OVERTON, Thomas, of Northampton.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
m. by 1393, Agnes.1
Bailiff, Northampton Mich. 1394-5; coroner by Dec. 1400; mayor Mich. 1403-4.2
Commr. of inquiry, Northampton Dec. 1400 (escapes from Northampton goal).3
This MP was probably a kinsman of the Roger Overton who became bailiff of Northampton in 1372, although his early history now remains obscure. He himself occupied all the major borough offices, and yet, despite the fact that he was evidently very rich and influential, he sat only once in the House of Commons, and is known to have attended but one parliamentary election—that of 1410. He first appears in February 1386, when he acted as an attorney at the Northampton assizes for Alice Perrers, the widow of William, Lord Windsor, and sometime mistress of Edward III, who was then caught up in a property dispute with the eminent Northamptonshire landowner, John Wydeville*. This fact alone suggests that he had already achieved a measure of distinction in the local community, and his services as a trustee may already have been much in demand. His readiness to assist the Beste family of Kingsthorpe (Northamptonshire) in this respect led to his involvement, in February 1392, in litigation over the ownership of a shop in Northampton; and he was summoned to defend himself before the mayor’s court.4 From this date onwards he was frequently made a feoffee-to-uses by local property owners, often, but not always, in the company of his friend, Nicholas Horncastle*. Over the years he thus obtained an interest in estates in the villages of Culworth, Spratton and Drayton, as well as in Northampton itself, where, inter alios, he was a trustee for his neighbour, John Spring*. It was in May 1410 that Overton and his associates sued out royal letters of pardon for acquiring the manor of Whitfield without the necessary licence. On this occasion they were acting on behalf of John Stotesbury of Evenly, to whom they conveyed the manor some five years later.5
Overton was himself a man of property, some of which came to him through marriage. His wife, Agnes, and his sister (or half-sister), Joan, appear to have been coheirs to certain messuages and other holdings in Northampton, the reversion of which belonged to the town guild of the Holy Trinity. By 1393 he too possessed a life interest in their inheritance, part of which may have been included in a settlement made jointly by him and John atte Welle upon the guild some four years later. In June 1397 the two men received permission to endow this body with four messuages, two shops and rents worth 10s.4d. as well as the reversion of other buildings, so that the revenues could be used to maintain an additional staff of four chaplains. It is, of course, possible that Overton and atte Welle were simply trustees or agents rather than personal benefactors of the guild, although we are told that they retained another messuage near Northampton bridge which had by then passed into their shared tenancy. A substantial part of our Member’s wealth came from his dealings in the cloth trade. For example, an alnager’s account of November 1395 records that he paid the unusually heavy lengths subsidy of 6s.6½d. on a total of 16 lengths of cloth; his contribution fell to 8d. in the following year, but it had risen again to 2s.8d. by the very end of the century. This was, without doubt, the most active period of Overton’s life, for within the space of less than a decade he not only held the three major offices of bailiff, coroner and mayor, but also represented his home town in Parliament. The rest of his life passed less eventfully, although he retained an interest in the local property market until 1415, if not later. He was still alive in 1419, when an extent compiled by a Northampton jury described him as the lessee of two tenements near the church of St. Sepulchre, for which a paid a total rent of 8s.2d. p.a.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. C143/422/27.
- 2. Northampton Recs. ed. Markham and Cox, ii. 549, 556; CIMisc. vii. no. 177.
- 3. CIMisc. vii. no. 177.
- 4. Northampton Recs. ii. 556; JUST 1/1496 rot. 9v, 1501 rot. 19.
- 5. C1/17/46B; CP25(1)179/81; CPR, 1408-13, p. 193; 1413-16, p. 393; Add. Chs. 730-1, 21808, 21820, 38816, 38818, 38820-2.
- 6. C143/422/27; E101/343/16; E142/84/2; CPR, 1396-9, p. 162; Add. Ch. 8401.