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ORMESBY or ORMSBY, WILLIAM de (d. 1317), judge, derived his name from the village of Ormsby in East Norfolk, about three miles from Caistor, in which he had property and kinsfolk, and where he was very likely born. He first appears in the records as acting as justice itinerant in the northern counties. On 10 April 1292 he was appointed, with Hugh Cressingham [q. v.] and others, justice in eyre in the counties of Lancashire, Westmoreland, and Cumberland, with special injunctions to hear and determine complaints against the king's bailiffs and ministers (Cal. Patent Rolls, 1281–92, p. 485), a commission which, on 28 Aug., was also extended over Northumberland (ib. p. 507). On 3 Nov. of the same year Ormesby and his associates were holding their court at Carlisle (Chron. Lanercost, p. 147; cf. Hist. Doc. Scotl. i. 365), while in January 1293 they were holding the Northumberland inquests at Newcastle (ib. i. 390). In 1296 he became a justice in the court of king's bench. He was still serving the king in the north when, on 22 Aug. 1296, he was ordered with others to accompany the chancellor, John Langton, and to meet Edward I at Berwick on the king's return from his triumphant progress through Scotland (Hist. Doc. Scotl. ii. 78). He was now appointed justice of Scotland when Earl Warenne was made warden and his old associate Cressingham treasurer of the conquered land (Rishanger, p. 165). Edward especially enjoined upon Ormesby to exact homage and fealty from the Scottish tenants in chief (ib.; Trivet, p. 351). Ormesby carried out Edward's orders with unflinching severity and with no politic respect to persons, driving into exile all those who refused the oaths to Edward (ib. p. 356; Walter de Hemingburgh, ii. 123; Rishanger, p. 170). The absence of Earl Warenne and Cressingham in England threw upon Ormesby the chief weight of responsibility for Edward's harsh rule over the Scots. When Wallace's revolt broke out in May 1297, Ormesby was the first to be signalled out for attack. Wallace fell upon him suddenly at Scone, and it was with considerable difficulty that Ormesby, who had been warned at the last moment, succeeded in escaping, leaving all his property as the spoil of the enemy (Rishanger, p. 171; Trivet, p. 356). After the English defeat at Stirling Bridge in September, in which Cressingham was slain, Ormesby was appointed on 23 Oct. to raise foot soldiers for the further campaign against the Scots in Northumberland, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, and Nottinghamshire (Hist. Doc. Scotl. 1286–1306, ii. 237). In March 1298 he was summoned to a council in London (Gough, Scotland in 1298, p. 81). For the rest of Edward I's reign Ormesby was constantly occupied with his duties at the king's bench (Liber Albus, i. 298). In 1305 he was also chief of the justices of trailbaston assigned for the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk.

Ormesby continued to act as a judge under Edward II, though Foss has suggested doubts as to his continuance at the king's bench, on the grounds that no writ exists such as was addressed to the other justices to take the oaths to the new king, and that his name does not appear judicially in the ‘Abbreviatio Placitorum’ after Edward I's death. He continued, however, to be summoned with the judges to parliament until his death, and was very active for the next ten years as justice of assize in the eastern counties, and especially in his own county of Norfolk as also in Suffolk (Cal. Close Rolls, 1307–13 pp. 4, 78, 93, 202, 242, 336, 1313–18 pp. 24, 55, 195). The last date at which he was thus occupied seems to be February 1316 (ib. p. 323). In April 1311 Ormesby was also appointed with three others to act as justices of common pleas in the liberties of the bishopric of Durham, then vacant and in the king's hands.

Ormesby died before 12 June 1317, on which date his executors were ordered to send to the crown the rolls, writs, and other records in his possession as justice itinerant in the eastern counties at the time of his death (ib. p. 481). This shows that he was at work until the end. The names of his five executors are given. One of them was his son John. He was buried in the Benedictine monastery of St. Benet's, Hulme, situated not far from his Norfolk home, to which house he had been a benefactor.

In 1308 Ormesby's wife is mentioned. She was Sybilla, widow of Roger Loveday, a justice itinerant under Edward I (Abbrev. Placit. p. 307). However, in 1315 there is mention of the death of Ellen, wife of William de Ormesby, and the king's escheator is ordered to allow her son, Roger de Ormesby, who had done homage and fealty to the king, to enter into possession of the lands which Ellen had held in chief of the crown (Cal. Close Rolls, 1313–18, p. 142). These lands included the township and manor of Ormesby in Norfolk (Cal. Inq. post mortem, i. 254). There seems no means of determining whether this this William de Ormesby; but it is, perhaps, more probable that he was not identical with him. The name was a common one. A William of Ormesby represented Yarmouth in Edward I's Carlisle parliament, to which the judge was summoned officially.

[Most of the facts are collected in Foss's Judges of England, iii. 284–6, and Biographia Juridica, pp. 491–2; Dugdale's Orig. Jud. and Chronica Series; Walter de Hemingburgh, N. Trivet, both in Engl. Hist. Soc.; Chron. de Lanercost (Maitland Club); Rishanger Chron. (Rolls Ser.); Calendars of Close Rolls; Abbreviatio Placitorum; Historical Documents of Scotland, 1286–1306; Blomefield's Norfolk, passim. ]

T. F. T.