TOPCLIFFE, Thomas, of Worthele in Ermington, Devon.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
m. by 1418, Margaret da. and h. of Richard Wolhay of Worthele.
Tax collector, Devon Dec. 1429.
Thomas may have been a member of the Topcliffe family of Lyneham in Yealmpton, Devon.1 His practice as an attorney often took him to the assizes at Exeter, and his clients also asked him to witness their property conveyances or to act as a trustee. So, for instance, in 1417 he assisted John Crocker* of Hele in transactions regarding the manor of Hemerdon.2 Topcliffe himself held some land as a tenant of the earl of Devon, but the bulk of his holdings, those situated in Ermington, came to him through marriage. In 1418 he and his wife obtained a licence from Bishop Stafford of Exeter to have an oratory in their ‘mansion’ at Worthele, but three years later their tenure of 23 acres of arable land and two acres of wood there was disputed at the assizes by John Godfrey, and in 1426 John Hill† of Spaxton challenged their right to yet another part of Margaret’s inheritance. The Topcliffes were successful in their defence of the first suit, but in the second, in which they were joined by Margaret’s sister, Christine, and her husband, Richard Piperell, they had to face a more formidable claim. Hill’s case rested on an agreement made in 1390 by which his grandmother, Ricarda, and her third husband, Sir William Coggeshall*, had apparently acquired from John and Joan Wolhay (grandparents of Margaret and Christine) the properties in dispute, described as lands in ‘Legh Byttenylle’ in Worthele. The outcome is not known, but clearly not all of Margaret’s inheritance was lost, for in 1428 her husband was recorded as tenant of lands in Worthele which had once belonged to her great-uncle, William Payne.3 Topcliffe is not heard of after his appointment in 1429 as a collector of the subsidies granted during the first session of the Parliament of that year.