NINEZERGH, John (d.1420), of Ninezergh, Westmld.
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Family and Education
s. of Matthew Ninezergh (fl. 1413) of Ninezergh. m. 1405/6, Margaret (1366-1431), da. and coh. of Robert, 3rd Lord Tybotot (1341-72), by his w. Margaret (d.1380), da. of William, and Lord Deincourt (d.1364), wid. of Roger, Lord Scrope of Bolton (d.1403).1
John came from a long-established Westmorland family which settled at Ninezergh near Low Levens in, or before, the early 13th century. His father, Matthew, occasionally served on local juries, but it is unlikely that John himself would have represented Appleby in Parliament had it not been for his marriage to Margaret, the widow of Roger, 3rd Lord Scrope of Bolton. After the death of her first husband, in 1403, Margaret became involved in what one antiquary has described as a series of ‘discreditable matrimonial intrigues’. Her various suitors were, no doubt, attracted as much by the scale and wealth of her dower properties in the north as by whatever personal qualities she herself may have possessed, and there was keen competition for her hand. In 1405 one John Fitzjohn, alias Curraunt, claimed to have married her at Coveney in Cambridgeshire, while another rival, John Harwood, also put himself forward as her husband. In the event, however, it was John Ninezergh who made off with the prize, albeit under highly dubious circumstances. Shortly after their marriage he was indicted and arraigned in the court of King’s bench on a charge of raping and abducting Lady Scrope. He was eventually acquitted, and she later found it expedient to uphold the verdict herself, although their courtship must have given rise to some violent scenes because the vicar of Wensley was reputedly murdered by Ninezergh for opposing his designs. Given the chronology of the proceedings, it seems more than likely that John sought election as a burgess for Appleby, in 1406, in order to win support in the Lower House and defend his case personally at Westminster.2
A hot-tempered and belligerent character, John soon found himself in trouble again. In 1407 he was bound over in sureties of £40 to keep the peace towards one John West, who had sued him in the court of Chancery, probably for averring threats. His relations with his stepson, Richard, Lord Scrope, were also distinctly strained, partly because he and Lady Scrope took possession of some of the young man’s estates while he was still under age. By 1410, for example, they had occupied his manor of Langar in Nottinghamshire; and it was as a resident of this county that John then offered financial guarantees in the Exchequer on behalf of Roland Thornburgh*, another Member for Appleby, as farmer of the late Sir William Threlkeld’s* property in the north-west. John and his wife also held Lord Scrope’s manor of Hambleden in Buckinghamshire, which, together with Langar, they settled on John, Lord Harington, and other feoffees-to-uses. In February 1413, John took the further precaution of conveying all his moveables to the same group of men, naming his father, Matthew Ninezergh, and the Londoner, Henry Barton*, as additional trustees. This proved to be a wise move, as in March 1414 John became involved in a brawl at Burton in Westmorland, during which he killed a yeoman named William Gerard. By the following July he had taken sanctuary at St. Anne’s church in Aldersgate, London, where he made a full confession of his crime before the sheriffs and coroners. On 21 Aug. following he abjured the realm, never to return.3
By placing most of his property in trust, John was able to avoid the worst problems of forfeiture. His confiscated estates in Westmorland, which bore the highly implausible valuation of 600 marks a year (with 100 marks set aside annually for the support of his wife) were awarded by royal letters patent to the King’s knight, Sir Roger Trumpington, whose widow, Margaret, had by 1416 begun to experience serious difficulties with regard to the collection of revenue. She then complained to the Exchequer that she was being called to account for sums which simply could not be raised, and that her late husband had himself received nothing, largely because it was impossible to discover where Ninezergh’s holdings acutally lay. But if Lady Scrope managed to retain control of her husband’s possessions, through his feoffees, it proved less easy for her to defend her own title to the dower lands which she had occupied since 1403. By reviving the charge of rape made earlier against his exiled stepfather, Richard, Lord Scrope, found a pretext for evicting his mother; and when he himself died, in France, in August 1420, the Crown stepped in to seize the land in question. John Ninezergh did not himself survive for more than a few weeks longer, dying abroad at some point in the following autumn. His widow lost no time in petitioning Parliament for redress, on the ground that since he had not been convicted of rape in the first place, he should never have been deprived of the land which he held in her right. She lived on until 1431, but, understandably in light of her previous experiences, never married again.4
John may perhaps have been the father of the William Ninezergh who was a juror at the sessions of gaol delivery in Appleby in 1430. Little evidence has, however, survived about his immediate descendants, who eschewed such excitement, and returned to live quietly on their estates.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Niandsergh, Nixander, Nyandeser(e).
- 1. CCR, 1409-13, p. 420; CP, xi. 542; xii (pt. 2), 97-98; RP, iv. 164; Scrope v. Grosvenor, ii. 71-72; Test. Ebor. iv. 4.
- 2. Recs. Kendale ed. Curwen and Farrer, ii. 114; CP, xi. 542; RP, iv. 164; Test Ebor. iv. 4 (where the editor confuses John Fitzjohn, alias Curraunt, with John Ninezergh, who is, quite evidently, a different person).
- 3. C138/56/27; C260/126/28; Thoroton Soc. xii. 171; CCR, 1405-8, pp. 272-3; 1409-13, p. 420; CPR, 1408-13, p. 164.
- 4. RP, iv. 164; CPR, 1413-16, pp. 219, 251; 1413-19, pp. 356-7.
- 5. JUST 3/70/5.