LEYBOURNE, Sir Robert, of Longsleddale and Cunswick, Westmld.
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Family and Education
s. and h. of Sir Thomas Leybourne (d.c.1395) of Longsleddale by his w. Joan (d. by 1404) da. and h. of Alan Cunswick of Cunswick. m. by Oct. 1404, Margaret, wid. of Robert Sandford I* (d.c.1403) of Sandford and Burton, at least 1s. 1da. Kntd. by Oct. 1404.1
Collector of taxes, Westmld. May 1398, Dec. 1406.
Commr. of array, Westmld. May 1415, Apr. 1418, Mar. 1427, Oct. 1429, Apr. 1431; oyer and terminer July 1441 (disorder at Brougham).
J.p. Westmld. 20 July 1424-32.
Escheator, Cumb. and Westmld. 24 Jan. 1426-17 Dec. 1427.
The Leybournes are said to have come originally from Kent, but they had long been established in Westmorland when, in 1305, Robert’s great-grandfather and namesake represented the county in Parliament. His father, Sir Thomas, was able to extend the family estates at Longsleddale and Bradley Fields in Kendale by marrying Joan, the daughter and heir of Alan Cunswick, lord of the nearby manor of Cunswick, all of whose properties were held jointly by the couple, in 1390, as feudal tenants of the Roos family. Robert succeeded his parents at some point over the next 14 years, probably just before he sat on a jury, in August 1395, at the sessions of gaol delivery in Appleby. He again performed jury service in March 1399, giving evidence at the inquisition post mortem on John Lancaster I’s* father, Sir William. Henry of Bolingbroke’s seizure of the throne shortly afterwards must have been particularly welcome to Robert, a former member of the retinue of John of Gaunt, from whom he had received an annuity of ten marks. But this important connexion did not deter Thomas Warcop II*, the deputy sheriff of Westmorland, who was quite prepared to risk the wrath of such a potentially powerful adversary. By 1404, when their quarrel began, Leybourne had not only been knighted but had also married Margaret, the widow of Robert Sandford I, whose two young daughters, Margaret and Katherine, were coheirs to the manors of Sandford and Burton. Warcop, ever on the alert for opportunities to enlarge his own estates in the area, was so anxious to arrange a profitable marriage alliance for his son, Thomas III*, that he persuaded Roland Thornburgh* (who was actually related to the girls) to lead an armed raid on Sir Robert’s house and abduct one of them, by force if necessary. After a struggle, Margaret was carried off and married without delay to a husband who, at just 18, was exactly twice her age. Sir Robert’s position was made difficult by Warcop’s claim to have been acting ex officio as deputy sheriff, and to be thus beyond the reach of the common law. He decided to petition Parliament in person, and despite the fact that Warcop, in his official capacity, was personally responsible for making the return, he was duly elected to the House of Commons. His appeal received a sympathetic hearing, and the case was immediately put to arbitration, with the judge, William Gascoigne, as umpire. Alternative arrangements were made should the two parties fail to ‘treat in good accord between themselves’, but the threat of having to appear in person under sureties of £300 before the royal council seems to have produced the desired effect upon Warcop and his friends. The marriage was evidently annulled, for by 1422 (when Thomas III was still alive) Margaret had become the wife of Christopher Bardsey. Her sister, Katherine, did, however, marry into the Warcop family, possibly as a result of some compromise reached by the arbitrators.2
Meanwhile, in 1407, Sir Robert headed the list of witnesses present at Appleby for the Westmorland parliamentary elections, helping, perhaps as an earnest of good faith, to return none other than Thomas Warcop I, a kinsman of his old enemy. Four years later he himself sat again in the House of Commons, but it was not until 1415 that he first served on an important royal commission; and only in the 1420s, after his third and last appearance as a shire knight, did his administrative career really get under way with his appointment to the county bench and later, in 1426, as escheator of Cumberland and Westmorland. He was succeeded in the latter post by his son, Nicholas, with whom he acted, in 1432, as an arbitrator in a dispute between two important local families, the Redmaynes and the Middletons. Westmorland was a poor county, so between them Sir Robert, with an annual landed income of £53, and Nicholas, who could rely on independent revenues of £13 p.a., ranked among the richest property owners in the area. Not surprisingly, Sir Robert was often called upon to witness the transactions of his friends and neighbours, such as the Threlkelds and the Stricklands. He must have remained active until a fairly advanced age, for he is last mentioned as late as 1441, when he was considered fit enough to serve on a royal commission of oyer and terminer.3
Sir Robert was succeeded by his son, Nicholas. He also had a daughter named Katherine, who married the influential landowner, Sir Henry Bellingham; and it is possible that the Robert Leybourne, ‘gentleman’, noted as a mainpernor in 1432, was another of his children.4
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Laybourne, Layburn(e).
- 1. Recs. Kendale ed. Farrer and Curwen, i. 303, 359-60; RP, iii. 564-5. The ped. of the Leybourne family given in Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. x. facing p. 124 wrongly describes Sir Robert as the son of John Leybourne, who was probably his brother.
- 2. Recs. Kendale, i. 303, 359-60; Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. x. facing p. 124; n.s. x. 486; xxii. 338; RP, iii. 564-5; JUST 3/70/1; S.K. Walker, ‘John of Gaunt and his retainers, 1361-99’ (Oxf. Univ. D.Phil. thesis, 1986), p. 277; C. Rawcliffe, ‘Parl. and Settlement of Disputes’, Parl. Hist. ix (pt. 2), 326-7.
- 3. C219/10/4; Recs. Kendale, i. 254, 288; CAD, v. A11392; Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. n.s. viii. 329; xxiii. 178.
- 4. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. x. facing p. 124; CFR, xvi. 111.