SERLE, John I, of Plympton, Devon.
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Family and Education
Collector of customs and subsidies, Plymouth and Fowey 28 July 1426-Apr. 1431, Plymouth 20 Apr. 1431-Mar. 1432.
Serle may have come from the family of this name which in the late 14th century quarrelled about the ownership of lands at ‘Morkyshulle’ in Devon,1 but he himself resided elsewhere in the county, at Plympton. In January 1420 he stood surety at the Exchequer for three clerics, one of whom was William Penkrich, a canon of Exeter, who were granted custody of the alien priory not far away at Modbury. He was probably the John Serle who served in the retinue of Hugh, earl of Devon (the lord of the borough of Plympton Erle), which was mustered later that year before sailing for France; but, if that was the case, he returned to England in time to attend the elections at Exeter castle for the Parliament which assembled in December 1421. He was again present for the parliamentary elections of 1425, on which occasion he was named as mainpernor for the Plympton representatives, John Selman II* and William Selman II*.2 He was himself returned to seven of Henry VI’s Parliaments, one of them (1431) during his term of office as collector of customs in the ports of Plymouth and Fowey.
Over the years Serle was often engaged in litigation both as a plaintiff and a defendant: in Henry V’s reign he sued John Hereward of Exeter in the court of common pleas for a debt of £20, albeit without success, and in 1429 he himself was charged with a trespass and required to appear in court at Plympton by the royal feodary, Thomas Wyse†. A more important case, brought into Chancery by Serle in 1438, followed on from an award intended to resolve his dispute with Richard Fortescue (brother of the future chief justice) over lands in Plympton Erle, ‘Plymphouse’ and Loughtor which had once belonged to John Brackley†. According to the terms of the award, Serle was to have possession of a messuage next to the ‘Yeldhalle’, but although Fortescue’s associate, John Silverlock†, was prepared to stand by the settlement, Fortescue himself refused to do so. In yet another suit, Serle claimed that he had been disinherited of property in Plympton Erle left him by Robert Solers.3
Serle died before June 1454, when his widow and executrix, Alice, sued a tucker named William Hole in Chancery for 40 acres of land in Drewsteighton, her plea being that Hole had received £6 6s.8d. from Serle for a 20-year lease of the same, but had refused to allow him either tenure of the property or reimbursement of his money.4