PORTMAN, Walter (d.c.1454), of Taunton, Som.

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



May 1421
Dec. 1421

Family and Education

s. of William Portman*. m. (1) bef. 1427, Joan; (2) by 1440, Christine (d. 7 May 1472), da. and h. of William Orchard of Orchard, Som., wid. of Sir Philip Cary†, 1s.1

Offices Held

Commr. of oyer and terminer, Som. June 1432; gaol delivery, Ilchester May, Sept. 1435, May 1440, Nov. 1441, Mar. 1450 (q.), Exeter Jan. 1451; inquiry, Som. July 1441 (wastes at Dunster), Mar. 1444 (piracy), June 1444 (wastes, Stogursy and St. Sever priories), Som., Dorset, Hants, Wilts. May 1448 (lands held by William Horsey), Som. Aug. 1449 (lands held in chief), Oct. 1449 (the manor of ‘Ubleygh’).

J.p. Som. 4 May 1442-Nov. 1451.

Tax collector, Som. Aug. 1450.


Walter was the son of a Taunton merchant, but by profession was himself a lawyer. He had taken over his father’s tenancy of plots of land in Taunton by 1413, paying rent to the bishop of Winchester, and by the time he entered the Commons he was also holding a burgage there. Together with his first wife he owned some 20 messuages and 35 acres of land in Taunton and Galmeton, and through his second wife he obtained an interest in the manor of Orchard, a third of that of Bickenhall and a third part of five dwellings in Taunton and Fenhampton. Portman always retained interests in his home town where he attested conveyances, and besides representing the borough in ten Parliaments he attended the shire court as a witness to the election of other Taunton burgesses in November 1414 and 1432. In 1444 he was enfeoffed by Richard, son of Thomas Bacot*, of property in ‘Northton’, just outside the town.2

Portman’s ability as a lawyer led to the extension of his interests outside Taunton. He was one of three feoffees, including Richard Marchaunt*, who in 1426 were licensed by royal patent to amortize a number of properties in London to the use of the abbey of Glastonbury. By grant of 1 Dec. 1429 he shared with a regular associate, William Gascoigne, then Member for Bridgwater, an Exchequer lease of a moiety of the manor of Orchardleigh (Somerset), during the minorities of members of the Romsey family, which involved them in a suit in Chancery in the following year. Portman acted as legal counsel to Sir John, son of Sir Hugh Luttrell*, following the revival by the dowager duchess of York of an action (twice previously, in 1406, the subject of petitions by the Commons), regarding the legality of the sale of the former de Mohun lordship of Dunster to the Luttrells. In 1429-30 he travelled to Dunster three times ‘to confer with my lord on his matter between him and the duchess’, and after Sir John’s death (in July 1430) he was employed by his widow Margaret, a daughter of James, Lord Audley, to receive on her behalf assignments of dower from the escheator of Somerset and Dorset. From 10 to 12 Dec. 1432, as a member of Margaret Luttrell’s household, he was at Taunton for a ‘love-day’ between her and her mother-in-law, and it was by his assent, as one of her councillors, that certain payments were made. He was sent to London to discuss the ‘love-day’ with the chancellor, Bishop Stafford of Bath and Wells, and also to attend to the matter of the farm of Dunster. In 1435 he was concerned with the administration of the Luttrell manor of East Quantockshead, and during the minority of the heir, James Luttrell, he stood surety on various occasions for Bishop Stafford, Sir Humphrey Stafford II* and Sir Philip Courtenay†, the custodians of the bulk of the estates. On 15 Oct. 1437 he was himself granted the keeping of certain properties during the minority of one of the Luttrell tenants, and four years later he was appointed to a royal commission of inquiry regarding wastes committed by a lessee of other parts of the estate.3

Besides his work for the Luttrells, by October 1430 Portman was acting as a feoffee in the bailiwick of West Perrot (Somerset) for (Sir) John Stourton II*, who was later treasurer of the King’s household and created Baron Stourton. In the 1430s he appeared as mainpernor at the Exchequer in respect of leases of estates in the south-west issued to the prior of Taunton and Sir Walter (now Lord) Hungerford*, among others, and served as a trustee of several properties including some belonging to Henry Gildeney* of Bristol. He was long associated with the Hill family of Spaxton: in July 1435 all but the dower portion of the lands of John Hill† were placed in the custody of Hill’s widow, Cecily (Stourton’s cousin), and Portman, and it was in association with Ralph Hill that in 1436 the latter was granted an Exchequer lease of lands in Newton Surmaville. In June 1440, after Cecily had married Sir Thomas Kyriel†, the lieutenant of Calais, Portman shared with him custody of two-thirds of the estates of her first husband, and in 1442-3 he received a fee of £1 from the same demesnes. Meanwhile, in 1438, Portman had been enfeoffed by his friend Simon Raleigh, esquire, of lands in Devon and in the following year of other holdings in the same county together with the manor of Nettlecombe (Somerset). Raleigh named him as overseer of his will, and in 1443 he and his co-feoffees obtained a licence to found a chantry in Nettlecombe church and to amortize the manor of Combe Raleigh for the provision of religious services for the testator’s soul. Portman was, therefore, moving in the circles of the gentry of Somerset and in later years was himself known as ‘gentleman’ or ‘esquire’. This does not mean that he neglected the affairs of the borough of Taunton, and he also had several dealings with the burgesses of Bridgwater: in 1438 the bailiff of Bridgwater received 4d. ‘when y rode after Portman to Tawnton’, and Richard Gardener’s wife was paid 14d. for ‘Portman ys costes’.4

Portman died at an unknown date between July 1453 and 1456. His widow, having presented to the Orchard living alone, died in 1472, leaving a daughter, Thomasina, wife of John Bolour (probably her daughter by Sir Philip Cary), and a son, John Portman. In addition to the property already mentioned, Christine held 34 burgages in Taunton, and five cottages and some 40 acres of land in Shireford. Her heirs were her grandson, Robert Cary, aged 17, whose father Sir William had been beheaded at Tewkesbury in 1471, and John Portman, aged 25. The latter obtained the major part of her estates, including Orchard. His grandson was the Marian chief justice William Portman (d.1555), whose descendants were created baronets in 1611 and viscounts in the 19th century.5

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Som. Feet of Fines (Som. Rec. Soc. xxii), 68, 76; C139/103/38.
  • 2. Hants. RO, bp. of Winchester’s pipe rolls, 159415-17, 159420; HMC 3rd Rep. 315; Bridgwater Bor. Archs. (Som. Rec. Soc. lviii), 633-4; Gerard’s Description of Som. (ibid. xv), 61; Som. Feet of Fines, 68, 76, 111, 172; Add. 30289, f. 73; C219/11/5, 14/3; CCR, 1422-9, p. 18; Procs. Som. Arch. Soc. lxxxix. 35-53.
  • 3. CPR, 1422-9, p. 331; 1436-41, p. 574; H.C. Maxwell-Lyte, Hist. Dunster, i. 111, 114, 116; Honour of Dunster (Som. Rec. Soc. xxx), 203-4; Some Som. Manors (ibid. extra ser. 1931), 118; CFR, xvi. 19, 288, 303; xvii. 4, 5; CCR, 1435-41, p. 6; C44/26/19.
  • 4. Bridgwater Bor. Archs. 686; CPR, 1429-36, pp. 112, 162; 1436-41, p. 420; 1441-6, p. 161; CCR, 1435-41, pp. 364-8; 1447-54, pp. 242, 442; Som. Med. Wills (Som. Rec. Soc. xvi), 147; Som. Feet of Fines, 95; SC6/1119/17 m. 11; CFR, xv. 88; xvi. 242, 264, 294; xvii. 46.
  • 5. Som. Rec. Soc. xlix. 269; CFR, xxi. 97, 98; C140/42/43; CCR, 1468-76, pp. 235-6; Procs. Som. Arch. Soc. lxxix. 46; J. Hutchins, Dorset, i. 262; CP, x. 600-2.