LEVENTHORPE, John (d.1435), of Sawbridgeworth, Herts. and Ugley, Essex.
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Family and Education
s. and h. of Robert Leventhorpe of Leventhorpe Hall and Swillington, Yorks. by his 1st. w. Isabel, prob. da. of Thomas Totty of Rolleston, Staffs. m. by Nov. 1392, Katherine (d. 5 Oct. 1437), da. of William Riley by his w. Margaret Toothill (d.c.1410), of Rastrick, Yorks. 4s. inc. John† and Robert† (d.v.p.), 2da.2
Receiver-general and attorney-general of Henry, earl of Derby Mich. 1390-9, of the duchy of Lancaster Mich 1399-1 Feb. 1423; keeper of the duchy muniments 1 May 1402-d.; clerk of the duchy markets in Midlands and Yorks. 14 July 1416; steward of the duchy manor of the Savoy by 1418-15 Nov. 1420, of the duchy estates in Essex, Herts., Mdx. 20 June 1421-d.; surveyor of the duchy estates held by Henry V’s feoffees and executors by Sept. 1422-d.; steward of the duchy estates held in dower by Katherine, queen of Henry V, by 1426-d.3
Constable of Odiham castle, Hants, and keeper of Odiham manor and park 8 Oct. 1399-Mich. 1408, 8 Apr. 1410-d.4
Collector of the wool subsidy, London to Gravesend and Tilbury 12 Oct. 1399-6 Oct. 1401.
Commr. to make an arrest, Hants Jan. 1402; of oyer and terminer, Norf. Oct. 1404 (disorder on the estates of the abbey of St. Benet of Hulme), Essex Oct. 1410 (withdrawal of labour services by tenants of St. Albans abbey), Brec., Carm., Glam., Mon. June 1413 (rebellion in the duchy lordships); inquiry, Derbys. Nov. 1406 (estates of Henry Herville), Beds., Bucks., Derbys., Hants, Leics., Northants., Notts., Rutland, Staffs., Warws. Mar. 1410, July 1412 (King’s title to land), Leics. Nov. 1412 (ownership of the manor of Breedon), Herts. July 1413 (ownership of land in Little Hadham), Essex, Herts. Feb. 1419 (treasons and general crime), Herts. July 1420 (ownership of the manor of Pendley); to take custody of the estates of Sir John Chetwode*, Northants. Apr. 1412; of array, Essex May 1415; to raise royal loans, Herts. Nov. 1419, May 1421, Mar. 1422, July 1426, May 1428; of kiddles, Essex, Herts., Mdx. Feb. 1427, Feb., May 1428.
Collector of revenues from the estates of Henry, earl of Northumberland, 10 Sept. 1403-6 Mar. 1404.
J.p. Essex 3 Mar. 1406-Feb. 1407, 30 May-Dec. 1414, 12 Feb. 1422-July 1423, Herts. 3 Mar. 1406-Feb. 1407, 4 May 1419-Aug 1433.
Escheator, Essex and Herts. 8 Dec. 1416 then vacated.
Collector of a royal loan, Herts. Jan. 1420.
One of the most powerful and influential figures of his day, Leventhorpe rose to prominence through his loyal service to the house of Lancaster. His early life was spent in Yorkshire, where he established the connexion with Henry, earl of Derby, which was to prove so crucial in the furtherance of his administrative career. He had already been a member of Derby’s household for at least three years when, in 1390, he accompanied the earl on the first stage of his expedition to Prussia and subsequently acted as his messenger between Hertfordshire and Calais. Being by then both attorney-general and receiver-general for the earl, Leventhorpe was engaged almost continuously in a round of business which brought him into contact with the leading figures in the realm. In February 1393, for example, he travelled to Winchester for discussions with the duke of Gloucester (who was attending Parliament there) over the partition of the de Bohun estates; and for the next six months he devoted his attention to official duties in various parts of the country. During this period he was the recipient of a number of bonds, but since these were often made over to him jointly with William Loveney*, another of Derby’s retainers, we may safely assume that he was acting on the earl’s behalf. It was because of his close attachment to the latter, who had aroused the lasting enmity of the court party as one of the junior Lords Appellant of 1388, that Leventhorpe sought to protect himself from attack by suing out a royal pardon in May 1398. His patron was, however, unable to avoid Richard II’s implacable desire for vengeance, and was banished in the following September. Not surprisingly, Derby appointed Leventhorpe as his attorney with specific powers to take seisin of the duchy of Lancaster estates in the event of John of Gaunt’s death; and when this arrangement was rescinded by King Richard in February 1399, Leventhorpe felt no compunction in supporting the earl’s attempt to regain his inheritance. It is now impossible to determine exactly what role he played during the weeks leading to Derby’s coup d’état, but his commitment to the Lancastrian cause, from the landing at Ravenspur onwards, was beyond question and earned its due reward.5
From the date of his coronation in October 1399 until his death 14 years later, Henry IV remained aware of the great debt which he owed to Leventhorpe, one of his most loyal and able servants. He not only confirmed him in his duchy offices, but also bestowed upon him many other marks of favour. In 1399 alone, he became constable of Odiham castle and keeper of the royal manor there at a salary of 40 marks p.a., as well as tenant for life of certain crown property in the neighbouring village of Alton worth 24 marks a year. He also received an annuity of £24 charged upon the duchy revenues from Godmanchester in Huntingdonshire, and became an esquire of the royal body. Leventhorpe had already been granted the manor of Ugley in Essex by Bolingbroke during the previous reign, and this was confirmed to him for life in 1402, and then in tail-male eight years later. It brought him between £20 and 40 marks p.a., to which was added, in March 1404, a moiety of the manor of Wethersfield in the same county worth a further 50 marks p.a. By this date he had taken possession of a number of houses belonging to the duchy in Sawbridgeworth, which he was able to maintain with generous grants of timber made to him periodically by the King. From time to time these regular payments were supplemented by gifts of wardships or preferential leases. Thus, in December 1411, Leventhorpe became keeper of the Essex estates of the late John St. Cler during the minority of his young heir, and one year later he took on the farm of crown property in Essex, Huntingdonshire and Staffordshire. He was also entrusted with part of the inheritance of John Goldington I’s* son, although the boy died young, so the grant proved short lived.6 The rewards of office were, moreover, considerable, for besides the annual fee of £66 13s.4d. paid to him as receiver-general and attorney-general of the duchy, he was given a supplementary allowance of 40d. a day when in London, as well as an additional £5 a year because so much business was actually transacted in his own home there. While active in his capacity as keeper of the duchy records, he drew a further 3s.4d. a day, which was increased from 1407 onwards with a special annuity of £20 awarded in recognition of his ‘great labours’. From time to time (as in 1408 and 1412) Leventhorpe also obtained letters under the duchy seal excusing him from any unpaid arrears in his account.7 That he more than deserved such generous treatment is beyond doubt. For almost all his adult life he devoted himself to the service of the house of Lancaster, spending months at a time on tours of the duchy and ensuring through his continuous surveillance the smooth running of the complex administrative machine. As a result of his interest in the duchy muniments, work was begun in 1402 on the compilation of the ‘Great Cowchers’, which contained copies of important records selected by him from the various receiverships and entered under his supervision. His duties brought him into fairly close contact with the King, and it was thus, in October 1401, that he became guardian in England of Henry’s son, Thomas of Lancaster, the recently appointed lieutenant of Ireland. His administrative experience no less than his long association with Henry IV made him an ideal choice as executor of the latter’s will, an onerous task which occupied him on and off from the spring of 1413 until the autumn of 1429.8
One of Henry’s last acts was the award to Leventhorpe, made in February 1413, of letters patent exempting him from holding office in local government or serving as a shire knight. His election to the first Parliament of the new reign seems to have been forced upon him because of his executorship of the late King’s will, which was one of the first items of business to come before the two Houses.9 It is interesting to note that Leventhorpe was returned in May 1413 along with an equally distinguished crown servant, John Hotoft, until recently the controller of Henry of Monmouth’s household, who, significantly enough, was then also entering the Commons for the first time. The two men again sat together in the Parliaments of 1416 (Mar.) and 1422, being ideally suited as colleagues, at least from the Court’s point of view. Like Hotoft, Leventhorpe was well qualified to represent Hertfordshire, having already established a number of local connexions not only as a duchy officer and j.p., but also by virtue of his ownership of the manor of Shingle Hall in Sawbridgeworth, which he purchased from William Wyot in August 1400. By the date of his second return to Parliament, in 1416, he also owned the manor of Thorley in the same county, although the bulk of his estates lay across the border in Essex. Besides the property settled upon him and his heirs from the duchy (to which, in December 1413, was added land in Little Hallingbury), he held the manors of Chaureth and Hassobury in Farnham, which together brought him 22 marks p.a. Leventhorpe did not evidently inherit much land in his native Yorkshire, where his patrimony seems to have been confined to a modest estate in Horton and some farmland in and around Hunslet, entailed upon him by his father and stepmother in 1393, possibly at the time of his marriage to Katherine Riley. She, however, was heiress to widespread holdings in Rastrick, as well as to a reversionary title to her mother’s manor of Fixby. Leventhorpe sold some of these estates in 1417 to her stepbrother, for £80, insisting that he should continue to receive all the profits until the money was paid in full. Evidently not one to put family before profit, he was, moreover, owed part of the purchase price of 224 marks which his own son, William, had promised him for a share in the manor of Egginton, Derbyshire, and property in the Lichfield area of Staffordshire. These had come into his hands through his appointment as guardian of the estates of Henry Herville, to whose daughter, Joan, he married his son in about 1420.10
Henry V’s general reluctance to retain the senior duchy employees favoured by his father did not extend to Leventhorpe, who, alone among his colleagues, was confirmed in all the grants and appointments awarded to him in the previous reign. Other posts, such as the clerkship of various duchy markets, and the stewardship of both the Savoy manor and the newly acquired de Bohun estates, further augmented his already impressive list of offices. At least eight leases of crown property in the home counties were made to him while Henry V occupied the throne, and of these six brought with them additional rights of marriage and wardship. Furthermore, in May 1421, he received a supplementary annuity of 46 marks charged upon the revenues of the duchy manor of Great Dunmow in Essex.11 In the following July Leventhorpe’s expertise as keeper of the duchy muniments was put to good use by the King, who clearly secured a handsome return on his investment. He and his colleague, Robert Darcy*, were commissioned to sort through all the records concerning the de Bohun estates along with the councillors of Anne, countess of Stafford, whose claims as coheiress then posed a number of difficult legal problems. Leventhorpe appears to have played an important part in the division of this valuable inheritance; and his knowledge on the subject may in part explain his presence with Darcy in the Parliament of 1422, to which the countess Anne addressed a petition for the redress of certain grievances arising from what had been a demonstrably unequal partition.12
Leventhorpe’s election to Henry VI’s first Parliament was, however, chiefly due to the exceptional position which he occupied as executor of the two previous kings of England. Shortly before his departure for France in July 1415, Henry V made Leventhorpe a feoffee-to-uses of a substantial part of the duchy of Lancaster estates, and also chose him to act as his executor. In his second will, of 10 June 1421, the King confirmed the executorship, to which he added further powers of administration. Although Thomas Langley, bishop of Durham, shared the distinction of having been appointed to execute the wills of both Henry IV and his son, Leventhorpe in fact carried the main responsibility for co-ordinating the work of the two bodies of executors, and this, from September 1422, took up a great deal of his time.13 Even so, on the recommendation of his fellow trustees, he agreed to act as surveyor of the property entrusted to their care, being paid an additional salary of 100 marks p.a. He worked in partnership with his son, John, who became receiver-general of the enfeoffed estates, probably on his recommendation, at some time before 1423. Leventhorpe may well have resigned from his two most senior duchy posts because of the demands made upon him as executor of the royal wills, although the custody and organization of records still continued to occupy him, and by 1426 he had become steward of the lands held in dower by Katherine de Valois (whose coronation he had attended in February 1421).14
Leventhorpe’s busy administrative career left him little opportunity to pursue his own personal affairs, and it is hardly surprising that little is known about him as a private individual. Henry V was certainly not alone in appreciating his qualities as a trustee, and it is worth noting that he showed a general readiness to perform this service for a host of friends and neighbours in Essex and Hertfordshire. Despite their temporary estrangement over the partition of the de Bohun inheritance, Leventhorpe was frequently involved in the countess of Stafford’s property transactions, as he had previously been in those of her grandmother, Joan de Bohun, countess of Hereford.15 His closest connexions seem, understandably, to have been established with other servants of the house of Lancaster, such as Hugh Waterton, the first chamberlain of the duchy, John Payn II*, chief butler to Henry IV, and Hugh Mortimer*, a loyal retainer of Henry V, each of whom made him their executor. He was on particularly close terms with Waterton, being entrusted with the marriage and wardship of his heir, as well as the custody of his Herefordshire estates. Leventhorpe also stood high in the regard of Thomas Totty of Staffordshire, a relative of his mother, and Sir Richard Copley, who, in 1434, chose him to supervise his will.16
From time to time, Leventhorpe went to law, usually for the recovery of debts which may, perhaps, have been owed to him in his official capacity. Certain disputes were, however, of a more personal nature, as, for example, in May 1408, when he was bound over to keep the peace towards John Salisbury of London. Some years later, in 1425, Thomas, Lord Poynings, challenged his right to the custody of a royal ward in a case which dragged on for a long while despite the intervention of the royal council.17 Some of the many recognizances made over to Leventhorpe during this period probably concerned independent business dealings, but the majority seem to have been surrendered to him as a duchy official. Evidence of his own finances is thus hard to discover, although he provided at least two loans to the government—one of 100 marks in 1415 and a smaller advance of £20 in 1430.18
Active as a crown servant until the very last, Leventhorpe made his will on 29 Jan. 1435 and was dead by the following November. The scrupulous care and detail with which he drew up this document clearly reflects his experience as a royal executor, and does much to explain his success in the administrative field. His eldest son and heir, John, himself a distinguished employee of the duchy of Lancaster, inherited most of the family estates which were said to be worth £63 a year in Hertfordshire alone. At least one of the MP’s sons appears to have predeceased him. This was Robert, whose return to the Parliament of 1425 as representative for Hertfordshire was actually witnessed by Leventhorpe himself, and may well have owed not a little to his influence. Both Leventhorpe and his widow (who died some two years after him) were buried in the parish church of Sawbridgeworth, beneath a fine memorial brass which depicts him wearing the livery collar of the house of Lancaster.19
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. W. Prynne, Brevia Parliamentaria Rediviva, 115.
- 2. Trans. East Herts. Arch. Soc. ix. table facing p. 129, pp. 132-3, 135; C67/30 m. 9; CP25(1)278/146/41; Reg. Chichele, ii. 526-30; Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. lxiii. 35, 94-96, 157; H. Chauncy (Herts. i. 356) mistakenly describes Leventhorpe’s wife as a member of the Twychet family.
- 3. DL42/15, f. 37; Somerville, Duchy, i. 199, 207, 386, 397, 424, 605, 613, 661-2.
- 4. DL42/16 (2), f. 51.
- 5. Somerville, i. 132, 156-8; C67/30 m. 9; SC1/56/119; CCR, 1389-92, p. 291; 1392-6, p. 100; 1396-9, pp. 66, 301, 408.
- 6. CPR, 1399-1401, p. 101; 1401-5, p. 50; 1405-8, p. 453; 1408-13, p. 455; SC8/121/6035; DL42/15, ff. 154, 175-5v, 16(1), f. 43v, (2), ff. 14, 15, 63, (3), ff. 4, 15, 31v, 45, 95, 99v.
- 7. DL28/4/1, ff. 18, 30, 2, ff. 10v-11; DL29/738/12098; DL42/15, ff. 171, 174, 16 (2), f. 77v, (3), ff. 119, 123; CPR, 1408-13, p. 448.
- 8. Somerville, i. 156-8; DL42/15, ff. 125v, 126; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 510; 1401-5, p. 1; 1413-16, p. 54; 1413-19, pp. 41-42; Issues ed. Devon 334-5.
- 9. CPR, 1408-13, p. 469; RP, iv. 5.
- 10. CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 191, 200, 204-6; 1413-19, pp. 353-4, 357; 1419-22, pp. 43-45; Somerville, i. 397; VCH Herts. iii. 340, 374; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 258; Feudal Aids, vi. 441, 583; CFR, xiv. 330; Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. lxiii. 35, 94-96, 157; C1/5/81; CP25(1)278/146/41, 280/153/44.
- 11. Reg. Chichele, ii. 661-2; CPR, 1413-16, p. 385; 1416-22, pp. 254, 256, 315, 440; CFR, xiv. 202-3, 276, 304, 359, 430-1, 437; Somerville, i. 398.
- 12. PPC, ii. 294; J.S. Roskell, Commons of 1422, pp. 112-13.
- 13. Roskell, 117-18, 197; Eton Coll. recs. Hen. V’s will of 1421; CPR, 1413-16, pp. 356-7, 404; 1416-22, pp. 4, 105-6, 118, 172, 363-4; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 385-7; RP, iv. 172-3, 209-10, 214-26, 339-40; SC8/24/1199, 26/1287-8, 45/2204, 189/9401-2, 217/10847.
- 14. Somerville, i. 199-203, 207; PPC, iv. 207; E101/407/4 m. 35.
- 15. Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 246, 256, 259, 264, 267, 270; CCR, 1402-5, pp. 128, 141, 145-6; 1419-22, pp. 191-2, 196, 261; 1422-9, pp. 157, 401; CAD, iii. C3007; CFR, xiv. 136.
- 16. Reg. Chichele, ii. 87; Test. Ebor. iv. 47n.; Somerville, i. 385, 417; CPR, 1401-5, p. 384; 1408-13, p. 167; CCR, 1409-13, pp. 349-50; 1413-19, pp. 273, 425; 1419-22, pp. 96-97, 195.
- 17. CPR, 1401-5, pp. 144, 344; 1405-8, p. 400; 1413-16, p. 309; 1429-36, p. 87; CCR, 1405-9, p. 393; 1409-13, p. 424; 1422-9, pp. 402, 410; PPC, iii. 165-6.
- 18. DL28/4/8; CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 197, 292; 1402-5, p. 294; 1409-13, pp. 337-8, 346; 1429-36, p. 62.
- 19. Reg. Chichele, ii. 526-30; EHR, xlix. 634; C219/13/3; Somerville, i. 610; HP ed. Wedgwood 1439-1509, Biogs. 537. Both Chauncy (Herts. i. 364) and Mon. Brasses (ed. Mill Stephenson, 195) give Leventhorpe’s date of death mistakenly as 1433.