HEVENINGHAM, Sir John (c.1359-1425), of Heveningham, Suff.

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



Family and Education

b.c.1359, s. and h. of Sir John Heveningham (1313-75), of Heveningham and Little Totham, Essex by Joan (d.1395), da. and h. of Sir Thomas Gissing of Gissing, Norf. m. between Feb. and Oct. 1388, Margery, wid. of Sir John Chalers* of Whaddon, Cambs. and Wyddial, Herts., 3s. 3da. Kntd. bef. Oct. 1379.

Offices Held

Commr. of array, Suff. Dec. 1399, Norf. July 1402, Suff. July 1405, May 1406, Apr. 1418, Mar. 1419, June 1421; sewers, from Norwich to Great Yarmouth and Beccles Mar. 1403; oyer and terminer, Suff. Apr. 1406; inquiry June 1419 (treasons, concealments), Sept. 1421 (forcible disseisin); to raise royal loans Nov. 1419.

Sheriff, Norf. and Suff. 24 Nov. 1400-8 Nov. 1401, 12 Nov. 1414-1 Dec. 1415.

J.p. Suff. 14 Dec. 1417-July 1424.


The Heveningham family took its name from the township in east Suffolk where lay its chief residence. By the early 14th century the head of the family was well established among the gentry of East Anglia, holding substantial properties in Essex and Norfolk as well as in his home county. Our Sir John’s father and namesake held manors in Goldhanger, Eastwood and Little Totham besides other premises in Essex, and as parcel of the manor of Little Totham he possessed knights’ fees in Garboldisham and Langford in Norfolk and Willingham in Suffolk. Through that Sir John’s marriage to Joan Gissing, the Heveninghams acquired the Norfolk manors of Roydon and Gissing as well. These estates provided the family with an annual income of at least £75. Sir John senior died in 1375 having settled most of his lands on his wife in jointure, so his son was unable to enter into his full inheritance until his mother’s death 20 years later. John was under age when his father died and, as Little Totham was held in chief for payment of a fixed sum of money for castle-guard at Dover, he was made a royal ward.1 From 1388 Heveningham held for term of his wife Margery’s life the dower lands to which she was entitled as widow of Sir John Chalers, who had died while attending the Merciless Parliament. These included the manor of Wyddial, annual rents of £4 and part of a wood in Reed, all of them in Hertfordshire. Although he and his wife had to pay a fine of £5 to obtain a royal pardon for marrying without licence, the match was evidently lucrative, for the Chalers properties yielded an income of at least £20 a year. Hevingham expanded his family’s landed interests more permanently both by his purchase from Sir Nicholas Dagworth’s* widow in 1402 of ‘Dagworth’s’ in Gissing and by his later acquisition of other manors in Norfolk at Pulham and Rushall.2

Heveningham’s career as a soldier had begun by October 1379 when, already a knight, he obtained royal letters of protection to sail to Brittany in the expeditionary force led by John, Lord Arundel, the marshal. He was fortunate to survive the gales which scattered the fleet and cost Arundel and many others their lives, but the experience may have made him wary of further adventures overseas, and nothing more is heard of military employment. However, in April 1390 he obtained permission to exchange £100 into foreign currency, so it may be that he had decided to venture abroad on a pilgrimage.3 Sir John played no part in local government before the deposition of Richard II, one possible reason for this being the position occupied by his brother, Thomas, as a favoured retainer of the King’s enemy Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester. By 1397, after at least 11 years’ service to the duke, Thomas Heveningham had been appointed constable of Gloucester’s castle at Pleshey, and in 1398 the duke’s widow, Eleanor, granted him an annuity of £10. Following the duchess’s death Thomas was retained by her mother, Joan de Bohun, countess of Hereford, whose influential position as Henry IV’s mother-in-law can only have served to promote the interests of those of her affinity.4 It may not, therefore, have been coincidental that Sir John Heveningham, now aged over 40, was returned to the Parliament which acclaimed Henry’s accession. The trust which the new regime placed in him is evident from the administrative activity which followed closely upon his service as a shire knight: he was appointed sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk a year later, and during that first shrievalty he received an individual summons to attend the great council of August 1401. In February 1405 a charter of 1348 granting Heveningham’s father a weekly market and a yearly fair at Goldhanger, received royal confirmation. From 1407 there was a break of over seven years in Heveningham’s appointments to royal commissions and offices, but not long after Henry V’s accession he was re-appointed sheriff. This term of employment evidently proved costly: not only had the sheriff’s area of jurisdiction been reduced by the alienation of certain hundreds, but other sources of revenue had declined in value, the sheriff being none the less held responsible at the Exchequer for the original amount. However, in December 1416, Heveningham obtained a pardon for as much as £160 still charged to his account. He served as a j.p. in Suffolk from 1417 until the year before his death.5

Heveningham’s high standing in East Anglia may be gathered from the number of trusteeships he was asked to undertake by important members of the local gentry, but it is worth remarking that, as in the sphere of local government, nearly all of his activity in this respect dated from after 1399. Among those for whom he acted were Robert Bukton*, John Wynter*, Sir Richard Waldegrave’s* heirs, Sir Thomas Gerberge* and Sir John Howard*. His connexion with the influential Sir Thomas Erpingham may have come about through the latter’s position as constable of Dover castle, a place with which Heveningham had associations owing to the terms of his tenure of Little Totham. He served Erpingham as a feoffee of the estates which later passed to Sir Thomas’s nephew, Sir William Phelip* of Dennington.6Heveningham’s relations with Sir William Argentine, his fellow shire knight of 1399, were particularly close, for besides acting as a trustee of Argentine’s property he was prepared to take on the executorship of his will.7 Heveningham was also named among the feoffees of the estates of Sir Walter de la Pole*, a cousin of the earls of Suffolk, and in 1416 he acted in a similar capacity on behalf of Elizabeth, widow of the 3rd earl, Michael de la Pole, who had been killed at Agincourt. His son, Sir John junior, became a retainer of the 4th earl, William, under whose command he served in France from 1417.8 Heveningham senior was a friend, too, of Sir Roger Swillington (d.1417), the son of John of Gaunt’s chamberlain; and he assisted him in making settlements of his landed holdings and received a bequest under his will. In November 1418 Sir William Phelip, nominated for election to the Order of the Garter but unable to attend the chapter at Windsor because he was serving at the siege of Rouen, appointed Heveningham as one of two proxies, either of whom was to be installed in his place. Phelip was among the feoffees of Heveningham’s own estates, appointed a few months before his death, a group which also included the serjeant-at-law, William Paston (to whom Sir John may have been related, for in later years the Heveninghams addressed the Pastons as ‘cousins’), and several members of the Berney family.9

Sir John completed depositions of his property on 2 Oct. 1424. His main concern was the welfare of his favourite daughter, Margaret, who was to receive 300 marks from the issues of Little Totham for her marriage and, in addition, to enjoy an annuity of £10 for life. She was also to have possession of the manor of Writtle in Essex on the death of Thomas, her uncle. Another daughter, Anne, a nun in Bruisyard abbey, was left an annuity of no more than £2; while a third, the wife of James Andrew*, the lawyer, was not mentioned at all. His heir was his eldest son and namesake, but he made provision as well for his other sons, Philip and Thomas. In his will, composed on 19 Aug. 1425, he asked to be buried in Heveningham church, to which he left vestments made of cloth of gold. He died three days later, but for some unknown reason the will was not cleared for probate at Norwich until 1444.10 Long before then his daughter Margaret had married the wealthy Sir Walter de la Pole.

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. CIPM, vii. 698; xiv. 145; CFR, viii. 317, 384; xi. 143-5; CPR, 1374-7, p. 164; P. Morant, Essex, i. 283; F. Blomefield, Norf. i. 47, 174; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 127; C136/84/23.
  • 2. CPR, 1385-9, p. 514; CCR, 1385-9, pp. 534, 553; Feudal Aids, vi. 439, 460; VCH Herts. iv. 115; Blomefield, i. 175; v. 340, 403.
  • 3. C76/64 m. 22; CCR, 1392-6, p. 531.
  • 4. Cott. Nero D VII, f. 133; DL29/42/815; CFR, xii. 125; CPR, 1413-16, p. 400.
  • 5. PPC, i. 158; ii. 86; CPR, 1401-5, p. 487; 1413-16, p. 395; 1416-22, p. 51; CChR, v. 87.
  • 6. CP25(1)223/111/5; Add. 14848, f. 214v; CCR, 1409-13, pp. 234, 331; 1419-22, pp. 120-3; 1422-9, pp. 120, 123, 125, 144; 1441-7, p. 21; Norf. Feet of Fines ed. Rye, 399.
  • 7. CCR, 1419-22, pp. 10-11; PCC 44 Marche.
  • 8. CPR, 1413-16, p. 403; 1429-36, p. 465; DKR, xlii. 314; xliv. 603; E101/51/2.
  • 9. CCR, 1413-19, p. 405; 1419-22, p. 198; Test. Vetusta ed. Nicolas, 195; Harl. Chs. 55D 16, 58B 13; G.F. Beltz, Mems. Order of the Garter, p. lix. The circumstances of the death of Sir John Heveningham junior in 1453 were reported by Agnes Paston: Paston Letters ed. Davies, i. 39.
  • 10. Norf. and Norwich RO, Reg. Wylbey, f. 47; C139/21/15.