LOWTHER, William I (d.c.1421), of Cumb.
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Family and Education
Escheator, Cumb., Northumb., Westmld. 3 Mar. 1397-24 Nov. 1400, Cumb. and Westmld. 1 Dec. 1405-9 Nov. 1406.
Sheriff, Cumb. 24 Nov. 1400-8 Nov. 1401, 5 Nov. 1406-23 Nov. 1407; dep. sheriff by May 1401.2
Collector of wool custom, Carlisle 16 Feb. 1405-d.; of tunnage and poundage, Cumb. 16 Feb. 1405-13 July 1410.
Commr. to take control of the earl of Northumberland’s castle of Cockermouth for the King June 1405; of inquiry, Cumb. June 1406 (concealments and evasions), Mar. 1417 (treasons and felonies); to raise royal loans June 1406.
Master forester, Inglewood forest, Cumb. 6 May 1407-26 Feb. 1421.
Lowther is first mentioned in June 1391, when he fought in a tournament staged by Ralph, Lord Neville (later earl of Westmorland), against a team of Scots. His companions in the lists included the redoutable Sir Thomas Colville and Sir John Etton*, so we may assume that he was already noted for his feats of arms. As a younger son, albeit from one of the oldest and most powerful gentry families in the north-west, Lowther clearly had need of an influential patron, and he was evidently drawn—like his elder brother, Robert—into the circle of the Nevilles. We do not know when the earl of Westmorland granted him a life estate in land in his manor of Eastburne, Yorkshire, but he had probably been in possession for some time when, in 1407, the earl obtained a royal licence to dispose of the reversion. Perhaps the property in Buckrose, worth £8 a year, which William occupied shortly afterwards also came from Earl Ralph’s holdings in Yorkshire although it might well have been acquired by marriage.3
Almost all the family estates descended to Lowther’s elder brother, who was first returned to the House of Commons in 1391. He himself attended the next Parliament, in 1393, and Robert sat again in the following year. The two brothers were destined to work together on many occasions, and they clearly remained close for the rest of their lives. William was the first to serve as escheator of Cumberland, Northumberland and Westmorland, his initial term of office being marked by a violent attack on his deputy, Hugh Salkeld I*, in December 1397, which led him to seek redress on the latter’s behalf in the court of Chancery. The accession of Henry IV worked to the advantage of the Lowthers, and in November 1400 William began a term as sheriff of Cumberland, during which he secured the election of his brother, Robert, to the House of Commons. He went on to serve with him as a shire knight in the first Parliament of 1404. The brothers used their visit to Westminster to negotiate two separate leases of property in Inglewood forest, naming each other as sureties at the Exchequer. William managed to secure the farm of two closes at a rent of £4 p.a. for six years, and soon decided to increase his holdings by bidding for more land. The loyalty which he and Robert showed to the Lancastrian regime during the various northern risings which occurred during this period ensured that both of them were regarded with favour. In February 1405, for example, they were made joint collectors of the valuable wool custom at Carlisle; both were commissioned to take custody of the rebel earl of Northumberland’s castle at Cockermouth; and for most of the first decade of the 15th century they shared between them the most important administrative offices in Cumberland. Not surprisingly, under the circumstances, in December 1406, William assumed the tenancy of more crown property near Carlisle on a long-term lease, and in the following February he was made keeper of Inglewood forest itself. This grant proved temporary, because in May Henry IV changed the letters patent to allow him the office of master forester for life. He had by then become a King’s esquire, and had also been made the collector of tunnage and poundage throughout Cumberland.4
Comparatively little is known about William’s more personal activities, although at some point before November 1412 he sued a local man for a debt of £10, which he never managed to recover. He did, however, become quite involved in the affairs of his friends and neighbours, who called upon him from time to time for assistance. On at least three occasions during his career, for instance, he stood surety for defendants in the court of Chancery at Westminster: indeed, notwithstanding the fact that he was related by marriage to William Strickland, bishop of Carlisle (Robert Lowther’s father-in-law), he twice went bail for parishioners who had been excommunicated by the bishop. He also acted as a mainpernor at the Exchequer for Richard Skelton when he became keeper of certain royal estates in Somerset; and in 1419 he was named, along with the earls of Westmorland and Northumberland, as a trustee of the dower properties held by William Sandford’s widow, Maud, who was about to marry his brother’s friend, Thomas More II*. One of William’s other brothers, Geoffrey Lowther†, had already established a close connexion with Humphrey, duke of Gloucester (who made him his deputy as warden of the Cinque Ports and constable of Dover castle), which explains why William, Geoffrey and the duke acted together as feoffees of land in Stepney, Middlesex, at about this time.5 Although he did not himself sit in the Lower House after 1404, William attended the elections held at Carlisle for the Parliaments of 1414 (Nov.) and 1416 (Mar.). He was still alive in late January 1421, but may well have died quite soon afterwards, as on 26 Feb. of that year Thomas, Lord Dacre, succeeded him as master forester of Inglewood.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. Although described as a knight in the returns OR, i. 244, 265, and on one other occasion in 1405 (CFR, xiii. 19), Lowther is otherwise designated an esquire in all the official and semi-official sources.
- 2. PRO List ‘Sheriffs’, 27; Cumb. and Wesmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. tract ser. no. 2, pp. 175-6.
- 3. Rot. Scot. ed. Macpherson etc. ii. 111; Feudal Aids, vi. 548; CPR, 1405-8, p. 333.
- 4. CFR, xii. 244; xiii. 51, 56; xiv. 327; C1/3/120D; CPR, 1405-8, pp. 296, 317.
- 5. CCR, 1405-9, p. 465; 1409-13, pp. 103, 193; 1413-19, pp. 511-12, 514, 523; CFR, xiv. 369; Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. n.s. xxii. 339; CPR, 1408-13, p. 439.
- 6. C219/11/4, 8; CFR, xiv. 369; CPR, 1416-22, p. 316.