CLIFFORD, James, of Frampton-on-Severn, Glos.

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



Oct. 1404

Family and Education

s. of John Clifford† of Frampton-on-Severn by his 1st w. Erneburga (?Hussey). m. (1) by 1374, Margaret (?Hedley); (2) Joan, 2s. 1da.

Offices Held

Commr. of array, Glos. Apr. 1385, Mar. 1392; inquiry May 1393 (wrongful eviction from land); to supervise musters of men joining the prince of Wales’s army Aug. 1402.

Tax collector, Glos. May 1398, Dec. 1414, Nov. 1415, May 1416.

Keeper of Braydon forest, Wilts. 28 Oct.-6 Nov. 1399.

Keeper of Caldicot castle, Mon. c. July 1403-c. Jan. 1405.


Members of the Clifford family had lived at Frampton-on-Severn since the Norman Conquest, but it was the main line (represented by James’s cousin John Clifford of Daneway) which held the manor of Frampton Court, and James himself inherited only small landed properties situated in the same area of Gloucestershire in the Severn valley. To these he added over the years the manor of Stowelle, Fretherne near Frampton and Hampnett as well as property in the suburbs of Gloucester, all of which, apart from Stowelle which he acquired through his first marriage, he seems to have purchased.1 There is room for doubt, however, that all his lands were obtained by strictly legal means, for Clifford was a violent, temperamental man who often made league with other lawless individuals of the county with a view to preying upon their weaker neighbours, his method being to seize property at an opportune moment and then by force and fraud to thwart any legal processes started against him. His life was a turbulent series of disputes and brawls, beginning, sometime before November 1385, with his manslaughter of John Taylor, the chaplain who served the chapel of Saul near Fretherne. This event may well have had something to do with his subsequent quarrel with the rector of Fretherne, William Fairoak, who several years later alleged that Clifford had brought false charges of felony and rape against him, thereby securing his imprisonment in irons in the gaol attached to Westminster abbey, and had dispossessed him of his church, keeping him out of the living for seven years. In 1394 Clifford was bound over to do no further harm to Fairoak, but nevertheless he continued by threats to prevent Fairoak’s proctor from receiving the tithes and his curate from living in the parish. Meanwhile, in 1389 Clifford had petitioned the courts to the effect that his influential neighbour, Thomas, Lord Berkeley, intending to enclose certain parcels of land to make a park, had ordered the seizure of some 200 head of Clifford’s livestock, with the result that the beasts in their misery, herded together and dying of starvation, had gnawed at their own tongues and each others’ ears. Whether or not credence may be given to Clifford’s sweeping allegations of such wrongs, extortions and oppressions perpetrated by Berkeley, he was able to get the noble lord bound over to keep the peace towards him. Settlement of their dispute (which seems to have had its origin in Berkeley’s claims to land at Alkington and Nibley, which had once belonged to Clifford’s mother) was delayed for at least four more years, and was exacerbated when Clifford alleged that a panel of jurors arrayed at the assizes was prejudiced, it having been selected by Lord Berkeley’s kinsman, Sir John Berkeley I*, the then sheriff.2

Clifford’s violent behaviour surpassed all previous bounds on 24 May 1396 when one of his supporters was indicted for murder at the sessions of the peace held at Gloucester. The courtroom brawl, in which Clifford assaulted John Browning* and other officials, could not be tolerated, and he was promptly bound over by the justices to keep the peace on pain of a fine of £1,000, his four mainpernors having to guarantee his future good behaviour in additional bonds for 1,000 marks each. Only a month later Clifford had to make further undertakings, under a pain of 500 marks, that he would not harm John Wotton, who, he claimed, had joined with confederates to waylay him on 18 May and had wounded one of his servants. Wotton’s version was that, on the contrary, he had been making a legal distraint on the property of John Meone esquire (one of Clifford’s friends and a retainer of the duke of Gloucester), and that Clifford and his men had tried to prevent him from doing so by force. It was about this same time that several other complaints were made in Chancery concerning Clifford’s practice of maintenance and of his association with Hugh Bisley of Bisley in threatening behaviour and intimidation of local farmers. These led to his being fined 1,000 marks by the King’s Council, the money being granted to Sir Nicholas Hauberk, one of the ‘King’s knights’ in August 1397. (It was no doubt in connexion with the payment of the fine that two months later Clifford and his friends Anselm Guise of Elmore and William Rye entered into recognizances for 200 marks with Hauberk and Thomas Percy, earl of Worcester, the steward of the King’s household.)3

A man of Clifford’s temperament might well make a good soldier, and, indeed, from early on in his career the Crown had found him useful for commissions of array. In July 1387 he had purchased at the Exchequer for £100 a ship called The Holygost, recently taken as a prize of war, and he may have offered this for service in September 1394 when he joined the royal expedition to Ireland. He received wages at the Wardrobe for staying in the province until 21 Apr. following, and from then until September 1396 he was in receipt of livery as an esquire in the Household.4 The stringent fine imposed on Clifford in the following year evidently brought to an end this spell at Richard II’s court, although it was not long before he was able to offer his services to Henry of Bolingbroke instead. As early in Henry’s reign as 28 Oct. 1399, Clifford, once more a ‘King’s esquire’, was granted for life the keepership of Braydon forest, and when the grant was revoked (it being discovered that the duke of York had a prior claim to the office), he was awarded a life annuity of £40 charged on the Exchequer. Clifford’s martial abilities were now put to Henry IV’s use, and not only in the sphere of recruitment in Gloucestershire for the armies to combat Owen Glendower: at about the time of the battle of Shrewsbury (in July 1403) he and William Rye took command of a small fleet assembled at Bristol, invaded Glamorganshire and pillaged the countryside, including the church of Llandaff. According to Adam of Usk, Clifford’s men were then driven back in disorder, suffering no small loss, for the country people were roused to unforeseeable strength through a miracle performed by their local saint. However, news of Clifford’s ignominious retreat had no immediate consequences with regard to his position. As Edmund, earl of Stafford, had died at Shrewsbury, leaving a child as his heir, the Crown now took over direct responsibility for the manning of his castles in the marches, and it was Clifford who was authorized, as keeper of the castle of Caldicot (on the other side of the Severn from his home in Gloucestershire), to receive all the issues of the Stafford lordship there and apply them for the expenses of the garrison.5

This period of royal favour was to be abruptly curtailed, because of Clifford’s depredations in Gloucestershire. He had quarrelled with his former friend Hugh Bisley, and with the influential London merchant, Richard Whittington*, over property once owned by his cousin John Clifford of Daneway, who had died in 1397. Bisley and Whittington, who had some claim to the wardship of John’s young daughters and heirs since certain of the lands in question were held of their respective manors of Bisley and Over Lyppiat, alleged in June 1399 that James Clifford had wrongfully evicted them; and several royal commissions were set up to investigate the affair, not only in 1399, but also in 1401, 1403 and 1404. More seriously, Clifford now allied himself with Anselm Guise in the persecution of a local couple, John and Alice atte Wode. Their ‘trespasses, oppressions, injuries and extortions’ extending over a period of seven years, and their securing of John atte Wode’s imprisonment under a false indictment for felony, which enabled them to seize his lands and goods, were recited in a petition to the Parliament of 1402, after a royal commission had accomplished nothing because the bailiff and jurors were in collusion with the culprits. Clifford and Guise were brought before the King’s Council where an award was made unreservedly in favour of the atte Wodes. During a deceptively peaceful period Clifford was returned to the Coventry Parliament of 1404, in the company of a fellow ‘King’s esquire’, Richard Mawarden. But his own most recent vendetta was not forgotten: on 28 Jan. following he caused atte Wode to be murdered by a hired assassin. Retribution followed soon after: he was convicted in the King’s bench of abettment and procurement to murder, and amerced £1,000 in accordance with his bond of 1396. It seems likely that he spent much of the next two years in prison, but on 14 Dec. 1406, in return for the payment of 200 marks, he was pardoned all his outlawries and debts, including the outstanding portion of the fine. Three of his mainpernors had already purchased at considerable cost release from their bonds, but the fourth had to wait until 1408. Evidently a condition of Clifford’s pardon was that he would formally renounce his claims to the various properties in dispute; this he now did, by quitclaiming to Richard Whittington the manor of Over Lypiatt, to Robert Whittington* lands which had once belonged to his father in Frampton Mansell, and to James Sparsholt the Berkshire manor of Pusey. But Clifford’s sojourn in gaol had done nothing to reform his character, and it was not long before he was outlawed again, this time for a longstanding debt of 40 marks to John Forthey*, the Worcestershire lawyer. Between 1410 and 1412 Clifford was engaged in lawsuits with the prior of Llanthony over tenements at Northleach which he had illegally acquired from the prior’s bondmen; and some seven years later Alice, one of the daughters of his late cousin John Clifford, and her husband William Test, complained that Clifford and his son William had forcibly ejected them from their land at Frampton.6

It is surprising, in view of the large fines he had had to pay in 1397 and 1406, that Clifford was apparently still in possession of land in Gloucestershire worth £20 a year when assessments were made in 1412. He is last recorded in February 1419 as a witness to a conveyance made by Reynold Guise of Elmore, the husband of his daughter Katherine (afterwards the wife of Giles Bridges†, de jure Lord Chandos). He died before October 1426 when his widow exchanged with William Test certain lands at Pauntley for a pasture in Frampton. Clifford’s heir was his elder son, Henry.7

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. JUST 1/1504 m. 39; CP25(1)78/77/526, 82/113, 83/132, 140, 79/84/4; VCH Glos. x. 145.
  • 2. CPR, 1385-9, p. 59; VCH Glos. x. 160, 166-7; RP, iii. 514; C1/7/22; CCR, 1385-9, p. 672; 1392-6, p. 261; SC8/84/4192; JUST 1/1504 m. 39.
  • 3. CCR, 1392-6, p. 516; 1396-9, p. 238; Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. lxii. 41, 163-5; Sel. Cases in Chancery (Selden Soc. x), 68-69; CPR, 1396-9, p. 193; Procs. Chancery Eliz. I, ii. p. i.
  • 4. CPR, 1385-9, p. 338; 1391-6, p. 483; E101/402/20 f. 38, 403/10 f. 44.
  • 5. CPR, 1399-1401, pp. 36, 65, 191; 1401-5, p. 438; E404/15/222, 16/553, 17/477; Adam of Usk, Chron. ed. Thompson, 84.
  • 6. Glos. IPM (Brit. Rec. Soc. Index Lib. xlvii), 205; VCH Glos. x. 146; xi. 111; CPR, 1396-9, p. 585; 1399-1401, p. 554; 1401-5, pp. 284, 362, 511; 1405-8, pp. 118, 163-4, 280, 284, 407, 410; C44/21/8; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 406; 1402-5, pp. 101, 148, 188; 1405-9, pp. 238, 240, 245, 503; CIMisc. vii. 221, 277; Sel. Cases before King’s Council (Selden Soc. xxxv), pp. civ-vi, 86-91; SC8/22/1082-4, 190/9473; RP, iii. 513-14; C1/5/59; C115/K2/6682 ff. 15, 20, 41d, 42-44d.
  • 7. C115/K2/6682 ff. 37-39; Glos. RO, Clifford ms, D149/T1014, Guise of Elmore ms, D326/T16/1; CP, iii. 151; VCH Glos. x. 145.