Sir Henry Beaufitz-a brief biography

Henry Beaufitz, [also recorded as Beaufis, Beaufiz, Beaufuiz, Byaufiz], was born on his father’s estate on the manor of Brankenthwaite in Yorkshire in the early 1270’s, but  little more is known of his early life.
 Around 1295 Henry married Cecily de Plumpton, the daughter of William de Plumpton and the widow of Sir Hugh de Swillington of Yorkshire. Cecily was heiress to her father and wealthy in her own right with inherited property in the Yorkshire manors of Plumpton, Follyfoot, Braham, Kirby, and Little Ribston. Henry and Cecily had one daughter, Alice, who was born in 1296 or 1297.

There is little information available about  Henry Beaufitz before the death of Edward I in July of 1307. After the death of Edward I  Henry Beaufitz held positions of great authority in Scotland under Edward’s son and successor, Edward II. Presumably he had seen service there during Edward I’s campaigns, but I have yet to find documentary evidence regarding this.

In 1308 Henry Beaufitz was Justiciar of Lothian, the English king’s legal representative with authority over that part of the Kingdom of Scotland south of a line running from the River Forth to the River Clyde and extending down to the border with England. He was second only in authority to the Justiciar of Scotia, who had legal authority north of the Forth-Clyde line.  By 1309 to 1310 the now Sir Henry had also been awarded the office of Sheriff of Berwick.

During his service in Scotland Sir Henry incurred heavy expenses on behalf of the Crown, a large part of which were still waiting reimbursement in the 1330’s, when the by then deceased Sir Henry’s estate took legal action to recover the debt.

After the defeat of the forces of Edward II at Bannockburn in June of 1314 the English left Scotland and Sir Henry’s tenure as Justiciar of Lothian and Sheriff of Berwick came to an end. He continued to serve the Crown in a similar role in England and acted on its behalf in diverse legal matters.

In July of 1315 Sir Henry acquired a messuage and twenty-five acres in Eswele, the manor belonging to the Abbey of St. Alban’s in Nonington, from Walter, the son of Thomas atte Bergh of Eswele. This property may have initially been purchased as accommodation for use during Sir Henry’s duties on behalf of the Crown.  In 1316 he applies for a licence to enclose a lane between two of his gardens, the licence is granted on the provision that he makes a new lane to the south of his gardens. Gardens at this time could also mean orchards or other small areas of enclosed land, so it does not necessarily mean that Sir Henry had acquired another property in the previous months although he did own two messuages and ninety acres of land in Nonington along with manorial rights by the time of his death in 1325.

During the course of his duties Sir Henry was commissioned by the King in July of 1318 to escort John of Powerham from Northampton gaol to his execution for treason. John had claimed that he was the real Edward II and that Edward was a changeling who had been swapped at birth. These claims were actually believed by some people which  obviously did not go down well with Edward, and John was tried at Northampton and sentenced to death.

Later in that same month Sir Henry was commissioned to take Geoffrey de Say, Juliana de Leyburn, and some others to the gaol at Canterbury Castle on an indictment of “receiving Robert Coleman atte Mersh, an outlaw in the county of Kent for divers felonies”. The charges appear to have been false, possibly for political reasons, and Geoffrey de Say & Juliana de Leyburn, both rich and influential members of the nobility, were not imprisoned for long. 

During this period Sir Henry increased his property holdings in East Kent, gifting some of these acquisitions to the Church in 1324 when he made a grant of land and rent in West Langdon to the abbot and convent of Langdon. This grant also records that he was retaining the manor of Calehill near Ashford and the manors of Womenswould, and Eswele in and around Nonington. Esewele may in fact be the manor of Esole, which at this time was under Sir Henry’s control as guardian to John Colkyn, the heir to Esole who was then in his minority. The promiscuous interchangeability of the spelling of the manorial names of Esole and the adjacent Eswalt, sometimes spelt Esewele or Esewole, held by the Abbey of St. Alban’s, can easily lead to confusion over which manor is actually being referred to. However, as far as is known the Abbey of St. Alban’s alone held the manorial title of Eswalt in its entirety, whereas the manor of Esole had more than one holder.  Sir Henry may have originally have gained the wardship of the minor John Colkyn as part settlement of debts owed to him by the Crown accrued during his service as Justiciar of Lothian, and Sheriff of Berwick. As guardian of the young John he may have used authority attached to the wardship to acquire an interest in Esole, which as a high ranking member of the judiciary would have been readily achievable. 

Sir Henry still maintained a direct connection with the Royal family as in February of 1325 he is recorded as performing legal duties as Steward to Queen Isabella, the wife of Edward II. The next month the Queen fled to France after supporting a failed revolt against her husband by some of the English barons.

Sir Henry died shortly after fulfilling his duty to Queen Isabella.  His post mortem inquisition for his property in Yorkshire was held at York in May of 1325, but I can find no post mortem inquisition record at present of Sir Henry’s holdings in Kent or other counties. The inquisition at York recorded that at the time of his death his own holdings in Yorkshire included: the Manor of Brakenthwait; lands in Kerby, worth nothing by reason of the devastation of the Scots; Growelthorp; and Kirkeby Malasart.
From his late wife he had inherited “a messuage, 22 tofts, 20 bovates and 146 acres of land, 17 acres of meadow and 20 acres of wood in Plumpton, Folifeyt, Braham and Little Ribbestayn”.

Alice de Plumpton was his only child and his sole heiress as his wife had pre-deceased him. She was married to Sir William de Plumpton, a distant kinsman to her maternal grand-father, another William de Plumpton, the marriage having taken place in 1322. Alice died “without issue” around 1330 or so, and her husband inherited her property.

After Sir Henry’s death his property in Nonington appears to have ceased to be of interest to Alice as in  late November or early December of 1326 she and her husband sold “2 messuages, 90 acres of land, 70s. rent, and rent of 2 cocks, 20 hens, and 200 eggs, with appurtenances in Nonynton” to Richard de Retlyng’ the Elder.
Possibly these holdings were sold because her late father obviously no longer needed a residence in the south for use when performing his Crown duties, and its distance from Alice’s other holdings in Yorkshire made it impractical or uneconomical to maintain. Presumably the manors of Calehill and Womenswould were sold separately, but there is as yet no known record of these sales. 

The administrators of Sir Henry’s estate were involved in legal proceeding for some time after his death. In May of 1331 they presented a claim to the Crown for payment of unpaid debts amounting to £268 12s 8d owed to Sir Henry by the now deceased Edward II, and in February of 1338 they returned the “messuage and a carucate of land in Freydevill Esole and Nunynton” to the now of age John Colkyn of Esole.

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