Preston, Gilbert de (DNB00)

PRESTON, GILBERT de (d. 1274), chief justice of the court of common pleas, was son of Walter de Preston (d. 1230), or Walter Fitz Winemar, who was sheriff of Northamptonshire in 1207 and 1208, and held some post in connection with the forests (Cal. Rot. Claus. i. 79). He had custody of Fotheringay Castle in 1212; he apparently sided with the barons, as his lands were taken into the king's hands (ib. i. 122, 297). In 1227 and 1228 he was employed to assess the fifteenth in Warwickshire and Leicestershire, and to fix the tallage in the counties of Northampton, Buckingham, and Bedford (ib. ii. 137, 146, 208).

His son Gilbert paid one hundred shillings for the relief of his father's lands in Northamptonshire on 28 Oct. 1230 (Roberts, Excerpta e Rot. Finium, i. 204). He was presented to the livings of Marham and Asekirk, Northamptonshire, in 1217 (Bridges, Northamptonshire, ii. 518). But though the professional lawyers of the time were commonly churchmen, the fact that Gilbert de Preston was married shows that he abandoned an ecclesiastical career. He is first mentioned in a public capacity as one of the justices itinerant who took the southern circuit in 1240, and sat, among other places, at Hertford (Dugdale, Chron. Series; Matt. Paris, iv. 51). At this time he was probably not one of the justices at Westminster, but was appointed to the bench before 2 Feb. 1242, when fines were levied before him, and in Easter of that year his name appears on the pleas of the bench (Dugdale, Chron. Series, and Orig. p. 43; Gisburn Cartulary, i. 116). Later in the year he was a justice of an assize of novel disseisin at Northampton, and in November and December at Hereford and Cirencester (Michel, Rôles Gascons, i. 1234, 1240, 1242). In every year for the remainder of Henry's reign there appear payments for writs of assize to be taken before him in various parts of the country (Excerpta e Rot. Finium). In 1242 Preston appears at the bottom of the justiciarii de banco; but he gradually advanced till after 1252 he usually appears at the head of one of the commissions, probably as being the senior on the circuit to which he was appointed. On 3 Oct. 1258 he was the second of three assigned to hold the king's bench at Westminster (Cal. Rot. Pat. p. 29). In 1263 there are pleas before him and John de Wyvill at Westminster, and in 1267 pleas before him and John de la Lynde. Apparently, therefore, he then acted in the common pleas. In 1268 he was ‘justiciarius de banco’ and head of the justices itinerant in various counties (Madox, Hist. Exch. 236). His salary in 1255 was forty marks, but in 1269 he had a grant of one hundred marks annually for his support ‘in officio justiciariæ;’ from the latter amount he would appear to have now become chief justice. He is not, however, given the title of chief justice till, on his reappointment by Edward I, he is so styled in the ‘Liberate’ granting him livery of his robes. Dugdale remarks that he is the first whom he has observed to hold the title of chief justice of the court of common pleas. Preston died between midsummer and Michaelmas 1274; the last fine acknowledged before him was on the former date (Dugdale, Orig. pp. 39, 43; Cal. Inq. post mortem, i. 52). By his wife Alice, who survived till 1296, Preston had a daughter Sybil; he and his daughter were benefactors of the Cluniac priory of St. Andrew, Northampton (Monasticon Anglicanum, v. 186; Bridges, Northamptonshire, i. 408, 452). His heir was Laurence de Preston, son of his brother William (+Roberts, Calend. Genealogicum, i. 211). Laurence de Preston was returned as lord of the manor of Preston in 1316, and was knight of the shire for Northampton in 1320. His descendants survived at Preston till the reign of Henry VI (ib. i. 377, 380, 391, ii. 511; Palgrave, Parliamentary Writs, iv. 1316). [Foss's Judges of England, iii. 140–3; Gisburn Cartulary (Surtees Soc.); Chronicon Petroburgense and Liber de Antiquis Legibus (Camden Soc.); Annales Monastici, passim; Flores Hist. ii. 426–7; other authorities quoted in text.]