Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thurkilbi, Roger de
THURKILBI, ROGER de (d. 1260), judge, was the son and heir of Thomas de Thurkilbi, who took his name from a hamlet in the parish of Kirby Grindalyth in the East Riding of Yorkshire. It is probable, from the difficulty of accounting otherwise for his sudden elevation to judicial office, that Roger was a lawyer by profession. He was never a tenant in capite, and, although the possessor of many manors in his native county, he never served as its sheriff. Nor did he owe his advancement to his father, who was a man of no political or administrative importance.
From certain grants made to Thurkilbi in June 1233 it may be inferred that he was already engaged in the king's service, perhaps as his advocate, or as a clerk in the chancery. In 24 Henry III (1239–40) he was appointed to itinerate in Norfolk and twelve other counties with William of York, Henry de Bath, and Gilbert de Preston, three of the most distinguished judges of the century. He was engaged in this way until November in 26 Henry III (1241), when the feet of fines show that the eyre was concluded. In the following Easter he was directed to deliver the gaols of Norwich and Ipswich; and in April he witnessed two royal charters, when the king was at Winchester. At the beginning of Trinity term he sat for the first time in the common bench at Westminster, with Robert de Lexinton as presiding judge. In Hilary and the early part of Trinity terms in 27 Henry III (1242–3) he itinerated in Somerset and Oxfordshire; in the last weeks of Easter term and in Trinity term of 28 Henry III (1244) in Devonshire and Dorset; in Easter and Trinity terms of 29 Henry III (1245) in the counties of Lincoln and Nottingham. After Easter in 30 Henry III (1246) he commenced an eyre with Gilbert de Preston, Simon de Wauton, and John de Cobham, which extended over more than half the counties in England, and only ended in Trinity term of 33 Henry III (1249). During 32 and 33 Henry III (1247–9) the sittings of the common bench were suspended, and nearly the whole of the judicial business of the country was transacted before itinerant justices. Thurkilbi had, in the intervals between his eyres, been engaged as a justice of the bench at Westminster; and when the court was reopened in Michaelmas term of 33 Henry III (1249) he returned to preside over it again until Michaelmas term in 35 and 36 Henry III (1251), when he began another eyre through the counties of York, Nottingham, Derby, Warwick, and Leicester. He returned to Westminster towards the end of Michaelmas term in 36 and 37 Henry III (1252). In Easter term of 40 Henry III (1256) he went on his last eyre through Northumberland and six other counties in the north of England. The last fine levied before him in this eyre was at Derby early in February of 42 Henry III (1257–8). From this time till the autumn of the same year he was holding pleas at Oxford, probably as a justice coram rege. In Michaelmas term of 42 and 43 Henry III (1258) the king appointed Thurkilbi, Gilbert de Preston, and Nicholas de Handlo to hold the king's bench at Westminster, ‘donec rex de eodem banco plenius ordinauerit.’ The bench here spoken of was undoubtedly the common bench. Although the king intended to make other arrangements, Thurkilbi remained at Westminster until he died. Matthew Paris (Chronica Majora, v. 96) and Matthew of Westminster (Flores Historiarum, ii. 363) agree in stating that he crossed the Channel with Richard, earl of Cornwall [q. v.], and other nobles in 1250. The statement is confirmed by the feet of fines, which show that he was absent from Westminster for the last few weeks of Hilary term. In July of 37 Henry III (1253) Thurkilbi was directed to explain the ‘Articuli Vigiliæ’ to the knights and freemen of the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, and to enforce their observance. He has also been described as one of the justices for the custody of the Jews in this year on the authority of an entry on the plea rolls of the exchequer of the Jews. As there is no other evidence that he filled this office, and he was undoubtedly at this time a justice of the bench, it is probable that he was engaged at the exchequer for the consideration of a special case. The same entry has been cited to show that Henry de Bath, who at this time held high judicial office, was also a justice for the custody of the Jews. The two judges were no doubt called in to determine some difficult point of law.
Thurkilbi was frequently assigned to take particular assizes and deliver gaols, and in 43 Henry III (1259), when it was provided that such ‘speciales justiciarie’ should only be granted to certain judges, he was included in the number. He was usually sent on this work to the eastern counties. The cases so heard by him are recorded on the two files of assize rolls now at the Record Office, numbered respectively 1177 and 1179. From July 1253 he was paid an annual salary of 100 marks.
It is difficult to estimate the work and influence of a lawyer at a time when there were no year-books or reports, but it is certain that Thurkilbi was a great judge. In ‘Flores Historiarum’ (ii. 450) he is described as ‘nulli in toto regno maxime in justicia et terre legibus secundus,’ and his decisions are among the few expressly mentioned in Hengham's ‘Summa Magna’ and other thirteenth-century treatises. He seems to have taken small part in the political controversies of his day. Matthew Paris, speaking of the introduction of the words ‘non obstante’ into royal letters, represents him as saying in 1251, ‘Heu! heu! hos utquid dies expectavimus? Ecce jam civilis curia exemplo ecclesiasticæ coinquinatur et a sulphureo fonte rivulus intoxicatur’ (Chronica Majora, v. 211). The same writer records a speech made to him by the judge on the subject of the Poitevin oppression in the following year, which shows that he was discontented with the state of the kingdom. In 1259 he was one of the persons appointed by the barons to sell the king's wardships and select sheriffs (Annales Monastici, i. 477–8). These facts have been taken as showing that he acted with the popular party. On the other hand this was the only occasion on which the barons employed him otherwise than as a judge, and he remained in the king's favour after they had obtained power (Flores Historiarum). Moreover, the persons so appointed by the barons seem to have been chosen rather as experienced and trusted public servants than on political grounds.
Thurkilbi was married to a certain Lecia as early as 24 Henry III (1240). She survived her husband and left Thomas Rocelyn as her heir (Rot. Hund. i. 472). Thurkilbi died childless in June or early in July in 44 Henry III (1260), having appointed his neighbour, Simon Abbot of Langley, Thomas de Heserletone, and Master Roger de Heserletone executors of his will. The statement in ‘Flores Historiarum’ that he died on 20 Aug. is clearly incorrect, as there is an entry on the patent rolls dated 7 July which shows that he was already dead. Fines were levied before him in the week beginning on 6 June, but none afterwards. An anonymous writer, from whose manuscripts a few extracts are printed in Leland's ‘Collectanea’ (ed. Hearne, ii. 245), says that his estate, exclusive of gold, gems, vases, and silken girdles, did not amount to thirty marks. But the feet of several fines to which Roger de Thurkilbi was a party show that he had acquired considerable property in Yorkshire, Norfolk, and Lincolnshire. Moreover his executors paid the sum of 200 marks for the king's aid in getting in the testator's debts. His heir was his brother, Walter de Thurkilbi, who, though he seems never to have held any administrative or judicial office, frequently witnessed royal charters, and was probably a member of the king's council. Matthew Paris, who was personally acquainted with Roger de Thurkilbi, speaks of him as ‘miles et literatus’ (Chronica Majora, v. 317).[The chief authorities are: The Plea Rolls, the various Chancery and Exchequer Rolls, and the Feet of Fines (all at the Record Office). A large number of transcripts from these relating to Thurkilbi, and also an Itinerary of him as a justice in eyre have been typewritten and placed in the library of the British Museum. His sittings at Westminster are tabulated in Bracton's Notebook. See also Matthew Paris's Chronica Majora (Rolls Series); Matthew of Westminster's Flores Historiarum (Rolls Series); Annales Monastici (Rolls Series); Gross's Exchequer of the Jews; Bracton's Notebook, ed. Maitland; Leland's Collectanea, ed. Hearne.]