BROUNS, Richard (d.c.1395), of Harwell, Berks.
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Family and Education
yr. s. of Richard Brouns of Harwell, prob. by Cecily, sis. of Thomas Milis of the same.1 m. c.1358, Alice Bonde of Harwell, 2s. 2da.
Tax collector, Berks. Dec. 1372, Dec. 1384; assessor May 1379; surveyor Dec. 1380.
J.p. Berks. 26 May 1380-Dec. 1381, Dec. 1382-June 1394.
Sheriff, Oxon. and Berks. 1 Nov. 1381-24 Nov. 1382.
Commr. of oyer and terminer, Berks. Feb. 1383; array Apr. 1385; arrest Oct. 1389.
The Brouns family of Harwell formed a younger branch of that established at Sutton Courtenay. Richard would appear to have been a younger son of a namesake who died before 1345, but he nevertheless eventually acquired the family holdings following the deaths of his brother, John, in about 1361, and of Cecily Brouns (probably his mother) early in 1377. These holdings he added to a sizeable estate in Harwell which he had bought or otherwise acquired by his own means in a series of transactions beginning in 1349. Most notable of his acquisitions was a building sometimes known as ‘Balliols’ which came into his possession in 1355, and for this he did homage to the Black Prince. His possessions included a certain messuage in ‘Welstret’ which was settled on Alice Bonde by her brother in 1354 with reversion to Brouns, only to be conveyed to them jointly in 1358, perhaps on the occasion of their marriage. A number of Brouns’s properties were entailed on his four children in the 1370s, among them that acre of land within the bishop of Winchester’s manor at Harwell which William of Wykeham, having obtained a royal licence to do so, settled on Brouns in 1379; and his kinsman William Brouns* of Sutton Courtenay (for whom he had earlier witnessed deeds) was also named in these transactions. Brouns drew a clear annual income from his property of about £12 12s.8d.2
In February 1360 the sheriff of Berkshire was instructed to arrest Brouns and others, including two of his brothers, until they should find security not to leave England, as the King (then himself in France) had received intelligence that they intended to quit the country in order to defraud the Crown of various sums of money due to the Exchequer. Nothing more is heard of this serious matter, however, and when next recorded, in July 1361, Brouns was acting as attorney for the Black Prince, for the delivery of seisin of Edward’s manor at Harwell to the college he had founded in Wallingford castle. Brouns’s close connexion with the prince’s retainers Sir Richard Adderbury I* and Sir Hugh Segrave, both of whom were to become prominent figures at the court of Richard II, coupled with his links with William of Wykeham, go some way to providing an explanation as to how this relatively minor member of the Berkshire gentry came to be elected to no less than seven Parliaments. His association with Adderbury dated from before October 1366, when both men were among those who, having been indicted for trespasses including the abduction of the wife of Brouns’s neighbour Walter Catewy, agreed to pay fines amounting to 300 marks in order to secure royal pardons.3
Brouns’s relations with Walter Catewy’s brother Thomas† were generally good, even after he witnessed Catewy’s humiliation at a special court held at Westminster in 1370 when, in the presence of royal councillors and justices, Thomas was obliged to recognize that he was the bishop of Winchester’s bondman. Brouns may have had some training as a lawyer, to judge from the frequency with which he witnessed deeds and acted as a trustee of local estates. In the 1370s, for instance, he attested transactions on behalf of his kinsman, John James† of Wallingford, with whom he was to sit in Parliament for Berkshire for the first time, early in 1380. While Parliament was in session, in February, he and other feoffees obtained royal pardons for having acquired without licence the manor of Langley and bailiwick of Wychwood forest (Oxfordshire), an undertaking in which they were apparently acting on behalf of Sir Richard Adderbury. During the same month Brouns not only accompanied Sir Hugh Segrave to the bishop of Winchester’s palace in Southwark, where they witnessed William of Wykeham’s grant of probate of the will of John, Lord Arundel, but also acted as an attorney, by Segrave’s nomination, for the conveyance of certain properties to Wykeham and others. He subsequently attested some deeds for Segrave, at that time steward of the King’s household, and was to remain in close contact with him throughout his term as treasurer of England (1381-6) and constable of Wallingford castle (1382-7); indeed, he took on the trusteeship of an estate belonging to Segrave in Essex, and in the end (1391) acted as an executor of his will. While Brouns’s third Parliament had been in session at Salisbury in May 1384, he and Thomas Catewy, his fellow knight of the shire, had stood surety for Thomas Beaupyne’s* lease of the cloth subsidy in the West Country, and a few days later he had appeared as mainpernor for the payment, by Catewy and the King’s ward (Sir) Peter Bessels*, of the fine incurred by the latter’s contracting marriage with his colleague’s daughter. At the parliamentary elections held in Berkshire that autumn Brouns provided securities for John Arches*, his fellow knight-elect (Arches reciprocating in like manner); and at those of the following year (1385) he and his kinsman William Brouns were mainpernors for Laurence Drew*, while Laurence and William acted similarly for him. When up at Westminster for the Parliament of 1386, Brouns joined with Sir Richard Adderbury (then representing Oxfordshire) in receiving by conveyance the manors of Crawley and Whitney, which, six years afterwards, they were to transfer to William of Wykeham for the benefit of his educational foundations.4
Brouns had been described in 1385 as ‘too aged to travail ... without bodily peril’ in the collection of parliamentary subsidies, yet he lived on at least eight years more. Last recorded in 1393, he was not re-appointed as a j.p. in the following year, and died at an unknown date before August 1396, when his widow and elder son, John, obtained an episcopal licence to have religious services celebrated in their house at Harwell. Four years later proceedings were brought in the Exchequer against them both in connexion with the deceased’s failure to act on a royal commission issued several years earlier.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
Variants: Bruns, Brunz.
- 1. C.R.J. Currie, ‘Domestic Architecture N. Berks.’ (Oxf. Univ. D.Phil. thesis, 1976), 44-46. Richard’s brother Thomas was called ‘son of Richard Brouns of Harwell’ : Goring Chs. (Oxon. Rec. Soc. xiii), 122-5; CAD, vi. C5609.
- 2. Currie, loc. cit.; Magdalen Coll. Oxf., Harwell deeds, 1a, 40, 47a, 48b, 55, 55a, 61; Reg. Black Prince, iv. 135; CCR, 1354-60, p. 500; 1377-81, pp. 76, 97; VCH Berks. iii. 488; CP25(1)11/65/3, 12/72/14; CPR, 1377-81, pp. 369-70.
- 3. CCR, 1360-4, p. 97; 1364-8, p. 249; Reg. Black Prince, iv. 388; CPR, 1364-7, p. 327.
- 4. Reg. Wykeham (Hants Rec. Soc. 1896-9), ii. 102-5, 313; CCR, 1369-74, p. 561; 1377-81, pp. 327-8, 375, 377; 1381-5, pp. 239, 416; 1385-9, p. 297; CPR, 1377-81, p. 444; 1381-5, p. 404; 1385-9, p. 279; 1388-92, p. 423; 1391-6, pp. 61-62; C219/8/11, 12.
- 5. CCR, 1381-5, p. 534; 1399-1402, pp. 180-1; CPR, 1391-6, p. 221; Salisbury Diocesan RO, Reg. Metford, f. 115v.