PEYTO, William (c.1394-1464), of Chesterton, Warws.

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



Family and Education

b.c.1394, s. and h. of William Peyto of Chesterton by Joan, da. of Sir John Thornbury* of Little Munden, Herts.; gds. of Sir John*. m. (1) c. May 1415, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Robert Francis* of Foremark, Derbys.; (2) between 1425 and Mich. 1429, Katherine, da. of Sir John Gresley of Colton, Staffs., wid. of Thomas Stafford* of Baginton, Warws., 1s. Kntd. by July 1423.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Warws. and Leics. Mich. 1428-10 Feb. 1430, 8 Nov. 1436-7 Nov. 1437.

Captain of the ‘bastille’ by Dieppe c. June-15 Aug. 1443, of St. Lô by Sept. 1449.

Commr. to take musters of the army commanded by John, duke of Somerset, Dieppe Aug. 1443, of Richard, Lord Rivers’s company, Plymouth Mar. 1451; of arrest, Warws. July 1453.

Keeper of the household of Edmund, marquess of Dorset, in Normandy c.1447-9.


After the death of Peyto’s father in 1407, his mother married John Knightley*, who secured young William’s wardship and marriage at the Exchequer. In 1415 Knightley arranged his marriage to one of the daughters of Sir Robert Francis, and the couple were given possession of part of William’s inheritance: Sowe (Warwickshire) and Great Wyrley (Staffordshire). His mother, who subsequently married the wealthy Sir Robert Corbet* of Hadley, retained the rest of his estates until her death in 1418. In 1436 Peyto’s landed holdings were estimated to be worth £150 a year, a sum which probably included the profits from lands acquired through his second marriage, to Katherine Gresley, whose dower from Thomas Stafford, her previous husband, included Aston and Campden in Gloucestershire and Sibbertoft in Northamptonshire.1

Peyto was to make his mark as a military commander in the English occupation of northern France. Early in 1420 his name was placed on a list of 13 sent by the Warwickshire j.p.s to the King’s Council in response to a request for information about those best able to defend the realm, and for the time being he evidently remained in England. He sat in the House of Commons, apparently for the only time, later that year and attended the shire court for the elections to the next Parliament (May 1421). But it was not long before he embarked on his first campaign in France, where he took part in the battle of Cravant in July 1423. Later that year Peyto was retained for life by Richard, earl of Warwick, from whom he received an annuity of 20 marks. As a member of Warwick’s affinity he was associated with (Sir) William Mountfort I* and John Throckmorton* in making a settlement on Richard Curson (later to be the earl’s chamberlain and executor), and from 1429 he acted as a feoffee when the earl purchased the reversion of the Grovebury priory estates from the countess of Salisbury (a task which he and his co-feoffees finally relinquished in 1445 when they transferred their interest to Eton college). Meanwhile, he had sought election to the Parliament of 1427, adopting unscrupulous means to achieve his purpose: Mountfort and John Mallory* had already been elected when Peyto arrived in Warwick at the head of a local mob and, with the connivance of the under sheriff, managed to secure the substitution of his own name on the electoral indenture in place of Mallory’s. Nevertheless, it seems likely that the outcry against these bullying tactics permitted Mallory to take his seat. When sheriff himself, in 1429, Peyto made the return for Warwickshire of Mountfort and Thomas Hugford, both of whom were his fellow retainers of the earl of Warwick.2 Sir William, recorded as a member of Warwick’s household in about 1431, subsequently enjoyed an increased annuity of £20 charged on the Beauchamp estates. The war across the Channel was still proving an attraction: in July 1432 he entered into a contract to serve in France for six months with a force of 30 men-at-arms and 150 archers, and it was as a reward for his efforts in the military sphere that in 1437 he was granted exemption from holding royal office against his will. Two years later he again returned to France, this time as captain of a body of 50 men-at-arms and 210 archers. Shortly before his departure he stood surety for the duke of York and his fellow custodians of the estates of the earldom of Warwick during the minority of the heir, Earl Richard having died at Rouen.3

By the summer of 1443 Peyto had joined the army of John Beaufort, duke of Somerset, encamped at Tréport and Fécamp, and had been appointed by him as commander of some 450 men ‘de bonne estoffe’, who were ordered to occupy a ‘bastille’ built by the English on a hill outside Dieppe in order to cut off supplies to the French in the town as well as to launch an attack. The siege collapsed in August in the face of an assault by the Dauphin, and despite a valiant defence the ‘bastille’ was taken by superior numbers. Peyto was captured and held to an ‘intolerable ransom’ of 3,000 écus (about £500). During his imprisonment his wife suffered a two-pronged assault on her property: an attack on her manor of Campden, for which a group of men associated with John, Lord Beauchamp of Powick, was responsible, and the theft of cattle from Sibbertoft perpetrated by the notorious Sir Thomas Mallory (son of Peyto’s one-time opponent at the hustings). To obtain his release Peyto apparently first looked to the executors of Somerset’s uncle, Thomas Beaufort, duke of Exeter, for a loan of 500 marks, and it was doubtless to repay this that on his return to England in the winter of 1445-6 he mortgaged his estates. Those who then came to his aid included Sir William Mountfort and his own wife’s father, Sir John Gresley, and uncle, John Curson, it being agreed that Peyto should reimburse them all before Michaelmas 1448. Peyto’s financial position was, however, made even worse by the failure of the Crown to pay him his wages of war. In May 1447 it was ordered that certain tallies worth £266 13s.4d., issued in his name at the Exchequer in the previous year, should be freshly assigned; but although the urgency of the case was made clear, he was evidently still unable to secure payment, and more new tallies of assignment had to be issued in 1450.4 In desperation Peyto, in 1447, sought to recoup his losses through trade (he obtained a licence to export wool to Italy) and through further military service, leaving for France that same year in the retinue of Somerset’s brother, Edmund Beaufort, marquess of Dorset, the lieutenant governor. Two years later he managed to secure a potentially profitable wardship at the Exchequer, but he had been unable to pay off the mortgage on his estates, and in May 1449 he had to procure the King’s permission to raise another. Shortly afterwards he crossed the Channel with a contingent of 50 men-at-arms and 508 archers, once more under the command of Edmund Beaufort, now duke of Somerset (for whom he was then acting as ‘keeper’ of his household). He was occupying the post of captain of St. Lô in September following when forced to surrender to the duke of Brittany, though fortunately for him this time he and his garrison were allowed to depart without ransom. In 1451 he raised another mortgage on his estates, the mortgagees on this occasion including Thomas Lyttleton, the future judge. It was agreed that if Sir William repaid £300 of the £490 loan within two years he might re-enter Sowe and Wyrley, but that Chesterton would not be returned to him unless he paid the remainder before the summer of 1454. About the same time he was also in trouble of a different sort: that June he was put in the Marshalsea prison for assaulting a neighbour, and it was only through Beaufort’s influence that he was able to secure his release. He promptly made arrangements to join the duke in the garrison at Calais, and two years later he was evidently still hoping that the answer to his problems lay in military service. (These hopes were dashed by the final defeat of the English at Castillon.) Despite a royal pardon issued to him in 1455 Peyto was committed to the Marshalsea again in 1456, there to remain a prisoner until May 1459.5

Although Peyto had managed to recover Sowe and Wyrley, and had settled them on his son, John, he had been unable to retrieve Chesterton, for which he still needed £120 in 1460. Indeed, at the time of his death, on 24 Nov. 1464, Chesterton was in the hands of his creditors, and it took three more years for his heir to obtain possession.6

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. CPR, 1405-8, p. 241; 1408-13; p. 42; 1413-16, pp. 324, 388; C137/86/27; C138/38/41; Miscellany (Dugdale Soc. xxxi), 156; CFR, xiii. 128; CCR, 1413-19, p. 483; 1422-9, pp. 355-6; EHR, xlix. 639; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. n.s. i. 55-56; S. Shaw, Staffs. i. 180; Cat. Gresley Chs. ed. Jeayes, p. vii.
  • 2. E28/97 m. 32; C219/12/5, 14/1; W. Dugdale, Warws. 475-7; CCR, 1422-9, p. 127; RP, v. 77-78; KB27/677 rex m. 5; Letters and Pprs. Illust. Wars of English in France ed. Stevenson, ii (pt. 2), 385.
  • 3. E404/48/320, 55/293; CPR, 1429-36, p. 218; 1436-41, pp. 136, 312, 314; Chrons. London ed. Kingsford, 146; CFR, xvii. 77; E368/220 m. 108.
  • 4. J. de Waurin, Chrons. ed. Hardy, 372-4, 382; CPR, 1441-6, p. 203; 1446-52, p. 51; CCR, 1441-7, pp. 356, 369; CFR, xviii. 3-4; E404/63/93, 67/37; Warws. Feet of Fines (Dugdale Soc. xviii), no. 2625; C1/15/77-78.
  • 5. DKR, xlviii. 372, 374, 375, 390, 396; EHR, xlix. 611; CPR, 1446-52, pp. 244, 257, 501; 1452-61, pp. 75, 231; E101/54/11; Narratives of Expulsion of English ed. Stevenson, 279; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xi. 248; Speculum, viii. 19-20; M.C. Carpenter, ‘Pol. Soc. Warws.’ (Cambridge Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1976), 198-9, 202.
  • 6. CPR, 1452-61, p. 159; CCR, 1454-61, pp. 456-7; C140/12/19, 24/18; CFR, xx. 205.