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In 1382 June 18, Willielmus de Topclyve (William Topcliff) was granted, by Richard II, (In year 5 of his reign) a Royal licence to crenellate Shoford Maideston (Maidstone)
Licence, at the supplication of William de Courtenay, archbishop of Canterbury, for William de Topclyve to crenellate and fortify a small 'place' called 'Shoford' in the parish of Maideston, lately levelled by the insurgents. By p.s. {2264} (CPR)

Willielmus de Topclyve ... quandam minutam placeam vocatam Shoford in parochia de ... Maideston (per communes nuper insurgentes prostratam, ... ad superplicationem ven. patris Willielmi de Courtenay, archiep. Cantuar.) (Turner and Parker)

Granted at Westminster. Grant by privy seal at the supplication of William de Courtenay, archbishop of Canterbury.


Coulson writes "William's involvement with the sheriff and the cathedral probably explains why his house was the target of popular vindictiveness. When it was all over he may, of course, have felt that a substantial stone-built, crenellated new house (perhaps with parapets to protect the roof) would reduce the risk of arson and afford him more security in the future. But such dwellings were frequently (in fact, normally) built without any licence to crenellate. Without doubt, the function of the licence to William was to reaffirm his status and his association with the great. It was an emphatic and demonstrative response to the menu peuple who had dared to resent and attack his standing." This manor is outside the town of Maidstone and this was not a town house as has been previously stated.

Original source is;

(In fact, the original source given is usually a transcription/translation of what are precious medieval documents not readily availably. It should be noted that these transcription/translations often date to the nineteenth or early twentieth centuries and that unwitting bias of transcribers may affect the translation. Care should also be taken to avoid giving modern meaning to the medieval use of certain stock words and terms. Licentia is best translated as 'freedom to' not 'permission'.)

Significant later sources are;

William Topcliff
Bishop Courtenay, of noble birth and well connected, but very much a churchman, rather than a politician. However, following the death of Archbishop Sudbury in the Peasant's Revolt he became Archbishop of Canterbury and, very briefly, chancellor.

Topcliff had been appointed in 1364, on account of his 'faithfulness and industry', as steward to the archbishop of Canterbury. (CPR 1364-7 p. 58) Between 1366 and the late thirteen-eighties he was almost continuously on the Kentish commissions of the peace, and often on special commissions in connexion with the liberty of Christchurch. In January 1380 he and Sir David Hanmer, a serjeant-at-law, were charged 'to enquire touching false coinages... of the king's moneys and seals, to find the engines used and to arrest those engaged therein'. Topcliff would have had to do with con- ducting the investigation and Hanmer with pronouncing the verdict on his evidence. This commission may be worth mentioning because Chaucer almost certainly knew Topcliff, and no satisfactory literary source has been found for the extremely detailed knowledge of the ways of alchemists which the poet displays in the Canon's Yeoman's Tale. He may have learned something about the subject from the archbishop's steward. A writ of April 1385 names Topcliff as a bailiff of Canterbury. His home at Maidstone was burned by Thomas atte Raven and his followers during the Peasants' Revolt, but in 1382 he received 'licence, at the supplication of William de Courtenay, archbishop of Canterbury... to crenellate and fortify a small "place " called " Shoford " in the parish of Maidstone, lately levelled by the insurgents'. He had no professional legal standing, but qualified as a commissioner of the peace for Kent, in the class of 'the most worthy', because he was steward to one of the county's greatest land- owners, the archbishop of Canterbury. (Galway)

Biographical source include;

More information about licences to crenellate can be found here.

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Record created by Philip Davis. This record last updated on Sunday, October 4, 2015.