USFLETE, Sir Gerard, of North Ferriby and Ousefleet, Yorks.
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Family and Education
s. and h. of Sir Gerard Usflete of North Ferriby. m. 1s. 2da., 2s. illegit. Kntd. by July 1371.1
Commr. of sewers, Yorks. (E. and W. Ridings) May 1370, Mar., Oct. 1377, Apr. 1381, May 1392, Nov. 1399, Feb. 1400; inquiry June 1376 (water supply to Kingston-upon-Hull), Feb. 1378 (illicit fishing in the Ouse), May 1386 (allegations of fraud at Hull), Nov. 1389 (petition by the earl of Suffolk’s son for livery of his inheritance), July 1404 (persons liable to pay taxes); array Sept. 1384,2 June 1388; oyer and terminer, Yorks., Lincs. Mar. 1386 (treasons and felonies), Yorks. Mar. 1386 (disorder at Kirkby Moorside, Aug. 1403 (trespasses); to supervise the muster of Lord Darcy’s men, Hull Apr. 1386.3
J.p. Yorks. (E. Riding) 2 July 1378-May 1380, 16 Feb. 1386-July 1389.
Surveyor of a tax, Yorks. (E. Riding) Dec. 1380; collector Nov. 1386, Mar. 1388, Mar. 1404.
Sheriff, Yorks. 11 Nov. 1384-20 Oct. 1385.
Not much is known about Gerard’s early life, although he probably succeeded his father and namesake in about 1363, when he made a general release of all actions of debt or account to a local man named Richard Thornhill. This instrument was drawn up at the family seat in Ousefleet, but Gerard showed little inclination to stay at home, and in October 1365 he obtained royal letters of attorney preparatory to his departure overseas. He received a knighthood at some point before July 1371, by which date he had brought an unsuccessful suit for trespass against one of his neighbours in the royal courts. A good deal of his time must have been spent campaigning in France, where he fought under the banner of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster. In March 1372, for example, Gaunt’s receiver owed him almost £60 in wages, of which no more than a third was then actually paid. But the duke was a powerful and generous patron, and Sir Gerard remained a permanent member of his retinue throughout this period, drawing an annual fee of £20, for his services in peace and war.4 He established another useful connexion with his near neighbour, Michael, Lord de la Pole, who founded a house of Carthusian monks at Kingston-upon-Hull. Sir Gerard witnessed the charter of endowment in February 1378, and may also have held some of the property involved in trust. Two years later he was a party with Lord de la Pole and his widowed mother, Katherine, to a collusive lawsuit over a messuage in the town, although the destruction of valuable title deeds during the disturbances of 1381 caused a delay in the proceedings. De la Pole (who became earl of Suffolk in 1385) fled from his enemies, the Lords Appellant, in December 1387, and was found guilty of high treason by the Merciless Parliament a few weeks later. His estates were declared forfeit; and it is interesting to note that Sir Gerard served on the royal commission of inquiry, in November 1389, which preceded the restoration of his son to some of his inheritance. Meanwhile, during the early months of 1381, Sir Gerard had been obliged to relinquish his duties as a surveyor of taxes because of some unspecified ‘infirmity’ or indisposition. Unrest over the increasingly heavy burden of taxation came to a head in the following summer in the Peasants’ Revolt, so his illness clearly occurred at a most convenient time. The insurgents showed particular hostility towards Gaunt, whom they blamed for the government’s oppressive financial policies; and the duke wisely took refuge in Scotland, out of reach of the rebels. In late June 1381, he requested his retainers in the north to provide him with an armed escort to Knaresborough castle, Sir Gerard being approached jointly with Sir Thomas Metham for a personal contingent of 30 men.5
Sir Gerard had already spent some time as a j.p. and commissioner in the East Riding, when, in November 1384, he began a term as sheriff of Yorkshire. His growing influence, did not, however, enable him to win a lawsuit for trespass which he brought against a local yeoman, although it may well have enabled him to consolidate his position as a landowner. In August 1388, for example, he and two of his kinsmen (Robert and Nicholas Usflete) secured a confirmation at law from the abbot of St. Mary’s, York, of their title to rents worth 20 marks a year from property in Ousefleet, Haldenby, and Whitgift, while at the same time assisting Sir John le Scrope* to recover certain holdings in the city itself. Sir Gerard’s participation in the business of local government seems to have ended abruptly in about 1390, perhaps because he no longer found favour with the authorities at Westminster. King Richard’s increasingly absolutist tendencies, the rise of the court party and the eventual exile of Gaunt’s son, Henry of Bolingbroke, no doubt caused him to remain in retirement, whence he emerged, in July 1399, to lead a personal retinue in support of the Lancastrian cause. On his return to England, Bolingbroke was welcomed by a sizeable force of his late father’s adherents, who also attended him during the assembly which met at Westminster to ratify Richard II’s deposition and his own accession to the throne. Sir Gerard later received £40 to cover his expenses, so his own following must have been quite large. Naturally enough, the electors of Yorkshire were anxious to choose representatives who stood well with the new regime, and in January 1401 Sir Gerard entered Parliament for the first time. The two houses were still in session when Henry IV confirmed him in the fee of £20 p.a. which he had received from Gaunt. Furthermore, in August 1401, Sir Gerard was one of the small group of Yorkshire gentry who were summoned to attend a great council at Westminster. He had by then chosen to settle part of his property in Swanland upon Michael de la Pole (the son of his old friend, the late earl, and himself newly restored to the title), possibly with the intent of endowing a chantry there. His will, made four years later, in September 1405, contains a bequest to the chapel, in which he evidently took a particular interest.6
Sir Gerard died shortly before April 1406, when he must have been well over 60, and was buried at North Ferriby in Yorkshire. He left 100 marks in cash to each of his two daughters, and a total of £16 13s.4d. to his illegitimate sons, John and Leon. He evidently harboured some doubts as to their mother’s constancy, for the niggardly legacy of £5 which he set aside for her was to be paid only if she stayed to attend his funeral. His son and heir, Gerard, received various items of plate and furnishings, as well as the first option on the purchase of other goods at less than the market rate. Although Gerard Usflete the younger appears to have become involved in the earl of Northumberland’s rebellion of 1405 against the throne, he later distinguished himself in the French wars of Henry V, and became steward of the duchy of Lancaster estates in Lincolnshire. His career was greatly advanced by his marriage to Elizabeth, the daughter of Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel (d.1397), and widow of Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk (d.1399).7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Ouseflete, Ufflete, Ursflete.
- 1. Test. Ebor. i. 340-1; CPR, 1370-4, p. 118.
- 2. Rot. Scot. ed. Macpherson etc. ii. 152.
- 3. Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 152.
- 4. Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. lxv. 109; CPR, 1364-7, p. 171; 1370-4, p. 118; Reg. Gaunt 1371-5, no. 969; 1379-83, p. 7; DL42/15, ff. 53-53v.
- 5. CCR, 1377-81, pp. 229, 433; 1381-5, p. 75; Reg. Gaunt 1379-83, no. 561.
- 6. JUST 1/500 rot. IV, 5, 1517 rot. 4v; CPR, 1381-5, p. 461; PPC, i. 159; DL42/15, ff. 53-53v, 70v.
- 7. Test. Ebor. i. 340-1, 397-8; CP, ix. 604; CPR, 1405-8, p. 71.