STAUNTON, Thomas (d.1436), of Radbourne, Derbys. and Sutton Bonington, Notts.
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Family and Education
yr. s. of Sir Robert Staunton (fl. 1363) of Staunton Harold. m. (1) by Mar. 1397, Joan; (2) by Nov. 1411, Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Merdley of Hathern, Leics. and Sutton Bonington, at least 1s., Thomas Bonington†.1
Master forester of Dartmoor, Devon bef. Mar. 1413-30 July 1433.
Comptroller of the Pipe 1 May 1413-d.2
Constable of the duchy of Lancaster lordship of Melbourne, Derbys. 8 Apr. 1418-d.3
As the second son of the Nottinghamshire landowner, Sir Robert Staunton, Thomas had rather limited prospects of inheritance, although he probably acquired some property in Derbyshire by marriage while he was still quite young. In March 1397, he and his first wife, Joan, were parties to a conveyance of land in Aston-upon-Trent; and it was, perhaps, through her that he obtained a title to the holdings in Newton Solney and Radbourne later recorded as being in his possession. Such an existing connexion with Derbyshire would explain why he was granted the wardship of estates there by Henry V, and would also account for his appointment as constable of Melbourne in 1418. Unlike many other shire knights from the north Midlands, Thomas could not boast a long association with the house of Lancaster, having, indeed, obtained early preferment in the service of Richard II. He was one of the latter’s esquires by 1398, when he and another courtier shared a gift of confiscated goods to the value of £40. This potentially embarrassing attachment did not, however, prevent him from changing sides in the following year; and he soon gave ample proof of his commitment to the new regime. He may well have fought against the rebels at the battle of Shrewsbury in July 1403, for he and a personal contingent of six archers had been campaigning in North Wales with Prince Henry during the previous spring and early summer. Surprisingly, Thomas made little immediate use of this opportunity for further advancement, possibly because the sudden death of his elder brother, John, in 1405, was followed by a long minority during which he assumed effective control of the family fortunes. But his loyalty was not forgotten: three years later he obtained a grant of 12 oaks from the duchy of Lancaster chase at Needwood for repairs to his property; and at some unknown date the prince made him master forester of Dartmoor at a salary of ten marks p.a.4
Staunton’s private circumstances improved considerably on his marriage to Thomas Merdley’s daughter, Elizabeth, who brought him the manors of Sutton Bonington and Hathern, and thus made possible his election to the Parliament of 1411 as a representative for Nottinghamshire. The Commons were still sitting when he and his new wife secured their title to additional land in Normanton, so it seems likely that the assessment of £10 p.a. placed upon their possessions in that county one year later represented a major undervaluation.5 The accession of Henry V, in 1413, marked another high point in Staunton’s career, since as a former comrade-in-arms of the new King he could naturally expect to receive his share of patronage. Sure enough, in May of that year he was appointed to the lucrative post of comptroller of the Pipe, and in February 1415 he was granted the marriage and wardship of a royal ward, albeit only to the value of eight marks p.a. Staunton was, of course, only too anxious to take part in the English invasion of France during the following summer; and his presence on the expedition (to which he contributed a small contingent of archers) earned him a second, more profitable wardship. He helped to take musters of the royal army at Southampton, in July 1417, but it does not look as if he then crossed to France with King Henry. The award to him of the constableship of Melbourne, in 1418, suggests that he stayed at home, and although he was named among the leading Nottinghamshire landowners who were expected to take up arms in defence of the realm two years later, we may assume that his campaigning days were now over.6
Save for his regular attendance at the Nottinghamshire parliamentary elections held between 1417 and 1429, and his appearance on the list of local gentry who were to take the general oath of May 1434 that they would not support disturbers of the peace, little is known about Staunton’s last years. His son, Thomas, followed his example by joining the royal household, where he secured rapid promotion. He was already in office as marshal of the Hall when, in July 1433, Staunton was permitted to make over to him his post as master forester of Dartmoor. Some agreement whereby Thomas would eventually succeed to the constableship of Melbourne may also have been reached at this time, because when our Member died, almost three years later, the young man promptly took over his duties. Like his father, Thomas served as a shire knight for Nottinghamshire in just one Parliament, being chiefly remembered as a loyal servant of the house of Lancaster.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Great care should be taken in distinguishing this MP from his contemporary and namesake, Thomas Staunton (d.1447) of Staunton-in-the-Vale, Notts. The latter was the s. and h. of Ralph Staunton (d. by Oct. 1408), and married Margaret, a da. of Thomas Mapperley* of Nottingham (R. Thoroton, Notts. ed. Throsby, i. 306, 308; Notts. RO, Staunton mss, Rr 2, 3, 10). He owned extensive estates in the county, valued at £20 p.a. in 1412 but clearly worth far more by the time of his death, and was also seised of the manors of Bassingham, Quarrington and Scredington in Lincolnshire, which produced about as much again (E179/159/48; Thoroton Soc. v. 27; Feudal Aids, vi. 482; Staunton ms Kk2). Nevertheless, despite his wealth and position he played very little part in local affairs, acting twice as a tax collector in Notts. (in 1428 and 1429), but otherwise living quietly out of the public eye. The two men are very easily confused, especially as they both left sons called Thomas, although the Thomas Staunton of Staunton-in-the-Vale who succeeded his father in 1447 was born in 1433, by which date our Member’s son was already serving in the royal household. HP ed. Wedgwood 1439-1509, Biogs. 803, has, even so, failed to make the right identification.
- 1. Trans. Thoroton Soc. xxix. 137-9; CP25(1)39/41/69, 186/37/46, 39/4; CCR, 1429-36, p. 272.
- 2. PRO List ‘Exchequer Offs.’, 74.
- 3. Somerville, Duchy, i. 558.
- 4. CP25(1)39/41/69; DL42/16 (3), f. 105; E101/404/24, ff. 6, 16; Feudal Aids, i. 309; vi. 592; Thoroton Soc. xxix. 137-9; CPR, 1396-9, p. 448; 1429-36, p. 272.
- 5. Thoroton Soc. xxix. 137-9; CP25(1)186/37/46; E179/159/48; Feudal Aids, iv. 136.
- 6. E28/97/23; E101/407/10; E404/31/292; DKR, xliv. 575; N.H. Nicolas, Agincourt, 384; Gesta Hen. V ed. Williams, 266; Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ii. 225.
- 7. C219/12/2, 3, 13/1-4, 14/1; CPR, 1429-36, pp. 272, 409; Somerville, i. 557-8, 566, 573.