GAWEN, John (d.1418), of Norrington, Wilts.

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



Family and Education

s. of John Gawen of Combe, Wilts. by his w. Margaret Jooe m. (1) ?Parnell; (2) Edith.1

Offices Held

Escheator, Hants and Wilts. 25 Oct. 1381-6 Dec. 1385, 3 Dec 1386-30 Nov. 1387.

Commr. of inquiry, Hants Jan. 1385 (outlaw’s goods), Dorset Nov. 1386 (concealments), Wilts. Mar. 1387 (confederations at Salisbury), Hants, Wilts. Nov. 1388 (estates of Sir Simon Burley), Wilts. Feb. 1390 (wastes, lands of a royal ward), June 1391 (goods of the prior of Clatford), Dorset Oct. 1391 (wastes, estates St. Léger Abbey, Préaux), Wilts. May 1403 (lands of Sir Henry Green*), May 1403 (ownership of Barford St. Martin), Hants, Wilts., Dorset July 1405 (estates of Thomas, Lord West), Wilts. May 1408 (presentation to a benefice); oyer and terminer, Wilts. Feb. 1387; gaol delivery, Salisbury Nov. 1387, Feb. 1390; to survey Marlborough castle May 1390; remove lead from Mere castle Nov. 1391;2 of array, Wilts. Mar. 1392, July 1402; to administer Shaftesbury abbey Nov. 1394.

J.p. Wilts. 8 Mar.-June 1386, 1 July 1394-June 1396, 11 Sept. 1396-Nov. 1403, 9 May-Nov. 1404, 16 Feb. 1405-7, 14 Feb 1417-Nov. 1415.

Sheriff, Wilts. 4 Oct. 1392-7 Nov. 1393, 8 Nov. 1401-29 Nov. 1402.

Bailiff, the bp.’s liberty of Salisbury by 1399-c.1409.3


Gawen was the founder of his family’s reputation in Wiltshire. A lawyer, he established himself in the county community through service in local administration and by making use of his connexions with the bishops of Salisbury and religious houses of the region.

It is unlikely that Gawen inherited property of any importance and, moreover, in 1397, he and his brother, John the younger, quitclaimed to a canon of Salisbury cathedral the lands in Ebbesbourne Wake which their father had left them. The elder John had by that time been settled at Norrington for about 20 years, and he acquired other property in the same area. In 1382 Joan, widow of William Moleyns, granted him all her estate in Swallowcliffe for the term of her life, in return for a hall, two rooms, a garden, and three marks rent; and he held land at Trow in Brinkworth for which he paid £4 a year. Before 1389 he was given, for life, an annual rent of 40s. from the manor of Barford St. Martin. In 1412 Gawen’s Wiltshire holdings were estimated to be worth £22 a year, and he also owned property in Hampshire valued at £30 annually. The Hampshire possessions may have been acquired through marriage; this was certainly the case with regard to the manor of Brighstone on the Isle of Wight, which he lost in a lawsuit two years later.4

Gawen’s impressive record of involvement in local administration included five terms as an escheator and some 15 years as a j.p. His ability as a lawyer was also recognized by members of the local gentry, who kept him busy in various transactions on their behalf. Thus, he acted as a feoffee of the estates of Henry Popham* of Popham, Nicholas Bonham† of Bonham and John Lisle* of Wootton; as an attorney for Katherine, widow of Sir Hugh Tyrell (and afterwards wife of Sir Bernard Brocas*), and John Bettesthorne*; and as an executor of the will of Sir Peter Scudamore†. Gawen stood surety for Sir Thomas Hungerford at the elections to the Parliament of 1390 (Jan.), and as sheriff he was responsible for holding the Wiltshire elections of 1393, when Hungerford was returned for the last time. Among his associates were Master John Chitterne, a canon of Salisbury, and Thomas Bonham*, a fellow lawyer who like him established important links with the Benedictine houses of the region. By February 1390, Gawen was holding office as steward of Wilton abbey, and in 1394 he and Bonham were among those appointed to take over the administration of Shaftesbury abbey, following a period of mismanagement.5

It seems likely that Gawen owed his posts at Wilton and Shaftesbury to his association with the bishop of Salisbury, John Waltham. This was undoubtedly the most important of Gawen’s attachments, and the key to his career. His first known contact with Waltham, then keeper of the privy seal, came in 1386, when both men were involved in the executorship of Nicholas Bonham’s will. By July 1390 the bishop had appointed him as his principal attorney to represent his interests at the Salisbury assizes, and he was still discharging this duty at the time of his election to the Parliaments of 1394 and 1395. There can be little doubt that Gawen’s connexion with Waltham, a close friend of Richard II and by this time treasurer of the Exchequer, played an important part in his selection by the Wiltshire electors. Waltham named him as an executor of his will, and after the bishop’s death, in September 1395, he was instrumental in the foundation of a chantry in his memory in Salisbury cathedral. The bishop’s actual burial place was in Westminster abbey, and 17 years later Gawen entered an agreement with the abbot for the celebration of his obit and for requiem masses. It may have been before his patron’s death that Gawen was appointed bailiff of the episcopal liberty of Salisbury; but he was certainly occupying this office by 1399 and continued to hold it throughout the episcopate of Richard Metford. Gawen was evidently close to Metford too: he often dined with the bishop’s household in 1406 and 1407, and when Metford made his will in April 1407 he left him a silver cup and named him as a supervisor, jointly with Master Henry Chichele, the future archbishop. As the bishop’s bailiff in Salisbury, Gawen took precedence over the mayor of the city, and even after he had ceased to be bailiff the citizens sought his counsel. (In 1411 they gave him £2 and a robe.)6

After Bishop Waltham’s death, Gawen’s associates came to include Sir Henry Green, Richard II’s trusted councillor, for whom he acted as a mainpernor at the Wiltshire elections to the politically crucial Parliament of 1397 (Sept.). He also had ties with John, Lord Lovell, who employed him as an attorney during his absence in Ireland with the King in 1399, and asked him to witness various legal transactions. Indeed, Henry Popham later alleged that as Gawen was one of Lovell’s retainers he ought to be removed from the Wiltshire bench since his judgements would be prejudiced in his patron’s favour. Such connexions with Richard II’s supporters (Waltham, Green and Lovell), did not apparently affect Gawen’s career when Henry IV came to the throne, perhaps because Lovell was quick to change his allegiance. Gawen was one of those summoned from Wiltshire to attend a great council in 1401, and later that same year he was re-appointed sheriff. Although he himself never sat in the Commons again, he did attend the Wiltshire elections to the Parliaments of 1407 and 1413 (May).7

In the course of his career Gawen, evidently a man of conventional religious beliefs, became involved in a number of endowments of local ecclesiastical establishments: in 1398 he was associated in a grant of land to I,acock abbey; in 1402 in another to the house of leprous women at Maiden Bradley; and in 1407 in a third to the secular college of Vaux in Salisbury. Then, in 1411, he alone gave the Rose Inn in Minster Street, Salisbury, along with five shops adjoining and two shops in Brown Street, to the vicars’ college.8

Gawen died shortly before 17 June 1418.9

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: Richmond


Variants: Gawayn, Gowayn.

  • 1. CCR, 1396-9, p. 224; R.C. Hoare, Modern Wilts. (Chalk), 83-85. No evidence has been found to confirm Hoare’s assertion that Gawen m. —, da. and h. of de la Mere, by whom he had 4s. and 2da.
  • 2. E364/39 m. D; E101/547/8.
  • 3. CIMisc. vii. 377; Anglo-Norman Letters ed. Legge, 391; Hoare, (Salisbury), 698; CCR, 1405-9, p. 87; Tropenell Cart. ed. Davies, i. 174, 223, 258.
  • 4. CIMisc. vi. 284; CCR, 1396-9, p. 224; 1419-22, p. 128; CAD, vi. C5815; Feudal Aids, v. 226; vi. 457, 541; VCH Hants, v. 211; Hoare, (Chalk), 83.
  • 5. CIPM, xv. 425; CCR, 1385-9, pp. 80, 250-1; 1389-92, p. 106; 1392-6, p. 374; CPR, 1385-9, pp. 361, 398, 436; C219/9/7, 9; Wilts. Feet of Fines (Wilts. Rec. Soc. xli), 29; JUST 1/1502 m. 210d.
  • 6. JUST 1/1502 mm. 34, 37; CCR, 1409-13, pp. 418-19; CPR, 1401-5, p. 403; C143/435/14; Harl. 3755 ff. 14d, 22d, 29d, 38, 38d, 57; Lambeth Pal. Lib. Reg. Arundel, i. f. 238.
  • 7. SC8/135/6710; CPR, 1396-9, p. 541; CCR, 1409-13, p. 75; 1413-19, p. 58; PPC, i. 161; C219/9/13, 10/2, 4, 11/2.
  • 8. CPR, 1396-9, p. 447; 1401-5, p. 116; 1405-8, p. 375; 1408-13, p. 290; CPL, v. 328; VCH Wilts. iii. 378; C143/432/13, 439/17, 442/9.
  • 9. CFR, xiv. 238.