BRACE, John (d.c.1431), of Droitwich and Doverdale, Worcs.
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Family and Education
?s. of Richard Brace† of Droitwich by Margery, prob. da. and coh. of William Doverdale of Doverdale. m. ?Elizabeth, 1s.
Escheator, Worcs. 26 May 1398-26 Nov. 1399, 12 Nov. 1403-10 Nov. 1404, 9 Dec. 1408-7 Nov. 1409.
Alnager, Worcs. 17 Oct. 1399-10 Nov. 1405.
Sheriff, Worcs. 3 May-8 Nov. 1401.
Commr. of array, Worcs. Sept. 1403, May 1418, Mar. 1419; arrest Feb. 1412; inquiry Jan. 1414 (lollards); to raise royal loans Nov. 1419, Jan. 1420.
J.p. Worcs. 18 Nov. 1403-Jan. 1404, 27 Jan.-May 1406, 24 June 1415-Dec. 1431.
Tax collector, Worcs. Mar. 1404.
The family of Brace had long been settled at Droitwich, where it held several properties, and had acquired through marriage a moiety of the manor of Doverdale. John Brace is first recorded in 1386, acting as patron of Doverdale church.1
In 1396-7 Brace, who was trained to be a lawyer, received a fee of £1 from the council of Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick; but after the earl’s arrest in July 1397 he became a ‘King’s esquire’, and on 29 Aug. he and Geoffrey Mudge*, a yeoman of the earl of Kent, received for their services a royal grant of property worth ten marks a year in Worcester, Salwarpe and elsewhere, including the salt house and bullaries of four plumbs of salt water in Droitwich, all of which were in the Crown’s possession for illegal alienation in mortmain. Although there is no reason to doubt Brace’s loyalty to Richard II, for he was appointed escheator of Worcestershire a few months later, he took the precaution of obtaining a royal pardon which covered any treasonable activities in the service of the earl of Warwick. Brace ceased to be a ‘King’s esquire’ at Richard’s deposition, but he was by no means overlooked by the new government, which immediately appointed him as alnager and later as sheriff (an office normally held by the earls of Warwick in fee, but then temporarily in the Crown’s gift owing to the minority of Earl Richard). In August 1401 he was pardoned as sheriff and ex officio keeper of Worcester gaol for escapes from the prison and for the sum of £35 2s.8d. owed on his account at the Exchequer, he having apparently disbursed this sum for wine for the use of the royal household. Brace was elected to his first Parliament in the following year. Clearly a man with some ability for administrative tasks, in September 1403 he was among those commissioned to array the men of Worcestershire, selecting the best for service in the King’s army then preparing to march into Wales against Owen Glendower. That Brace never held office as under sheriff when the shrievalty came into the possession of Earl Richard of Warwick, and that he was not returned to Parliament again until 1415, may have been due to a local dispute. In February 1404 Warwick complained that his salt well at Droitwich, known as ‘Shirrevespitte’ had been damaged by Brace and his accomplices; he claimed that they had sounded the common bell to summon support, broken into his closes, smashed down the doors of his houses and removed the cover of the well and the leaden vessels used for boiling water. Nevertheless, Brace evidently enjoyed good relations with the earl’s uncle, William, Lord Beauchamp of Abergavenny, and it was probably this connexion which led to his dispute in the following year with young Humphrey Stafford* of Grafton, then in serious trouble with Beauchamp for trespasses on his property at Feckenham.2
Brace’s knowledge of the law made him a sensible choice as an executor: in February 1405 he was named as such by Sir John Russell* of Strensham, former master of the horse to Richard II; and in October 1407 Henry Wybbe of Droitwich (for whom he had twice previously provided securities at the Exchequer) called on him to undertake the administration of his will, a task which in the event involved him in several lawsuits on behalf of Wybbe’s heirs. Brace was also sometimes asked to witness deeds, doing so, for example, on behalf of William, son and heir of Sir Thomas Butler* of Sudeley. In the years between his own first two elections to Parliament he was party to the Worcestershire electoral indentures drawn up in 1406 (when he also stood surety for Ralph Arderne, one of the earl of Warwick’s esquires), 1407 and 1413 (May), and in later years he attended the elections of 1420, 1421 (May), 1422 and 1423.3
From 1415 onwards Brace was an especially influential figure in Worcestershire, being one of the busier j.p.s. As such, he came into close contact with his fellows, the lawyers John Wood I*, John Throckmorton* and William Wollashull*, all of whom were of the earl of Warwick’s affinity. Unlike them, however, Brace was more active in the service of Joan, Lady Beauchamp of Abergavenny, widow of Lord William. Thus, in 1413 he had agreed to offer sureties at the Exchequer for Thomas Walwyn II*, one of Lord William’s executors, and in 1416 he served as trustee of certain of the Fitzalan estates which Lady Joan held for life. From 1417 onwards he was party over the years to various transactions relating to her purchase of the Botetourt estates, as such being frequently associated with her retainers Bartholomew Brokesby* and John Harewell*. In the spring of 1418 he was drawn into the serious dispute in which Lady Joan was engaged with Sir Thomas Burdet*, a Warwickshire landowner, and his son Nicholas, the lady herself pledging guarantees on his behalf that he would keep the peace. Three years later Brace assisted her in the acquisition of properties once belonging to Richard Ruyhale* of Birtsmorton, and by 1426 he was in receipt of a life annuity of £6 13s.4d. charged on her estates.4
Brace’s last appointment as a j.p. was dated November 1430, and by 1434 he had been succeeded at Doverdale by his son, another John. The Elizabeth Brace who in 1436 was holding lands in Worcestershire worth £8 a year may have been his widow.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
Variants: Braas, Braaz, Bras, Bray.
- 1. T.R. Nash, Worcs. i. 292-4; VCH Worcs. iii. 70; CAD, vi. C4177, 5114, 5529; Feudal Aids, v. 303, 324. The pedigree in Vis. Worcs. (Harl. Soc. xxvii), 24 is confused.
- 2. Egerton roll 8769; CPR, 1396-9, p. 190; 1399-1401, p. 527; 1401-5, pp. 286, 423; C67/30 m. 29; CCR, 1402-5, p. 529.
- 3. CFR, xii. 210; xiii. 60; PCC 15 Marche; Lambeth Pal. Lib., Reg. Arundel f. 222d; CCR, 1409-13, pp. 95, 227, 235; 1413-19, p. 431; C219/10/3, 4, 11/2, 12/4, 5, 13/1, 2.
- 4. B.H. Putnam, Treatises on J.P.s, 65, 74-75; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 500, 502; 1419-22, pp. 87-89, 167-8, 176, 183; CPR, 1416-22, p. 305; CP25(1)260/27/11; CFR, xiv. 45; xvi. 273; CAD, vi. C6330; SC11/25.
- 5. Feudal Aids, v. 330, 332; Reg. Sede Vacante (Worcs. Hist. Soc. 1887), 414; E179/200/68.