08 July, 2017

Those Lawless Dunheveds

 I've written plenty before about the Dunheved brothers Thomas and Stephen, leaders of the group who temporarily freed Edward of Caernarfon from Berkeley Castle in the summer of 1327. See here, here, here and here. There were four Dunheved brothers: in birth order, they were Stephen, John, Thomas and Oliver, and there was also a sister, Rohese or Rose. Thomas the third brother was a Dominican friar, sent by Edward II to Avignon in 1324 to complain to John XXII about the archbishop of Dublin, and also sent as a messenger with letters from Edward to Hugh Despenser the Younger in Wales in 1325. Oliver the fourth brother also entered the Church, and was a chaplain. The siblings were the children of John Dunheved, who died between December 1306 and April 1307 [Cal. Inq. Post Mortem 1300-7, 217, 302; CIPM 1307-17, 25], and Eustachia, who died after January 1310. The Dunheveds held the manor of Dunchurch in Warwickshire from the Mortimer family of Richard's Castle (who were only quite distantly related to the Mortimers of Wigmore who became earls of March). John Dunheved the father also held tenements in the manor of Seething in Norfolk and three knights' fees in the same county, jointly with a woman called Isabel Haggele, during the lifetime of one Lettice de Lodne. [CIPM 1300-7, 217, 302] In November 1300, John and Eustachia Dunheved settled two parts of the manor of Dunchurch on themselves with remainders to their children, beginning with Stephen, their eldest son. [Warwickshire Feet of Fines, vol. 15, no. 1158]

I have no idea how old the Dunheved siblings were, but I'm guessing they were born in the 1280s to 1290s. Their father John Dunheved was born in or before 1260, as his mother Christiane Dunheved née Butler granted his wardship and marriage to Henry de Montford or Montfort that year, and he is first mentioned owning land in July 1287, which indicates that he was born by July 1266 at the latest. [Warwickshire Feet of Fines, vol. 11, no. 779; CIPM 1272-91, 395] The grant of John's marriage to Montfort probably means that Eustachia Dunheved was a Montfort by birth (and no, I have no idea how Henry fits into the the family tree of Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, assuming he does).

The Dunheved brothers were bad boys. Really bad. Stephen committed some serious felony which resulted in his abjuring the realm, that is, a specific legal procedure whereby someone expecting the death penalty could instead choose to voluntarily exile themselves from England for life. It was possibly murder. Edward II must have pardoned Stephen - only the king had the power to pardon an abjurer - as he was back in England by 15 February 1322 and in royal favour, appointed custodian of Lyonshall Castle and to 'make inquisition' into the goods of four Contrariants in Herefordshire. [Fine Rolls 1319-27, 95, 101] John the second brother had a long criminal career. In January 1310 he was accused of burning down the grange, with the corn and goods inside, of his own mother Eustachia in Dunchurch. [Patent Rolls 1307-13, 317-8] Edward II pardoned John of outlawry in July 1316 for failing to appear before King's Bench on a charge of trespass against William of Esthalle. [Patent Rolls 1313-7, 516] In September 1319, John, his brother Oliver the chaplain, John of the Crosse and two others were accused of raping Edith Grasbrok in Warwickshire, and, again, did not appear in court. See here. And the worst thing of all, on 9 February 1325 John murdered his own brother Oliver, whom John's wife Margery named as a 'common thief' (though she was hardly unbiased), in Dunchurch, by shooting him in the heart with a barbed arrow. He also tried to burn down the house of one William Mori where Oliver was staying, and killed Oliver when he ran out of the house, in the middle of the night. [Cal. Inq. Misc. 1308-48, no. 848] Oliver is not specifically stated to be John's brother, and I suppose he could be a cousin with the same name, but I don't think so. John was pardoned on 5 May 1327 near the start of Edward III's reign, presumably for all these criminal acts. [Patent Rolls 1327-30, 51] He was pardoned again in November 1345 for outlawry in Huntingdonshire for not appearing in court, and surrendered himself to the Fleet prison in London, unless this was his son of the same name (I don't know how old John would have been in 1345). [Patent Rolls 1345-8, 12] Orders were issued for the arrest of John's brothers Stephen and Thomas between March and June 1327, at the same time as John's pardon, because they were trying to free Edward of Caernarfon.

So we have Stephen Dunheved, guilty of murder or some other very serious felony for which he expected to be executed, John Dunheved accused of rape, murdered his own brother, burned down his mother's grange and committed trespass, Oliver Dunheved the chaplain, said to be a common thief and also accused of rape, and Thomas Dunheved the friar, said by the pope in 1325 to be acting against his Dominican order even though he was by now a papal chaplain. The Dunheved brothers probably weren't too delightful in person, though were exactly the kind of men you'd want trying to free you from captivity, and they temporarily succeeded in springing Edward out of Berkeley Castle in June or July 1327. Afterwards Stephen fled to London and was arrested there and imprisoned in Newgate, but escaped in or just before June 1329. [Close Rolls 1327-30, 146, 549] He was ordered to be arrested again on 31 March 1330 as an adherent of Edward II's half-brother the earl of Kent, trying to free the supposedly dead Edward from captivity, and that, sadly, is the last mention I've ever found of him. [Fine Rolls 1327-37, 169] Thomas Dunheved was captured in Budbrooke near their family home of Dunchurch after the attack on Berkeley Castle and sent to prison at Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire, or perhaps in York. He most probably died in captivity, though not before almost escaping, though there's a possibility that he just may have lived long enough to be involved in the earl of Kent's plot of 1330 as well.

Either Stephen or John Dunheved granted the manor of Dunchurch for life to Sir John Somery, who died in August 1322. [CFR 1319-27, 185] John Dunheved then mortgaged it to Sir John Pecche, lord of Hampton-in-Arden in Warwickshire, who, like Stephen Dunheved, was involved in the earl of Kent's plot of 1329/30 to free Edward of Caernarfon. Normally Dunchurch would have been forfeit to the king when Stephen abjured the realm, and indeed Edward II thought so at first, but an inquisition in November 1322 revealed that "John [Somery] held the said manor for life of the inheritance of John Dunheved." [CFR 1319-27, 185; CIPM 1317-27, 255]

Here's a petition presented by John Dunheved's wife Margery, probably in 1327:  "Margery, wife of John de Donheved, states that John Pecche, his wife, and twenty armed men came to her husband's house in Dunchurch one night, looking for him to kill him, and dragged her out of bed and ill-treated her, and carried off 100 shillings worth of goods. On the third day after that, her husband's sister [Rohese] had them expelled from that land by conspiracy, and John Pecche seised of it. He asked the aid of the Earl of Arundel and of Hugh le Despenser the younger, and when the king was last at Warwick, to inquire into the death of Roger de Belers [in January 1326], they had her husband indicted at Warwick, among other false indictments, of the death of Oliver de Donheved, who was a common thief. Because of this, they are destroyed, and driven from their land. They request a remedy, as he [Pecche] is so feared in the land that they do not dare to pursue their right there."

This is because Oliver Dunheved was John Pecche's rent-collector, so Pecche presumably wanted revenge for Oliver's murder. Pecche's second wife Eleanor was the widow of Sir Ralph Gorges, a Despenser adherent, so it seems that Pecche had joined the charmed circle of those protected and aided by Hugh Despenser. When the Despensers fell in late 1326, John Pecche managed to stay in favour with the new regime, until he joined the earl of Kent's plot with his son Nicholas and saw his lands and goods confiscated.

The Dunheveds don't seem to have been a particularly close family, do they, with the exception of Stephen and Thomas, who worked together to free Edward of Caernarfon. John the second brother murdered Oliver the fourth brother and burned down their mother's grange, and the only Dunheved sister, Rohese, had John 'expelled by conspiracy' from Dunchurch. The story of the Dunheved brothers also reveals what a violent place England often was in the fourteenth century. Stephen may have been a bad boy, but thanks to his unstinting support of Edward II even years after his official death, he's one of my heroes.


sami parkkonen said...

These were some bad boys indeed and one explanation to their longevity and survival might be that they had assisted the crown in some shape or form, other than helping Edward to escape from captivity once.

One way for royal pardon in these times was to join in the army, either as a rank and file soldier or more likely as an archer. It is known that during Henry V invasion of France in 1415 there were several men accused of murder and being outlaws who were on the payroll as archers in his army. Some fought at Agincourt along side of the king.

During the times of Edward II and his son, famous outlaw families were also the Coterels, three brothers and their buddy Robert le Sauvage, and the seven Folville brothers lead by Eustace. Both of these became famous and both were very dangerous gangs.

There is a perhaps invented story of Edward III escorting his noble guest along some west country road and staging a highway robbery on the route for their amusement. That being just a show, Edward III commented to his shaken guest that there are gangs of outlaws to whom it is wise to pay up in case one comes across them. That gives you an idea how dangerous times these were and where the Robin Hood legends came from.

There was also a part of Shirewood/Sherwood, part of the royal forest, which was known as Thieves wood. Barnesdale/Barnsdale forest in Yorkshire was also notorious for it's forest outlaws and the earliest legends place Robin Hood up there and not to Sherwood/Shirewood.

Anonymous said...

Murder and arson - pretty gruesome crimes. However, we can't be too judgemental after all this time, who knows why it happened and what inter-familial arguments were going on and why. Putting my 'amateur psychiatrist's hat on' there must have been something particularly intolerable as I would have thought in those religious days to have committed such heinous acts there was something very volatile occurring. In any event two of the brothers tried and successfully released Edward if only temporarily so that was a good and noble act. By the way, your third book is now on it's way, brilliant news. Amanda

Anonymous said...

One guy kills his brother and burns his mother's property ... IMO, these guys make the Tudors look like a functional family!