Sir Thomas Erpingham: HIS ACTIVITIES IN NORFOLK

HIS ACTIVITIES IN NORFOLK

 

Erpingham was “guardian of the peace in Norfolk” in 1401. At Erpingham’s instigation, Henry IV gave Norwich its new charter in 1404. This made the city and suburbs “The County and City of Norwich”, extinguished the office of the Bailiffs and enabled the citizens to elect a Mayor and Sheriffs. During the next years he served frequently on commissions both locally[1] and nationally. His reputation was high; although the parliaments complained of royal extravagance, Erpingham was specifically exempted from criticism and commended his services to Henry and the country. He was appointed to the king’s council; Lancastrian supporters looked to him for leadership

Many land and other transactions involved him as a witness or feoffee. Edmund Wynter’s proposal to ensure his mother Eleanor’s interest in the manor of Townberningham, left by William Wynter; John Wynter’s will, and the associated quitclaims, were just some of many items witnessed by him[2].

Raising funds for the king was a recurring problem. In 1407, a proclamation called “all knights, esquires, yeomen and others of the king’s retinue…. {to be} ….at the house of the friars preachers of London… before Henry bishop of Winchester…” and other including Sir Thomas, “… to treat and agree touching the form of their retainer to sail with the king to the foreign parts to which he has thought fit to repair”. Fees were collected the next year from Norfolk and Essex; and he and Bishop Alexander in 1410 had to collect by tenths and fifteenths from Norfolk, 766l. 13s. 4d. which they had lent to the king “for the defence of the realm in his present need”; a task repeated in 1421. A number of Norfolk men were given a commission “to treat among themselves about a loan to be paid to the king for the resistance of the malice of his enemies and the conservation of the rights and safe-keeping of the realm”.[3]

At the Great Assembly held in the Guildhall of the City on 5th of February 1414 Thomas Erpingham was among many present[4], and at the First Assembly of 24 July 1422, he and Simon Felbrygg persuaded the City to grant letters testimonial under the common seal of the City to testify concerning the life of Robert son and heir of John de Clifton who had died in the service of the King in Normandy.

As already mentioned, he was building the gateway which bears his name during the years up to 1420, and he was a benefactor of the cathedral in other ways; there are carved shields on elbows and misereres of Choir Stall, on the Dean’s side[5]. The portraits of his wives were also in glass adjacent to the tombs, now lost, and the pillars on either side were decorated with figures and inscriptions[6] and were recorded by Sir Thomas Browne. A fragment of glass, possibly from these portraits, in the east window of the presbytery, reconstructed by Mr. King, has Erpingham’s motto “YENK ” (“Think” or “Remember”) on four of the petals of a forget-me-not. His tomb, and that of his two wives, is on the north side of the nave, adjacent to Queen Elizabeth’s seat, where a banner has been raised (1996) to commemorate this great knight; the brass inscription has been lost. Blomefield records the word “BEWAR” as being carved on one corner of the tomb. [Why “Beware”, or “be on guard against”, there? This, like “yenk”, is one of those mystery words associated with Erpingham. Are they Old English? Neither German nor Dutch has many words beginning in “y”, so it seems unlikely that they were words of particular significance derived from his travels in the Crusades to eastern Europe].     During the vacancy of the See at Norwich in 1413, he was entrusted with the temporalities (Alexander Totington, Despencer’s successor, died in April 1413).

A fire destroyed much of the city of Norwich in c. 1414, including the convent of the Friars Preachers; it is believed that Erpingham’s brother (?) was one of the friars there. Erpingham rebuilt the Blackfriars church, now called St Andrew’s Hall, where there is a row of Erpingham’s arms in stone between every second window of the clerestory of the nave on the south side.[7]   The chancel is now called Blackfriar’s Hall. There was a hexagonal tower between the two, but that fell in 1712. St. Andrew’s Hall was acquired by the City corporation and has been used for many purposes before becoming the present concert hall; the chancel became for some years the “Dutch Church” for the use of Dutch people who settled in the city and developed the cloth trade.

The tower of St Mary’s Church, Erpingham, has the arms of Sir Thomas Erpingham on one face as patron; plus a number of other arms. The tower and church were begun in his time and at his expense, and were roofed by his heir, Sir William Phelip, Lord Bardolph and his lady, who have their arms on the roof.[8] (Phelip’s arms are also found above the doorway at Cantley, quartering Erpingham)[9].

Another church that appears to have been given his patronage is Wymondham Abbey, where his arms are still to be found in the roof of the nave. The sheriff of Norfolk and six others including Erpingham were appointed in 1410 to hear the grievances of the Prior of Wymondham against ‘evildoers’, and he may have been persuaded then to help the church financially.     Erpingham’s arms are also to be found in Heckingham church in glorious coloured glass, with another shield of Winter: Gules on a chevron Argent three cross-crosslets fitchy Or impaling Erpingham (the cross-crosslets should be Gules).[10] John Wynter of Barningham was one of his great friends; he was his first deputy at Dover Castle, and became steward of the duchy of Cornwall, “by advice of the Duke of Lancaster”, possibly prompted by Erpingham. Later he moved to the service of Henry of Monmouth, controlling his household, then returned to be the steward of the Lancastrian properties in Norfolk and Suffolk.

At Banham, Erpingham’s arms are in a window of the chapel;[11] he held the manor there at some time.   Rye records that there were further traces at Gunton which came to Sir Robert Berney in 1398[12], in the chancel window (Erpingham also presented to the living in 1396): Vert a scochion and an vrle of m’les argent; and at Overstrand: Erpingham impaling Clopton: “Arpingham in his coate armore on the southe syde of the churche his timber and creste a plume of fethers argent oute of a crowne goulis”.[13]

His arms were also in the window of Cromer church [14], and in the chapter house at Canterbury, [15]presumably in further gratitude for donations; Blomefield also records that his arms were in Blickling church, Somerton, Calthorp (Erpingham impaling Calthorp, and Erpingham impaled by Felbrigg, which may indicate other branches of the family;), Sculthorp (with Gaunt), Hilgey, Happesburgh, Hempstead, Cley, and Honing churches, and his arms were on the gateway of St. Benet’s Abbey, Horning, along with other benefactors such as Arundel, Hastings, de la Pole, Beauchamp, Clare, and Valence earl of Pembroke.[16]

At Kimberly,Sir Edward de Wodehouse, who owned lands in Kimberley in 1378, married into the Erpingham family, though this is likely to have been a collateral branch, not a daughter and co-heir as Blomefield has it, since it seems that Sir Thomas had no children. Old verses tell us:

” The Erpingham’s bear, Argent, a Scutcheon, in

An Orle of Martlets, in a Field of Green”:

and                                                                 “That he

Married an Erpingham, who fell to be

An Heir, and Litcham brought to the Familye,

Which still remains in their Posteritye”.[17]

Sir John Wodehouse is said to have been awarded a silver cup presented by Henry V to commemorate his services at Agincourt; they bear the device of “Agincourt” on their shield.[18]

In 1419 the grand East chancel window of St Michael’s Church in Conisford, the Convent of the Austin Friars[19], was glazed by Sir Thomas Erpingham, with eight panes containing 82 coats of arms, with an inscription in Latin; translated:

Sir Thomas Erpingham, Knt., made this window in honour of GOD and all the saints, in remembrance of all the Lords, Barons, Bannerets, and Knights, that have died without male issue in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, since the coronation of the noble King Edward the IIId. which window was made in the year of our Lord 1419.

A note in Blomefield says that after this time, 25 more knights and esquires with more than 100l per annum, dying without heirs male, had their arms put up in the church. Perhaps Sir Thomas’s own lack of children prompted this sad remembrance of mortality without continuance.

The “king’s knight Thomas Erpingham” was given in 1421 a licence “to build a bridge across the water between the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk where the king has a passage a ferry called ‘Saint Tholaves ferry alias Seynt Olcoff ferry’ (St. Olaves) or elsewhere to the relief of the adjacent county for the safety of the king and himself and Joan his wife and for their souls after death….” [20] [It is difficult to imagine where Sir Thomas and his lady might have been going to when they crossed the Waveney there; none of his manors or possessions seem to be in that area. Even Framlingham Castle had been relinquished long before, and it was hardly the most direct route thence.]

        Erpingham held the title of “the king’s knight” from 1401[21] to 1421; though John de Stanley, the king’s lieutenant in Ireland, was also recorded as holding it in 1404.[22]

Erpingham’s second wife, Joan Walton, died in 1424.

 References:

[1] C.C.R. 1409-13, (1410) p. 39 re complaints by the prior of Wymondham Abbey.

[2]   C.C.R. 1409-13 (1411) pp. 226, 229, 234; C.C.R. 1405-9, (1409), pp. 522, 524.

[3] C.C.R. 1409-13, p. 53;   C.P.R. 1416-22, 26 Nov. 1419; p.422; (11 May, 1421).

[4] Hudson , W. p. 273.

[5] Farrer. III, p. 5.

[6] Harrod, H. p. 297.

[7] Kirkpatrick, J. p. 28.

[8] Blomefield. VI, p. 410.

[9] Farrer. I, p. 233.

[10] Farrer I, p. 104.

[11] Blomefield. I, p. 356. also Marshall, Bardolph, Ufford, Brotherton, Clare; and Morley, Kerdeston, Cailey, Bavent, Tirrell,              Bassingbourne, Gawdy; Marshall impaling Tirrell; Clare impaling Plantaginet (sic).

[12] Blomefield VIII, p. 120.

[13] Rye W. (2) pp. 5-6.

[14] Blomefield VIII, p. 107.

[15]DNB, Suppl. II, p. 190.

[16] Blomefield VI, pp. 406, 470, 521; VII, pp. 177, 372; VIII, pp. 107, 123; IX, pp. 301, 311, 379; XI, pp. 46, 56.

[17] Blomefield. II, p. 543.

[18] Jones Mrs H. p. 227.

[19] Blomefield, F. vol. iv, p. 86.

[20] C.P.R. 1416-227 June1421, Dover.

[21] C.C.R. 1399-1402 p. 334 25 March, 1401;   C.C.R. 1413-19   i, 343, 27 Feb. 1417,; C.P.R. 1416-22   7 Feb.; 1420, Rouen Castle; C.P.R. 1416-22 11 June, 1420;   C.P.R. 1416-22 5 June 1421, Dover.

[22] C.C.R. 1402-05, 1404.

 

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