically for their sport.14

During a parliamentary career extending over 30 years, Golafre naturally established a wide circle of acquaintance among his fellow knights of the shire, for several of whom he acted as a trustee of their landed estates. Thus his friendship with William Brocas of Beaurepaire lasted from the time they both sat in Parliament in 1414 until Golafre’s death, and he also assisted Thomas Stonor*, William Warbleton and Robert de la Mare* in private transactions. In addition, his services as a feoffee-to-uses were called upon by members of the nobility, such as Joan, Lady Cobham, and Thomas Poynings, Lord St. John.15

In October 1441 a royal licence was granted to a group of men, including the earl of Suffolk and Golafre, to found the guild of Holy Cross in St. Helen’s church, Abingdon, to maintain a number of poor people, and to provide for the repair of the road between Abingdon and Dorchester. This was Golafre’s last public act. He died on 23 Feb. 1442. Three weeks later, at the Exchequer, the trustees of his estates paid £120 for permission to establish a perpetual chantry in the church at Fyfield, where prayers might be offered for his soul. There he was buried, beneath a handsome monument comprising a freestone effigy in armour resting on a slab above an emaciated figure in a shroud. At the same time an almshouse for five poor men was founded in his memory, chantry and almshouse together receiving land worth as much as £24 a year. Golafre also apparently left a large legacy for repairs to the bridge at Stanlake, but his will, evidently containing this bequest and much more, has not survived.16

Golafre had died childless and his instructions to his feoffees to sell off his ancestral estates prompted a rash of lawsuits brought by aggrieved distant relations. Most determined in his claim proved to be William Browning, who had married Golafre’s kinswoman, Agnes Wyghtam. Following an appeal made by Browning to Ralph Butler, Lord Sudeley, the supervisor of Golafre’s will, while Sudeley was treasurer of the Exchequer in 1443-6, the trustees were instructed to sell him the manor of Brize Norton for a low price as compensation for the ‘grete sums’ he had paid Golafre for his marriage, but only if Agnes formally relinquished her right to Bury Blunsdon. Browning, however, not satisfied with this, persisted in his claim that Golafre had entered a bound agreement with him, promising that he and Agnes would have all the estates after his death, and expressed disbelief that Golafre ‘ner none other man of the birthe, worship and fame that he was of in his dayes’ would ever have consented to the wrong, fraud and ‘untrewe disceyte’ now being perpetrated by the trustees in his name. Nevertheless, the sale of Fyfield and other manors to William de la Pole, now duke of Suffolk, and his duchess, went ahead in 1448. In the 1460s Golafre’s ‘aged’ widow, Margaret, sued Browning for failing to pay her £10 a year rent for Sarsden, which she held for life. She survived her second husband by at least 30 years.17

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Authors: J. S. Roskell / L. S. Woodger


  • 1. G. Lipscomb, Bucks. i. 394-5.
  • 2. RP, iii. 360, 368, 383.
  • 3. DKR, xli. 713-16, 751; xlii. 314.
  • 4. DKR, xli. 712.
  • 5. J. Leland, Itin. ed. Toulmin Smith, ii. 2-3; Lipscomb, loc. cit.; CCR, 1392-6, p. 78; CP, xii (2), 904; Feudal Aids, vi. 625, 628. There is no evidence that he ever held the family manor of Blakesley, Northants.: G. Baker, Northants. ii. 22.
  • 6. E101/403/10, ff. 43-44; CPR, 1396-9, p. 327; 1399-1401, p. 42; RP, iii. 360, 368, 372; CFR, xi. 278; Lambeth Pal. Lib., Reg. Arundel, f. 155; E403/562 mm. 14-15; Chron. Traison et Mort Ric. II ed. Williams, 292.
  • 7. CPR, 1399-1401, pp. 42, 369; E37/28.
  • 8. CP, ii. 356; C137/7/39, 58/18; E364/42 m. D.
  • 9. CPR, 1401-5, p. 462; VCH Hants, ii. 506; iii. 69, 456; Dorset Feet of Fines, 238; Feudal Aids, vi. 401, 427, 451, 533.
  • 10. PPC, ii. 87; CPR, 1401-5, pp. 232, 387; 1408-13, p. 222; 1422-9, p. 97; Cal. Signet Letters ed. Kirby, no. 436; DL42/16(3), f. 43d; SC10/43/2134; CCR, 1405-9, pp. 350, 400; CAD, iii. D1328; Boarstall Cart. (Oxf. Hist. Soc. lxxxviii), 266; Hants RO, bp. of Winchester’s pipe roll 159412; C219/10/4. Archaeologia, xxxiv. 43-44; Reg. Common Seal (Hants Rec. Ser. ii), nos. 118-19.
  • 11. CPR, 1413-16, p. 169; 1429-36, pp. 448-9, 451; CP25(1)13/81/5-7; CCR, 1413-19, p. 234.
  • 12. CPR, 1413-16, pp. 31, 92; 1416-22, p. 108; 1422-9, p. 474; Reg. Chichele, ii. 394; C1/12/227.
  • 13. J.H. Wylie, Hen. V. iii. 250; DKR, xlii. 320, 329; CFR, xiv. 338; CPR, 1422-9, pp. 71, 73; 1429-36, pp. 4, 114; CCR, 1422-9, pp. 273-4.
  • 14. CPR, 1429-36, pp. 346, 402, 467; 1436-41, pp. 139, 166, 257, 309; PPC, iv. 324; CCR, 1441-7, pp. 361-2; 1447-54, pp. 210, 213, 215.
  • 15. CPR, 1413-16, p. 228; 1422-9, p. 320; 1436-41, p. 251; CCR, 1413-19, p. 430; 1422-9, pp. 42, 403-4, 444; 1429-35, pp. 26, 142.
  • 16. CPR, 1441-6, pp. 36, 53; C139/112/74; VCH Berks. iv. 348; A. Wood, City of Oxf. (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xvii), 499.
  • 17. C1/13/36, 16/713-14, 28/422; VCH Berks. iv. 346; PCC 12 Wattys.