Thomas Weyland

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Sir Thomas Weyland (1230 – January 1298) was a British justice. He was the third son of Herbert Weyland and his wife Beatrice; his three brothers, John, Richard and William, also pursued administrative and judicial careers.[1] Thomas's first appearance in official records is in 1251 as an attorney for his brother John for the making of a final concord. In 1258 he paid 100 marks for the Manor of Chillesford in Suffolk, and purchased a second manor in 1258 at Blaxhall for 300 marks; it is unknown what career he had to earn such money. In 1266 he married Anna, daughter of Richard de Coleville, and was knighted in 1270. In 1274 he was made a justice of the Common Bench after the death of his older brother William, who had previously held such a position.

He served as a junior justice for four years, and was appointed Chief Justice in 1278 after the retirement of Roger of Seaton. He held office for 11 years until his removal from office 1289, and his time in this position is the first period of which substantial law reports survive. The reports present a mixed view; while they show he was in possession of a clear and sharp legal mind, often deciding litigation cases of the court either on his own or with his colleague William of Brompton, he was also involved in several instances of corruption and misconduct, including editing his plea roll in a land litigation case involving one of his relatives, being rewarded by an interest in the property in question.[2] Many of these cases only turned up after his removal from office, and although some were shown to be false many were not. During this time he made large acquisitions of property, including seven manors in Suffolk, three in Essex and several others elsewhere. He spent an average of £150 a year on property acquisition while in office, and while much money may have come from the profits of his estate or the income from his wife's dower lands, his relative lack of scruples makes it likely some came from judicial corruption.

His removal from office in 1289 was not, however, as a result of judicial misconduct. On 20 July 1289 two of his servants committed a murder at a village fair, killing William Carwel, an Irish servant of the Earl of Norfolk. The killing may have been as a result of a drunken brawl, but it is probable it was part of bitter factional fighting between followers of the Earl, of which Weyland was one of his leading councillors. After they returned to his house at Monewden he failed to have them arrested, despite knowing of the murder, therefore becoming an accessory. Due to the Earl's desire to have the matter dealt with a warrant was issued for a court of enquiry on 4 September and the men were executed on 14 September. The jurors in the matter also indicted the Chief Justice for harbouring the killers, and orders were given for his arrest. A clerk of the High Sheriff of Suffolk was sent to capture him, but soon after his arrest he escaped under cover of darkness. He made his way to the Franciscan priory at Babwell, where he took the orders habit. After his location became known, Edward I sent orders to Robert Malet to starve him out. Thomas surrendered in 1290, most likely in return for safe travel to the Tower of London, where he was offered a choice between standing trial, perpetual imprisonment, and exile, of which he chose exile. On 20 February he took an oath not to return to any English territory, including Ireland, and was given nine days to reach Dover, his port of departure. By 1292 he had settled in Paris, and was pardoned by the king in 1297 and allowed to return home, where he died in 1298.

Legal offices
Preceded by
Roger of Seaton
Chief Justice of the Common Pleas
1278–1289
Succeeded by
Ralph Sandwich

References[edit]