BENGER, John (d.c.1457), of Pewsey, Wilts.
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Family and Education
prob. s. of John Benger of Pewsey. ?1s.
Commr. to take an inquisition post mortem, Wilts. Dec. 1435.
Descended from a family long established in Pewsey, Bedwyn and the surrounding area,1 Benger is first recorded in 1408 when, as John Benger ‘junior’, and in association with John senior (probably his father), he acted as a juror at an investigation by the bishop of Salisbury’s commissary into alleged defects in the fabric of Pewsey parish church and rectory. It was either he or his elder relation who in the same year sat on a royal commission to inquire into a report that more than 200 malefactors had assaulted and wounded Thomas Trewyn, esquire, at Charlton, a few miles from Pewsey.2
The younger John Benger attended the shire elections to the Parliaments of 1413 (May), 1414 (Nov.) and 1415, to the first two of which Sir William Sturmy* of Wolf Hall was returned. There is much evidence that Benger was Sturmy’s close associate, perhaps even his retainer. In 1418, with John Bird*, Robert Erle† (Sturmy’s kinsman) and others, he was enfeoffed of certain of Sir William’s estates in Wiltshire and Hampshire, remaining a trustee on Sturmy’s behalf until 1425. His return to Parliament for Great Bedwyn in the meantime may well have owed much to this connexion with Sturmy, who since 1404 had been lessee of the liberty in which the borough was situated. At the elections Benger himself stood surety for the attendance in Parliament of Hugh Gower, parliamentary burgess-elect for Marlborough. He was once again present at the elections in 1422 when Sturmy was returned for Wiltshire for the eighth time, and in 1423 he was a surety for the parliamentary attendance of Thomas Newman, Member for Marlborough and another friend of Sturmy’s.3
According to evidence given in a suit in Chancery many years afterwards (in 1451), on 21 Mar. 1427, when Sir William Sturmy was on his deathbed, he had authorized William Tourney, one of his executors, to deliver seisin of six of his manors to Benger and other feoffees, including Thomas Polton, bishop of Worcester (supervisor of Sturmy’s will). Tourney rode overnight to Marlborough, sending a message to Benger at his house at Pewsey to meet him there, and next day the two men made a circuit of the properties concerned, Tourney formally granting Benger seisin of each place as they came to it. Whether or not the transactions were invalidated as having taken place after Sturmy’s death (news of which the executors allegedly failed to release until the 23rd), Benger and his co-feoffees subsequently placed Robert Erle in possession of Wolf Hall and Crofton, and conveyed Stapleford to John Seymour†, Sturmy’s grandson and co-heir. Certainly, the legality of their actions was not to be questioned until after Erle died.4Benger continued to be associated with members of the Sturmy circle after Sir William’s death: in 1433 he witnessed a transaction at Upavon with Seymour, Erle and John Bird, and in 1441 he attested a charter of land in Bedwyn and Collingbourne with Seymour, Erle and John Sturmy† (Sir William’s bastard son). Three years later he granted the advowson of Stapleford to Easton priory, a Sturmy foundation, where Sir William lay buried.5
His association with Sturmy aside, Benger was also frequently linked with others of the Wiltshire gentry. In 1416-17 he had acted as receiver for Robert Andrew II*, the then sheriff of Wiltshire. In July 1418 he stood surety for William Fallan, an Exchequer clerk, when the latter obtained a royal lease of property in Bishop’s Lavington, and two years later (while attending the Parliament of 1420) he performed a like service for Thomas Devynge, grantee of the custody of the manor of Charlton. In the spring of 1422 Benger himself, in association with Henry Chancy (MP for Great Bedwyn in 1423), took out an Exchequer lease of the lands of Ralph, son and heir of Henry Thorpe*, also agreeing to pay 113 6s.8d. for the boy’s marriage. Another associate was Richard Fitton*, the Dorset j.p., with whom he sued a man from Charlton for debt a few years later. Benger was one of the Wiltshire gentry who were to take the oath in 1434 not to maintain anyone who broke the King’s peace. It was probably he who stood surety for the attendance in the Parliament of 1442 of John Whittocksmead†, burgess-elect for Downton.6
When, in 1451, the Chancery case which Sir John Seymour, Sir William Sturmy’s grandson, brought against John, son of Robert Erle, for possession of Wolf Hall and Crofton, had to be adjourned to Marlborough, it was on account of the ‘grete age’ of Benger and certain other key witnesses, then described as being ‘so impotent that they may not labour but to their gret hurte and desese’. Benger, nevertheless, seems to have survived until at least 1457.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: Charles Kightly
Two John Bengers, ‘senior’ and ‘junior’, were alive in 1420, and the return does not specify which of them was the MP. It has been assumed that since the younger man was by far the more prominent of the two, it was he rather than his older namesake who was elected.
- 1. Wilts. IPM Edw. III (Brit. Rec. Soc. Index Lib. xlviii), 168, 301, 338; E179/196/42a; C219/8/4, 7.
- 2. Reg. Hallum (Canterbury and York Soc. lxxii), no. 938; CPR, 1405-8, p. 483.
- 3. C219/11/2, 5, 7, 12/4, 13/1, 2; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 457-8; CAD, i. B394.
- 4. C1/18/45, 46, 19/112, 360; CPR, 1446-52, pp. 554-6.
- 5. CCR, 1429-35, p. 242; 1441-7, p. 43; CPR, 1441-6, p. 228.
- 6. SC6/1062/26; CFR, xiv. 272, 363, 427, 436-7; CPR, 1429-36, pp. 95, 371; C219/15/2.
- 7. C1/18/45, 46, 19/112, 360. After 1457 another John Benger (probably the MP’s son), ceases to be described as ‘junior’. It was most likely that John who sat for Westbury in 1449 (Nov.) and for Great Bedwyn in 1467: CCR, 1441-7, p. 301; CPR, 1452-61, p. 409.