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Sir William Laken -  Nash Ford PublishingSir William Laken (1410-1475)
Born: 1410 probably at Willey, Shropshire
Justice of the King's Bench
Died: 6th October 1475 possibly at Bray, Berkshire

The family of Laken, or Lacon, seated at Willey, in Shropshire, was opulent and well connected. William was the son of Sir Richard Laken and his wife, Elizabeth, the daughter and heiress of Sir Hamond de Peshall and widow of Henry Grendon. Nothing is known of his early career, but he evidently studied as a lawyer, becoming a JP for Shropshire as early as 1443 and an elector for Shropshire and Justice of North Wales in 1450. He was also elected to represent Shropshire in parliament between 1449 and 1454, and was later summoned to attend between 1467 and 1475. He first appears in the Year Books as an advocate at Michaelmas 1452, the same year in which he became High Sheriff of Shropshire. In the February following, he was summoned to take the degree of the coif and become a sergeant-at-law in the July. He appears to have enjoyed a very considerable practice, being called upon by many of England's most powerful landed families. He was also appointed to various Shropshire and Welsh commissions, including that for raising money for the defence of Calais in 1454; and he was a referee in a case before the parliament of 1461.

In the late 1450s, William seems to have taken up permanent residence at Stone Castle in Kent which he had purchased some years previously, acting on commissions there since 1447. He was made JP for Kent in 1458 and also for Berkshire, two years later, where he held lands in right of his wife. On 4th June 1465, Laken was constituted the fifth judge of the Court of King's Bench and William may have been knighted around the same time. He sat in Essex, Hertfordshire, Surrey and Sussex until the restoration of King Henry VI in 1470, when he was re-appointed, as he was also by Edward IV on his return in the following year. Like his friend, Sir John Norreys, Master of the Wardrobe to King Henry, Sir William appears to have trodden the dangerous line between the Lancastrian and Yorkist causes during the Wars of the Roses.

He married twice and lived chiefly at Stone, near Dartford, in Kent where his first wife, Matilda, lies buried. Upon his second marriage, he became the third husband of Sybil, one of the daughters and co-heiresses of John Syfrewast of Clewer in Berkshire. When he died on 6th October 1475, she had him buried in the parish church adjoining her own property at Bray, which she had inherited from her mother. The lady remarried to Sir Thomas Berkeley and joined her husband in the grave some time before 1489. Their memorial brass remains today, although the figure of Sybil has been lost. Sir William left issue by both wives which was afterwards widely spread, including the later baronets who used the spelling 'Lacon'. 

Edited from Edward Foss' 'Lives of the Judges Volume 4' (1851).

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