KEMPSTON, Thomas I (d.1457/8), of Bedford.
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Family and Education
Under sheriff, Beds. May 1421.2
Mayor, Bedford 1426-8, 1440, 1446-50.3
With 11 returns—six of them to successive Parliaments (1429-37)—spread over a period of 29 years, Kempston’s parliamentary career was far longer than that of any other representative for Bedford during the Middle Ages. Yet he held a government appointment only once, as under sheriff of Bedfordshire, and it was in this capacity that he sent the return for the county election in May 1421 to the clerk of the Parliaments. Kempston was one of the spokesmen sent to Westminster in February 1425 by the burgesses of Bedford during their dispute with the rest of the community over liability for the payment of MPs’ expenses. A few months later, while sitting in the Commons for the third time, he offered sureties of £10 for the appearance of Thomas Peck before the court of Chancery. During his second mayoralty (1427-8), he played a prominent part in the feud between Hugh Hasilden* of Goldington, Bedfordshire, and the borough authorities, which eventually came to the notice of the royal council. Unfortunately for Kempston, Hasilden and his influential friend, John Enderby*, who had also been involved in the affray, had the support of both the duke of Norfolk and the earl of Huntingdon; and were thus emboldened to bring an action against him in the court of King’s bench. Their allegation that he had maliciously ‘raised the town’ against Hasilden was, indeed, examined at the Bedfordshire sessions, although the jury prudently did not pronounce a verdict.4
Kempston was already a wealthy man, and seems to have been growing even more prosperous at this time: in 1429, for example, he purchased two messuages in Bedford, where he owned other plots of land. Although he is not known actively to have sided with John, Lord Fanhope, in his celebrated struggle with Reynold, Lord Grey of Ruthin, for local hegemony until January 1439 (when he took part in the notorious riots at the Bedford sessions house), Kempston may well have donned Fanhope’s livery before this date. His appearance along with his erstwhile enemy, John Enderby, a Grey of Ruthin supporter, among the feoffees of Thomas Rufford in July 1433 suggests that he was not yet one of Fanhope’s more committed partisans; but in June 1435 and again in February 1438 he stood surety on the latter’s behalf. He performed this office for a third time in July 1439, and probably kept up the association until Fanhope’s death four years later.5
In May 1444 Kempston bound himself in the sum of ten marks to Henry Puttenham; and in 1446 he obtained a general pardon, which, unlike that granted to him for his part in the disturbances of 1439, was probably a formality. He attested the indentures for the Bedfordshire elections to the Parliaments of 1423 and 1425 (on the latter occasion being himself returned for Bedford) and those for the borough in 1426, 1427, 1447 (as mayor) and February 1449. In June 1450 he was pardoned his outlawry for non-appearance when, as the administrator of the effects of two local widows who had died intestate, he was sued for debts totalling £24. Since he was then described as ‘late of Bedford, gentleman’, Kempston may perhaps have been living temporarily in Biddenham, Bedfordshire, where he owned land and transacted various items of business. He did, however, return to the borough before his death.6
Kempston evidently retired from public life in 1450, the date of his last Parliament and of the last of his many mayoralities. In July 1451, Thomas Brown of Purley, Berkshire, made a recognizance of 200 marks jointly to him and John Pury, but nothing else is known of him for the next six years. In his will, which was drawn up on 2 Nov. 1457 and proved on 19 Mar. 1458, he left his wife land and tenements in Bedford, together with £20 to be raised from the sale of property in Biddenham. His other bequests included the gift of £5 to the abbot of Warden, Bedfordshire, who, with Sir Gervase Clifton†, the then treasurer of Calais, was also one of his executors. Now a widow for the third time, Alice Kempston lived on for another five years at least, during which she fought a protracted suit against Thomas Tudor in the court of Chancery, on the ground that he had falsely accused her of debt.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. HP ed. Wedgwood 1439-1509, Biogs. 512.
- 2. C219/12/5.
- 3. Beds. RO, DDFN330, 334, DDW26, DDTW 11/534-5; Bedford Town Hall, DDX67/57, 62-63, DDX28/2; CCR, 1447-54, p. 118.
- 4. Ancient Chs. and Muns. Bedford (1895), no. 20; CCR, 1422-9, p. 207; KB27/688, rex m. 19; PPC, iii. 280-1.
- 5. CP25(1)6/79/1; Bedford Town Hall, unnumbered lay subsidy roll for 1417; CFR, xvi. 237; xvii. 20-21, 91; CPR, 1436-41, p. 246.
- 6. CCR, 1441-7, pp. 213-14; HP, 512; C219/13/2-5, 15/4, 6; Beds. RO, DDTW 341; CPR, 1446-52, p. 294; PCC 12 Stockton.
- 7. CCR, 1447-54, p. 283; PCC 12 Stockton; C1/27/487, 30/42.