PLUMPTON, Sir WILLIAM (1404–1480), soldier, born 7 Oct. 1404, was eldest son of Sir Robert Plumpton (1383–1421) of Plumpton, Yorkshire, by Alice, daughter of Sir Godfrey Foljambe of Hassop, Derbyshire. His family had been settled at Plumpton from the twelfth century, and held of the earls of Northumberland as overlords. Accordingly the Earl of Northumberland had his wardship till he was of age. About 1427 he set out for the French wars; he was knighted before 1430, when he returned. He probably went to France again very shortly, as he is mentioned as one of the captains in the retinue of the Duke of Bedford in 1435. He was seneschal and master-forester of the honour and forest, and constable of the castle of Knaresborough from about 1439 to 1461, and in connection with this office he had serious trouble in 1441, when a fierce and sanguinary quarrel broke out between the tenants of the forest and the servants of Archbishop John Kemp [q. v.] as to payment of toll at fairs. On 20 Feb. 1441–2 he was appointed by the Earl of Northumberland seneschal of all his manors in Yorkshire with a fee of 10l. for life; the fee was doubled for good service in 1447. In 1448 he was sheriff for Yorkshire, and in 1452 for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. He continued closely connected with the Percy family, and in 1456 joined the musters of the Earl of Northumberland for a raid into Scotland. This family connection drew him, like most of the northern gentlemen, to the Lancastrian side in the wars of the Roses. In 1460 he was a commissioner to inquire into the estates of the attainted Yorkists. In 1461 the series of letters addressed to Sir William Plumpton which forms part of the ‘Plumpton Correspondence’ begins. On 12 March 1460–1 King Henry wrote from York telling him to raise men from Knaresborough and come to him. The next day a second letter urged him to hasten. He joined the royal army and fought at Towton, where his son William was killed. Sir William either gave himself up or was taken prisoner, and decided to submit. He obtained a pardon from Edward IV on 5 Feb. 1461–2. For some time, however, he was not allowed to go into the north of England, and in 1463 was tried and acquitted on a charge of treason by a jury at Hounslow, Middlesex. He now recovered his offices of constable of the castle and forester of the forest of Knaresborough; but, like most of the people of the north, he must have made some move in the Lancastrian interest in 1471, as he secured a general pardon for all offences committed up to 30 Sept. 1471, and at the same time lost his offices at Knaresborough.
He died on 15 Oct. 1480. He married, first, some time after 20 Jan. 1415–16, the date of the marriage covenant, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Bryan Stapilton of Carlton, Yorkshire; she died before 1451. By her Sir William had seven daughters, all of whom married, and two sons, Robert and William; Robert died in 1450, being betrothed to Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas, lord Clifford; upon his death Elizabeth married his brother William; the latter was killed at Towton in 1461, leaving two daughters. After the first wife’s death, or perhaps before it, Sir William had two bastard sons, Robert and William. Great scandal was caused at a later date by his relations with Joan, daughter of Thomas Winteringham of Winteringham Hall, Knaresborough. In consequence, Sir William was summoned before the ecclesiastical court of York, where he appeared in 1467–1468, and declared that he had been privately married to the lady in 1451. After some delay the court decided in 1472 that this was true, and from that time Robert, the offspring of this marriage, was regarded as heir. To make all sure, his father made him a gift of his personal property.
This Sir Robert Plumpton (1453–1523) was involved in various disputes with his father’s other heirs. He was knighted by the Duke of Gloucester, near Berwick, 22 Aug. 1482, when following his master, the Earl of Northumberland, but he supported Henry VII after he had secured the crown, and went to meet the king on his northern progress in the first year of his reign. He was also present at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth on 25 Nov. 1487. That he was trusted by the king may be gathered from the lease granted to him on 5 May 1488 of mills at Knaresborough and Kilinghale, and he took an active part in repressing the outbreaks in Yorkshire of April 1489 and May 1492; Henry thanked him in a letter which is printed among the ‘Plumpton Correspondence.’ Despite this evidence of his loyalty, Empson fixed his claws in the Plumpton inheritance, and raked up the old claims of the heirs-general of Sir William Plumpton. In 1502 the verdict went against Sir Robert; but he appealed to the king, who made him a knight of the body, and in 1503 he was protected from the results of the action. The dispute was not, however, finished; and when Henry VIII came to the throne, Sir Robert, who was penniless, was imprisoned in the counter. He was soon afterwards released and an arrangement made by which he was restored to his estate on an award. He died in the summer of 1523. He married, first, Agnes (d. 1504), daughter of Sir William Gascoigne of Gawthorp, Yorkshire; by her he had a large family, of whom William Plumpton was the eldest son. Sir Robert’s second wife was Isabel, daughter of Ralph, lord Neville, by whom he does not appear to have left any issue.
The ‘Plumpton Correspondence’ was preserved in a manuscript book of copies which passed into the hands of Christopher Towneley about 1650, and remained among the Towneley MSS.; it consisted of letters written during the time of Sir William Plumpton and later members of his family down to 1551. It was edited for the Camden Society by Thomas Stapleton [q. v.] in 1838–9 (2 vols.); the letters illustrated by the editor by extracts from a manuscript in the same collection, the ‘Coucher Book’ of Sir Edward Plumpton.[Plumpton Correspondence, ed. Stapleton (Camden Soc.); Wars of the English in France (Rolls Ser.), ed. Stevenson, ii. 433; Materials for the Hist. of Henry VII (Rolls Ser.), ii. 300.]
Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 45
Plumpton, William by William Arthur Jobson Archbold