KYNNESMAN, Stephen, of Arthingworth, Northants.
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Family and Education
m. by July 1395, Sunan.1
Tax collector, Northants. Dec. 1406, Nov. 1419.
The Kynnesman family occupied a fairly prominent position in Northamptonshire during the Middle Ages, and some of its influence may well have been brought to bear upon the electors of Northampton when they met in November 1421 to choose their parliamentary representatives. Stephen was probably the brother, and certainly a relative, of Simon Kynnesman*, one of the shire knights returned by the county to the same Parliament—a combination of circumstances which suggests that a degree of collusion and consultation, if nothing more, took place before the two elections were held. Stephen was, however, already well known in the borough, having attested the returns to the Parliaments of 1410, 1413 (May), 1414 (Nov.), 1417 and 1421 (May). He had, moreover, offered sureties on behalf of the burgesses who sat in 1413, and was to do so again in 1423, so it is unlikely that his candidature was forced upon an unwilling electorate.
Kynnesman first comes to notice in rather dramatic circumstances during the spring of 1393, when a group of royal commissioners was instructed to arrest him and several other local men and bring them before the royal council. They seem to have been already convicted of certain unspecified ‘rebellions and contempts’ by the Northamptonshire bench, although in the following autumn he and three of his partners in crime presented their case in person to the chancellor and were allowed to purchase royal pardons. This was not the only occasion on which the MP appeared in court, although he never again found himself in such serious trouble. In July 1395, for example, he and his wife, Sunan, were arraigned on an assize of novel disseisin at Northampton by one of their neighbours; and in the following December his lawsuit against two other members of the Kynnesman family, whom he had accused of trespass, ground to a halt because of the issue of a writ of supersedeas on behalf of the defendants. Given the extent of his territorial interests, Kynnesman inevitably became involved in litigation. By the beginning of the 15th century he enjoyed an income of at least ten marks a year from land in Arthingworth, together with a further 20 marks from other holdings in Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire. Moreover, in June 1417, he and a group of associates, who may have been his trustees, acquired an estate in the Northamptonshire manor of Drayton.2
At various times in his life, Kynnesman witnessed the property transactions of such influential local landowners as John Mallory*, Sir Thomas Erpingham and Sir John Dallingridge*. He and his kinsman, Simon, occasionally performed this function together, for their relations were evidently quite close. Indeed, it is interesting to note that when, late in 1419, the leading residents of Northamptonshire were required to choose from among their number a body of men able to take up arms in defence of the realm their choice fell upon both Simon and Stephen Kynnesman. We hear no more of the latter after the mid 1420s, so he may well have died at about this date.3