GRENVILLE, Sir John (d.1412), of Stow in Kilkhampton, Cornw. and Bideford, Devon.

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



Sept. 1388
Jan. 1397

Family and Education

s. and h. of Sir Theobald Grenville of Stow and Bideford by Margaret, da. of Hugh Courtenay, earl of Devon, and Margaret de Bohun, gdda. of Edw. I. m. bef. Sept. 1391, Margaret (c.1376-c.1421), er. da. and coh. of Sir John Burghersh* of Ewelme, Oxon. 1da. d.v.p. suc. fa. by July 1381. Kntd. bef. Aug. 1386.1

Offices Held

Commr. of arrest, Cornw. Feb. 1388, Devon Jan. 1392; to enforce statutes relating to salmon Nov. 1389; of oyer and terminer, Cornw. Sept. 1393, July 1409, Devon, Cornw. Aug. 1410, Devon Apr., May 1411; inquiry, Cornw., Devon Mar. 1401 (claims to lands of (Sir) Thomas Shelley*), Devon Mar. 1410 (Beaumont estates), Cornw. Feb. 1412 (contributors to a subsidy); array, Devon, Cornw. July 1402, Cornw. Aug., Sept. 1403; to make proclamation of the King’s intention to govern well, Devon, Cornw. May 1402.

Sheriff, Devon 21 Oct. 1391-18 Oct. 1392, Cornw. Nov. 1394-9 Nov. 1395, Rich. 1404-6, 1410-c.Oct. 1411.

J.p. Devon 16 May 1401-d., Cornw. 16 May 1401-Mar. 1410, 12 July 1410-d.

Tax controller, Devon Mar. 1404.


Grenville belonged to a family which had settled in Devon soon after the Conquest. The family property as held in the early 14th century consisted of the manors and advowsons of Kilkhampton and Bideford. These estates, on the border between the counties of Devon and Cornwall, explain how Grenville, who was resident in Cornwall, naturally gravitated to Devon wherein lay the thriving port of Bideford. Through his marriage, which took place before his father-in-law’s death in 1391, he shared the Burghersh estates with Thomas Chaucer*, who married his wife’s younger sister, Maud. They included property in Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey and Essex, as well as the manor of East Worldham, Hampshire, over which the Burghersh coheirs and their husbands fought a lawsuit with other parties in 1409.2 Grenville seems to have been the most influential member of his family up to that time, a position no doubt affected by his relationship with the Courtenays. He was a member of the retinue of his cousin Edward, earl of Devon, serving at sea from March 1387 under the admiral, Richard, earl of Arundel; and he was with his cousin in 1391 when the latter’s dispute with Sir William Sturmy* was at its height and the earl called Sturmy a ‘false traitor’. Indeed, it was he who delivered the earl’s message to (Sir) John Wadham*, one of the justices, that he should ‘sit more uprightly without partiality in this session than he had at the last’.3

Apart from his more normal activities as justice of the peace and of oyer and terminer, Grenville was concerned on several occasions with special business for the Crown. In 1402 he was a commissioner in both Devon and Cornwall to proclaim Henry IV’s intentions to observe the laws and customs of the realm, and was required to arrest all insurgents. In particular he seems to have had some concern with important military matters. During the Glendower revolt in Wales the King relied heavily on the West Country for men and supplies, and Grenville was ordered in September 1403 to take fish, ale, wheat and other victuals from Devon for consumption by the royal forces at Aberystwyth, Cardigan and Newcastle Emlyn. In the following month, along with the earl of Devon and three other members of the Courtenay family, he was ordered to assemble men and embark from Uphill, Somerset, for the relief of Cardiff. His property at Bideford gave him maritime interests, which had given rise in September 1402 to a royal mandate ‘to put to ransom no Scotsmen lately taken at sea in Devon by him or any of the King’s lieges and now in his custody, until the King shall have full information touching their estates’. Four years later Grenville was still concerned with prisoners: certain men of Devon, captured at sea by Bretons and held to ransom, had sent some of their number back home to raise money. The latter, having reached England, broke parole and, largely for diplomatic reasons, Grenville was ordered to arrest them and send them back.4

Grenville’s long career of public service in both Devon and Cornwall, largely on regional business under Richard II and then on affairs of wider import under Henry IV, received some sort of recognition in 1407 when, styled ‘King’s knight’, he was granted the privilege of an exemption from holding office against his will. Even so, he did not refuse a further appointment by the prince of Wales as sheriff of Cornwall, and it was by virtue of this office that he held the parliamentary elections at Launceston on 12 Oct. 1411. He died before the following February. His will, which has not survived, was proved by Bishop Stafford’s commissary, and his heir was his brother, William, who was in possession of Kilkhampton by October 1412. Grenville’s daughter by Margaret Burghersh died before him. Within five years his widow married John Arundell II*, eldest son of (Sir) John Arundell I* of Lanherne, the steward of the duchy of Cornwall.5

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421


  • 1. Reg. Brantingham, 71, 621; Reg. Stafford, 275; CCR, 1389-92, p. 453; R. Granville, Hist. Granville Fam. 55-56; H.A. Napier, Swyncombe and Ewelme, 25.
  • 2. W.C. Hoskins, Devon, 76; CIPM, vii. 102; xiv. 209; xv. 1093-7; Feudal Aids, vi. 389, 517; CCR, 1392-6, p. 446; 1409-13, p. 13; Peds. Plea Rolls ed. Wrottesley, 65.
  • 3. Sel. Cases before King’s Council (Selden Soc. xxxv), 77-81.
  • 4. CPR, 1401-5, pp. 126, 129, 296, 439; 1405-8, p. 231; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 554.
  • 5. CPR, 1405-8, p. 322; Cornw. Feet of Fines (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. 1950), 904; Reg. Stafford, 117; C219/10/6. Grenville’s name appeared posthumously on the Devon commission of the peace appointed in March 1413 (CPR, 1413-16, p. 418).