LAURENCE, John, of Poulton, Lancs.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
Steward of St. Mary’s priory, Lancaster c.1400-d.
Collector of a tax, Lancs. Nov. 1404, Nov. 1407.2
Commr. of array, Lancs. Aug. 1405, Apr. 1408; inquiry June 1418 (estates of John, Lord Harington).3
Coroner, Lancs. bet. June 1440-aft. Apr. 1422.4
Being only a younger son, John Laurence received no more than a small share of the family estates confined to land in Poulton, Skerton and Heysham, while the rest descended to his elder brother, Robert. The two of them were still very young when their father died, in the early 1380S; and John cannot have reached his majority much before 1397, when he made his first quasi-official appearance as a juror at an inquisition held in Lancaster. He had married his first wife, Alice, by 1399, at which time the couple received a licence to make use of a portable altar; but she did not live much longer to enjoy the privilege. We do not know if John actually trained as a lawyer, although he evidently possessed considerable legal skills. In about 1400, for example, the prior of St. Mary’s, Lancaster, retained him as his steward at a fee of £4 6s.8d. p.a., together with the promise of suitable accommodation and hospitality whenever his duties obliged him to visit the priory. Both men were bound over in securities of £100 as an earnest of their good intentions, and the indenture of appointment was formally entered on the close rolls two years later. Laurence and his second wife, Margery, had, meanwhile, become involved with his mother’s kinsmen, the Washingtons of Bolton-le-Sands, in a lawsuit over property at the Lancaster assizes. Their persistent failure to appear in court when summoned proved a useful delaying tactic, however, and the case was eventually dropped. St. Mary’s priory was an alien house, and thus subject to confiscation by the Crown in periods of warfare with France. Yet Henry IV was prepared to allow the prior and his friend, Sir Richard Hoghton*, to act as keepers, and in 1403 Laurence offered securities on their behalf. He spent most of his time in and around the county town, again performing jury service at the Lancaster assizes in 1407, and suing out various writs from the chancery of the county palatine there. His work as coroner of Lancashire, a post which had previously been held by his elder brother, must also have obliged him to pass long periods in the town, although in 1410 the sheriff was ordered to replace him on the ground that ‘he could not easily fulfil his official duties’. Even so, nothing was done to implement the directive, and he remained undisturbed for another 12 years at least. A more serious brush with the authorities occurred later, in 1418, as a result of his part in some local affray. He was then bound over to behave peaceably in future, his pledges being taken by none other than his employer, the prior of St. Mary’s, with whom he may, perhaps, have had a disagreement.5
Although influential in his own right, John owed a good deal to his elder brother, whose position as a retainer of the Crown gave him added distinction in the local community. They sometimes worked together, being both jurors at the inquiry held in 1418 to ascertain the holdings of the late John, Lord Harington, and royal commissioners with the task of evaluating these estates. In the following year, Robert Laurence helped to secure John’s first (and, so far as we know, only) return to Parliament; for he was present, along with their kinsman, Robert Urswyk, the sheriff, to see his brother elected as one of the Lancashire Members. John himself went on to attend the elections held at Lancaster to the Parliaments of 142O and 1422. He and his wife had by then obtained from the archdeacon of Richmond a licence permitting them to keep private oratories in their houses at Lancaster, Poulton and Scale, but it seems that his health was already beginning to decline and he may not have lived much longer. Already, by the spring of 1422, Laurence was considered ‘too weak and infirm’ to continue as coroner, and no references to him survive after the following autumn.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. CPL, v. 225; Chetham Soc. n.s. lxxxvii. 111, 115; xciii. 66. This Member is not to be confused with his contemporary and namesake, John Laurence of Mobberley in Cheshire. The latter was bailiff and beadle of Bucklow hundred during the early 15th century; and it was probably he who was made receiver of Ogmore in Wales for the duchy of Lancaster in 1419 (DKR, xxxvii (2), 438-9, 513; CPR, 1422-9, p. 44; DL42/17 (3), f. 28).
- 2. DKR, xl. 532.
- 3. Chetham Soc. n.s. xcvi. 141.
- 4. Ibid. 140; DKR, xxxiii. 10.
- 5. VCH Lancs. viii. 52; Chetham Soc. xcv. 66, 85; n.s. lxxxvii. 111, 115; xciii. 66; xcvi. 140; CPL, v. 225; DKR, xxxiii. 7, 16; xxxvii (1), 172; CPR, 1401-5, p. 159; CFR, xii. 208.
- 6. Chetham Soc. xcv. 134; n.s. xciii. 66; xcvi. 141; C219/12/3, 4, 13/1.