William Skrene

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William Skrene (c.1350-1421) was an Irish-born lawyer and judge who spent most of his adult life in England, where he became a prominent landowner and magistrate. He also served briefly as Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer.[1]

Early life[edit]

He was born in County Meath, to a family which derived its name from the village of Skryne, or Skreen, in that county.[2] By his own account he endeavoured for several years to study law, but was hampered by the fact that Ireland, until the sixteenth century, had no formal law school, and students could not travel abroad without leave. In 1380 he obtained the necessary permission to go to England to study law at Clifford's Inn.[3] He was called to the bar and became a Serjeant-at-law in 1396.[4]


In 1394 he obtained permission to settle in England permanently, and he was exempted from any requirement to contribute to the defence of Ireland. He did return to Ireland as Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer in 1395, but he seems to have served in that office for little more than a year before returning to England, where he remained for the rest of his life..[5]

He acted regularly as a justice of the peace, and sat on numerous commissions for the peace, especially in Essex, where he became a major landowner, acquiring the manors of Writtle, Great Finborough and Stanford Rivers.[6] He also had a London house in the parish of St Mary le Strand. He died in 1421.[7]


He married Alice, daughter of Sir William Rykhill, and had three children: William, his heir, who died in 1431, Thomas and Margaret. Sir John Skrene (died 1475), the younger William's grandson, was the judge's last male heir.[8] His death resulted in Skrene's case, which was of some importance on the law of wardship; it involved a dispute over the inheritance of Sir John' s grandmother, Elizabeth, widow of the younger William.[9]


  1. ^ Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921 London John Murray 1926 Vol. 1 p.169
  2. ^ Ball p.169
  3. ^ The Ricardian Vol. XXI p.23
  4. ^ Ball p.169
  5. ^ Ball p.169
  6. ^ Ricardian p.25
  7. ^ Ricardian p.25
  8. ^ Ricardian p.25
  9. ^ Y.B. Mich 15 Edward IV ff.10-11 pl.16