Commr. of inquiry, Som. May 1428 (concealed crown income), Devon,
Som. June 1432 (q. piracy), West Country Aug. 1433 (crimes committed
since 1413), Dorset, Devon, Som., Cornw. Feb. 1434 (q. escapes of
prisoners), Hants, Wilts., Som., Dorset, Devon, Cornw. July 1434 (concealed
crown income), Som. Feb. 1435 (breach of statutes relating to exports),
Devon, Cornw. July 1435 (estates of John, earl of Arundel), Som. Jan.
1438 (insurrections and felonies), Bristol Nov. 1438 (charges against
Thomas Stevens*), Salop Feb. 1439 (death of Thomas Dyer of Ludlow);
gaol delivery (q.), Ilchester May 1430, Dec. 1433, Aug. 1434, Sept.
1434, May 1435, Feb., Mar. 1438, May 1440, Old Sarum Dec. 1440; oyer
and terminer, Som. June 1432, Salop, Worcs. Jan. 1439, Devon Sept.
1439, Northants. Oct. 1439, Cornw. July 1440, Devon Sept. 1440, Oxon.,
Berks. June 1441, London, Mdx., Essex, Kent, Surrey Oct. 1441; to
raise a loan, Som., Dorset Mar. 1439.
J.P. Som. 2 Dec. 1430-d., Berks. 12 Feb. 1439-d.,
Salop 13 Feb. 1439-June 1440, Glos. 18 May 1439-Apr. 1440, Suss. 8
July 1440-d., Kent 24 July 1440-d., Surr. 16 Oct.
1440-d., Essex 17 Feb. 1441-d.
Escheator, Som. and Dorset 26 Nov. 1431-5 Nov. 1432.
Distributor of a tax allowance, Som. Dec. 1433, Jan. 1436, May 1437.
Recorder, Bristol c.1438-d.
ustice of assize, western circuit 24 Jan. 1439, eastern circuit 10
C.j.KB 13 Apr. 1440-d.
According to a possibly prejudiced account dating from the 1470s
the chief justice’s grandfather, Adam Hody, was a ‘bondeman
to my lorde of Awdely and heywarde of Wollavyngton’ (Somerset),
whose sons Thomas and John were born before his marriage to Isabel
Gilbarde. If this was true then the success of both of Adam’s
sons in surmounting such overwhelming disadvantages was quite remarkable.
John was educated at Oxford and rose to be precentor of Wells from
1410 to 1426 and thereafter chancellor of the diocese until his death
in 1440, having in the meantime served as chancellor and executor
to Bishop Polton of Worcester. Thomas (our John’s father) entered
the service of Sir Hugh Luttrell of Dunster, for whom he acted as
receiver-general from 1406 to 1419; and, forging a place for himself
among the landed gentry of Dorset and Somerset, he was appointed in
1418 as royal escheator of the joint bailiwick of the two counties.
Such a rise, from servile status to occupation of the headship of
the judiciary in just two generations, would be an outstanding achievement.
Thomas Hody acquired the manor of Kington Magna (Dorset), but this
never passed to John, for his father was still living at the time
of his own death. Both he and his brother, Alexander (who was to sit
in nine Parliaments between 1429 and 1455, for either Shaftesbury,
Bridgwater or Somerset), entered the legal profession. It was early
success as an apprentice-at-law which enabled John to purchase two
parts of the manor of Wydecombe and the whole of the manor of Stowell
(Somerset) in the 1420s, and those of Wootton Glanville and Long Critchell
(Dorset) in 1435 and 1439, respectively. He also acquired property
in Shaftesbury and a small estate not far away at Fonthill (Wiltshire),
but his manors of Pilsdon, West Chickerell and Putton (Dorset), and
East and West Whitefield (Somerset), together with property in Dorchester
and a moiety of Bere Hall (Devon), all came to him through his marriage
to Elizabeth Jewe in about 1430. At the time of Elizabeth’s
father’s death 15 years previously her three brothers and a
sister were still living, but all four died before her marriage to
Hody, thus leaving her as sole heir to the estate. Hody also took
care to augment his lands and local influence by obtaining royal grants:
in 1428 he was awarded a joint lease of lands lately belonging to
Sir Thomas Pomeroy, during the minority of his heir; in 1431 he obtained
an Exchequer lease of the manor of Whitewell in Colyton, part of the
inheritance of the earl of Devon; in 1434 he shared with John Stourton
I of Preston Plucknett the marriage of a royal ward, Stourton’s
grandson John Hill; and in 1437 with a close friend, William Carent
of Toomer, he took custody of the royal manor of Gillingham.
It was, quite clearly, Hody’s legal expertise which prompted
the burgesses of Shaftesbury to seek his services in five Parliaments
and the gentry of two shires to have him represent them in four more.
His rapid rise suggests that he showed himself to be a competent commissioner
and an able J.P. Yet his many tasks in the sphere of local government
did not result in a half-hearted interest in the proceedings of the
Parliaments which he attended as a Member of the Commons. On 2 Dec.
1435 he, William Tresham and John Vampage, the King’s attorney-general,
were each paid £6 13s.4d. for ‘labouring’
in the present Parliament ‘circa diversa negocia et materias
necessarias ipsius Regis ibidem expedienda pro commodo Regis’,
and a fortnight later Hody received an additional £3 as a reward
for ‘engrossing’ various grants made by the Lords and
Commons. Obviously, he had been deeply involved in the negotiations
leading to the grant of taxes. In the next Parliament, when again
knight of the shire for Somerset, he headed the deputation from the
Commons to the King, which, on 19 Mar. 1437, announced the election
of a second Speaker (William Burley*) to replace (Sir) John Tyrell,
who had been taken ill. Hody was probably by then already recorder
of Bristol, and in July 1438 he assumed the dignity of a serjeant-at-law.
As such he was subsequently engaged as counsel to the duchy of Lancaster.
In July 1439 he and another serjeant, John Fortescue, were chosen
to arbitrate in a dispute regarding the church of St. Dunstan in the
West in Fleet Street. This and the many other occasions on which Hody
was asked to settle points of law indicate the respect he enjoyed.
As an eminent lawyer it was only natural that Hody should have frequently
acted as a feoffee-to-uses, and his clients in this regard included
such important people as Thomas Courtenay, earl of Devon, Elizabeth,
Lady Botreaux, William, Lord Clinton, and John, earl of Arundel. The
last, who died in 1435, Hody also served as executor, and after the
third marriage of the earl’s mother, Eleanor, countess of Arundel,
he became trustee of the estates of her husband, Sir Walter (now Lord)
Hungerford. Among the many country gentlemen for whom Hody acted in
settlements of their estates were (Sir) Thomas Brooke of Holditch,
Sir John Chideok, (Sir) John Stourton II and Ralph Bush, esquire.
Sir John Latimer of Duntish (Dorset) sought the hand of Hody’s
daughter Joan for his heir, Nicholas. But perhaps his career was best
furthered by his friendship with Sir
Humphrey Stafford II of Hooke and the latter’s half-brother
John, bishop of Bath and Wells and chancellor of England from 1432
to 1450, a connexion which may well have been fostered by our MP’s
uncle, Master John Hody, who in 1424 and 1425 had been appointed by
Bishop Stafford as his vicar-general during his absence from the see.
From 1429 Hody was involved in numerous legal transactions on the
Staffords’ behalf: he was a feoffee of Sir Humphrey’s
estates, party to the arrangements made for the second marriage of
his daughter, Alice, and assisted him in the foundation of St. Anne’s
chapel in the conventual church at Abbotsbury. Then, in 1437, he was
retained as a councillor to the Staffords’ kinsman, Humphrey,
earl of Stafford, who paid him an annuity of £2 charged on his
property at Wexcombe, Wiltshire.
From 1438 Hody received a salary of £20 a year as a justice
of assize, and for his services in the King’s bench from Michaelmas
1439 to April 1440 he was awarded an additional £20. On 13 Apr.,
following the death of Sir John Juyn, he was appointed as chief justice,
with a fee of £120 p.a., having on the previous day already
received a grant of 40 marks a year charged on the petty custom of
Bristol and of an annual tun of wine from the royal prisage there.
He was probably knighted at the time of this surprisingly rapid elevation,
but first notice of his promotion dates from June. Later in the year,
on 18 Aug., he was ordered by Henry VI to present himself immediately
at Sheen, where his advice was needed with regard to threatened riots
and touching the legality of a postponement of an assize of novel
disseisin brought against James, Lord Berkeley, by the heirs-general
to the Berkeley estates, two of whom (Edmund Beaufort, earl of Dorset,
and John, Lord Talbot) were then investing Harfleur but reported to
be in danger of raising the siege on account of the assize. But this
was no doubt only one of many occasions when his counsel was sought
by the King and his ministers.
On 3 Dec. 1441 as chief justice Hody was personally summoned to attend
the Parliament which was to meet on the following 25 Jan. However,
he fell ill and died before New Year’s Day...
Will dated 17 Dec 1441 (481 Chichele)
December 17th, 1441. John Hody, knight, Lord Chief Justice of the
Kings Bench. My body to be buried in the church of Wolavyngton in
the new chapel there built in which the body of Master John
Hody my uncle is buried. To the fabric of the cathedral church
of Wells 20s. To the parish church of Stawell 6s.
8d. To the parish church of Pyllesdon 6s. 8d.
I will that my feoffees of and in all my lands and tenements in Shaftesbury
and within the borough of the same town make sufficient and secure
estate in law to Elisabeth my wife, of the same,
to have and to hold during her life and after her death to remain
to William, Thomas, and Alexander my sons and to
the child in the womb of my said wife, if he be a male, but if not
to the said William, Thomas and Alexander, and to their heirs and
for lack thereof to the right heirs of me, for ever. And I will my
feoffees of and in all other my lands and tenements, except those
in Sytheway and elsewhere in the county of Devon, and in Fontell in
the county of Wilts, which once belonged to Richard Diccombe, shall
hand over the issues and profits thereof to my executors during the
infancy of John my son and heir until he come to
sixteen years of age, if he live so long, when my said feoffees shall
make sufficient estate in law to him to hold to him and to his heirs
for ever. And if he die without issue, before that age, my feoffees
to make estate of the said lands, except before excepted, to my next
eldest son, and if they die before that age and without issue, they
shall make estate to my doughters to have and to hold to them and
to their heirs for ever. And I will my feoffees of and in the said
excepted lands shall make secure estate in law thereof to the said
Elisabeth my wife and after her death they shall remain to John my
son and to his heirs for ever, provided always that all my covenants
made with John Latemer, esq., on behalf of Nicholas
his son and Joan my daughter his wife hold good and be fulfilled.
To my wife £200 in gold and one dozen silver vessels called
" a dozen garnisshed " half of which I lately bought at
London and the other half of which (I had) of the legacy of my said
uncle, and twelve other silver dishes with a " Charger "
lately bought of the executors of Lady de Lovell and Ramsham. To my
said wife two silver basins with ewers, in the centre of one is a
rose and on the other is a shield of my arms. To Thomas Hody
my father a cup of silver gilt which lately I had of Robert
Coker. To Alexander my brother a cup of silver gilt
called ' a gobelett," covered, and to Margaret his wife
a cup of silver gilt which lately I had of Richard Leyot, clerk. To
William Carent a silver cup, partly gilt. To Nicholas Latemer and
to Joan his wife a silver piece with the cover. To Richard Hygon and
Elisabeth his wife the same. To John my son that other half dozen
of silver vessels which I had of the bequest of my said uncle, and
a basin of silver with the ewer engraven in the centre with my arms.
And I will the said John be under the guardianship of my executors.
To Richard Skey and Alice his sister my kinsmen 50 marks, that is
twenty-five each. To John my chaplain 20s. To William Lovell
20s. To John Suddon, to Richard Noweris 13s. 4d.,
and to Julian his wife 20s. To John Grice 13s. 4d.
To Agnes my wife's chamber- maid 6s. 8d To William
Hakelyn 6s. 8d. To William Rydon 6s. 8d.
To John Coke l0s. To Peter Panter 6s. 8d.
To William Robynys 6s. 8d. To John Stone 6s.
8d. To Richard Robyns 3s. 4d. To Michael
Mountagu 3s. 4d. To Michael servant in the chamber
3s. 4d. To John servant in the chamber 3s.
8d. With the residue I will my sons and daughters, who are
unmarried, be found, my said eldest son John excepted, at the disposition
of my executors, and I make my executors the said Elisabeth, William
Carent, Thomas Hody and Alexander Hody.