BRUNNE (BRUN), John (d.c.1405), of Willingham, Cambs.

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



Jan. 1404

Family and Education

prob. s. of John Brunne† of Willingham. m. bef. 1384, Joan, wid. of John Cheyne of Long Stanton, Cambs., 1s.

Offices Held

Commr. of inquiry, Cambs. Nov. 1388 (Burley estates), Jan. 1393 (de Vere property), Nov. 1396 (wastes on estates of Swavesey priory), May 1401 (arson); array Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399, Sept. 1403; to eject the Hasildens* from Horseheath Aug. 1395.

Alnager, Cambs. 20 July 1394-26 Oct. 1396.

J.p. Cambs. 22 July 1397-Jan. 1405.

Tax collector, Cambs. May 1398.

Collector of an aid, Cambs. Dec. 1401.


Probably a descendant of Simon Brunne, who had represented Cambridgeshire in the Parliaments of 1325 and 1348, John was closely related to the John Brunne returned as shire knight in 1379 and actively engaged in the royal administration of the locality from then until about 1385. It was the older John who acted as a trustee of the extensive estates of Sir John Burgh (d.1393) in Cambridgeshire and three other counties, but similarities in the careers of the two men, coupled with their shared and evidently close connexion with the prominent Huntingdonshire family of Styuecle, sometimes makes it difficult to disentangle the activities of one from the other.1

The Brunnes lived at Willingham, seemingly in comparatively modest circumstances, for there is no evidence of landed holdings of much substance. True, the younger John shared a lease with his wife, Joan Cheyne, of the manor of ‘Wallwyns’ in Long Stanton, from which property Joan was entitled to receive an annuity of £2, but after his wife’s death his tenancy was subject to an annual rent of four marks payable to Sir John Dengaine*. Then, in 1401, Brunne obtained from the Cluniac priory at Lewes, Sussex, the farm for five years of its estates centred on Walpole St. Andrew in Norfolk, yet how much profit remained to be shared between him and his co-lessees after they had paid the agreed sum of £50 a year to the priory is not known.2

In the course of his career Brunne applied to the Crown to make no fewer than five grants in mortmain to the Church, although it is not clear whether this should be ascribed to excessive personal piety on his own part, or to his conscientious fulfilment of the requests of others, for whom he happened to be acting as a trustee or executor. It was on his own initiative that he obtained, on 20 June 1392, a royal licence to donate property in Willingham for the maintenance of a chaplain who was to offer prayers in perpetuity in St. Mary’s chapel in Willingham church for his welfare and for the souls of his parents and himself after death. Yet on the same day, in association with Sir Philip Tilney* and Sir John Ingoldisthorpe*, among others, he secured permission to convey Tilney’s manor and advowson of Histon together with land at Waterbeach to the minoresses of Denny abbey, while little more than a week earlier he had joined with a group including the dowager countess of Hereford in obtaining royal authorization for a grant of property in Coates in aid of the maintenance of the parson of the local parish church. On the last occasion, as on many others not concerned with the endowment of ecclesiastical bodies, Brunne was associated with John Styuecle*, to whom he appears to have been always ready to offer assistance in all manner of private transactions. In March that same year he had been one of the syndicate headed by Styuecle which purchased from the Crown certain estates in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk forfeited by judgement of the Merciless Parliament against Sir Robert Bealknap, c.j.c.p. — an enterprise which was to cause Styuecle serious financial embarrassment in later years; and then, in July, he and his friend were bound together in recognizances worth £200 payable to Ely priory. (Whether these bonds had anything to do with a grant of lands and rent in Ely which Brunne and others were to make to the priory six years later, remains a matter for surmise.) Brunne acted as a feoffee of the Styuecle estates on behalf of his friend John and in the interests of John’s brother, Sir Nicholas.3

Brunne’s career was evidently unaffected by the political crises of the period 1397-9, and, indeed, even though he thought it prudent to take out a pardon from Richard II in June 1398, the government saw no reason to dismiss him from the Cambridgeshire bench, and he was kept on as a j.p. without interruption for the rest of the reign and well on into that of Richard’s successor. Brunne was sufficiently well-regarded to receive a personal summons to attend the great council called by Henry IV in August 1401, and another for a similar meeting about two years later. As he is not recorded after his only return to Parliament in 1404 and was not re-appointed to the bench in the following January, it seems quite likely that he died in the meantime. Certainly, whereas he and others had applied to Chancery for permission to endow a chapel in All Saints’ church, Cottenham, causing an official inquiry to be held in November 1403, when the King’s licence was eventually issued in July 1406 only Brunne’s fellow petitioners were named as benefactors. They included John Rome, parson of Over, who may well have been the then clerk of the Parliaments.4

Brunne left a son, Simon, to inherit his holdings at Willingham and Long Stanton, which in 1436 were to be given a value of no more than £6 a year.5

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. CCR, 1374-7, pp. 537-9; 1377-81, p. 480; 1389-92, p. 68.
  • 2. Lansd. 863, f. 59v; CP25(1)29/86/17; CAD, ii. A2942.
  • 3. CPR, 1391-6, pp. 47-48, 67, 69, 74, 347; CCR, 1392-6, p. 81; Hunts. Feet of Fines (Cambridge Antiq. Soc. xxxvii), 93, 95; C143/424/20.
  • 4. C67/30 m. 14; PPC, i. 158, 164; ii. 88; C143/434/6; CPR, 1405-8, p. 203.
  • 5. CPR, 1416-22, p. 100; Add. Ch. 22599; E. Anglian, n.s. xii. 362.