MERES, John, of Kirton and Aubourn, Lincs.
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Family and Education
s. and h. of Sir Roger Meres alias Kirton (d.1385) of Kirton and Aubourn, j.c.p. m. bef. Mich. 1379, Margaret, poss. da. of Sir John Littlebury, at least 1s. 2da.1
Commr. of sewers, Lincs. (Holland) Mar. 1382, July 1386, May 1395, Nov. 1397, Feb. 1400, May 1403; oyer and terminer Aug. 1386 (poaching on the earl of Northumberland’s estates); inquiry Aug. 1387 (trespasses at Holbeach), May 1391, May 1392 (refusal of chantry priests to perform their duties); to hold a special assize 1392;2 of array (Holland) Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399, Aug., Sept. 1403; to enforce the statutes on weirs June 1398; raise men to resist the earl of Northumberland, July 1403.
J.p. Lincs. (Holland) 15 July 1389-June 1410, (Kesteven) 16 May 1401-Mar. 1406.
Escheator, Lincs. 24 Nov. 1394-18 Nov. 1395, 24 Nov. 1400-8 Nov. 1401.
Collector of a tax, Lincs. (Holland) Dec. 1401; controller (Kesteven) Mar. 1404.
Although the Meres family had long been settled in Lincolnshire, it was not until the late 14th century that they achieved a position of real importance in the county. This was thanks to Sir Roger Meres, a royal judge, who, from 1369 onwards, was a member of John of Gaunt’s council. By 1372, just one year after attaining the bench, he had secured the stewardship of Boston from Gaunt, and thus began to exercise considerable influence locally as well as nationally. His son John, the subject of this biography, evidently came of age before January 1377, when he joined with him in offering a bond worth £400 to Thomas Hasilden I*, the controller of Gaunt’s household. We do not know exactly when John married, but during the Michaelmas term of 1379 Sir Roger made a generous settlement of land upon him and his wife, Margaret. The couple and their offspring were to hold an extensive estate in Kirton, Coningsby and Gosberkirk, together with a fishery on the river Witham, at a quit rent, and were consequently able to live comfortably until the judge died, leaving them the rest of his estates. These comprised additional land in Kirton and Holbeach as well as the manor of Aubourn, all of which were confirmed to John and Margaret in 1386, the year after Sir Roger’s death. One of the parties to this transaction was Sir John Littlebury, who is said to have been Margaret’s father, although no direct evidence of their relationship has survived. Another of Meres’s trustees was Richard Welby, his neighbour and the father of his friend, Roger, with whom he maintained a lifelong connexion.3
In common with other leading members of the Lincolnshire gentry, Meres took the general oath, administered in March 1388, in support of the Lords Appellant; and this was probably why, ten years later, when Richard II was in a position to strike back at his former enemies, he decided to sue out royal letters of pardon. Meanwhile, in June 1390, he had been excused any demands liable to be made upon him at the Exchequer because of an administrative error concerning his father’s work as a commissioner of the peace, but his dealings with the Crown were otherwise extremely limited, and he confined his interest to purely regional affairs.4 Even so, he was clearly a force to be reckoned with in Lincolnshire, as can be seen not only from his various appointments as a commissioner, j.p. and escheator, but also from his frequent appearances as a witness and trustee. It seems more than likely that he followed his father’s example and trained as a lawyer, since almost all the information we have about him concerns quasi-legal activities of this kind. Yeomen farmers and wealthy landowners (such as Sir Philip Tilney*) alike engaged his services as a feoffee-to-uses, and he occasionally assisted religious houses wishing to secure additional endowments. His involvement in the transactions of the two Lincolnshire priories of Sixhills and Greenfield was certainly on behalf of other patrons; and it was either as a feoffee or executor of Sir James Roos that he obtained an episcopal licence, in August 1405, for the celebration of mass in a private chapel at the manor of Gedney.5 His interest in two other similar projects appears, however, to have been far more personal. In July 1392 he paid 12 marks for royal letters patent permitting him and Thomas Welby to support a chantry priest at Kirton parish church with revenues from their estates in the area. He was also the moving spirit behind the foundation, in July 1393, of a fraternity or guild in honour of the Holy Trinity at Spalding church in Lincolnshire. On this occasion, he and his five associates were charged 40 marks for the necessary licence, which enabled them to endow the guild with property worth £5 a year; although it was not until December 1395 that the alienation actually came into effect.6
Meres’s one return to Parliament took place at the very end of his career when he was nearing retirement, and little is known about his activities afterwards. In April 1408, Sir John Copledyke* chose him to be one of his executors, and it was into his hands that the bishop of Lincoln committed the administration of the estate. He is last mentioned in December 1409, as a defendant in an assize of novel disseisin at Lincoln. He lost his case, but since he was, once again, simply acting as a trustee, the judgement did not materially affect him. His commission as a j.p. in Holland (where he had served continuously for over 21 years) was not renewed after June 1410, by which date he must either have died or else withdrawn to live quietly on his estates. He left one son, named John, who eventually succeeded him as lord of Kirton.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Meeres, Meers, Mers.
- 1. According to Lincs. Peds. ed. Maddison, 663, Sir Roger Meres was married to Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Bassett, but by 1379, at least, his wife was called Alice (CP25(1)143/142/32). Our Member is mistakenly described here as the grandson of Sir Roger and the son of one John Meres the elder, who never in fact existed. This error is the result of a misreading of an entry in CIPM (Rec. Comm.), iii. 142, which records an inquisition ad quod damnum into proposals by the MP and a friend for the foundation of a chantry at Kirton, in 1392, but which was erroneously taken to be an inquisition post mortem. The subject of this biography can be documented continuously before and after 1398 (C67/30 m. 5) and it was obviously he who sat in the Parliament of 1407.
- 2. C66/335 m. 13v.
- 3. Reg. Gaunt 1371-5, i. no. 148; ii. no. 1811; CCR, 1374-7, p. 517; 1385-9, pp. 114, 131-2; CP25(1)143/142/29, 32, 146/22.
- 4. RP, iii. 401; C67/30 m. 5; CCR, 1389-92, p. 190.
- 5. C143/427/20, 438/2; CP25(1)143/147/30, 41, 148/1, 151/10, 23, 25, 152/27; CCR, 1381-5, p. 94; 1392-6, p. 424; CPR, 1396-9, p. 144; 1401-5, pp. 84, 193; 1405-8, pp. 55, 334; Lincs. N. and Q. viii. 209; Reg. Repingdon (Lincoln Rec. Soc. lvii), 43-44; Lincs. AO, ANC1/1/30, 31.
- 6. C143/411/20; CIPM (Rec. Comm.), iii. 142; CPR, 1391-6, pp. 120, 310, 649.
- 7. Reg. Repingdon, 120-5; JUST 1/1514 rot. 102v, 103; Lincs. Peds. 663.