WATERTON, John (d.1417/18), of Waterton, Lincs. and Bramley, Surr.

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

s. of William Waterton of Waterton; bro. of Hugh (d.1409), chamberlain of the duchy of Lancaster. m. (1) prob. a da. of Thomas Methley of Waterton, at least 3s. (1 d.v.p.) inc. Richard Methley, 2da.; (2) Apr. 1400, Joan, wid. of Thomas Wintershall* of Bramley.1

Offices Held

Receiver of the duchy of Cornwall for Henry, prince of Wales, Mar. 1400-c. Apr. 1413.2

Sheriff, Hants. 24 Nov. 1400-8 Nov. 1401, Surr. and Suss. 10 Dec. 1411-3 Nov. 1412.

Commr. of inquiry, Hants Dec. 1400 (enfeoffments made by Lord Despenser),3 Devon, Cornw. Mar. 1401 (ownership of land), Berks. Oct. 1410 (goods of an outlaw); to suppress treasonous rumours, Hants May 1402; make arrests, generally May 1405; pay for repairs at Windsor castle, Berks. May 1414; take a muster of the earl of Salisbury’s men, Southampton Mar. 1417.

Master of the King’s horse 22 Mar. 1413-c. Oct. 1416.4

Constable of Windsor castle 28 Jan. 1414-1 Nov. 1417.5

Ambassador to treat with the Emperor Sigismund 23 July 1414, with Ferdinand, King of Aragon, 8 Sept. 1415-13 June 1416, for an interview between Henry V and John, duke of Burgundy, 5 Aug. 1416, to take oaths from the duke and his son, Philip, 2 Oct. 1416, to treat with the French ambassadors 1 Oct. 1417.6


Of all the men who represented Surrey during our period, Waterton is the most difficult to identify. This is because of the problem of distinguishing between at least three individuals of the same name, two of whom were the brothers of senior duchy of Lancaster officials, and themselves the recipients of several marks of favour from Henry IV and Henry of Monmouth. Robert Waterton, a leading employee of the duchy in the north of England, and master of the horse to Henry IV, was the son of Richard Waterton of Lincolnshire and the brother of the John Waterton who acted as a hostage for him on his capture by the earl of Northumberland in 1405.7 This John Waterton was rewarded with various fees and offices in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and played a prominent part in local government, often serving with Robert on royal commissions. We may be reasonably confident that it was he, and no one else, who became sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1410 (being succeeded by his brother) and then took his place among the j.p.s there.8 Hugh Waterton, sometime retainer of John of Gaunt and first chamberlain of the duchy of Lancaster, also had a brother named John, and it was almost certainly the latter who represented Surrey in the Parliament of 1402, even though his career is otherwise often hard to distinguish from that of his namesake, to whom he was clearly related. The existence of a John, son of John Waterton, adds further to the confusion, although on his death in May 1414 he left a will which suggests that he was our Member’s son. He too prospered in the service of Henry IV, from whom he received annuities worth over £23 from land in Staffordshire and Sussex.9 Any biography of this particular MP must, therefore, rely upon an element of conjecture, especially as regards his life before 1399, and his early connexions with Lincolnshire.

Hugh and John Waterton were sons of the prominent Lincolnshire landowner, William Waterton, and members of that branch of the family which had lived on the Isle of Axholme from the mid 12th century onwards. John appears to have contracted an early marriage to a daughter of Thomas Methley, the tenant of the manor of Waterton, by whom he had at least five children. His youth was evidently spent at Waterton, although a reference to John Waterton of Kingston-upon-Hull, who was being sued for debt by the London mercer John Bosham* in 1381, may perhaps concern him. (At the beginning of his reign Henry IV awarded him a tun of Gascon wine each year from the port of Hull, which would bear out such an assumption.) A John Waterton of Waterton acted as a tax collector in Lincolnshire during the early 1380s and later took the oath to support the Lords Appellant of 1387-8 there, but his identity remains unknown. We can however, be fairly certain that the John Waterton who appears as a mainpernor during a session of the court of the mayor of London held in January 1394 later sat for Surrey, since he was joined on this occasion by his father, William. Three years later he stood surety in Chancery for Sir John Welle, offering bonds worth £100 on his behalf.10

In accordance with established family tradition, Waterton began his career in the service of John of Gaunt, although no specific references survive to his activities on behalf of the house of Lancaster until August 1399 when he was sent to Ireland to buy horses for Henry of Bolingbroke, the future King. It is interesting to note, however, that in 1402 the latter pardoned him a debt of £10, owing from the time of ‘our journey to Prussia’ (1391), so their connexion was evidently of long standing. Political circumstances worked in Waterton’s favour; and the above-mentioned grant of wine (which was made to him in November 1399) describes him as both ‘King’s esquire’ and Hugh’s brother. In February 1400, he obtained a ten-year lease of the manor of Pyworthy in Devon which had been confiscated from the earl of Salisbury, and for which he paid an annual farm of £20 13s.4d. Five days later the forfeited lands of another rebel, Thomas Wintershall, were awarded to him, together with the custody and marriage of Wintershall’s children. In order to strengthen his title, Waterton (who was by now a widower) decided to marry their mother, Joan, securing a licence, on 24 Apr. for the wedding to be celebrated at Burpham in Surrey. Four years later the couple received royal letters patent exempting them from the Act of Resumption passed by the previous Parliament. Our Member thus gained possession of estates in Surrey and Hampshire worth approximately £55 a year, and acquired the residential qualification which—in theory at least—made possible his election to the Commons of 1402. Waterton probably spent a good deal of time on his Surrey estates, which were conveniently near Westminster and the royal court. He witnessed a deed for the prior of Newark by Guildford in May 1403, became involved in local property disputes and eventually served a term as sheriff.11 Yet he remained, first and foremost, a devoted supporter of the house of Lancaster; and in March 1400 he was made receiver of the duchy of Cornwall by Henry, prince of Wales, with whom he campaigned against the Welsh. ‘Nostre treschier escuier, John de Waterton’ was employed by the prince as a messenger to his father in May 1402; and once again in 1403 we find him reporting to the royal council about affairs in Wales. Meanwhile, in April 1400, he was rewarded with a quantity of plate and ornamental clothing seized by the Crown from the traitor, Thomas Shelley*, whose possessions he later investigated as a royal commissioner. During the following year two separate annuities of ten marks (from Pontefract and Bedfordshire) were granted to him for life in return for his past services. He also held office as sheriff of Hampshire during this period and established a connexion with the abbot of Hyde (Winchester), who made him his parliamentary proxy in September 1404.12

Further marks of royal favour were shown to Waterton in October 1405, when he received a gift of confiscated property to the value of £20. He still retained interests in the north, for in the following February he and Sir Robert Babthorpe, his future son-in-law, were parties to a conveyance of property in Methley, Yorkshire. Babthorpe and Waterton’s elder daughter, Eleanor, who already held some of her father’s lands in Lincolnshire, appear to have married in about 1409. It was then that the MP settled further property upon Eleanor, while also making over his annual grant of wine to Sir Robert. The latter’s position as controller of the royal household, which he combined with a number of offices on the duchy of Lancaster estates, made the match a particularly attractive one. Babthorpe was on close terms with several members of the Waterton family, whose relations with each other were clearly strengthened by their shared commitment to the Lancastrian regime.13 The John Waterton esquire ‘of Yorkshire’ who acted as a mainpernor at the Exchequer on at least four occasions between July 1407 and May 1409 may well have been the former shire knight, especially as one of the men for whom he stood surety was Hugh Mortimer*, chamberlain to the prince of Wales. He certainly had many concerns in the north at this time, for he and his brother, Hugh, were then being sued by the duchess of Norfolk for custody of the manor of Wroot in Lincolnshire, which Hugh claimed to have acquired through an exchange with the late duke. Two royal grants of February 1410 further consolidated our Member’s position as a northern landowner. The first placed him in possession of the late William Bowes’s land in Yorkshire and was made in return for his services to the King and his father, John of Gaunt; while the second gave him custody of the estates of Richard Duffield in the same county, together with the wardship and marriage of the latter’s son, Thomas. Three years later, Waterton’s office as receiver of the duchy of Cornwall was commuted to an annuity of £20 payable for life, presumably with the intention of leaving him free to concentrate upon his duties as master of the horse to the newly crowned Henry V, a post previously held by his kinsman, Robert Waterton.14

As a retainer who had served the young King loyally for at least 13 years, Waterton was called upon to play a far more significant part in national affairs than ever before. His appointment as constable of Windsor castle (another office earmarked by the Waterton family) preceded a long series of diplomatic missions which occupied much of his time from July 1414 onwards. He indented to take part in Henry V’s first invasion of France in June 1415, obtained permission to appoint attorneys in England shortly afterwards, and also received plate as security for the payment of his wages. In his will of 24 July 1415, Henry V left Waterton all the horses he had not specifically bequeathed to other members of his intimate circle. Nevertheless, although he is reputed to have fought at Agincourt, our Member’s claim for expenses as ambassador to Aragon make it clear that he was sent abroad just before the royal army left England and did not return until August 1416. Nicholas Harwode, who rendered this account on his behalf, also accounted for him as master of the horse, and was, moreover, made an executor by both Waterton and his son John (d.1414). It was in this capacity that Harwode petitioned the royal council in 1421 for letters discharging him from the custody of the plate offered to his friend six years before and never redeemed for cash.15

As a reward for his diplomatic services Waterton was given custody of the estates of the late Sir Alexander Metham, whose son, Thomas, became his ward and is said to have married his daughter, Mundane. He probably died in the autumn of 1417, for no more is heard of him after his last appointment as an ambassador on 1 Oct. of that year, and he was replaced as constable of Windsor castle exactly one month later. His executors retained custody of the Wintershall estates, which they controlled jointly with his widow until the young heir came of age on 6 Aug. 1418. Waterton left at least one son, Richard, who received letters of pardon from Henry V exempting him from liability for his father’s debts.16

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


Variants: Watirton(e), Watterton(e), Watturton.

  • 1. CPR, 1399-1401, p. 207; 1405-8, p. 14; Guildhall Lib. London, 9171/2, ff. 282v, 288; Somerville, Duchy, i. 385; CCR, 1402-5, p. 326; Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xxx. 359. Many attempts have been made to provide a convincing pedigree of the Waterton family, although none have succeeded in distinguishing our Member from the two (or more) John Watertons who were his kinsmen and contemporaries. See, for example, ibid. xxiv. 42-43; xxx. 355-62, 390-1; Thoresby Soc. xv. 95-96.
  • 2. SC6/813/22-23, 819/9-15, 820/2-3.
  • 3. CIMisc. vii. 182.
  • 4. E101/106/24, 404/32/126, 287.
  • 5. Sir Walter Hungerford* succeeded Waterton in 1417: CP, vi. 614.
  • 6. DKR, xliv. 554, 573, 583; E101/321/33; E404/32/181; Issues ed. Devon, 334, 347; Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, i. 247; ii. 230; Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xxx. 361-2.
  • 7. Somerville, Duchy, i. 418-19, states that Robert Waterton was the son of William Waterton and the brother of Hugh. This is demonstrably untrue, since a royal pardon issued to Robert in 1398 describes him as the son of Richard Waterton of Waterton. See C67/30 m. 14, 31 mm. 12-13; Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xxx. 359.
  • 8. DL29/738/12098, 12100 m. 2; Somerville, i. 561, 575; J.H. Wylie, Hen. IV, iv. 184; PRO List ‘Sheriffs’, 79; Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xxx. 362, 390; CFR, xiii. 233; CCR, 1409-13, p. 78; 1413-19, p. 526; CPR, 1408-13, p. 181; 1413-16, pp. 38, 345, 420; 1416-22, p. 82; Thoresby Soc. xv. 100.
  • 9. Guildhall Lib. 9171/2 ff. 282v, 288; CCR, 1405-8, p. 199; CPR, 1405-8, p. 36; 1413-16, pp. 75, 289.
  • 10. Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xxx. 355-62; CFR, ix. 187, 231; x. 17; RP, iii. 402; CPR, 1377-81, p. 623; 1399-1401, pp. 64, 123; CCR, 1396-9, p. 130; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 407.
  • 11. DL 42/15 f. 86; E364/36 m. F; JUST 1/1523 rot. 8, 31, 36; CPR, 1399-1401, pp. 64, 123, 207; 1402-5, p. 326; 1405-8, p. 14; CFR, xii. 43; CCR, 1402-5, p. 164; Reg. Wykeham (Hants Rec. Soc. 1896-9), ii. 498. The Wintershall estates were valued at £42 p.a. in 1412 (Feudal Aids, vi. 453, 518), but were said to be worth £55 p.a. six years later (C138/29/52).
  • 12. PPC, ii. 61, 206; CPR, 1399-1401, pp. 256, 462; SC10/42/2064; DL 42/15 f. 85v.
  • 13. CPR, 1405-8, p. 84; 1408-13, p. 232; CCR, 1405-9, p. 500; Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xxx. 359; Thoresby Soc. xv. 88; Somerville, i. 563.
  • 14. CFR, xiii. 76, 100, 101, 147; CPR, 1408-13, pp. 162, 165; 1413-16, p. 133; CCR, 1405-9, pp. 322-3.
  • 15. E36/34-52; E101/106/22-24; E404/31/367; PPC, ii. 279-80; DKR, xliv. 569; Guildhall Lib. 9171/2 ff. 282v, 288; Foedera ed. Rymer (orig. edn.), ix. 293.
  • 16. CPR, 1416-22, pp. 39, 341; Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xxx. 362; C138/29/52, 35/53.