STOTESBURY, John (d.1409/10), of Sulgrave, Northants.
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Family and Education
J.p. Northants. 27 Jan. 1406-Feb. 1407.
Stotesbury’s three elections as a parliamentary burgess are somewhat exceptional for Northampton, since only five of the 40 Members returned between 1386 and 1421 sat more than once. Although he had strong connexions with the town, Stotesbury did not live there, but made his home in the village of Sulgrave. Most of the evidence which survives about him suggests that he was a lawyer, and in this, too, he stands apart from his fellow burgesses, the majority of whom were involved in trade of one kind or another. His appointment to the local bench, together with his frequent appearances as a mainpernor and feoffee certainly reveal a sound working knowledge of the law on his part, and his circle of clients was quite impressive. The first known reference to Stotesbury occurs in July 1382, when he received a royal grant for ten years of a plot of meadow in the fields outside Northampton for which he agreed to pay an annual rent of 5s. In July 1400 the same land was farmed out to John Stotesbury the younger, mainprise being furnished by our Member, who is described in the lease as ‘the elder’, and who may well have been the new tenant’s father. The problem of identification is, however, compounded by the fact that the MP’s kinsman, Thomas Stotesbury of Evenly, Northamptonshire, definitely had an adult son named John at this time; and we can only guess which of the namesakes witnessed the return for Northampton to the Parliament of 1407. Meanwhile, in the spring and summer of 1384, Stotesbury acted as an attorney at the Northampton assizes for the prior of St. Andrew’s, who was trying to recover certain property in the town. His connexion with the prior remained strong, for in 1386 he offered securities on his behalf as joint farmer of the temporalities of the house. Stotesbury entered the Commons for the first time in 1385, and sat again in the Merciless Parliament of February 1388. His implicit concurrence with the attack upon Richard II’s leading advisors may, perhaps, explain why he found it expedient to sue out a royal pardon ten years later, when the King had resumed the political initiative, although the issue of such documents was quite often little more than a matter of routine, designed to offer general protection to the recipient.1
At all events, our Member continued to prosper, and in December 1393 he and his friend, Matthew Swetenham (who became escheator of Northamptonshire in 1407), shared the farm of the temporalities of the alien priory of Noyon and Neufmarché at a rent of 100 marks a year. When the prior himself resumed custody of the estates in 1397, Stotesbury acted as his mainpernor, a service which he repeated in 1399 and again in 1403. He seems to have been on particularly close terms with Swetenham, who, in 1394, made him a trustee of his estates in London, Cheshire and Wales. Stotesbury also acted as his friend’s attorney while the latter took part in Richard II’s ill-fated Irish expedition of 1399, and about eight years later the two men acquired a joint interest in a sizeable estate near the Northamptonshire villages of Hardingstone and Coton, which they probably held as trustees.2 Throughout this period Stotesbury took an active part in the property transactions of leading local landowners: in 1390, for example, he stood surety at the Exchequer for the farmers of the manor of Towcester in Northamptonshire; and somewhat later, in 1399, he guaranteed the payment of rents worth £245 p.a. by the custodians of the priory of Ware. He was a feoffee-to-uses of property in Northampton and the surrounding villages, most notably for Edward Latimer, de jure Lord Latimer, who engaged his services as a trustee when making a settlement of his extensive inheritance in Northamptonshire and Leicestershire. It is hardly surprising that from time to time the MP himself became personally involved in the legal disputes of his clients. In 1404, for instance, he and the other trustees of the late Sir Giles Mallory* were arraigned on an assize of novel disseisin at Northampton by a rival claimant to the family estates, although the case seems to have been dropped almost immediately.3
As with many provincial lawyers in later medieval England, few facts survive to illuminate the non-professional side of Stotesbury’s career. He was rewarded by Henry IV in 1400 with a grant of the joint lease of the Northamptonshire manor of Chacombe, which had been recently confiscated from Thomas, duke of Norfolk, but there is nothing to suggest that he was in any way connected with the house of Lancaster, and he never sat in Parliament during King Henry’s reign. His death occurred shortly before 18 Feb. 1410, when a writ of diem clausit extremum was sent to the escheator of Northamptonshire in his name. The John Stotesbury of Sulgrave who, in July 1414, was charged with a breach of the peace and bound over in personal securities of £60 at the Northampton assizes, probably inherited his estates, but their precise relationship remains unknown. The latter again appeared in court two years later, along with his son (another John) and their kinsman, the draper, Thomas Stotesbury*, and his wife, to defend himself in a property dispute. The family was indeed a prolific one, and its members continued to play an important role in the affairs of the borough for many years.4
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Stotusbury, Stoutebery, Stuttsbury.
- 1. CFR, ix. 307; x. 138; xii. 68; C67/30 m. 12; JUST 1/1488 rot. 88v.
- 2. CFR, xi. 106, 240; xii. 28, 193; CCR, 1392-6, p. 364; CPR, 1391-6, p. 472; 1396-9, p. 541; CP25(1)179/91/54.
- 3. CFR, x. 334; xi. 24; Add. Chs. 730, 731, 6016; CP25(1)178/89/166, 179/91/63; CPR, 1405-8, p. 165; CCR, 1409-13, pp. 147, 251; JUST 1/1514 rot. 18, 18v.
- 4. CFR, xii. 60; xiii. 160; JUST 1/1524 rot. 37, 42v.