Sir John Wadham, Kt., of Merrifield

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John Wadham

Also Known As: "John de Wadham", "the judge"
Birthplace: Wadham Manor, Lustleigh, Devon, England
Death: Died in Ilminster, Chard, Somerset, England
Immediate Family:

Son of Gilbert de Wadham
Husband of Elizabeth Shilston and Joan Wrothesley
Father of Isabella Hull; William Wadham, Sheriff of Devon; Margery Stourton; John Wadham and Thomas Wadham

Occupation: Judge of the Common Pleas
Managed by: Richard Arthur Neary
Last Updated:

About Sir John Wadham, Kt., of Merrifield

Sir John de Wadham, of Merrifield, Born: 1344, Wadham Manor, Lustleigh, Devon, England; Died: 27 Jul 1411, Merifield Manor, Ilminster, Chard, Somerset, England

Parents: John de Wadham & Elizabeth


  1. Elizabeth SHILSTON
  • Isabella Wadham+
  • Margaret Wadham
  1. Joan Wriothesley
  • Sir William Wadham of Edge Barton & Meryfield+
  • Margery Wadham+


"Like his father he became a Judge, but he was known in his time as "THE JUDGE" It is the title to which he is most often referred. Said to have decended from Wm de Wadham of Devon in Rn [Reign] of Edw 1 (1272-1307). Was Justice of Common Pleas in Richard II (1388) (Chron Ser. p.51, 55). He bought the manor at Ilton "Merrifield" (sometimes referred to Muryfield) 1387, and paid tithe to Athelney Abbey in Somerset. John became MP of Exeter 1379 and of Devon 1401. Anne McKecknie says he was the patron of Silverton, Knighted in 1401 when an MP. In his IPM wife is shown as Joan. See: "Extracts of the Abbey of Athelney." CRS Pub "1380 John Wadham fine f1 admisson as freeman in Exeter." " 6585


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  • Sir John Wadham, Justice of the Court of Common Pleas1
  • M, d. 1411
  • Sir John Wadham, Justice of the Court of Common Pleas was born at of Merrifield, Somersetshire, England.1 He married Joan Wrottesley.1 Sir John Wadham, Justice of the Court of Common Pleas died in 1411.1
  • Family Joan Wrottesley
  • Child
    • Margery Wadham+1
  • Citations
  • 1.[S11568] The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, by George Edward Cokayne, Vol. XII/1, p. 302.
  • From:
  • ___________________
  • John Wadham1
  • M, d. 27 July 1412
  • Father Gilbert Wadham d. a 1383
  • John Wadham was born at of Edge in Branscombe, Devonshire, Merrifield in Ilton, Somersetshire, England. He married Joan Wrothesley, daughter of (Mr.) Wrothesley. John Wadham died on 27 July 1412.
  • Family Joan Wrothesley d. a 1412
  • Child
    • Isabella Wadham+
  • Citations
  • 1.[S7159] Unknown author, The Ancestry of Dorothea Poyntz, by Ronny O. Bodine, p. 118, OFHS Newsletter, December 1995, p. 89; Wallop Family, p. 430.
  • From:
  • ________________________
  • Wadhams genealogy, proceded by a sketch of the Wadham family in England.. ([c1913])
  • 1. Sir John Wadham, of Edge, Devon. c. 1360.
    • 2. Sir John, Justice of Common Pleas, 1388-1397, still living in 1411-12. Buried at Branscombe. mar. Joan Wrothesley. Buried at Ilminster. ch: Sir William, d. 1452 buried at Ilminster.; Thomas, of Redworthy.; Margery m. Sir John Stourton, created 1st Baron Stourton, died 1463.
      • 3. Sir William, d. 1452 buried at Ilminster. mar. Margaret, da. and co-h. of W. Cheselden. ch: Sir John, of Merifield.; Elizabeth mar. Stawel, of Collestone (Cothelestone).; Mary mar. W. Montacute, of Henleigh, n. Crewkerne.; Lawrence of Merifield. mar. Margaret, 3rd d. of Sir W. Hody, ; William of Catherstone. mar. Jane, d. and co-h. of William Payne, of Catherstone, Dorset.
        • 4. Sir John, of Merifield. mar. Elizabeth, d. and co-h. of Stephen Popham. ch: John Wadham, Knt.; Edward, of Pole Anthony, Tiverton.; Alice mar. Nicholas, son of Hugh Stukeley.
  • ____________________________
  • [Publications] - Somerset Record Society
    • 1411. JOHN WADHAM, KNT.
    • [25 MARCHE. FO. 193.]
  • I, John Wadham, knight, make my will in this manner :
  • I bequeath my body to be buried where it shall please God to dispose.
  • Item, I bequeath to Joan, my wife, 100li., two great silver dishes (discos) called "chargeours," eighteen silver dishes, six silver saltcellars, my better silver basin (peluem) with a ewer (lauacro), two silver cups with covers, made in the manner of a chalice, one cup silver gilt, my better vestment with the apparel of the altar of the same suit, my better chalice, missal, portuous (portiforium), the two better cloths (mappas) with towels (manutergijs) four brass bowls (ollas) , two plates (patellas), three of the better beds, whereof one of "Tapsarie " ; two jugs (picarios),1 viz., one pottle,2 and one quart (unum potellum et unum quartum) of silver, one silver saltcellar, one pix (pixidem) called "Pere" ; all the stock (instaurum) of wines at Muryfeld, and one waggon (plaustrum) bound with iron.
  • Item, I bequeath for paying four chaplains to be hired (locandorum) for one year to celebrate for my soul, and the souls for which I am bound, 40 marks ; and if this can be done at a less price, the residue shall be expended for the souls of Maude, late my wife, my father and mother, Richard Brankescomb, Margaret his wife, Cicely Turberuill and all faithful deceased.
  • Item, I bequeath for my funeral expenses 10li.
  • Item, to each of the orders of Friars of London, 13s. 4d.
    • 1 Picarius, quidam ciphus, Anglice "a curskyn." Wright's Vocabularies (Wulcker), i, p. 602.
    • 2 Pottle, a liquid measure containing four pints.
  • To the Friars Preachers of Exeter, 10s., and to the Friars Minors there, 10s.
  • Item, I bequeath to the amending of the church of Brankescomb, 20s.
  • Item, to the amending of the church of Knouston, 20s.
  • Item, to Joan, formerly wife of Walter Scherp, one cup called "pece."
  • Item, I bequeath to Cicely my sister, 100s.
  • To Agnes, her daughter, 13s. 4d.
  • To William Hankeford, one silver cup with a cover.
  • Item, I bequeath 6 marks 3s. 4d. to celebrate one thousand masses immediately after my decease for my soul.
  • Item, to William my son, 100li., six silver dishes (discos), one great dish called "charger," one silver jug (picarium) called "potett" one saltcellar, one bed of " Tapserye," eight oxen and one hundred sheep.
  • Item, I bequeath to John my son, 100li., six dishes, eight oxen, one silver jug (picarium) called "Quarte," and a great dish called "Charger."
  • Item, to Walter my son, 40li.
  • Item, to Margery my daughter, 100li.
  • To Joan my daughter, 100li.
  • To Elizabeth my daughter, 100li.
  • To Thomas my son, 100li.
  • And if any of my said infants die before they come of age or be promoted, the sum bequeathed to them shall be divided among my other infants.
  • Item, I bequeath for holding the anniversary of me and of Maude late my wife, one hundred sheep so long as it may last.
  • Item, to each of my executors administrating besides my wife, 5 marks.
  • Item, to each of the daughters of John Serteyn by Margery his wife, except Joan, wife of Walter Merwode, 10s.
  • Item, to Joan, wife of William Wyke next Colompton, 30s.
  • Item, to Thomas her son, 40s.
  • Item, to the three brothers of the said Thomas, to each of them 13s. 4d. ; and to Julian his sister, ten sheep.
  • Item, I bequeath to Bartholomew Pyle, 40s.
  • To John atte Heyghes of Sylferton, 20s.
  • To the Abbot and Convent of Athelney, to pray for my soul, 5 marks.
  • Item, I bequeath to the mending of the muddy way (vie lutose) between Clyst and Nyweton Popelford, 4li.
  • Item, to the mending of the muddy way from Scheftysby towards Schirborn, 100s.
  • Item, I bequeath to the vicar of Wythlakyngton, 20s. for tithes forgotten, and that he may pray for me.
  • Item, I bequeath to the mending of the church aforesaid, 20s.
  • To the vicar of Ayshull, 6s. 8d.
  • To John Deye, 6s. 8d.
  • To the Friars Preachers of Yeuelchester, 20s.
  • Item, I have remised to John Healleway 20s. that he owes me.
  • Item, I bequeath to John Walsche, 40d.
  • To John Brwer, my priest ( presbitero], 20s.
  • To John Thuselburgh, 10s.
  • To John Cook of Haydon, 13s. 4d.
  • To Edith Caylly of Ilton, 6s. 8d.
  • To Walter Clerk of Ilton, 6s. 8d.
  • Item, to the vicar of Brankescomb church, for tithes forgotten, and that he may pray for me, 6s. 8d.
  • Item, to the mending of the church of Haydon, 10s.
  • Item, to the prisoners of Yeuelchester, 40d.
  • To Agnes Deye, 40d.
  • To John Whyte, my chaplain, 20s.
  • To John Schyphurd of Cleyhanger, 40d.
  • Item, to Nicholas Olyuer, 6s. 8d.
  • To the mending of the church of Ilton, 13s. 4d.
  • To Thomas Hayward, 6s. 8d.
  • Item, I bequeath to Joan, my wife, the residue of all my goods not above bequeathed or disposed, and I make the said Joan and the aforesaid William Hankeford and Bartholomew Pyle executors of this my will.
  • In witness whereof to this my will I have affixed my seal.
  • Given on Saturday, the Feast of St. Gregory the Pope, 13 Hen. IV [March 12, 1411].
  • Proved 12th August, A.D. 1412. Commission to Masters John Grylby, rector of Donzete, and William Torporlegh, rector of West Dowlesh, diocese of Bath and Wells, to commit administration, &c.
  • [In Subsidy Roll 13 Hen. IV (1411-12), testator's lands in Somerset are as follows :
    • "John Wadham miles man. de Myryfeld certas terras in Hardyngton, Gudeston, Overattebar et Chilton, xlii li." (Bath F. C. Proc., ix, 3, 192.)]
  • _________________________
  • Sir John Wadham
  • M, #3449
  • Last Edited=19 Jan 2003
  • Child of Sir John Wadham
    • 1.Marjory Wadham+
  • From:
  • ________________
  • WADHAM, Sir John (d.1412), of Edge in Branscombe, Devon and Merrifield in Ilton, Som.
  • ?s. of Gilbert Wadham of Wadham, Devon. m. (1) Maud, 1s.; (2) bef. 1385, Joan Wrothesley, 5s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da. Kntd. by Sept. 1397.2
  • etc. ...
  • From:
  • ______________________
  • John Stourton, 1st Baron Stourton (19 May 1400 / c. 1404 – 25 November 1462) was an English soldier and politician. .... etc.
  • Lord Stourton married Margery or Marjory, daughter of Sir John Wadham, about 1431. They had: .... etc.
  • From:,_1st_Baron_Stourton
  • ______________


Biography It is curious that the origins of a man of such distinction as Wadham have been lost. He is consistently stated to have been the son of Sir John Wadham of Edge, but on what evidence cannot be traced.4 More likely, he was the John Wadham who received quitclaim of a rent in Wadham in 1383 in succession to his father, Gilbert, and that William Hankford, afterwards c.j.KB, our Member’s lifelong friend and associate, witnessed the deed, lends weight to this argument. If his origins are obscure, so, too, are the beginnings of his career as a lawyer. Where he received his education is not known, but by 1371 he was practicing in the central courts as an attorney. No doubt it was because of his profession that he was returned for Exeter to the Parliament of 1379, and within four years of that event he had become a serjeant-at-law. It is significant that by 1384 he was in receipt of a livery from Edward, earl of Devon, being then one of his legal counsel. Hankford and John Hill†, together with other serjeants-at-law, were colleagues in the earl’s service.5 Promotion in his profession continued smoothly: by Trinity term 1387 he was pleading as a King’s serjeant, and his arguments occur frequently in the Year Book covering the next few months. While the Lords Appellant were in control of the government he was made a justice of assize, first on the midland circuit and then in the home counties, where he remained in office for over ten years. With this appointment went membership of the commissions of the peace in his circuit, and the other corollary, frequent appearances on commissions of oyer and terminer, gaol delivery and inquiry, not only in the same area but also in the West Country and as far afield as Carlisle.6

Just over a year after his appointment as a justice of assize, Wadham was elevated to the bench of the court of common pleas, receiving, besides the usual fee of £40 p.a., an additional 50 marks to help maintain his dignity. His promotion was an outcome of Richard II’s assertion of his right to rule by the advice of men of his own choosing. Thus, at a time when the members of the judiciary were compelled to submit to re-appointment, Wadham was one of five new judges (three of them from Devon or Somerset), selected. But no evidence has been found to suggest that he, at any rate, was partisan in the political debates of the period. His new post brought him into Parliament again, this time by personal summons, and he acted as a trier of petitions in six of the Parliaments of the 1390s. His term on the bench lasted for nine years until May 1398, when he received a grant of a pension of £20 from the issues of Somerset and Dorset ‘for good service’ while a j.c.p., and at the same time he was ‘discharged at his own request’ from being an assize judge. There are no grounds for believing that his resignation was prompted solely by the political events of the previous few months, yet he cannot have been completely unaffected by them.7

It is unlikely that Wadham acted in person on many of the commissions on which he was placed during his term as a judge: a number of writs of supersedeas were issued on his behalf after his failure to act as required. But he must have served at least on those of gaol delivery when he was named as one of the quorum, and certain other commissions seem to have been important enough to warrant his personal intervention. For example, the commission to examine the activities of Sir John Drayton*, former captain of Guînes, named Wadham along with the treasurer, the earl of Northumberland, the steward of the Household and other royal councillors, which suggests that his knowledge of the law deemed his presence necessary. It is also clear from the details surviving of a case he heard as a j.p. in Devon in 1391 that Wadham’s position as a judge by no means excluded him from work outside his circuit. One of the earl of Devon’s retainers had been indicted for murder, and Sir William Sturmy*, another j.p., had approached the earl in an attempt to prevent a disturbance, whereupon Devon had not only threatened Sturmy but had also abused Wadham as a ‘false justice’. When, notwithstanding, the trial proceeded, Sir John Grenville* brought a messuage from the earl to Wadham, charging him to ‘sit more uprightly without partiality in this session than he had in the last’. These are the words of one who had failed to influence the course of justice, and the earl’s attempts to save his retainer ‘in spite of the teeth of the said John Wadham and William Sturmy’, resulted in his appearance before the King’s Council and a stern warning to respect the law in future. Wadham’s appointment as an arbitrator in one of Sir Philip Courtenay’s* disputes only a few months later, and his connexion with other members of the Courtenay family, perhaps suggest that the earl’s words are not to be taken as a sign of any deep-seated grudge against him, although Earl Edward may well have resented the show of independence displayed by his former counsellor.8

Wadham’s retirement from the bench in May 1398 allowed him to devote more attention to his estates. These lay in Devon, Somerset, Dorset and Gloucestershire. An incomplete survey of 1412 valued his holdings at £82 p.a., and the inquisition after his death in the same year put the figure at just under £115. Very little of his property had been acquired by inheritance or marriage; in fact, most had been purchased piecemeal over the years, starting in 1376 when he was still a young man. Thus, in Devon he had acquired half the manor of Harberton, the manors of Silverton and Lustleigh and over 300 acres of land in Branscombe and elsewhere. Silverton and Harberton he had purchased from Cecily Turberville, sister of John, 3rd Lord Beauchamp of Hatch, the former estate in 1386 and the latter, which he held jointly with his colleagues on the bench, John Hill and William Hankford, in 1390. In Somerset his holdings were much larger and reflect the transfer of his interests from Devon. The bulk, situated in the south of the county and near the Dorset border, consisted of properties forfeited by Sir John Cary†, chief baron of the Exchequer, who had been exiled in 1388 by the Merciless Parliament, and comprised the manor of Hardington Mandeville, a moiety of the manor of Chilton Cantelo, and premises in the parish of Trent (now Dorset) sold to him and Hankford by the Crown for 600 marks in July 1389. Of course, their title became less secure after the reversal of Cary’s attainder in 1398, and Wadham was also temporarily dispossessed by Sir Robert Chalons*, although the latter’s claim was rejected in 1402. Sir John’s manor of Merrifield, which he had likewise purchased from Cecily Turberville, seems to have become his chief residence towards the end of his life. In Dorset, he held the manor of Haydon, only a few miles from Trent, and lands in Blackmoor. In Gloucestershire, he drew an annual rent of 22 marks from two-thirds of the manor of Sandhurst, which had been conveyed in 1397 to him and his wife for term of their lives by William Beaumont.9

Wadham had also enjoyed at least two temporary grants of land from the Crown. First, in 1384, he and John Hill were given custody of the manor of West Kington in Wiltshire, and then, in 1390, with John Paulet† he took over certain holdings in Devon and Somerset, ‘by advice of the chancellor and because the said John Wadham has informed the King touching his right in the facts of the case in regard to the [said] lands’. His legal knowledge could be put to other good use. A royal judge was a suitable choice to act as feoffee, witness or surety, and Wadham’s more prominent neighbours, such as the Courtenays, Sir William Bonville, Giles Daubeney* and Sir John Pomeroy*, all took advantage of his position and expertise when making business arrangements. As a lawyer, too, he was employed on at least four occasions to acknowledge the enrolment of private deeds on the close roll: in 1387 in St. Paul’s cathedral, in 1388 at South Molton (Devon), in 1391 at Shute (Devon) and in 1400 at his own home in Branscombe.10

It was, of course, only after his retirement from the bench that Wadham was available for election as a knight of the shire, and he sat again in the Commons in 1401. Over the next few years, although he retained his position on the commission of the peace in Devon and Somerset, he did little other work either for the Crown or for his neighbours. Indeed, after 1404 his public duties, with an important exception, virtually ceased, that exception being his appointment in December 1407 to inquire into the extortions of royal officials in Somerset, where only a man of his standing could be relied upon for an impartial finding. Wadham made his will in March 1411, more than a year before his death on 27 July 1412. He died a wealthy man, and cash bequests to his children and other relatives and for masses for his soul amounted to nearly £835. To his wife and two of his sons he also left an impressive array of household goods, quantities of silver plate and chapel furnishings, together with the contents of his cellar at Merrifield. Each of Wadham’s eight children save Robert, the eldest, who was already deceased, and Walter, who had entered the Church, received £100 in cash, with the proviso that ‘if any of my said infants die before they come of age or be promoted, the sum bequeathed to them shall be divided among my other infants’. Most bequests were of the normal kind: to friends, to local monasteries, including friaries, for mending bad roads in the area, repairing churches, and for tithes forgotten. Two, however, were more distinctly individual: he set aside 40 marks for four chaplains to pray for his soul for a year, and if this could be done at a lower price the residue was to be used for prayers for his first wife, for Cecily Turberville and others; and he left the derisory sum of 40d. to the prisoners in Ilchester gaol. William Hankford, his lifelong friend and colleague, acted as an executor. The will was proved on 12 Aug.11

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Sir John Wadham, Kt., of Merrifield's Timeline

Lustleigh, Devon, England
Age 21
Lustleigh, Devon, England
Age 31
Merrifield, Somerset, England
Age 41
Merefield, Somerset, England
- present
Age 44
Age 44
Judge of the Common Pleas
Age 59
Memfield, Somerset, England
March 12, 1411
Age 67
Ilminster, Chard, Somerset, England