THORNBURGH, Roland (d.c.1420), of Meaburn Maulds, Westmld.
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Family and Education
Collector of customs, Carlisle and Cumb. 20 Nov. 1403-16 Feb. 1405, 4 Mar. 1410-1 Apr. 1412, 17 Oct. 1412-20 Nov. 1419.
Escheator, Cumb. and Westmld. 10 Dec. 1404-1 Dec. 1405, 10 Dec. 1411-3 Nov. 1412, 30 Nov. 1417-4 Nov. 1418.
J.p. Westmld. 2 July 1412-1 Sept. 1421.
The eldest of William Thornburgh’s five sons, Roland first comes to notice in November 1403 when he became a collector of customs in Cumberland. In accordance with a well-established family tradition, he entered Parliament two months afterwards, being greatly helped, no doubt, by his father’s influence and connexions. He was, however, anxious to make powerful friends of his own, and he placed his services at the disposal of the under sheriff of Westmorland, Thomas Warcop II*. The latter prevailed upon him to abduct Margaret, the wealthy young daughter and coheir of Robert Sandford I*, with the intention of marrying her by force to his son, Thomas Warcop III*, and thus gaining control of her inheritance. The girl was then in the custody of her stepfather, Sir Robert Leybourne*, who stood for election to the second Parliament of 1404 so that he could appeal personally for help. Yet notwithstanding the seriousness of the accusations laid against him and the insistence of both Houses of Parliament that the case should immediately be put to arbitration, Roland not only escaped without punishment, but was actually made escheator of Cumberland and Westmorland after the close of the session. Not surprisingly, Roland was among the group of prominent local gentry who took part in the Westmorland elections to the Parliament of 1407. Although he predeceased his father, and thus never came into his inheritance, he must have enjoyed a substantial independent income, as in February 1410 he was able to offer a farm of £63 at the Exchequer for the keepership of the late Sir William Threlkeld’s extensive property. This gave him the opportunity to marry his own daughter, Margaret, to Threlkeld’s young son and heir, Henry, who later settled upon her a life interest in his manor of Crosby Ravensworth. It looks very much, too, as if he eventually made the boy’s mother, Katherine, his second wife, a move which would account for the bitter enmity between the Thornburghs and (Sir) John Lancaster I*, who himself advanced a claim to that part of the Threlkeld estates held by her as a jointure. Meanwhile, Roland attested the returns for Westmorland to the Parliaments of 1413 (May), 1414 (Nov.) and 1415. On the second of these occasions his own father was elected; and on the third he himself was chosen at the county court to represent Appleby.2
Over the next few years, Roland systematically extended his estates by leasing property on a fairly extensive scale. In November 1417, for example, he undertook to farm the manors of Hutton Roof and Greystoke in Cumberland during the minority of John Hutton’s* son, Henry, whose wardship and marriage he also purchased from the Crown. At some unknown date Sir Richard Vernon* granted him the tenancy of his manors of Meaburn Maulds and Newby for a term of ten years, renewing the lease in April 1419 for a further 16 years once the original term had expired. The rent of just over 50 marks p.a. had to be paid at Sir Richard’s home in Derbyshire, although the knight did at least agree to make appropriate reductions in the event of devastation by the Scots. Roland subsequently acquired additional holdings in and around the Furness village of Cartmel, securing a firm title in March 1420 from John Travers, the previous owner. Within a few days of the close of the 1419 Parliament, in which he represented Westmorland for the third and last time, Roland surrendered his post as a collector of customs; and although he retained his seat on the county bench, his involvement in public affairs otherwise ceased. Perhaps he had already decided to join the royal army in France, where he appears to have met his death. The last surviving reference to him concerns the issue of a safe conduct in December 1420 to one of his retainers there.3
Roland was certainly dead by the summer of 1421, when the feud between (Sir) John Lancaster I and the rest of the Thornburgh clan finally erupted into violence. Several attempts were made on Lancaster’s life, most notably when he was staying as a guest of the recently widowed Katherine Thornburgh at Meaburn Maulds. The vendetta was apparently pursued at the incitement of Roland’s now elderly father, although by 1427, when he too had presumably died, the adversaries finally came to terms. It was then that Roland’s son, William, received from Lancaster certain properties in Strickland Ketel, Bampton and Brougham, which were duly entailed upon his three younger brothers. The quarrel may have been compounded by the fact that (Sir) John and William had both married members of the same family, possibly sisters, the division of whose inheritance can only have added fuel to the flames of discord. Like his father before him, William not only represented Appleby in Parliament, but also served as escheator of Cumberland and Westmorland.4
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. CP25(1)249/8/26; Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. n.s. xxiii. 177; RP, iv. 163-4.
- 2. RP, iii. 654-5; C219/10/4, 11/2, 5, 6; CPR, 1408-13, p. 164; Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. n.s. xxiii. 177.
- 3. CFR, xiv. 216; Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. n.s. xii. 371-4; Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. l. 77; DKR, xliv. 621.
- 4. RP, iv. 163-4; CP25(1)249/8/26; PRO List ‘Escheators’, 26.