ROKESBURGH, William (d.1434), of Stanstead Abbots, Herts. and Great Parndon, Essex.
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Family and Education
s. and h. of William Rokesburgh (d.1387) of Stanstead Abbots, prob. by his w. Parnel, wid. of John Patmore of Albury, Herts. and John Barre. m. Isabel, at least 1 da.1
Commr. of sewers, Essex, Herts., Mdx. July 1416; kiddles Feb. 1428, Dec. 1433, Apr. 1434; inquiry, Essex, Herts. Jan. 1429 (concealments); to assess a royal loan, Herts. Apr. 1431.
Escheator, Essex and Herts. 5 Nov. 1430-26 Nov. 1431.
J.p. Herts. 24 Jan. 1431-Aug. 1433.
As the owner of a fairly substantial estate along the Essex and Hertfordshire border, this MP’s father appears from time to time among the witnesses to his neighbours’ property transactions, although his involvement in local government was confined to one period of activity as a tax collector.2 He died in 1387, leaving land and possessions at Stanstead Abbots to William Rokesburgh the younger, who probably also inherited from him the holdings in Thele (Hertfordshire), Whaddon (Cambridgeshire) and Great Perendon which he occupied in later life. His annual income from Essex alone was assessed at 10 in 1412, but we do not know what his entire inheritance produced.3 Indeed, Rokesburgh remains a somewhat remote figure, whose career is largely to be traced through the conveyances and business dealings of his friends and associates. In October 1402 he offered bail of 100 marks on behalf of three Essex men who were being sued for menaces, and less than two years later he agreed to act as an attorney in the court of the mayor of London for one of the executors of an Italian merchant named Bartholomew de Bassano. Throughout his life Rokesburgh maintained a connexion with the City: together with his influential friend, Robert Chichele* (who was one of his own trustees), he became an executor of the grocer, William Standon*, having custody not only of the £200 left by the deceased to his young daughter, but also, for a brief period, of the land in Hertfordshire which formed part of the girl’s inheritance. He acted as a feoffee for property in London, and it was thus, in 1429, that he became involved in a dispute over the ownership of a tenement in the parish of St. Margaret Lothbury; shortly afterwards he went surety for William Petryll, another of his trustees, as farmer of certain property in Grub Street, London.4
Rokesburgh’s chief interests lay, none the less, in Hertfordshire and Essex, where he often witnessed deeds and from time to time received various grants of land in the capacity of a feoffee-to-uses. He was a trustee of the estates which had formerly belonged to the Hertfordshire MPs John Goldington I* and John Ruggewyn* (whose son and heir appears to have been a close friend); John Barley* settled holdings in the same county upon him; and he occupied other property together with such distinguished co-feoffees as William, Lord Ferrers of Groby, Sir Philip Thornbury*, John Hotoft* and John Leventhorpe*. If a petition submitted to the chancellor of England at some point between 1417 and 1424 is to be believed, Rokesburgh was not always punctilious in fulfilling the obligations thus laid upon him. John Audley and his wife, Avice, certainly felt that he had abused his position as a trustee of the manor of Newton Hall in Great Dunmow, Essex, by refusing to restore it to them.5 This incident apart, Rokesburgh seems to have led an untroubled life, assuming the more onerous duties of a crown commissioner, escheator and j.p. when he was already comparatively old. He attended the elections held at Hertford to the Parliaments of 1420, 1425, 1426 and 1427, but he is known only to have been returned once for the county, in May 1421, almost ten years before his appointment as an officer of the Crown.6
Although he does not seem to have been singled out for any particular marks of royal favour, in December 1422 Rokesburgh obtained a lease of the Essex estates of the late John Baud during the minority of his son, William. The rent of 50 marks which he subsequently agreed to pay at the Exchequer perhaps included the marriage of the young heir, who, by the time of his early death in September 1426, had not only become our Member’s son-in-law, but had also confirmed him in possession of all his inheritance for a further seven years. Even though this transaction was effected without a royal licence, Rokesburgh managed to retain control of the manor of Mark Hall, while persuading Baud to confirm him in the reversion of his patrimony, which included land in Barwick, Hertfordshire.7
Rokesburgh died in 1434, having settled all his goods and chattels upon his lifelong friend, John Kirkby II*, and other trustees, including John Barley, some seven years before. He was buried at his parish church of Stanstead Abbots. His widow survived him to present to the church of Great Perendon later in the year, but we do not know what became of his daughter, Isabel Baud.8
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. VCH Herts. iv. 7, 55; Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. n.s. x. 165. If H. Chauncy’s transcription of a memorial inscription at the church of Stanstead Abbots is correct, Rokesburgh must have had two wives named Isabel, one who died in 1400 (Herts. i. 384), and a second whom he married before 8 July 1416 and who survived him by at least a few months (CFR, xiv. 160; P. Morant, Essex (Colchester), ii. 494).
- 2. CCR, 1364-8, p. 306; 1369-74, pp. 102, 443; 1374-7, p. 257; 1381-5, pp. 122, 405; 1389-92, p. 75; CFR, viii. 112, 127.
- 3. VCH Herts. iv. 55; Morant, ii. 494; Feudal Aids, i. 189; ii. 222, 450; vi. 446.
- 4. CCR, 1402-5, p. 113; 1422-9, p. 380; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 269; 1413-37, p. 227; Cal. Letter Bk. London, K, 42; CFR, xiv. 160; xv. 303; Corporation of London RO, hr 137/13, 153/45, 155/39, 156/18, 157/33.
- 5. CAD, iii. D748; CCR, 1419-22, pp. 212-13; 1422-9, pp. 128, 135, 138-9, 382, 454; 1429-35, pp. 28, 37-38, 115, 126, 128; C1/5/117; C139/122/29; E132/3/29, f. 14v.
- 6. C219/12/4, 13/3-5.
- 7. CFR, xv. 25, 44-45; CPR, 1422-9, p. 385; Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. loc. cit.
- 8. CCR, 1422-9, p. 380; Morant, ii. 494; Chauncy, i. 384.