LONGFORD, Sir Nicholas (d.1415), of Longford, Derbys and Withington, Lancs.
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Family and Education
b. bef. 1373, s. and h. of Sir Nicholas Longford (d. Aug. 1401) of Longford and Withington by Margery or Margaret (fl. 1429), da. and coh. of Sir Alfred Sulney† of Newton Solney and Pinxton, Derbys. m. Alice, at least 2s. inc. Ralph†. Kntd. by Jan. 1404.1
Sheriff, Lancs. Oct. 1414-May 1415.2
The Longfords were a rich and influential family, whose position as landowners had been greatly enhanced by the marriage of Sir Nicholas’s father to the daughter and coheir of Sir Alfred Sulney. In point of fact, however, the partition of the Sulney estates between Margery Longford and her sister, the wife of Sir Thomas Stafford†, in 1390-1 had little effect upon the MP, since his mother outlived him by several years, retaining her inheritance as well as the customary third of her late husband’s property.3 It was, therefore, a somewhat depleted patrimony which descended to Nicholas on the death of his father in August 1401, although as he was already of age he at least managed to establish his ownership without delay. In Derbyshire his main holdings were centred upon the manors of Longford, Hathersage, Kynwaldmersh, Morton, Boythorpe and Barlborough, and produced at least £42 a year, if not more. His single manor of Withington in Lancashire was worth almost as much again; and he could also rely on revenues well in excess of £6 p.a. from his Staffordshire manors of Ellastone and Glaston. We know that on his death he also occupied certain unspecified property in Buckinghamshire, perhaps in Weston Turville, where, in 1406, he laid claim to the advowson of the parish church. Thus, despite the allocation of dower to his mother, Sir Nicholas enjoyed an income of more than £85 and perhaps nearer £100 p.a. from land.4
Sir Nicholas Longford the elder, an erstwhile retainer of John of Gaunt and a distinguished supporter of the Lancastrian regime in Derbyshire, died intestate. The task of administering his estate fell largely upon his younger sons, Thomas and Henry, both of whom were clergymen. The former received a papal dispensation in 1402 allowing him to hold any benefice he chose with cure of souls, although he does not appear to have achieved the success of his brother, Alfred, who was at the same date permitted to remain in minor orders for seven years so that he might pursue his studies at university. Alfred occupied the family living at Longford, and was later to act as Sir Nicholas’s executor. Their sister, Joan, had some years previously married Sir Nicholas Montgomery I’s* son and heir, Sir Nicholas II*, thus forging an alliance with another powerful local family noted for its attachment to the house of Lancaster. It is therefore somewhat surprising that Sir Nicholas only once represented Derbyshire in Parliament, in 1404, and never discharged any administrative duties there.5 His personal life was, on the other hand, considerably more eventful. In the following year he and his mother were sued by Elizabeth Darcy for the wardship of the young Nicholas Goushill* (which had, in fact, been awarded by Henry IV to Sir Richard Stanhope*); and in 1408 the prior of St. Thomas’s, Stafford, began litigation against him for the performance of certain feudal services. Meanwhile, in October 1407, Sir Nicholas and the Lancashire knight, Sir Richard Radcliffe, bound themselves in mutual securities of 1,000 marks. Their reasons for doing so are not recorded, but at some point between 1409 and September 1411 the justices of assize at Lancaster were instructed to pardon Sir Nicholas and Ralph Radcliffe of Prestwich for ‘various trespasses, misprisons and rebellions’ upon which they stood indicted. Sir Nicholas was in trouble again not long afterwards, as the chancellor of Lancaster received orders to produce him in Chancery during the Michaelmas term of 1411 so that he might answer for ‘divers contempts’. This was probably a response to complaints by Thomas de la Warre, the rector of Manchester (of whom the Longfords held their manor of Withington) that Sir Nicholas had raided his property and carried off his corn, but the outcome of the inquiry remains unknown. Sir Nicholas attended the Lancashire parliamentary elections held at Wigan in May 1413, and sealed both the usual return and a separate declaration assuring that John Stanley had been freely chosen by the assembled voters. He himself held the elections in October 1414 in his capacity as sheriff of Lancashire, a post which he occupied until the following May.6
In keeping with the military traditions of his family, Sir Nicholas was one of the seven Lancashire knights who each indented, in the spring of 1415, to serve with a retinue of 50 archers on Henry V’s forthcoming invasion of France. He got no further than the siege of Harfleur, where he was either killed or, like so many other members of the English army, died of dysentery. At the time of his death, on 17 Sept. 1415, his elder son, Ralph, was only 15, and the wardship of most of his estates was awarded to the courtier, (Sir) Roger Leche*. A dispute ensued between John Stanley and Thomas de la Warre about the overlordship of the manor of Withington, but in the end the Crown intervened to assert its own title. As soon as he came of age, Ralph Longford petitioned the council for the surrender of large quantities of valuable jewellery and plate which his grandmother, Margery Longford, and her second husband, Richard Clitheroe (whom she was then about to divorce, after having persistently withheld from him all conjugal rights), had deposited on his behalf with the prior of Gisburn. After a brief show of resistance, the prior was obliged to hand over the treasure, which he did in March 1422. Meanwhile, within a few months of Sir Nicholas’s death, his widow, Alice, married the distinguished lawyer, William Chauntrell, who was then placitor Regis at Chester. The task of administering his will fell to his brother, Alfred, along with the prior of Calwich in Staffordshire and John Place of Longford, who were promptly sued, in their capacity as executors, for a debt of £24 by a local man named William Lynne. The administration of Longford’s estate clearly proved troublesome to all concerned, for by 1426 Alfred himself had taken the prior to court for an outstanding sum of £40.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. C137/32/32; C138/17/59, 55/13; Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd ms, 446; Derbys. Chs. ed. Jeayes, nos. 1588-9, 1592, 1869; DKR, xxxiii. 12. The genealogies of this MP given in the Vis. Derbys. 57-58, and J.C. Cox, Notes on Churches Derbys. iii. 185-6, 192 are confused and inaccurate.
- 2. Chetham Soc. n.s. xcvi. 157-8. PRO List ‘Sheriffs’, 72, mistakenly dates Longford’s tenure of the shrievalty as 1416, when he was already dead.
- 3. Derbys. Chs. nos. 1761, 1867, 1869, 1870; William Salt Arch. Soc. xv. 44, 57.
- 4. C137/32/32; C138/55/13; Huntington Lib. San Marino, Hastings mss, HAP box II; CFR, xii. 149; xiv. 105-6; Chetham Soc. n.s. xcv. 114-15; Cox, i. 51; William Salt Arch. Soc. xi. 192; Peds. Plea Rolls ed. Wrottesley, 250-1.
- 5. Cetham Soc. n.s. xcvi. 157; CPR, 1405-8, p. 253; CPL, v. 483 (bis); William Salt Arch. Soc. xvi. 50, 56; Cox, iii. 188.
- 6. C219/11/1A and B, 4; Chetham Soc. n.s. xcvi. 157-8; VCH Lancs. iv. 289; CCR, 1405-9, p. 246; 1409-13, p. 163; DL42/16 (pt. 2), f. 12; William Salt Arch. Soc. xvi. 48, 67.
- 7. C1/6/195, 318; C138/17/59, 55/13; VCH Lancs. ii. 212; DKR, xxxiii. 12-13; Chetham Soc. n.s. xcv. 114-15, 119; xcvi. 157-8; Somerville, Duchy, i. 472, 512; William Salt Arch. Soc. xvii. 63, 107; CCR, 1419-22, p. 185; CFR, xiv. 137; Reg. Chichele, i. 185; PPC, ii. 328-31 (where Margery Longford is erroneously described as Ralph’s mother rather than his grandmother).