WHITE, Sir John (d.1407), of Shotesham, Norf. and Orford, Suff.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Feb. 1388
Sept. 1388
Jan. 1390

Family and Education

s. and h. of Bartholomew White of Lammas, Norf. by his w. Maud. m. (1) Joan, da. and h. of Peter Hovel of Swannington, Norf., wid. of John But of Norwich, 2s. 1da.; (2) between Nov. 1396 and Oct. 1397, Margery (d.c.1410), ?da. and coh. of Edward Doreward of Bures, Suff., wid. of Thomas Bergham alias atte Oke of Orford and of Robert Hethe* of Little Saxham, Suff. Kntd. bef. Nov. 1385.

Offices Held

Bailiff of the duchy of Lancaster manor of Gimingham, Norf. by 12 Feb. 1380; feodary of duchy estates, Norf. by 20 Nov. 1381-4 Mar. 1383.

J.p. Norf. 8 Apr. 1381-Dec 1382.

Commr. of arrest, Norf. Dec. 1382; inquiry June 1384 (theft of sheep); oyer and terminer Nov. 1385, Suff. July 1402; array, Norf. Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399, Norwich Jan. 1404; gaol delivery, East Dereham, Norf. July 1394, Sept. 1395; to collect an aid, Norf. Dec. 1401; of sewers Mar. 1403.


The Whites, who may have come from Stoke Nayland in Suffolk, held only small parcels of land in Norfolk before John’s career began. In September 1379 his mother transferred into his possession family properties situated a few miles to the north-east of Norwich, at Lammas, Scottow and Hautbois, in return for a pension of £2 a year, and John may also have inherited land at Shotesham, but that was all. It was the shire knight himself who increased the family’s prosperity by extending these holdings, first by his purchase in 1388 of another messuage at Lammas and the manor of ‘Maydenton’ in Frettenham, and then by his acquisition three years later of lands at Holme-next-the-Sea and Ringstead. His most important purchase was the manor of Shotesham which he bought from Margery Nerford in transactions completed in the spring of 1391. White subsequently had dealings with the abbot of St. Benet of Hulme with regard to fishing rights at Shotesham, and in 1394 he placed this manor in the hands of trustees (including his son-in-law Oliver Groos*), who then ‘leased’ it back to him for a period of ten years. Meanwhile, his first marriage had given him an interest in lands at Swannington and elsewhere in Norfolk.1

White’s growing prosperity was due in part to his early employment by John of Gaunt. A member of Lancaster’s retinue by the beginning of Richard II’s reign, he acted first as the duke’s bailiff of Gimingham and then as feodary of all his estates in Norfolk. It was probably in the duke’s company that he journeyed north to Scotland in the summer of 1385 in the army led by the King himself, and he may well have been knighted on that disastrous campaign. (Although the Norfolk returns to the Parliament summoned that October do not describe him as such, he was called ‘Sir’ John White when appointed to a royal commission only a month later.) White took out royal letters of protection on 12 Jan. 1386 to take part in Lancaster’s projected expedition to Castile, and while awaiting embarkation at Plymouth in the summer he gave evidence to the court of chivalry in the dispute over heraldic arms between Scrope and Grosvenor. Although he returned home before the duke he evidently retained a connexion with the house of Lancaster for several Years longer. For instance, in September 1388, while his third Parliament was in progress, he was associated with Sir Thomas Hungerford*, the duke’s chief steward, as a mainpernor in Chancery. The reasons for White’s exclusion from royal commissions appointed by Richard II after 1395 and for his purchase of a pardon in May 1398 are not hard to discover, for the pardon made specific reference to treasonable offences he had committed as an adherent of the Lords Appellant in the period from 1386 to 1388. No doubt he had then been attached to the retinue of Henry of Bolingbroke, one of their number, and his Membership of the Merciless Parliament which condemned the King’s friends to death can hardly have recommended him for later employment by the Crown. Even so, he was still regarded as sufficiently important to be invited with other knights and notables of Norfolk to a breakfast given at Norwich ‘for the honour of the city’ later in 1398.2 White’s closest associates had similar ties with the dukes of Lancaster: for example, in 1397 he had been named as an overseer of the will of William Wynter of Barningham (one of the trustees of his own estates), whose son, John*, was to emerge as a staunch supporter of Bolingbroke. Yet he did not restrict his own services to John of Gaunt, and the accession of Henry IV brought him nothing in the way of royal preferment. In 1391 he had paid homage to Margaret Marshal, countess of Norfolk, for property at Shotesham, and this had marked the beginning of an attachment which was to end only in March 1399 when she named him as an executor of her will. He also acted as a feoffee of the manor of Wickhampton (Norfolk) on behalf of his lady’s tenants, the Gerberges.3

Early in 1397 Sir John had taken as his second wife Margery, the widow of Robert Hethe, whose family had similarly strong Lancastrian connexions. Both of Margery’s previous husbands had represented Suffolk in Parliament, and it was in that county that her dower lands lay. They included the atte Oke manor in Orford, property at Sudbourne and Gedgrave and some of Hethe’s holdings near Bury St. Edmunds. In October 1397 White and his wife secured custody of the manor of Westley, which she had previously leased in association with Hethe. His subsequent tenure of the atte Oke estate was evidently not without attendant difficulties, for he had to bring suits for debts amounting to £50 against the heir, his wife’s stepson, John atte Oke.4

White made his will at Norwich on 8 May 1407 and died before the 23rd, the date of probate. He requested burial in St. John’s chapel in the city church of St. Mary Combust, to which he left vestments and a chalice. His widow was to keep certain specified goods including jewellery and tapestries for life, though after her death they were to revert to his elder son, Robert. Sir John’s estates were divided between Robert (who inherited Shotesham and the bulk of the other holdings) and his younger son, John (who had ‘Maydenton’). His widow probably died early in 1410.5

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Bodl. Chs. Norf. 78, 108, 226-7, 464-7, 642-3; JUST 1/1505 m. 14; F. Blomefield, Norf. v. 504-5; x. 331, 418-19; CP25(1)168/180/205; W. Rye, Norf. Fams. 1002; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 184.
  • 2. Reg. Gaunt 1379-83, i. p. 12, nos. 199, 618; ii. no. 831; Somerville, Duchy, i. 378; Scrope v. Grosvenor i. 59; C76/70 m. 28; CCR, 1385-9, p. 616; C67/30 m. 19; Recs. Norwich ed. Hudson and Tingey, ii. 41.
  • 3. Norf. RO, Reg. Harsyk, f. 240; CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 184, 263, 348.
  • 4. CIPM, xv. 454, 955; CP25(1)223/111/5; CFR, xi. 235; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 98; CPR, 1401-5, pp. 147, 337, 343.
  • 5. Lambeth Pal. Lib. Reg. Arundel, i. f. 541; CPR, 1408-9, p. 163.