NORRIS, Thomas II (d.1424/5), of Chudleigh, Devon.

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



Feb. 1388
Jan. 1390
Jan. 1397

Family and Education

m. by June 1421, Thomasina Denys (b.c.1381), wid. of Philip Butterford of Butterford in North Huish, Devon, s.p.

Offices Held

Surveyor of the estates of the dean and chapter of Exeter cathedral c.1414-15.1

Escheator, Devon and Cornw. 6 Nov. 1424-d.


Norris was already a lawyer of some local repute by the time of his first return to Parliament in 1388. That same year he acted as an attorney in the court of common pleas in a suit over land in Devon, and when up at Westminster for the Parliament of 1391 he became similarly involved in another case in the same court, then appearing for the plaintiff, John Denys of Gidcott, against Sir Henry Ilcombe*, as overlord at Penrose (Cornwall). Both suits raised complex questions of law, and it says something for the respect in which Norris was held that he continued to be retained as attorney by Denys for the six years and more the litigation continued.2

Norris was one of a small group of Devonshire lawyers notable not only for their parliamentary service for more than one borough but also for their links with Edward Courtenay, earl of Devon; and it may well be, in Norris’s case at least, that his standing with the Courtenay family in some way influenced the burgesses when making their choice of representatives. By 1390 he had become a friend and feoffee of the earl’s attorney, Thomas Raymond* of Holsworthy,3 and succeeded him in his post about two years later. In 1392-3 he was paid £4 12s.5d. by Courtenay’s receiver for his ‘pension’ two years later the earl’s uncle, Sir Philip*, gave him a brief at the assizes at Exeter; and he evidently continued to be employed by the earl as his official attorney at least until the year after his final election to Parliament. His association with the Courtenays lasted for the rest of his life: in 1402 he went surety in Chancery for Sir Philip; at the assizes in later years he appeared on behalf of the widow of one of the earl’s retainers, Richard Yeo; and in 1406 Sir Hugh Courtenay’s* mother-in-law, Elizabeth Archdeacon, made him an executor of her will. Norris’s friendship with Thomas Raymond was similarly lifelong: Raymond, in his will, left him his Nova Statuta de Lege, a devotional manual and £2 for his trouble in taking on the executorship.4 It may have been through Sir Philip Courtenay that Norris first came to the attention of the sons of the former chief baron of the Exchequer, Sir John Cary†, one of whom, Robert*, was Courtenay’s son-in-law. He assisted the brothers Cary in their attempts to recover the estates forfeited by their father after his impeachment in the Merciless Parliament (of which he himself had been a Member), notably by providing an undertaking in Chancery that they would return to the master of the rolls six charters relating to the property, and also by arguing their case in the court of common pleas against Sir Robert Chalons*, to whom Henry IV had granted their patrimony. In the early years of the 15th century Norris’s clients included such prominent landowners as Walter Reynell*, the prior of Cowick, the abbot of Tavistock and the dean and chapter of Exeter cathedral.5 For the last named he acted, in 1414-15 if not for longer, as surveyor of their estates.

For about 15 years from 1397, Norris held a lease from the Exchequer of a moiety of a water-mill and other premises in Collumpton (Devon), and for much of the same period a further lease of the manor of Rame in Cornwall.6 Whether he had inherited much in the way of land is not known, but he certainly did obtain substantial holdings through the marriage he contracted late in life. In 1421 he married Thomasina Butterford, a 40-year-old widow whose previous husband’s property in Devon had been valued at £20 a year, and who, as well as obtaining dower, had succeeded her nephew, Richard Piperell, in the manor of Gidcott, a moiety of the manor of Manworthy, the advowson of a chantry at Trewyn, and lands in Whitebear, Cookbury Week and Tinacre, all these places being situated near Holsworthy in the north of the shire.7 But Norris enjoyed the income from these estates for no more than three years. He died within three months of his appointment as escheator of Devon and Cornwall in November 1424. In his brief will, composed on 4 Dec. and proved in February following, he bequeathed ornaments to the parish church at Chudleigh and left all his possessions in the town to his kinsman, Henry Norris. His widow survived him by more than 20 years.8

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Add. Chs. 27607, 27610.
  • 2. Yr. Bk. 1387-8 ed. Thornley, 104, 109; CCR, 1389-92, pp. 418-19; 1396-9, p. 163.
  • 3. CP25(1)44/65/91; H.R. Watkin, Totnes Priory and Town, 300.
  • 4. Add. Roll 64321; Add. Ch. 13972; JUST 1/1502 m. 216; CCR, 1402-5, p. 127; Reg. Stafford ed. Hingeston-Randolph, 388, 419-20; CP25(1)45/75/134; KB 27/549 rex m. 23.
  • 5. CCR, 1396-9, p. 202; 1402-5, p. 452; JUST 1/1519 mm. 117d, 118d, 119; CFR, xii. 198.
  • 6. CFR, xi. 212, 241; CCR, 1409-13, p. 316.
  • 7. CP25(1)45/77/52; CCR, 1419-22, p. 165; Feudal Aids, vi. 418.
  • 8. PCC 13 Luffenham; CCR, 1447-54, p. 80.