William Perkins (d. 1449)
Born: circa 1400
Bailiff to the Duke of Gloucester
Died: 1449 probably at Ufton Robert, Berkshire

William was the son of John Perkins (or Parkyns) of Madresfield in Worcestershire, the Seneschal to Thomas Le Despenser, earl of Gloucester. He was the first of this ancient family to have arrived in Berkshire, where he became lord of the manor of Ufton Robert. From 1411, he is named in the diocesan registry as patron of that living and is styled variously Lord of Ufton, Donzell and True Patron. He lived at the old moated site in the parish. The family were not associated with Ufton Court, the manor house of Ufton Pole, until 1567 when it was purchased by the widow of Williamís great great grandson.

William was attached to the service of Prince Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, as bailiff or agent. It was probably in that capacity that he was concerned in an agreement by which one William Leyre confirmed the lordship of Childís Manor in East Barsham, Norfolk, to Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, Eleanor his wife and William Perkins Esq. For immediately afterwards, in another deed, he released his right therein to the Duke. He sealed this deed with the arms, or, a fesse dancetty between eight billets ermines. This is the first time in which the armorial bearings of the family appear. They differ from the later shield in the number of the billets, which were afterwards increased to ten. Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, was the brother of King Henry V, and uncle and guardian to the young Henry VI during his minority. The "good Duke Humphrey," as he was called, whose disgrace and tragic death suggested to Shakespeare the lament which he puts into the mouth of Henry: "For in the shades of death I shall find joy, in life but double death, now Gloucester's dead".

William Perkins is said in the Heraldsí Visitation pedigree to have been living in the year 1419, that is, during the French wars. On 29th May that year, soon after Rouen had capitulated to the English, a meeting took place at Menlau between the French Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Burgundy, and Henry V. It was to arrange conditions of peace, the most important of which was to be the marriage of the King with the French Princess Katherine of Valois. King Henry was, on that occasion, accompanied by his brother, the Duke of Gloucester, and from the special mention of the date in connection with William Perkins, it may have been that he also was present in attendance on his patron.

In 1426 and the two succeeding years, Williamís name appears in the accounts of the Corporation of Reading as follows: "For payment at games given before the Mayor at William Perkins', 6s. 8d. For ale given at the same, 2d. To the minstrels of the Duke of Gloucester at the Mayor's breakfast at Perkins', 20d." Whether the Mayor came out to Ufton or whether William Perkins entertained him in Reading is not clear. The Mayor had to pay for his own ale and the music and the games provided for the entertainment.

William married a lady whose Christian name was Margaret and, conjointly with her in 1424, he was party to an agreement with John Colney and Elizabeth his wife. The manor and advowson of Ufton Robert and a moiety of lands in Borwardescote were settled on the same William and Margaret and, in case of William's death, then on Margaret and her heirs male, subject to the yearly payment of eight marks of silver to Elizabeth Colney. It is certain that the manor and advowson of Ufton Robert had been already, for some years past, the property of William Perkins. This deed may, therefore, perhaps be considered as of the nature of a marriage settlement on his wife. From the fact that Elizabeth Colney had a charge on the Ufton Estate, it seems probable that she was in some way a relation of William Perkins - perhaps his own or his wife's sister. John Colney was the owner of a manor in the neighbouring parish of Padworth, called Hussey's Manor, and his name appears, with that of William Perkins, in a list of gentry of the county of Berkshire, returned in 1434 by Robert Neville, Bishop of Salisbury.

In 1427 and during several succeeding years, William Perkins served as Escheator for the counties of Berkshire and Oxfordshire. The most important event, however, in which he took part - at least, as regards the history of Berkshire - was the ecclesiastical union of the two parishes of Ufton Robert and Ufton Richard (or Nervet). In 1435, an agreement to this effect was sanctioned by the Lord Bishop of Salisbury and signed respectively by William Perkins and the Prior of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, who with his brethren had owned the advowson of the smaller living. This they now resigned and William Perkins and his successors henceforth, for several generations, held the patronage of the united living of Ufton as it now is.

In 1444, William signed his name as a witness to a deed of grant, made by King Henry VI, to the Provost and College of Eton, of lands in New and Old Windsor and in Clewer. In 1447, he is mentioned in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Bray as still holding the office of bailiff to the Duke of Gloucester. The manors of Bray and Cookham had been granted to the Duke by his father, Henry V.

William must have died not very long after this date, it is thought in 1449. For, two years later, his son, Thomas, presented to the living of Ufton as true patron. Around the same time, his wife gave birth to a son, who they called Humphrey after his father's old patron.

Edited from A. Mary Sharp's "History of Ufton Court" (1892)


    © Nash Ford Publishing 2006. All Rights Reserved.