BIDEWELL, John, of Barnstaple, 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



Feb. 1383

Family and Education

m. (1) by 1386, Margery, da. and h. of Thomas Hunnacott by his w. Agnes, wid. of Nicholas Reygnee of Barnstaple; (2) Isabel.

Offices Held

Mayor, Barnstaple Mich. 1382-3, 1395-7, 1399-1400.1

Tax collector, Devon Nov. 1382, Dec. 1385, 1398.


Bidewell witnessed deeds in Barnstaple from 1366 onwards and had become a leading figure in the town by 1378 when he was one of 11 burgesses who, with the mayor, drew up a lease of the town’s bakery. It was during the first of his four mayoralties that, in 1383, he was first returned to Parliament by the borough. In 1384 he was enfeoffed of three houses situated in ‘Crokstreet’, High Street and the Strand, for the purposes of a mortgage. His own property included the manor of Hunnacott, some two miles from the town, which with six messuages in Barnstaple itself came to him through his first marriage. The messuages were, however, the subject of an assize of novel disseisin brought against him at Exeter by the family of his wife’s former husband. Bidewell’s business as a cloth manufacturer evidently flourished: in 1396 he was assessed for alnage on as many as 360 ‘dozens’.2

Bidewell’s activities extended beyond merely local affairs. Early in his career, in 1370, the sheriff of Devon (Richard Beaumont) had appointed him as receiver of money in circulation in breach of the currency laws, and he subsequently accounted at the Exchequer for 12 Scottish groats. In April 1381 he stood surety in the same court for the prior of the Cluniac house at Barnstaple. He was appointed as a collector of parliamentary subsidies in the shire as a whole on three occasions, and on another, in 1389, he stood in for one of the coroners of Devon by presiding over an inquest. However, for executing the coroner’s office without the King’s authority and in ignorance of the law, he was obliged to seek a royal pardon. In 1390 he rode to Exeter for the assizes and the quarter sessions on the business of the town of Barnstaple. Eight years later, as a feoffee appointed by William Beaumont, Bidewell became involved in a dispute over the patronage of the living of Parkham. He died at an unknown date before December 1402, when his widow obtained a licence from Bishop Stafford to have a private oratory in her house at Barnstaple.3

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


Variants: Bedewell, Bydewell.

  • 1. North Devon Athenaeum, Barnstaple, deeds 932, 934, 460; CAD, vi. C4797.
  • 2. North Devon Athenaeum, deeds 640, 922, 929; JUST 1/1495 m. 29; E101/338/11.
  • 3. E364/10 m. E; CFR, ix. 247; CPR, 1388-92, p. 128; North Devon Athenaeum, 3972 f. 1; Reg. Stafford (Exeter) ed. Hingeston-Randolph, 272, 287; Reg. Lacy (Exeter) ed. Hingeston-Randolph, i. 248; ibid. (Canterbury and York Soc. lx), 38.