In 1349 the Abbot of St. Alban’s was the Lord of the Manor of Esol, and his manorial rent rolls for that year show that Sir John de Beauchamp held at Esole:-‘one messuage [now called Beauchamps-my note] with dovecot, 60a arable, 12a pasture at a total annual manorial rental of 52 s.6d payable to the Abbot of St. Alban’s’.
John de Beauchamp was born in 1315, the second and youngest son of Guy de Beauchamp, 10th Earl of Warwick, and Alice de Toeni, a wealthy heiress in her own right and the widow of Sir William Leybourne, who had died in 1307. Juliana de Leybourne was the only child from this brief marriage and accordingly her father’s sole heiress and therefore, like her mother, very wealthy in her own right.
Guy de Beauchamp had been a staunch supporter of Edward I and one of the leading opponents of Edward II’s misrule. When Guy died in 1315 Thomas de Beauchamp, his eldest son and the heir to the Earldom of Warwick, was only two and John de Beauchamp was a very young baby.
During his long military service 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 in October of 1339 when the armies of the English and French kings met but did not come to battle; and also took part in the sea battle of Sluys on 24th June, 1340.
Edward, 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. He was known as Edward of Woodstock during his life time and as The Black Prince after his death, possibly due to the black armour he wore. During the Battle of Crecy Sir John carried the Royal Standard whilst fighting alongside his brother, 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, until August, 1347, and gained possession of Calais for the English Crown which retained it until 1558 when it was finally lost in the reign of Mary Tudor. On hearing of its loss Queen Mary reputedly said “When I am dead and opened, you shall find ‘Calais’ lying in my heart”.
After the Battle of Crecy Sir John de Beauchamp (often referred to as Bello Campo in contemporary Latin documents) began acquiring various land-holdings in and around the parish of Nonington. Esol was in his possession by 1349, as was part of the manor of Fredville and some land on that manor which Sir John held from his sister, Maud de Say, the dowager Lady de Say. These and other land acquisitions in mid-Kent around Rainham were possibly paid for with money received from ransoming French prisoners taken at the battle.
After Sir John’s death in 1360 his Inquision Post Mortem taken at Canterbury on 4th March [ 35 Edward III] 1362 (1363) recorded his holdings in and around Nonington as:
“Nonyngton: Tenements at Esole [later known as Beauchamps Manor], consisting of a messuage with dovecot, 60a. arable, 12a. pasture, held in gavelkind of the abbot of St. Alban’s by service of rendering 52s. 6d. yearly at his court of Easole in equal portions at Michaelmas, Christmas, Mid-Lent and Midsummer, and doing suit at the same court every three weeks.
Monketon: [now called Gooseberry Hall Farm] 8a. arable held in gavelkind of the prior and convent of Christ Church, Canterbury, by service of rendering at their court of Adesham 20d. yearly at Mid-Lent and doing suit there every three weeks.
Fredevylle: [Fredville] 12a. arable held in gavelkind of the lady of Say by service of rendering at the court of Fredevyll 4s. 8d. by equal portions at Michaelmas and Palm Sunday and two hens at Christmas.
Freydevill’:[Fredville]. 24s. rent of free tenants [free holders who paid various manorial rents to Sir John for land they held on the Manor of Freydevill’.
[Note the use of Fredevylle, Fredevyll’, and Freydevill’ within the same document].
Nonyngton: 40a. land called ‘ten’ atte med’ held in gavelkind of the archbishop of Canterbury by service of rendering yearly at his court of Wyngeham 11s. and doing suit there every three weeks.
Godweston: [Goodnestone] 5a. land held of the same archbishop by service of rendering yearly at the court of Wyngeham 20d” “.
At the time of his death Sir John had also held the manors of Silham and Mere which were both in the southern part of the parish Rainham in mid-Kent. The latter manor was held from his half-sister, Juliana de Leybourne, who was known as the “Infanta of Kent” because of her extensive land-holdings in the county which she had initially inherited and then added to with land and property entitlements from three marriages and subsequent widowhoods. Juliana’s third husband, Sir William Clinton, Earl of Huntingdon, died in 1354.
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, some forty miles or so from Rainham on the old London to Dover road, and Esol was a further thirty-five miles or so closer to Dover and Sandwich. This would have meant two days of easy travel by horse between London and Esol, with an overnight break at Rainham, or, where speed was of the essence, less than a days hard ride between the two places in either direction with a change of horses at Rainham. Sandwich is some six miles distant and Dover is less than ten miles away, so Esol would have been a comfortable place to wait for suitable weather to cross the Channel from either port or to recover after crossing from the Continent en route to London or other inland destinations. Esol may also have provided a more comfortable residence to Sir John when he was made Warden of the Cinque Ports.
King Edward III was constantly campaigning in Northern France and the Low Countries in pursuit of his claim to the French throne, so in addition to providing accommodation for travellers the Kent estates, and especially those in and around Nonington, 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
The large St. Andrew’s parish house 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 noted:
“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”.
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.
Edward III made Sir John a Knight Banneret in 1347 with an annual allowance of £140 to enable him to support this title. A Knight Banneret was entitled to bear a small square banner rather than the swallow-tailed pennon of a Knight Bachelor and he commanded a body of officers and men, i.e. knights, esquires and soldiers, whom he raised to serve under his banner, but who were paid by the Crown.
The following year the King further honoured Sir John by making him Captain of Calais, and soon after this Edward III appointed Sir John as Admiral of the Fleet; Constable of the Tower of London; and Warden of the Cinque Ports. For a time Sir John was deprived of 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 was summoned to Parliament by the King as Baron Beauchamp of Warwick in 1350 where he served until his death from plague at Calais on 2nd December of 1360. His body was returned to England, possibly via Nonington where it may have rested in the church, 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 of 1st Baron Beauchamp of Warwick became extinct and his property, including that in and around Nonington and Rainham, was in the most part inherited by his eldest brother Thomas de Beauchamp, 11th Earl of Warwick.