Bereford, William de (DNB00)

BEREFORD, WILLIAM de (d. 1326), judge, son of Walter de Bereford and brother of Osbert de Bereford, chief gentleman to the chief justice, Ralph de Hengham, succeeded his brother as tenant-in-tail of certain estates in Warwickshire, a fact which may account for the father and brother being confounded as they are in the pedigree given in Ferrers's 'Manuscript of Antiquities.' This judge appears to be first mentioned in a lengthy document contained in the roll of parliament for 1291, which, after setting forth that the prior of Tynemouth had been charged with certain encroachments upon the royal prerogative and the rights of the burgesses of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and had pleaded a certain charter in justification, concludes by referring the charter to three judges (Bereford being one) for their opinion. In the following year he was associated with Robert de Hertford, Robert Malet, and William de Gyselham in a special commission to investigate the murder of Roger de Dreiton, treasurer of the Earl of Cornwall, which, occurring while he was on his way to attend parliament at Westminster, was regarded by the king as more than a breach of his peace, an outrage upon his royal dignity. That about this time he was acting as one of the regular justices itinerant seems probable from the fact that in 1293 two brothers, Eustace and John de Paries, were committed to the Tower for publicly insulting him in the Aula Regis 'in the presence of the king and of many nobles and others the king's liege subjects,' by accusing him of partiality in the administration of justice in Staffordshire, his colleagues satisfying the king of his innocence, and the parties having their legal remedy by way of plaint (querela) to the king. In the preceding year, however, he seems to have been removed for a time from office, Peter de Mallore being commissioned in his stead. Dugdale records his appointment as justice of the common bench under date 1294. In 1293 we also find mention of him as assigned, with Gilbert de Roubery, to try certain persons charged with intimidating witnesses summoned to give evidence before the bishop on the trial of a clergyman accused of felony. The date of the first fine recorded as having been levied before him is November 1294, and to this fact Dugdale's silence concerning his previous history is probably attributable. He was summoned to parliament as a justice in 1295. He appears as a party to the act of council by which, in 1297, during the absence of the king in Flanders, Humfrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford, and Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk, who appear to have been apprehensive of evil consequences resulting on the return of the king from their opposition to his arbitrary measures for raising supplies, and their refusal to take the command of the war in Gascony, were assured by the prince and council of immunity from his 'rancour and indignation.' In 1301 he was one of a court of three judges which passed sentence of imprisonment upon the Bishop of Tynemouth for having detained in custody a servant of the prior of Durham, in defiance of letters patent, by which the king had privileged the prior and his retainers from arrest. In the parliament of 1305 he was one of twenty-one English members appointed to confer with the same number of Scotch representatives touching the best means of promoting the stability of Scotland. In the following year he went the northern circuit as one of the commission of trailbaston. He was reappointed justice of the common bench by Edward II on his accession in 1807, and succeeded Ralph de Hengham as chief justice of that bench 15 March 1308-9. In 1318 he was placed on a special commission to try sheriffs and other officers charged with extortion and other illegal practices in the counties of Oxford, Berkshire, Warwick, and Leicester, and reappointed for the two last-mentioned counties next year. July 1326 appears to be the latest date on which he sat at Westminster for the purpose of taking acknowledgments of fines. He died in the same month and year, leaving two sons, Simon and William. He was a large landed proprietor, holding estates in no fewer than eight counties, the major part, however, being in the midland counties of Warwick, Oxford, and Berkshire. He was succeeded on the bench by Hervey de Staunton. From a royal grant of free piscary at Shillingford to William de Bereford we learn that his wife's name was Margaret.

[Nichols's Leicester, iv. 343; Plac. Abbrev. 215, 280; Prynne on Fourth Part of Coke's Institutes, 20; Rot. Parl. i. 29b, 95, 100a; Abbrev. Rot. Orig. i. 60; Cal. Rot. Pat. i. 62; Dugdale's Chron. Ser. 30, 33; Foss's Judges.]

J. M. R.