Otterbourne, Thomas (DNB00)
OTTERBOURNE, THOMAS (fl. 1400), historian, is commonly stated to have been a Franciscan. Sir Thomas Gray (d. 1369) [q. v.], in the prologue to his 'Scala Chronica,' alleges that he had made use of a chronicle by Thomas Otterbourne, a Franciscan friar and doctor of divinity. A friar of that name was sixty-fifth reader of his order at Oxford, and must have lectured before 1350, and probably not later than 1345. This would agree sufficiently well with the statement in the 'Scala Chronica,' but the friar clearly cannot have been the author of the chronicle which now passes under his name, and comes down to 1420. There was an- other Thomas Otterbourne who was presented to the rectory of Haddiscoe, Norfolk, on 3 Oct. 1383, and a Thomas Otterbourne received the rectory of Chingford on 17 Nov. and was ordained priest on 19 Sept. The rector of Chingford, whose successor, Henry Winslowe, died in 1438, may perhaps have been the historian, and would probably have died about 1421. Hearne conjectured that there had been two writers of the name, one under Edward III, the other under Henry IV and Henry V; he supports his conjecture by the statement that some ancient manuscripts of the history reached no further than the reign of Edward III; there is such a copy in Cotton MS. Julius, A. viii, which ends with 1359, but dates from the latter part of the fifteenth century. Otterbourne the Franciscan was, presumably, like Sir Thomas Gray, a native of Northumberland, and it is natural that any work of his should have been known to his fellow-countryman; but there seems no sufficient ground for connecting him at all with the existing chronicle, which bears no marks of having been written by a Franciscan; such notices of the order as are given by Walsingham and in the 'Eulogium Historiarum' are sometimes omitted and usually shortened. The notices of northern events appear to be most numerous in the first years of the reign of Richard II, at which time the future rector of Chingford may be reasonably conjectured to have been still resident in his native county.
Otterbourne's chronicle begins with the legendary history of Britain, and comes down to 1420. Until the reign of Edward III it is of no great length, and is fullest for the reigns of Richard II and Henry IV. The writer appears to have drawn from the same sources as Walsingham, but in the last eighty years of his narrative he records some facts which are not mentioned elsewhere, and which appear to rest on good authority. The only ancient complete manuscript is Harley 36*43, which dates from the fifteenth century, and was formerly at Eton. Holinshed, in his catalogue of authors, refers to this manuscript as 'compiled by some Northern-man, as some suppose named Otterborne. There is a sixteenth-century transcript of this manu- script in Cotton MS. Vitellius F. ix, which was damaged in the fire of 1731. Hearne edited Otter bourne's chronicle from a copy which he had procured of the Cotton manuscript, and published it with Whet ham stede's 'Chronicle' in two volumes, Oxford, 1732. Pits ascribes to Otterbourne a treatise 'De successione comitum Northumbriæ; 'this, no doubt, refers to some notes in Harleian MS. 3643 F. l. b.
[Monumenta Franciscana, p. 534 (Rolls Ser.); Gray's Scala Chronica, p. 4 (Maitland Club); Hearne's Preface, pp. xxiv-xxxii and lxxxviii-xci. where the statements of Leland, Bale, and others are reprinted; Tanner's Bibl. Brit.-Hib. p. 567; Newcourt's Repertorium, ii. 148; Little's Urey Friars in Oxford, pp. 174-5, Oxf. Hist. Soc The notices given by Wadding andSbaralea contain no independent information.]