Sir John was one of the most successful of King Edward III commanders in the wars in Northern France and the Low Countries. He fought in Flanders in 1338; was present at the array at Vironfosse when the armies of the English and French kings met but did not come to battle in October, 1339 ; and took part in the sea battle of Sluys on 24th June, 1340.
dward, Prince of Wales and eldest son of Edward III, played a key part in the great victory over the French at Crécy on 26th August, 1346 even though he was only aged 16 at the time. Known as Edward of Woodstock during his life time he became known as the Black Prince after his death, possibly due to the black armour he wore. During the battle Sir John carried the Royal Standard whilst fighting alongside the Earl of Warwick and his brother-in-law, Lord Say. Sir John was also present at the successful siege of Calais which lasted from September, 1346 to August, 1347, which gained possession of Calais for the English Crown which retained it until 1558 when it was finally lost in the reign of Mary Tudor, who reputedly said “When I am dead and opened, you shall find ‘Calais’ lying in my heart”.
At some time after 1346 Sir John de Beauchamp (often referred to as Bello Campo in Latin documents) acquired several holding in and around the parish of Nonington, possibly with money received from ransoming French prisoners taken at the Battle of Crecy. The post mortem inquisition after his death in 1360 recorded these as:
Monketon, (now Gooseberry Hall Farm) consisting of eight acres of arable land; unspecified land at Adesham (Adisham); 24s rent of free tenants at Fredevill; tenements at Easole consisting of a messuage with dovecot, 60 acres of arable land and 12 acres of pasture all held of the Abbot of St. Alban’s, part of which is now Beauchamps; Wyngeham (Wingham), no details specified but probably refers to property in Nonington held from the manor of Wyngeham, most likely in North or South Nonington; Godneston (Goodnestone), 5s land-unspecified.
Sir John also had other Kent property. He held the adjoining manors of Silham and Mere in the southern part of the parish Rainham some 34 miles south of London on the Dover road, and also the Manor of Cheddyngston, now Chiddingstone, in the parish of Cobham parish on the same road some seven miles closer to London. Nonington is some thirty-five miles or so from these holdings.
Sir John primarily resided in a large house he had had built in the Parish of St. Andrew in the ward of Castle Baynard in London which was later purchased by the Crown for use as the King’s Wardrobe. In his 1598 survey of the cities of London and Westminster John Strype recorded:
“Then is the King’s great Wardrobe. [I have not read by whom the same was builded, neither when, or for what Cause; but only that] Sir John Beauchamp, Knight of the Garter, Constable of Dover, Warden of the Cinque Ports, Son to Guido de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, builded this House, was lodged there; this House then bearing the Name of the King’s Wardrobe, in the 5th of Edw. III. The said Sir John Beauchamp deceased in the Year 1359. and was buried on the South side of the middle Ile of Pauls Church. His Executors sold the House to King Edward III. unto whom the Parson of St. Andrews complaining, that the said Beauchamp had pulled down divers Houses, in their places to build the same House, whereby he was hindred of his accustomed Tithes, paid by the Tenants of old time; granted him 40s. by the Year out of that House, for ever. King Richard III. was lodged there in the 2d of his Reign.
In this House, of late Years, was lodged Sir John Fortescue, Kt. Master of the Wardrobe, Chancellor and under Treasurer of the Exchequer, and one of her Majesty’s Privy Councel. The secret Letters and Writings, touching the Estate of the Realm, were wont to be inrolled in the King’s Wardrobe, and not in the Chancery, as appeareth by the Records. Claus. 18. E. 4 1 Memb. 13. Claus. 33. E. 1. Memb. 3 Et liberat. 1. E. 2. Memb. 4. &c”. The house was near the old St. Paul’s Cathedral and along with the cathedral was destroyed in the Great Fire of London of 1666 and now remembered as Wardrobe Place, EC4.
Sir John most likely acquired his Kent properties so that he and other members of his family and entourage would have accommodation when travelling from London to Sandwich or Dover to take ship to the Continent, or likewise in the other direction from Sandwich or Dover to London. Travellers from London could stay at one of the northern Kent manors before continuing on to Nonington, some five or six miles from Sandwich, which was then one of the most important ports in England, and some ten miles or so from Dover, then a lesser port than Sandwich. They could then have crossed the English Channel from either port to Northern France and the Low Countries where King Edward III was campaigning in pursuit of his claim to the French throne. Thirty-five miles was about the furthest that could be comfortably traveled in one day on the roads of the time, especially in winter. In addition to providing accommodation for travellers these Kent estates would also have supplied provisions for the de Beauchamp fighting men and horses campaigning across the Channel and later to Sir John when he was Captain of Calais.
Edward III made Sir John a Knight Banneret in 1347 with an annual allowance of £140 to enable him to support this title, and the following year he was made Captain of Calais. Soon after this the King appointed him Admiral of the Fleet; Constable of the Tower of London; and Warden of the Cinque Ports and in 1350 Sir John was summoned to Parliament among the Barons where served until his death.
Sir John’s duties as Captain of Calais and Warden of the Cinque Ports would have involved a lot of travelling to and from London, and the Kent properties would have provided Sir John with accommodation and provisions. Sir John lost the position of Constable of the Tower in 1354 because of rumours against him, but the King subsequently reappointed him when these proved unfounded.
Sir John Beauchamp, 1st. Lord Beauchamp of Warwick, died from plague at Calais on 2nd December, 1360, and his body was returned to England, possibly via Nonington, with the body resting in the church, and the northern Kent manors to be buried between two pillars before the image of the Virgin on the south side of the nave of Old St. Paul’s Cathedral. The monument to his memory is commonly, but incorrectly, called“Duke Humphrey’s Tomb” . John had no legitimate children so his title became extinct and his property passed to family members.
In 1368 Sir John’s nephew Roger and other co-heirs offered “le manoir de Easole” to the Priory of Christ Church in Canterbury on the condition: “namely, that one of your monks there should be perpetually specially assigned and deputed to sing mass, at the Altar of Our Lady in the Crypt, wearing vestments decorated with the arms of the Warwick family, and praying for the souls of our said uncle and our ancestors”. The priory’s response was that: “to bear and perform such a charge for so small a repayment, where there is scarcely any profit, would be too burdensome for us; wherefore, Sire, be pleased in this case to have us excused”. The refusal of the bequest indicates how unprofitable agricultural land had become in the aftermath of the Black Death of 1348 to 1350 which had killed up to half of the population of England. Sporadic outbreaks of this awful disease continued to occur in England into the 1360’s and beyond.