Thomas Westcote alias Heuster


Thomas Westcote alias Heuster played a pivotal role in the history of the Littleton family of the West Midlands, all of whom from the 15th century onwards were descended from his son, the judge Sir Thomas Littleton. Had Thomas Westcote not agreed that his eldest son by Elizabeth Littleton should adopt her surname his subsequent Littleton descendants would have been known by his adopted surname, Westcote, or even by his birth surname, Heuster. Over the years Thomas Westcote has been researched by a succession of family historians resulting in the gradual accumulation of myth and misinformation which now surrounds him, much of it copied unquestioningly from one author to another down the centuries and presented as fact in many of the Littleton family trees published online. This study is an attempt to distinguish fact from fiction and produce an accurate, properly documented account of this enigmatic man.

The Westcotes of Devon

One of the most widely used sources of inaccurate information concerning Thomas Westcote alias Heuster can be attributed to his namesake, the amateur historian Thomas Westcote of Raddon in Devon. This Thomas was born in the Devonshire parish of Shobrooke in 1567 and died there in about 1637. His books, “A View of Devonshire” and “The Pedigrees of some of our Devonshire Families”, were published in 1630 [1]. Information from these works is still frequently incorporated into Littleton family trees despite having been discredited as inaccurate and unreliable by later Devonshire historians. He was probably also responsible for the equally inaccurate pedigree entered at the Heralds' Visitation of Devonshire in 1620 [2]. According to these books and pedigree, the Thomas Westcote who married Elizabeth Littleton of Frankley was descended from the Westcotes of Marwood in Devonshire, and the Westcotes of Raddon were descended from Thomas and Elizabeth's son, Guy Westcote, through Guy's alleged son, Thomas Westcote, who married Mary, the daughter of Thomas Westcott of Porlock in Somerset. None of this can be substantiated by any contemporary documentary evidence: to date, no records have been found which prove that Thomas Westcote alias Heuster came from Devon, whereas there are numerous documentary sources indicating that he was from Lichfield in Staffordshire.

The Lyttleton pedigree from the Visitation of Worcestershire 1569

This is one of the earliest-known published pedigrees of the Worcestershire Littletons, taken from the Heralds' Visitation of 1569 with later additions. It isn't clear which member of the Littleton family provided the information on which the pedigree is based but he was clearly unaware of some details of his early family history because the pedigree contains a number of omissions and errors. Omissions include the forenames of Thomas Littleton's wife, Maud Quartermain, and her father, Richard. Her surname was presumably deduced from the arms on Sir Thomas Littleton's tomb in Worcester Cathedral and the windows in Frankley and Halesowen churches. Also missing are the names of the wives of Thomas Westcote's three younger sons, Guy, Edmund (wrongly named as Edward) and Nicholas, and the names of Thomas Westcote's four daughters. Errors include naming Joan Burley's parents as Sir John Burley and “. . . da. of Ric. Gray of Wilton” instead of William Burley and Ellen Grendon, and giving John Littleton of Munslow three extra sisters, Frances, Judith (actually Jane), and Sycelle. These three girls were John's nieces, the daughters of his sister, Katherine, as evidenced by her husband Richard Sheldon's will of 1563 [4]. It isn't surprising, therefore, that this pedigree doesn't contain any useful genealogical information about Thomas Westcote – in fact his descendants were apparently unaware that his birth surname was Heuster, not Westcote.

Thomas Heuster of Lichfield

Thomas Heuster's career as a successful attorney, judge and politician means that he left behind an impressive paper trail of surviving records, many of which are readily available online. The first thing to note is that, of the many dozens of known documents relating to Thomas, only two, dated 1428 [5] & 1436 [6], refer to him as Thomas Westcote alias Heuster. In the overwhelming majority, including several posthumous documents, he is simply named as Thomas Heuster.

The Heuster name originated as an occupational surname, heusters being cloth dyers. Although there was no record of anyone with the Heuster surname on the 1327 Lichfield Lay Subsidy Roll, there were individuals named Heuster living in the city from as early as 1338, which was around the time that surnames were becoming fixed and inherited. In the earliest documents the name is usually recorded as “le Heustere” but by the end of the 14th century it had become “Heuster”, with spelling variants “Hewster” and “Hewester”. “Henster” often occurs as a transcription error of early documents.

A case from the Calendar of Patent Rolls dated 10 April 1340 reads:

The like to Henry, earl of Lancaster, William de Shareshull, Hugh de Menyl and Roger Hillary, in the County of Stafford, touching a petition of the men of Lichefeld before the king and council complaining that a number of persons assembling at their town with armed force broke the doors of the houses of Thomas le Heustere of Lichefeld, carried away his goods and imprisoned the said Thomas, and have conveyed him in custody to parts unknown. By pet. of C. [7]

If Thomas le Heustere owned several houses and had goods worth stealing he was presumably a man of substance. It looks as though he was eventually released from captivity because in 1343 his name appears as a witness to a document for the grant of 2 acres of land in Lichfield [8]. This Thomas was too old to have been the Thomas Heuster who married Elizabeth Littleton but he may have been one of his ancestors.

Another document, this time from the Canterbury Cathedral Archives, dated 22 July 1348, reads:

From: Richard of Stafford, knight To: Roger le Henstere of Lichfield. A messuage in Lichfield, lying in Sandford Street ('Sondfordestrete') between the tenement of Hugh son of Lucy senior and the tenement for providing funds for the celebration of obits at Lichfield Cathedral ('tenementum martilogii matris Ecclesie lichefeldie'). For an annual payment of 2s, payable as specified. Given at Lichfield [Staffordshire].

Witnesses: Richard le Mor; Hugh son of Lucy; Stephen Fordiane; Henry son of Alexander; William le Henstere [9]

There are four documents, dated 1401, 1412, 1416 and 1417, which specifically refer to Thomas Heuster of Lichfield. Of these, the 1401 document, a final concord for the transfer of a messuage in Lichfield from John and Joan Golston of Salop to Thomas Heuster of Lichfield, is the earliest record naming Thomas Heuster found to date [10]. Thomas must have been at least 21 years old to participate in this transaction so must have been born by 1380 at the latest.

The 1412 document [11], which records another transaction for property in Lichfield, is of particular significance. It reads:

On the Octaves of Holy Trinity [8 May]. Between Nicholas Bradshawe, Armiger, Walter Bullok, Clerk, Thomas Stanley, Armiger, and Thomas, son of Robert Heuster, of Lichefeld, complainants, and Henry Walker of Lichefeld, and Sibilla his wife, deforcients, of a messuage and two cottages in Lichefeld. Henry and Sibilla remit all rights to the complainants, for which they gave 100 marks of silver.

This document provides firm evidence that Thomas Heuster's father was Robert Heuster of Lichfield. A transcipt of the Staffordshire Poll Tax records for the year 1379/80 [12] lists two couples with the surname Heuster living in Lichfield, These were William & Margaret Heuster, who paid 4 shillings, and Robert & Sara Heuster, who paid 3 shillings. From these last three records it seems reasonable to conclude that Thomas Heuster was the son of Robert and Sara Heuster and was born in Lichfield in about 1375/80.

The 1417 document is from the collection of Charters and Muniments of the Littleton family, formerly held by Viscount Cobham at Hagley Hall but now in Birmingham Archives. A catalogue of these documents, edited by I. H.Jeayes, was published in 1893 [13]. Charter no. 276, dated 17 April 1417, reads:

Grant from Thomas Luttelton, Esquire, and Matilda his wife, Thomas Heuster, of Lichfield, and Elizabeth his wife, to William Visdale, of Frankley, of all the lands and tenements which they acquired by feoffment of the said William of Frankley.

The exact date of Thomas Heuster's marriage to Elizabeth Littleton remains unknown but they are presumed to have married between 1410, when Thomas Heuster was involved in the court case of Thomas Littleton's suit for the recovery of the manor of Frankley, and 1417. That the above record still refers to Thomas Heuster as being “of Lichfield” suggests that he and Elizabeth were living there at that date. Thomas would have been in his thirties by the time of his marriage, whereas Elizabeth was probably much younger. She was last recorded as still living in a document dated 11 September 1476 (charter no. 407) and is thought to have died soon after. This suggests that she was probably born some time in the 1390s, making her about eighty years old when she died. Given this age difference it shouldn't come as a surprise to learn that this was Thomas Heuster's second marriage.

Thomas Heuster's first wife & the Broun family of Lichfield

The following is a summary of a case in the Court of Common Pleas, heard in London, Michaelmas 1405:

Henry Cottesmore, clerk, claims that Thomas Henster and Eleanor Henster, executors of the will of Henry Broun [of Lichfield], together with co-executor chaplain Richard Admondeston, detain from him a certain cup (ciphum) worth 100s. Henry Cottesmore says that on 20/06/1402 he gave the said cup to Henry Broun for safe keeping, after which time Henry Broun died leaving Eleanor Henster, chaplain Richard Admondeston, and a certain late chaplain William Broun as his executors. Henry Cottesmore says that he often asked for the return of the said cup, both before and after the death of chaplain William Broun and Eleanor Henster's subsequent marriage to Thomas Henster. Damages are claimed at 100s. Thomas Henster and Eleanor Henster say that they do not detain the said cup and put themselves upon the country, and Henry Cottesmore puts himself likewise [14].

Henry Broun (Browne) was a Lichfield attorney, assize court judge and prothonotary of the Court of Common Pleas [15]. In 1387 the Lichfield Guild of St Mary & St John the Baptist, formed by the amalgamation of two former religious guilds, was granted a royal charter by King Richard II. Henry Broun was one of the seven founder members of the guild, which was responsible for the secular government of the city, administered from the newly-built Guildhall in Bore Street. Henry was Master of the Guild in 1400, a position equivalent to mayor, and Thomas Heuster was Master in 1405, 1412 and 1413 [16]. The original Guild Book is now held by Lichfield Archives.

Henry Broun had died by 1403 and a dispute in that year between Thomas Everdon and Richard & William de Admaston concerning the wardship of Henry Broun's son and heir, John, indicates that John Broun was a minor at the time of his father's death, so would not have been eligible to act as an executor of Henry's will [15]. Thomas Heuster's wife, Eleanor, mentioned in the 1405 court case outlined above, was probably the daughter of Henry Broun and his wife, Alice de Bradley, although to date this has not been proved beyond doubt. The above document suggests that Thomas and Eleanor married between 1402 and 1405.

By 1405 John Broun was married and he and his wife, Elena, and Elena's sister, Margaret, sued Stephen Bythewater in a dispute over the ownership of property in Salt and Enston. Thomas Heuster represented Margaret in court because she was a minor:

Pleas of Assize, Stafford: An assize, etc., if Stephen Bythewater, of Weston upon Trent, had unjustly disseised John, son of Henry Broun, of Lichefeld, and Elena his wife, and Margaret, sister of Elena, of six messuages, one hundred acres of land, twelve acres of meadow, six acres of pasture, and 6s. 6d. of rent in Salt and Enston. Margaret was under age and sued by Thomas Heuster as her custos [15].

Ellen and Margaret were the daughters of John Grendon of Gayton [17]. John Broun appears to have died relatively young, although his precise date of death is unknown. His widow, Ellen, subsequently married William Burley of Broncroft, Shropshire. William and Ellen were the parents of Joan Burley, who married Thomas Heuster's son, Sir Thomas Littleton [18]. Ellen Grendon was therefore Thomas Heuster's sister-in-law by marriage.

Thomas Heuster's Career

Sir Edward Coke's frequently-quoted description of Sir Thomas Littleton's father from his book ,“Commentarie upon Littleton”, published in 1628, reads: “With this Elizabeth married Thomas Westcote, esquire, the king's servant in court, a gentleman anciently descended . . .”

However, this description is not borne out by the known facts. As outlined above, Thomas Westcote (alias Heuster) came from a relatively humble Lichfield family. No records have been found which refer to him as an “esquire”, although he was sometimes referred to as a “gentleman”, and there is no evidence that he was ever a “king's servant in court”. Sir Edward was born in 1552/3, some 70 years after Sir Thomas Littleton's death in 1481, so he would never have met the man he so admired. The information in the introduction to his book must have come from other sources. One possible explanation of this apparent discrepancy is that Sir Edward confused Thomas Westcote with his father-in-law, Thomas Littleton of Frankley, who better fits the description of “a gentleman anciently descended” and is known to have been a king's esquire. Alternatively, he may have confused Thomas with his possible son from his first marriage, Robert Westcote who, as a yeoman of the crown in the reign of Henry VI, could definitely be described as a king's servant in court (see below).

Despite his surname, there is no evidence that Thomas Heuster ever worked as a cloth dyer, although some of his ancestors probably did. Instead, all the records point to him being a successful lawyer, acting as both an attorney and a judge. Mediaeval attorneys prepared cases and managed them through the courts on behalf of clients and some also served as court officials such as clerks and prothonotaries. An attorney trained by serving an apprenticeship with a qualified practitioner. Some attended one of the Inns of Chancery to receive basic education in the writ system, although this wasn't compulsory. It's likely that Thomas Heuster was Henry Broun's apprentice.

Thomas acted as an attorney for cases heard in both the Courts of Assize, in Stafford and Lichfield, and the Court of Common Pleas, which met in Westminster. Details of the Common Pleas cases where Thomas acted as an attorney, dating from 1403 to 1428, can be found at the British History Online website [19]. From 1410 to 1440 Thomas sometimes served as Clerk or Prothonotary at the Court of Common Pleas, details of which can be found by searching the Year Books at the Boston University School of Law website [20].

As well as working as an attorney, from 1407 onwards Thomas was employed as a judge on the Oxfordshire Assize Court circuit, covering the counties of Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire. His career as a lawyer would therefore have involved a great deal of travelling.

Entries in the Calendar of Patent Rolls indicate that he was a Commissioner for the Peace in Staffordshire from 1407 to 1422, and in Worcestershire from 1422 to 1440, and he was elected to serve as MP for Worcester for the year 1431 [21].

Thomas Heuster and his second wife, Elizabeth Littleton

The Staffordshire city of Lichfield is situated just north of the crossing point of two Roman roads, Icknield Street and Watling Street. The mediaeval city developed from the Saxon village which grew up around the 7th century cathedral church built by Chad, Bishop of Mercia. Construction of the present cathedral began in 1195 although it wasn't completed until the beginning of the 15th century. By the time of Thomas Heuster's birth Lichfield was a busy market town with thriving leather and wool trades and a population of over a thousand citizens.

Very little is known about Thomas's parents, including his mother's maiden surname and his father's trade. Nor is it known whether Thomas had any siblings, although the Ralph and John Henster, who in 1438 witnessed a lease for property in Rope Street, Lichfield, may have been related [22]. The Roger Heuster whose name appears in the Mercer's Company records between 1412 and 1423 may have been Thomas's brother (see below).

Thomas probably lived in Lichfield for the first 40 or so years of his life. He served as a judge at Lichfield Assizes and his appointment as Master of the Guild of St Mary & St John the Baptist in 1405, 1412 and 1413 indicates that he was actively involved in the local government of the city. Presumably his first wife, Eleanor, died and was buried in Lichfield some time between 1405 and the date of his marriage to Elizabeth Littleton. Thomas and Eleanor may have had at least one son, Robert (see below). The reference to Thomas Heuster being “of Lichfield” in the 1417 charter suggests that he and Elizabeth may have lived in Lichfield for several years after their marriage and some of their elder children may have been born there.

Thomas and Elizabeth probably moved from Lichfield to Worcestershire in 1422. Records show that Thomas was a Commissioner of the Peace for Staffordshire up to 1422, then for Worcestershire from 1422 to 1440. Two documents refer to him as being “of Wyghorn” [Worcester], one from 1428 [5] and the other from 1431 [23], and another from 1431 as being “of co.Worcester” [24]. 1422 is the year that Elizabeth's father, Thomas Littleton, died [25]. Thomas Littleton must have left a will because his widow, Maud, was later referred to as his executrix, However, no copy of it seems to have survived and there is no record of an inquisition post mortem. Nevertheless, it is likely that his daughter and heir, Elizabeth, inherited property in Worcestershire when her father died. This probably included the manor of Cowsden (“Collesdon”) in Upton Snodsbury which had been owned by members of the Littleton family since the 13th century. Elizabeth's eldest son Sir Thomas Littleton's inquisition post mortem indicates that he was seised of the manor of “Coulesdon” when he died, presumably inherited from his mother. Cowsden is about 7 miles east of Worcester and eventually became Thomas and Elizabeth's home, probably at Cowsden Hall, although it isn't known whether they took up residence there in 1422 or some time later. A document dated 1436 refers to “Thomas Westcote, alias, Thomas Heuster of Collesdon[26] and another, from 1437, to “Thomas Heuster of Collesdon[27]. Finally, a document dated 23 June 1441 includes the line: “Executors of Thomas: Elizabeth who was the wife of Thomas Henster of Collesdon in the diocese of Worcs., and Thomas, the son of Thomas Henster[28]. This indicates that Thomas Heuster was living in Cowsden when he died in 1440 or 1441. His son, Thomas, referred to in this document eventually became the judge, Sir Thomas Littleton, and this reference provides conclusive evidence that his father's name was Thomas Heuster. The document from 1436 confirms that the surname Westcote was an alias adopted by Thomas Heuster.

The Manor of Frankley

The parish of Frankley, which lies about 15 miles north-east of Worcester and 3 miles south-east of Halesowen, was the seat of the senior branch of the Littleton family until the mid-17th century. The early lords of Frankley would have lived at Frankley Hall, a 13th century moated manor house situated opposite St Leonard's church. The medieval hall was replaced by a brick-built mansion in the early 17th century. This was destroyed by fire in 1642, during the civil war, and was never rebuilt [29]. The early history of the Littleton family, from the 12th to the 14th centuries, and their involvement with the manor of Frankley is unclear. In 1921 William Carter published a well-researched article on the earlier Littleton generations, “Pedigree of the Family of Lyttelton”, in The Genealogist magazine [25], but was unable to reach a firm conclusion on the exact number of generations and their relationship to each other, and to date these uncertainties remain unresolved.

In 1403 Elizabeth's father, Thomas Littleton, commenced legal proceedings aimed at gaining possession of the Manor of Frankley [30]. The key figures in his argument were the late 13th century lady of the manor, Emma, Lady of Frankley, and her half-brother, Edmund de Luttelton. Thomas's case rested on proving Emma and Edmund's relationship to each other and on his claim that he was Edmund's kinsman and rightful heir. Emma was probably the granddaughter of Simon de Frankley, the 13th century lord of the manor, and had inherited the manor after the death of the last male heir, Simon's son, Philip de Frankley. In 1281 Emma and her second husband, Nicholas de Wheathampstead, settled the manor of Frankley on themselves for life and on the heirs of their bodies, with remainders in tail to Nicholas de Tatlington, Emma's son from her first marriage, and Edmund de Luttelton, her half-brother [25]. After Emma's death in 1298 her son, Nicholas, sold the manor of Frankley to Sir Nicholas de Wymale (charter no. 47). Over the next 100 years the manor passed through a succession of different owners until being sold to William Spernore in 1384 [31]. After William's death in 1401 the manor was conveyed to trustees by his widow, Alice, until their two daughters, Margaret and Joyce, came of age. This grant was confirmed in 1402 by Edward, son of Thomas de Frankley, who was Nicholas de Tatlington's grandson [32].

Thomas Littleton sued William Spernor's heiresses and their trustees for the recovery of Frankley arguing that, under the terms of the 1281 Fine, because Emma's son, Nicholas de Frankley, had no living issue the manor was his by right as the kinsman and nearest heir of Edmund, Emma's brother [33]. The court case dragged on for seven years, suffering various setbacks and delays caused by the deaths of several of the defendants' trustees. Eventually, in 1410, despite the defendants pointing out that Nicholas had a living descendant, Edward, the case was decided in favour of Thomas Littleton after the defendants failed to attend court for the final hearing. Thomas Heuster apparently stood as surety for the appearance of the defendants and William Carter implied that he colluded with Thomas Littleton to engineer the outcome of the case in Thomas's favour [25]. Whether this is true or not is open to debate, although Thomas Heuster would certainly have been aware that his future wife, Elizabeth, who was Thomas Littleton's only daughter, stood to inherit Frankley on the death of her father. Shortly after the end of the case Thomas Littleton and his wife, Maud, took possession of Frankley manor and presumably took up residence at Frankley Hall. Where they were living before that is unknown, although it may have been in Cowsden. It is unlikely, therefore, that their daughter, Elizabeth, was born at Frankley.

Following Thomas Littleton's death in 1422 his widow, Maud, apparently retained a life interest in Frankley. According to Littleton charter no. 314, in 1429 she granted the manor of Frankley to John Massy, who became her second husband, and in 1431 (charter no. 319) John Massy granted all his rights in Frankley Manor to “Edmund, Lord Ferrers, John Sutton, Lord of Dudley, Thomas Burdet, Nicholas Burdet, Geoffrey Massy, Knights, John Fytton, clerk, and others . . . “, possibly as trustees for his step-daughter, Elizabeth. Maud and John probably lived at Frankley Hall after their marriage: Littleton charter no. 341, dated 8 September 1442, refers to “John Mascy, of Frankley, Esquire”. It is not known exactly when Maud and John died. According to William Carter, the last known record naming Maud dates from 1438/9 and refers to “an extent against John Massy, Esq. & Matill his wife then before the wife of Thomas Littleton & his executrix, and the terre tenants of Frankley.” John Massy was listed in the Patent Rolls as a Commissioner of the Peace for Worcestershire from 1431 to 1446. His name last appears in Littleton charter no. 414, dated 8 Sep 1480, which reads “Quit-claim from Roger Tyrchare [Tyrehare], Rector of Old Swinford, to Thomas Littleton, knight, Lord of Frankley, of all the lands which the said Roger lately acquired by feoffment from John Massy, of Frankley, Esquire.” However, it's probable that Maud died shortly after 1439 and John after 1446. As Thomas Heuster died several years before John Massy it is unlikely that Frankley Hall was ever Thomas and Elizabeth's marital home and it is doubtful that any of their children were born there. The possible exception may be their eldest son, Thomas, because a young woman often returned to her parents' home for the birth of her first child.

In 1461 the manor of Frankley was settled on Thomas and Maud Littleton's only daughter, Elizabeth, and her heirs: “Elizabeth, who was the wife of Thomas Heuster, the daughter and heir of Thomas Littilton, late esquire, deceased, querent, and Christopher Goldesmyth, chaplain, deforciant. The manor of Frankeley and 12 messuages, 8 tofts, 4 carucates and 600 acres of land, 40 acres of meadow, 700 acres of pasture and 100 acres of wood in Frankeley. Christopher has granted to Elizabeth the manor and tenements and has rendered them to her in the court, to hold to Elizabeth and the heirs of her body, of the chief lords for ever. In default of such heirs, after her decease the manor and tenements shall remain to the right heirs of Elizabeth[34].

In 1463 an inquisition before Thomas Hubaude, escheator of Worcester, recorded that “James late earl of Wiltshire was attainted of high treason, whereby he forfeited all castles, manors, lordships, lands, tenements, rents, services, hereditaments and possessions which he held in fee of 4 March I Edward IV. He was then seised in his demesne as of of the manor(s) of Gannow worth £16 net yearly and held of Elizabeth daughter and heir of Thomas Littleton, deceased, as of her manor of Frankley, by fealty and rent of 3s yearly for all services . . . By his forfeiture the manor of Gannow belong(s) to the king[35]. There was a 13th century moated manor house at Gannow, which is a short distance south west of Frankley. James Butler, earl of Wiltshire, was a Lancastrian supporter who was executed by Yorkists after their victory at the battle of Towton in 1461. Elizabeth's eldest son, Thomas, was employed by several noble families and he acted as feoffee for James Butler from 1447 to 1460 [36].

On 11 September 1476 Thomas Burdett gave up the manor to Elizabeth and her eldest son, Sir Thomas Littleton: “Quit- claim from Thomas Burdette, of Arrow, Co. Warw., Esquire, to Elizabeth, dau and heir of Thomas Littleton, Esquire, and Thomas Littleton, Knt., son of the same Elizabeth, of the Manor or Lordship of Frankley, Co. Worc.” (charter no. 407) and Elizabeth is thought to have died shortly after this date. Two months later, on 28 November 1476, Sir Thomas requested an “inspeximus” of the court documents relating to the recovery case “to prove his descent from Emma de Tatlington, and right through her to the manor of Frankley” (charter no. 428) and was apparently satisfied that the evidence confirmed his entitlement to Frankley. In her later years Elizabeth probably lived at Frankley Hall and is thought to have died there. It was also the main home of her son, Sir Thomas Littleton, whose will was written at Frankley on 22 August 1481. He died there the following day. After his death Frankley was inherited by his eldest son, William.


Throughout his career as a lawyer Thomas Heuster was regularly involved in land transactions, either as an attorney acting on behalf of one of the parties to the transaction or as a feoffee (trustee). As the husband of an heiress he would have shared control of Elizabeth's lands and property during their marriage. The agreement that their eldest son should adopt the Littleton surname points to a pre-marital settlement between Thomas Heuster and his future father-in-law, Thomas Littleton, regarding the inheritance of the Littleton estate. In addition, Thomas Heuster acquired other land and property during his lifetime, although there is no evidence that he inherited anything from his parents. Below is a list of the properties he is known to have owned, most of them associated with places where he lived or worked:


Thomas lived in Lichfield for the first 40 or so years of his life. In 1401 he purchased a messuage in Lichfield from John Golston of Salop and his wife, Joan, for which he paid 10 marks of silver [10] and in 1412 he bought a messuage and two cottages in Lichfield from Henry and Sibilla Walker, for which he paid 100 marks of silver [11]. He probably owned other property in Lichfield and his son Sir Thomas Littleton's inquisition post mortem included “twelve houses, in the city of Litchfield, held of the bishop”, which he may have inherited from his father [37].


1424: Grant from Adamar Walsshe, of Northfield, John Chattok, son of William Chattok, of Castle Bromwich, and Thomas Cok, of Frankley, to John Wayte, of a messuage and lands in Ridgeacre and Warley, which they held jointly with John Somerlone, of Castle Bromwich, and Thomas Abell of the same, now deceased,: with remainder on the death of John Wayte to Thomas Heuster. (Littleton charter no. 297)

1427: Thomas Heuster purchased 2 messuages, 1 carucate of land, 40 acres of meadow and 20 acres of wood in Tyberton [Tibberton] from Richard Loue (or Richard Lone) and Joan, his wife, for which he paid 100 marks of silver. [38] Tibberton is a few miles north west of Cowsden.

1428: Grant from John Moughlowe of Hulle and Johanna his wife, widow and executrix of the late William Caldewalle of Ruggeacre [Ridgacre] to Thomas Westcote, alias Thomas Heuster of Wygorn [Worcester] of the residue of a lease for ninety-nine years of lands called Wirleys, alias Symondeslond in Werneley [Warley] which the said William held for the said term, from John Pole, late Abbot, and the Abbey of Halesoweyn. (Littleton charter no. 310)

1431: Lease for twenty years from Robert Huchyns and John Warde to Thomas Heuster of Wygorn [Worcester] of a croft called Le Quybbe in Ruggeacre [Ridgacre]. (Littleton charter no. 320)

1436: Grant from William Adams of Ruggeacre, taillour, and Elena his wife to Thomas Westcote, alias, Thomas Heuster of Collesdon of all the lands, tenements, etc., which Thomas Warde, father of the said Elena (whose heir she is) acquired by grant from Henry Grene of Ruggeacre in Werveley and Ruggeacre [Warley and Ridgacre]. (Littleton charter no. 326)

1437: Indenture of fine between Thomas Heuster of Collesdon, plaintiff and William Adams of Illey. taillour, and Elena his wife, deforciants for 1 messuage, 1 toft, 50 acres of land, 7 acres of meadow and 6 acres of wood in Werveley and Riggeacre [Warley and Ridgacre], for which Thomas paid 100 marks of silver. [39]

1452 “Sir Thomas Lyttylton sued in person John Kampage [Vampage] and Thomas Swyney for two parts of three messuages in Worcester, and which, together with a third part of the same messuages which one William Pullesdon had held (and who had made default of appearance at a previous hearing), they had no entry except by one Robert Nelme, who had unjustly disseised Thomas Heuster, the father of Thomas Lyttylton, and whose heir he was[40].


Thomas Heuster would have required lodgings when attending the Court of Common Pleas, which met in Westminster. He had shared ownership of three properties in the London area:

1. 1412: Tenements at 13 Cheapside, granted by John and Margaret Asshton to William Skrene, Thomas Hewster, Philip Strecey, John Arblaster and John Pole. Arblaster died and Skrene and Strecey quitclaimed to their surviving co-grantees, who in 1418 granted the property to John and Margaret for the term of Margaret's life, with remainder to William Holgrave, tailor, Roger Amoregy, mercer, John Thetford, brewer, Martin Aleyn, leatherseller, John Pope, shearman, and Richard Osbarn, all citizens. [41]

2. Part share in the Hopping Hall pub in King's Street, Westminster (later known as The Red Lion and The Rose.)
1411: 2 February, Release by William de Bury to Robert Charryngworth, John Corve, Thomas Heuster, Thomas Grey and Roger Popyngeay, of all the lands, &c., in Middlesex, with which Elena Hulle, widow, enfeoffed himself and others.
1411: 8 February, Release by Robert Charyngworth to John Cornewayle, knt, John Clynk, Thomas Heuster and John Beek, of co. Oxon, of all his lands and tenements in Middlesex. [24]

1433: 30 June, Release by John Cornewaille, knight, lord of Faunhope, to John Vaumpage, John Franke, clerk, William Merbury, and David Selly, of a messuage in Kyngestrete, lately called “Hoppyngehall”, and now called“the Rede Lyon”, which he, together with John Corff and Thomas Hewester, had by feoffment of John Marche, of Kensington.
1433: 30 June, Release by John Cornewaille, knight, John Corff, and Thomas Hewester, of co. Worcester, to the above named of the above messuage called “the Rede Lyon”. [24]

3. 1451: Nicholas Wymbysshe, clerk, to John Wilcokkes, his heirs and assigns. Quitclam of a messuage, two shops, a garden, 20 acres of land and 5 acres of meadow in the parishes of St Mary “de Stronde”, St Clement Danes, St Martin and St James without New Temple bar, London, which they both had jointly with Thomas Henster [Heuster], John Bamburgh, Richard Knoweston, John Kernak, Thomas Houper, John Godegran, chaplain, and William Bradbourne, all now deceased, and with John Cuse yet living by feoffment of Richard Norden, “taillour”, citizen of London. [42]

Steeple Lavington, Wiltshire:

1428: Thomas Heuster holds directly from the king, as of the Duchy of Lancaster, certain lands and tenements of Stupullavyngton [Steeple Lavington], which were once Edward Gernon's, for the service of half a knight's fee. [43]

The Mystery of the Westcote alias

At some point around 1428 Thomas Heuster adopted the alias Thomas Westcote. What prompted this is a mystery which has yet to be solved. There are only two known records of Thomas Heuster using the Westcote alias during his lifetime. The first, from 1428, refers to “Thomas Westcote, alias Thomas Heuster of Wygorn” and the second, from 1436, refers to “Thomas Westcote, alias Thomas Heuster, of Collesdon”. The wording of these provides conclusive proof that Thomas Westcote and Thomas Heuster were one and the same person. The Westcote name was clearly considered sufficiently significant for his three younger sons, Guy, Edmund and Nicholas, to adopt it as their surname in preference to Heuster and there is no mention of the Heuster surname in 1569 Worcester Visitation pedigree, where Thomas is named as “Thomas Westcott”. These factors may account for the widely-held but mistaken belief that Thomas's birth surname was Westcote and that he adopted the surname Heuster as an occupational alias. It wasn't uncommon for individuals to assume an alias at this date and there were several possible reasons for doing so:

1. An alias may have been assumed as an occupational surname. This would explain a Thomas Westcote adopting the alias Heuster but not a Thomas Heuster adopting the alias Westcote. Heuster is an occupational surname meaning “dyer”, whereas Westcote has its origins as a place-name, indicating that the person came from somewhere called Westcote. However, records prove that Thomas's birth surname was Heuster, the son of Robert Heuster of Lichfield. [11] and that he later adopted the Westcote surname as an alias, not the other way round.

2. Illegitimate children sometimes adopted their father's surname as an alias. For example, in his will of 1535, Thomas Heuster's great-grandson, Thomas Littleton of Elmley Castle, bequeathed all his purchased land to his illegitimate son “William Treves otherwise known as William Littleton”. [44] The possibility that Thomas Heuster was illegitimate can probably be ruled out.

3. If the mother was an heiress her surname was sometimes adopted as an alias by her eldest son to secure an inheritance. Thomas and Elizabeth's eldest son, Thomas, was never known by an alias because he was apparently given the name Thomas Littleton “at the font”. However, one of his famous descendants, Sir Adam Littleton's son, Thomas, adopted the surname of his mother, the heiress Audrey Poyntz, to secure the inheritance of the North Ockendon estate. He was always known as “Sir Thomas Poyntz alias Littleton” [45], as was his eldest son and namesake who became Speaker of the House of Commons. [46]

4. The final possibility is that an alias was derived from the name of a place where a person had inherited or purchased land.

William Carter's view was that: “Feeling the inequality between himself and the Littletons, Thomas Heuster decided to adopt a territorial surname which his younger children could inherit. He had perhaps bought property at a place called Westcote, or may have had a descent in the female line from some ancestress bearing the surname.” It is certainly true that Thomas, a man from a relatively humble Lichfield family, would have been in regular contact with gentlemen, esquires and knights through his career as an attorney, judge and MP and his marriage to Elizabeth Littleton. Perhaps his adoption of the Westcote alias and coat of arms reflected a desire to distance himself from his Heuster ancestors and elevate his social standing.

One possibility, therefore, is that Westcote was the surname of Thomas Heuster's mother or one of his grandmothers. His mother was probably Robert Heuster's wife, Sara, whose name appears on the 1379/80 Staffordshire Poll Tax record. This is the only known record naming Thomas's mother so it's not possible to say whether her surname was Westcote or not. If it was then her family were probably not native to Staffordshire because no-one of that name is listed in either the 1327 Lay Subsidy Roll or the 1379/80 Poll Tax record for that county, although there were a few Westcotes living in the neighbouring county of Warwickshire. It is unlikely that his mother was an heiress. Had this been the case her name would almost certainly appear in a few more records and there is no evidence that Thomas Heuster inherited anything from his family, so there is no obvious reason why he should choose to adopt his mother's surname as an alias, although it can't be excluded as a possibility.

Alternatively, Thomas may have chosen the Westcote name because of a connection to a place called Westcote. There were villages called Westcote or Westcott in various parts of the country including Buckinghamshire, Devonshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey and Warwickshire. William Carter suggested that “Thomas Heuster was more likely to have bought land at Westcote in Tysoe, Warwickshire, or Westcote near Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, than in remote Devon”, although there is no documentary evidence that Thomas ever bought or owned land anywhere called Westcote. However, there are three possibilities which merit further investigation, including two land transactions for the year 1428 when the first reference to the Wescote alias appears.

The first of these was his acquisition in 1428 of lands and tenements in the parish of Steeple Lavington, a few miles south of Devizes in Wiltshire. The manor of Steeple Lavington had connections to Richard Quartermain of Rycote, Maud Littleton's first cousin. In 1379 John of Rycote, who was married to Margaret Gernon, conveyed half the manor, then called Lavington Gernon, to his son-in-law, Nicholas Clerk. Nicholas was the grandfather of Sybil Englefield, Richard Quartermain's wife, & her sister, Cecily, the wife of William Fowler. [47]. In 1421 William & Cecily Fowler and Richard & Sybil Quartermain conveyed a moiety of the manor to Reynold Cok and in 1474 William & Cecily's son, Richard, and his wife Joan conveyed the whole manor, called Steeple Lavington alias Lavington Gernon, to Thomas Tremayll and others [48]. Perhaps Thomas Heuster acquired the property in Steeple Lavington through his family connection to Richard Quartermain. There was a village called Eastcott a mile or two north of Steeple Lavington and, although there is no sign today of an adjacent village called Westcott, it is possible that there may have been a Westcott farm or hamlet in the area in the 15th century.

Secondly, the catalogue of Littleton charters includes five deeds, dating between 1424 and 1437, for transactions by Thomas Heuster for property in Ridgacre and Warley. These include both of the only known documents where Thomas used the Westcote alias. It's difficult to know whether this is a coincidence or whether the Westcote name was derived from somewhere in one of these parishes. Ridgacre was a short distance north of Frankley and can be found on the 1893 Ordnance Survey map of the area [49], although by the end of the 19th century it had been incorporated into the Birmingham district of Quinton. The 19th century map depicts an agricultural area with a patchwork of small fields and copses dotted with scattered farms and cottages. The neighbouring manor of Warley was situated to the west of Ridgacre. There are over 40 Littleton charters, from 1274 to 1478, relating to land in Ridgacre and Warley. Several of the earliest were witnessed by John de Luttelton, younger brother of Edmund, who in 1319 leased a plot of land called “Le Porterescroft” in Warley (charter no. 85). Charter no. 101, a lease for land in Ridgacre granted in 1335 by the Abbot of Halesowen, was witnessed by “Richard le Henstere”. However, according to the Court Rolls of the manor of Hales [50] there were several cloth dyers in Halesowen at that date, including Richard, the son of Nicholas the dyer. It is unlikely that this Richard was related to the Heusters of Lichfield. As with Steeple Lavington, there is no evidence of anywhere called Westcote in Ridgacre or Warley.

The third possibility is that the Westcote name arose from a connection to the small hamlet of Westcott in Buckinghamshire. Although there is no known documentary evidence that Thomas Heuster ever held land in Westcott there was evidently a close family association with the neighbouring village of Ludgershall, about 3 miles west of Westcott. George Lipscomb, in his book “ The History and Antiquities of the County of Buckingham”, went as far as to claim that Thomas and Elizabeth were buried in Ludgershall church: “. . . an ancient sepulchral slab, long deprived of its brasses, has been removed to the north door. This was probably a memorial of the family of Westcote. Thomas Westcote and Elizabeth his wife, and others of the same name, were buried here; and their arms were formerly in a chapel on the south side of this church . . . “ [51] Lipscomb's claim appears to be based on the presence of the Westcote and Littleton arms in the chapel but it is very unlikely that Thomas and Elizabeth were buried there. However, their son, Guy Westcote, probably lived in Ludgershall (see below) and some of his descendants' names appear in the early parish registers. Westcott and Ludgershall are about ten miles north of the Oxfordshire manors of North Weston and Rycote, which in 1428 belonged to Richard and Sibyl Quartermain. Richard and Sibyl endowed a chapel at Rycote which was consecrated in 1449 [52] and the Visitation of Oxfordshire [53] describes the Littleton and Westcote arms amongst those present in the chapel, alongside those of the Quartermains and related families. Richard died in 1477 and Sibyl in 1483 and both were buried in Thame church. There were no interments at Rycote and neither were there any at Frankley, where the medieval stained glass windows were decorated with Littleton, Westcote and Quartermain arms, proof that the presence of arms in a church does not necessarily mean that the owner was buried there.

There is documentary evidence of continuing connections between Richard Quartermain and Thomas Heuster and, after Thomas's death, with his sons Thomas Littleton and Guy Westcote. In 1422 Richard & Sibyl Quartermain and William & Cecily Fowler conveyed the manor of Rycote to John Cottusmore, Thomas Heuster, David Prys, clerk, Robert Tonge, clerk, and Robert Burton, possibly as trustees [54]. In 1454 Richard Quartermain and William Fowler and their wives acknowledged that they had conveyed the manor of Great Rycote to Robert Burton, John Cottismore, Thomas Heuster, David Pryse, and Robert Tong, and that the second, third, and fourth had died seised of the same. The survivors, Robert Burton and Robert Tong, conveyed Great Rycote and lands in Little Rycote, Sidenham, co. Oxon, and Appleton, co. Berks, to Richard Quartermain and Sibilla his wife . . . [55].

It is impossible to know whether any of these possibilities provides the answer to the origin of the Westcote alias so, for the time being, it remains a mystery.


Robert Westcote:

It's possible that Thomas Heuster and his first wife, Eleanor, had at least one son, Robert, who, like Thomas's three younger sons, Guy, Edmund and Nicholas, adopted the Westcote surname. The earliest known record for Robert is from the Calendar of Patent Rolls for 1442: “Grant, for life, to the king's serjeant, Robert Westcott, of two solars, a shop, a void place and 2 acres of meadow in Oxford . . .” [56]. A Serjeant at Law was an order of barristers at the English bar. At this date they had exclusive jurisdiction over the Court of Common Pleas and rights of audience in other central law courts such as the King's Bench. There were rarely more than 40 Serjeants at any one time. A King's Serjeant was a Serjeant at Law appointed to serve the crown as legal adviser to the monarch, representing the king in court. Serjeants at Law wore a distinctive coif of white lawn or silk. King's Serjeants wore a black coif with a narrow strip of white.

By 1445 Robert had been appointed a yeoman of the crown: “To the sheriff of Gloucester for the time being. Order every year to pay to Robert Westcott the king's serjeant, one of the yeomen of the crown, 6d. a day during his life, and to pay him the arrears since Michaelamas day last; as for his good service without fee the king has granted him for life from that feast 6d. a day from the issues, farms, profits, revenues etc. of the said county arising[57]. A yeoman of the crown was an attendant within the royal household and Robert clearly continued with these royal duties for a number of years. In 1454 his name was included in a list of yeomen of the crown in the “Ordinances of the Household of King Henry VI” [58]. In addition, in 1448/9 Robert was Escheator of Worcester, responsible for conducting inquisitions post mortem in the county [59].

Several documents link Robert to the Littleton family. The 1447 Fine Rolls record a “Grant to Thomas Lyttylton and Robert Westcote, one of the king's yeomen of the crown . . . of the subsidy and alnage of cloths for sale in the county of Worcester . . .” [60]. In 1450 Robert and Thomas, amongst others, received the charter with warranty of the manor of Parke in the parish of Hardwick, Gloucestershire, from John Trye [61] and in 1454 Robert's name appears as a witness on Littleton charter no. 358, alongside that of Nicholas Westcote. The combination of the Westcote surname and his association with Thomas Littleton suggests that Robert and Thomas were probably related and they seem to have been of a similar age. Both first appear in the records in 1442, Robert as a king's serjeant and Thomas as Escheator of Worcester. Both trained as barristers and served as king's serjeants, although it isn't known whether Robert was, like Thomas, a student of the Inner Temple. There is no evidence that Robert ever married or had any children and he seems to have died some time between 1454 and 1466. A Fine Rolls entry from 1466, for “2 sollars, a shop (selde), a void plot and 2 acres of meadow lately rented by Robert Westcott from the crown”, suggests that he had died by that date.

Therefore, it seems reasonable to suppose that Robert may have been Thomas Heuster's son by his first wife, born in about 1405 and named after Thomas's father, Robert Heuster. This would make him about 10 years older than Thomas Littleton, who would have been his half-brother. However, for the time being this remains unproven and Robert's true identity and the nature of his connection to Thomas Heuster and the Littleton family is a matter of speculation.

Thomas Littleton:

Thomas Littleton was the eldest son of Thomas Heuster and Elizabeth Littleton. His long and distinguished career as a respected judge and influential legal author has ensured that, of all the Littletons, he is one of the best-known and most thoroughly researched.

Thomas's year of birth is uncertain, some sources quoting a date as early as 1402 and others as late as 1422, both of which are probably wrong. His father, Thomas Heuster, was married to his first wife, Eleanor, in 1405, which rules out the date of 1402 as a possibility. However, if he was born in 1422 he would have been too young to have held the post of escheator in 1442, so he was probably born somewhere between these two dates. William Carter suggested that he was born in about 1415 which, give or take a couple of years, seems a reasonable compromise. This would make him about 27 years old when he became escheator of Worcester, 30 in 1444 when he married Joan Burley and 66 at his death in 1481.

Details of his early education are unknown, although he is said to have attended grammar school in Worcester before going on to university, neither of which can be confirmed by any documentary evidence. At some time during the 1430s he was admitted to the Inner Temple to study law and some time in the 1440s was elected to the post of Reader [62]. The main milestones in Thomas's long career are summarised below:

6 Nov 1442 to 4 Nov 1443: Escheator of Worcester [63]
1447: Under-Sheriff of Worcester
1449 to 1455: Recorder of Coventry, 1450/1 MP for Coventry [64]
2 July 1453: appointed Serjeant-at-Law and Steward of the Marshalsea* [65]
13 May 1455: appointed King's Sergeant. Justice of Assize, Northern Circuit [66]
27 April 1466: appointed Justice of the Court of Common Pleas [67]
18 April 1475: created Knight of the Bath
1480/1: publication of his treatise on the law of property, “The Tenures”, one of the earliest books to appear in print

(* The Marshalsea was a court within the royal household which had jurisdiction over offences committed by servants within a 12 mile circle around the king's residence. The steward was the judge of the Marshalsea.)

Thomas was married to Joan Burley, the eldest daughter of William Burley of Broncroft and Ellen Grendon. Joan was born in about 1425 and in 1442 became the second wife of Sir Philip Chetwynd of Ingestre. Philip died in May 1444 and his young widow, Joan, married Thomas Littleton shortly afterwards, either in 1444 or 1445. As a wealthy heiress and widow Joan substantially increased the fortune of the Littleton family. She and her sister, Elizabeth, were co-heirs of her father, William Burley, and she received a generous jointure from the marriage settlement to her first husband [68]. Thomas and Joan had three sons, William, Richard and Thomas, and two daughters, Ellen and Alice.

Thomas died at Frankley on 23 August 1481, having written his will the previous day, and was buried in Worcester Cathedral. Joan died on 22 March 1505.

Although the Worcester visitation pedigree refers to him as “Thomas Westcotte who called himselfe Littleton” and the Devon visitation pedigree as “Sir Tho. Littleton al's Westcott”, there is no documentary evidence that Sir Thomas Littleton ever used the alias Thomas Westcote during his lifetime. However, there are several documents referring to him as “Thomas Littleton, son of Thomas Heuster” or “Thomas son of Thomas Heuster”.

Guy Westcote:

Opinions vary on the birth order of Thomas and Elizabeth's three younger sons, Guy, Edmund and Nicholas. Guy is generally presumed to have been the eldest of the three and is shown as such in both the Worcester and Devon visitation pedigrees. However, Nash's pedigree presents him as their 4th son, after Thomas (1), Nicholas (2) and Edmund (3), although this pedigree is very inaccurate and includes two extra sons, Richard and another Thomas, who appear to have been the sons of Nicholas Westcote, miscopied from the Worcester visitation pedigree. Jeayes presents Guy as the third son, after Thomas (1) and Edmund (2).

Guy's life is poorly documented compared with the lives of his brothers, Thomas and Edmund, and very little is known about his career. In 1472 he was appointed controller of customs and subsidies for the port of Bristol [69], a post he still held in 1475 [70]. Guy may have secured the job of customs controller through his brother Edmund, who was a successful Bristol merchant. Whether Guy ever lived in Bristol is unknown.

Guy is said to have married Alice Grenville, the daughter of Richard Grenville of Gloucester. This identification appears to have originated in Thomas Westcote's book on Devonshire Families. The Worcester visitation pedigree doesn't name Guy's wife, referring readers to the Devon visitation where she appears as “Alice, d of Greneville, of Gloucestershire”. Thomas Westcote, who claimed that Guy and Alice were his ancestors, went on to elaborate that Richard Grenvile was the “son of William, son of Bartholomew, second son of Richard Grenvile of Stow, in Cornwall”. The Grenvilles of Bideford, Devon, and Stow, Cornwall, have been thoroughly researched and there is no evidence that an Alice, daughter of Richard, son of William, son of Bartholomew ever existed, nor is there any evidence of a connection between Guy Westcore and anyone from that particular family. However, as Brooke Westcott has pointed out in his article on the Ancestry of the Westcotts of Raddon, there is good documentary evidence of close connections between the Grenville family of Wotton Underwood in Buckinghamshire, Guy Westcote and the Quartermain family [71].

The village of Wotton Underwood is about halfway between Ludgershall and Westcott and probably no more than two miles away from each. Members of the Grenville family were lords of the manor of Wotton from the 12th century [72]. In 1419 Richard Grenville of Wotton wrote his will “purposing to go beyond the seas”. His date of death is unknown but is thought to have been before 1428. An abstract his will, which names his wife, Christian, and eldest son and heir, Eustace, is included in the Testamenta Vetusta. Christian died in about 1453 leaving a will naming her daughter, Agnes, and sons Eustace and John [73]. Eustace Grenville married his second wife, Elizabeth Botiller, in 1459. [74] Elizabeth was the great- niece of Richard Quartermain of Rycote, daughter of Baldwin Botiller and Isabel Englefield. Isabel was the daughter of Richard's sister, Maud. In his will, written in November 1479, Eustace appointed Guy Westcote one of his executors [73]. Unfortunately the will doesn't include any information explaining if or how he and Guy were related. One possibility is that Guy was married to Eustace's sister, Agnes, and that her name has been wrongly recorded as Alice.

Eustace's eldest son and heir, Richard, was probably born about 1460 and died in 1519. His will, written in 1517, names his wife, Joan, and two sons, Edward and George. Edward was aged 30 when his father died, so was born about 1489. According to the Grenville pedigree in Lipscomb's History of Buckinghamshire, Richard's wife, Joan, was the daughter of Edward Littleton of Staffordshire [75]. The oldest Edward Littleton of Staffordshire was born about 1489, the son of Richard Littleton and Alice Wynnesbury, making it chronologically impossible for Joan to be either his daughter or his sister. There is no known documentary evidence proving that Joan was a Littleton. When Richard Grenville's eldest son, Edward, died in Wotton Underwood in 1536 he appointed Christopher Westcote as one of his executors [76]. Christopher was probably Guy's grandson. It would be interesting to know how Thomas Westcote of Raddon came to identify Guy's wife as Alice Grenville, which may contain an element of truth, despite having assigned her to the Grenvilles of Stow and Gloucester rather than the Grenvilles of Buckinghamshire. To date no primary documentary evidence has been found which proves that Guy's wife's name was Alice Grenville, although Eustace Grenville's will suggests a connection between Guy and the Grenvilles of Wotton Underwood. It's possible that Guy eventually settled in the Ludgershall area, perhaps after his marriage. In 1483 he was the plaintiff in a Court of Common Pleas suit against “Thomas Adynggrene of Ludgershale”, accusing him of trespass: close & taking [77] and his probable grandson, Christopher, was a Ludgershall resident.

Guy and his wife are presumed to have had children although none of their names are known for certain. Thomas Westcote of Raddon claimed that his great-grandfather was Guy's eldest son, Thomas, who married Mary Westcott of Porlock in Somerset. Whilst there are records confirming that there were Westcotts living in Porlock from at least the 13th century there are none which prove that a Thomas Westcote married a Mary Westcott of Porlock. Thomas Westcote of Raddon's account of his family history could not have been based on first-hand knowledge from his grandparents or great-grandparents, all of whom had died before he was born. Although not impossible, it seems unlikely that the son of Guy Westcote from Worcestershire should have moved to Porlock in Somerset and married a girl with the same surname so, for the time being, this remains improbable and unproven.

A more likely son is the William Westcote who in 1498 was a trustee for the manor of Arley: “Grant from Sir William Littelton, knt., Christopher Goldesmyth, vicar of Bromesgrove, Robert Oxclyff and Richard Hawkes to William Houghton, Randolph Shurley, knt., Thomas Kebyll, Sergeant at Law, John Whityngton of Pannteley, co. Glouc. Richard Littelton, Thomas Marowe, John Hethe and Edmund Brudenell, esq., of the Manor of Areley which Thomas Froste, now deceased, held by grant of Humphrey Salwey and William Wescote[78]. In 1465 Guy Westcote was a trustee for the manor of Arley with his brother, Thomas Littleton, and others [79] and in 1485, following Thomas Littleton's death, he and the other trustees released the manor to Thomas's son, William [80]. The latter is the last known document referring to Guy Westcote, suggesting that he probably died shortly afterwards and that his son, William, took over as trustee of Arley. There are no other known references to William Westcote and there is no known documentary evidence which proves that he was Guy's son.

Christopher Westcott of Ludgershall was a lawyer. In 1515 he was admitted to the clerks' commons of the Inner Temple and in October 1518 he paid the 30 shillings fine for the admission of Edward Littleton [62]. In 1528 Sir Richard Fowler of Rycote appointed Christopher Wescott one of the “recoverers” (executors) of his will [81]. Sir Richard was the grandson of Cecily, Sibyl Quartermain's sister, and inherited Rycote on the death of Richard and Sibyl Quartermain, who made Richard Fowler their heir, having no children of their own. Sir Richard's will was witnessed by William Westcote, clerk, who was probably related to Christopher, perhaps his brother. Christopher married Sir Richard Fowler's daughter, Margaret, probably shortly after 1528 [82] and in 1533 the manor of Water Stratford was conveyed to Chistopher Westcott of Ludgershall by his brother-in-law, John Fowler [83].

Christopher was an executor for John Lytleton of Frankley (d.1532) [84] and Thomas Lyttelton of Elmley Castle (d.1535) [85]. John, born about 1500, was the son of Sir William Littleton & his second wife, Mary Whittington, and Thomas, born about 1505, was the eldest son of Thomas Littleton & Anne Botreaux. They were first cousins and great-grandsons of Thomas Heuster and Elizabeth Littleton. Both died comparatively young, in their early thirties. Thomas of Elmley Castle's younger brother, Rev. John Littleton of Munslow, died in 1560, aged about 50. Christopher Westcott died in 1559. This suggests that Christopher may have belonged to the same generation, so was probably another great-grandson of Thomas Heuster and Elizabeth Littleton. Christopher was also executor for Sir John Clerke of Rycote, who died in 1539 [86].

As well as acting as an executor, Christopher was also one of the parties named in the licence to alienate the manor of Penkridge in 1529: “Licence to alienate the manor of Penkerich, Staff., to Edward Lytleton, John Pakyngton, Nic. Willoughby, Humph. Monoux, Thos. Morton, Christ. Wescote, Henry Whyte, Humph. Bowland, Thos. Robyns, Nich. Taylour, and William Say, their heirs and assigns, for ever, to the use of Thos. Monoux, kinsman of the said George, and son of John Monoux of Bukton, Norf., and his heirs, for ever” and the manor of Arley in 1530: “Licence to alienate the manor of Arley, Staff., to Ric. Littleton, Rob. Wynter, Tho. Asteley, Eustace Broun, Anthony Litelton, Christ. Westcot, John Lytelton, clk., Ric. Sheldon, Roger Rydell, and Robt. Middelmore, to hold to John Lytelton and his heirs for ever[87].

Christopher Westcote's name with the date 1536 was inscribed under the windows in Ludgershall church [75]. He wrote his will in 1557, appointing his wife, Margaret, as his executrix. He died in 1559 and was probably buried in Ludgershall. Unfortunately his will doesn't name any of his children. It was proved in Buckinghamshire and a copy can be found in Buckinghamshire Archives. His connection to Ludgershall and close involvement with the Littleton, Quartermain, Fowler and Grenville families make it highly likely that Christopher was Guy Westcote's grandson.

Edmund Westcote:

According to most Littleton pedigrees Edmund died unmarried and childless, which is far from the truth. There are plenty of records indicating that not only was Edmund a successful Bristol merchant who played an active part in the local government of the city, he also married three times and had six children.

Worcester was connected to Bristol by the river Severn which, in the middle ages, was the main artery of trade and transport to and from the west midlands. The Severn navigation extended from its upper limit at Pool Quay, near Welshpool, down to its estuary at the Bristol Channel where it connected with the Wye at Chepstow and the Avon just beyond Bristol. Various ports were established along its course including Shrewsbury, Bridgnorth and Worcester. Further downstream Gloucester and Bristol were major transhipment hubs where cargoes were transferred between river craft and larger seagoing vessels. In the middle ages Bristol was the second largest port in the country after London.

How Edmund came to end up in Bristol is unknown. It may have been through a Littleton family connection to Geoffrey Frere, said to have been married to Elizabeth Littleton's cousin, also named Elizabeth, daughter of John Littleton. Geoffrey was MP for Worcester in 1417, 1421 and 1425. In 1422 Geoffrey Frere of Worcester was granted a licence to export 200 quarters of wheat and 200 quarters of beans from Bristol to Bordeaux [88]. Alternatively, Edmund may have gone to Bristol to work with his first wife's father, William Pavy. The Pavy family were known to Thomas Heuster who, in 1429, was the attorney for Joan Beauchamp in a court of common pleas suit against John Pavy Sen., John Pavy Jun., Thomas Pavy and William Pavy of Kemerton, Gloucestershire [89].

Some details of Edmund's career as a merchant can be found in the book “ The Overseas Trade of Bristol in the Later Middle Ages” [88]. The earliest entry records the granting of a licence in 1461 to Edmund Westcote, John Shipward, William Pavy and others “to trade to any parts till 1st June next with a ship of 800 tuns or less” and in 1465 he and others were granted a licence “to trade to France, Normandy, Brittany, Aquitane and Spain”. Over the next 20 or so years Edmund actively traded various goods, exporting woolen cloths and barrels of white herring to Ireland, Bordeaux and Andalusia and importing sugar, oil and wax from Lisbon, the dyes woad and kermes from France and Spain and wine from Bordeaux, Bayonne and Seville. As well as being controller of customs and subsidies in Bristol and adjacent ports in 1476, Edmund was bailiff of Bristol in 1465, sheriff in 1473, M.P. in 1478 and 1483 and mayor in 1479 and 1485 [90].

Edmund was married three times. His first wife was Margaret, the daughter of William Pavy, burgess and merchant of Bristol. Edmund is mentioned in William's will, written in 1461 and proved in 1466. His second wife was Agnes, the daughter of John Shipward, another merchant and former mayor and M.P. for Bristol. When John died in 1473 Edmund was one of his executors [91]. Edmund wrote his will on 1st September 1485 and died on 11th October while still holding the office of mayor. His will names his third wife, Jane, and six children: Thomas, John, Edmund, Richard, Joan and Maud [92].

It's possible that Edmund's third wife was Joan Wysham. Joan's mother was Margaret Beauchamp, daughter and heiress of Sir John Beauchamp of Holt, Worcestershire, and Isabel Ferrers. Margaret married three times. Her first marriage to John Pauncefoot was childless. John had died by 1420 and by 1422 Margaret had married her second husband, Sir John Wysham. Margaret and John had three daughters, Alice, Joan and Elizabeth. John Wysham died between 1434 and 1437, when Margaret married her third husband, Sir Walter Skull. Margaret had died by 1472, leaving her three daughters as co- heiresses. The eldest, Alice, married John de Guise of Elmore, Gloucestershire, and Aspley Guise, Bedfordshire [93]. Alice died in 1487 and her inquisition post mortem, held at Holt, found that she and her two sisters, Joan Westcote and Elizabeth Croft, were seized of the manors of Holt, Shelsley, Woodmanton and Hanley Child [94]. Elizabeth was married to Thomas Croft who, in 1478. was collector of customs and water bailiff of Bristol. In 1481 he was part owner of two ships which left Bristol on a mission to find the “Isle of Brasile” [88]. Thomas's brother, John Croft, became Joan Wysham's second husband. Joan died in about 1501. Although there is no documentary proof, her connection to Thomas Croft and hence to Bristol raises the possibility that she may have been Edmund Westcote's third wife.

Nicholas Westcote:

Of all the Westcote brothers Nicholas, the youngest, is the least well-known and his name appears in very few records. In 1454 he was witness to a deed for the grant of land in Frankley from John and Isabella Peppewall to his brother, Thomas Littleton (charter no. 358). In 1463 “Nicholas Westcote of London, gentleman, or of Bristol, merchant” was one of the defendants in a court of common pleas suit for debt by the executors of Thomas Benet of London, tailor, and in the same year “Nicholas Westcote of London, gentleman”, was one of the defendants in another debt case brought by Henry Fayreman [95]. This suggests that Nicholas may have spent some time working with his brother, Edmund, in Bristol.

Nicholas married Agnes Vernon, the daughter and co-heir, with her sister Anne, of Edmund Vernon from whom she inherited lands in Handsacre, a hamlet in the parish of Armitage in Staffordshire. According to the visitation of Worcester Nicholas had two sons, Thomas and Richard, although no records confirming these two sons have been found. However, Nicholas is known to have had a son called Roger, who in turn had a son called William. It's possible that Roger's wife was the sister of Sir John Skeffington. The Skeffington family were originally from Yorkshire but Sir John was a citizen and alderman of London and merchant of the staple of Calais. In about 1520 he bought the manor of Fisherwick, Staffordshire, and in 1524 bought the manor of Ringborough, Yorkshire, both from Lord Berners. Fisherwick is about 5 miles south east of Handsacre. The deed for the purchase for the manor of Ringborough reads: “Grant by John Bourghchier, knt., Lord Berners to John Skevyngton, knt., Walter Gryffyth, knt., Roger Wescote, esq., Thomas Skevyngton, gent., William Zouche, gent., and Thomas Moreton, gent., of his manor of Ryngburgh in Holderness . . .”[96]. When Sir John died in 1525 he bequeathed £6 13s 4d to his sister Westcott and 40s to each of her children [97].

Roger's son, William, had at least two children, Maud and Ralph. Maud died in 1595 and was buried with her first husband, David Cawarden, in Mavesyn Ridware church in a tomb bearing an inscribed slab [98]. Ralph may be the Raphe Westcoot who was buried in Hamstall Ridware in 1611. Another of Nicholas Westcote's female descendants married Sir Robert Zinzan of St Albans, Hertfordshire, equerry of the stable for Elizabeth I. She is described in the visitation of Berkshire as “. . . da. of . . . Wescot of Hansaker hall in Com. Stafford[99]. Sir Robert died in 1607 leaving a nuncupative will naming his wife, Dame Margaret Zinzan, and two of their sons, Henry and Sigismund [100].

Nicholas is thought to have died some time after 1487, although his precise date of death and place of burial are unknown.


Thomas Heuster and Elizabeth Littleton had four daughters who, according to Coke, “spread themselves abroad by honourable matches”, although to date only the eldest, Anne, has been positively identified.

Anne was married to Thomas Porter of Longdon, in the parish of Solihull, Warwickshire, and Eastcote, in the parish of Barston, where they may have lived at Eastcote Hall. An entry in the calendar of patent rolls for 1422 records a grant from Henry V of 6d a day to Thomas Porter, one of the yeomen of the crown, although whether this is the same Thomas Porter is unconfirmed [101]. Thomas was a knight of the shire for Warwickshire between 1431 and 1437 [102], sheriff of Warwick and Leicester in 1447 and escheator for Warwick and Leicester in 1446/7 [103]. According to the inquisition post mortem of Henry Beauchamp, Duke of Warwick, held in Warwick on 23 January 1447, “ Richard, late earl [of Warwick] granted to Thomas Porter, esquire, the office of rider (equitator) and surveyor of the animals (ferarum) and vert in the free chase of Sutton Coldfield, for the term of his life, receiving 100s. yearly delivered by the receivers, bailiffs, or occupiers of the manor, with the fees pertaining to the office of old” and “ Richard, late earl granted to Thomas Porter, esquire, an annual rent of 5 marks for the term of his life from the issues of the manor [of Berkswell], delivered by the bailiffs, receivers, and other occupiers[104]. Thomas died on 27 May 1448 and was probably buried in Barston chapel. His inquisition post mortem was held in Nothamptonshire in 1448/9, although no copy of this is available online [105]. A fine rolls entry from 1449 gives details of some of the property he owned when he died: “ Commitment to James Ormond, Humphrey Stafford and William Mountfort, knights, and to Thomas Litilton, - by mainprise of Richard Broune of Knolle, co. Warwick, “gentilman”, and John Breus, late of Camdeyn, co. Gloucester, “gentilman”, - of the keeping of 2 messuages, a water mill, 60 acres of land, 50 acres of meadow, 200 acres of pasture, 30 acres of wood, and 20s. of rent in Escote and Longdon, co. Warwick, 30 acres of pasture in Alspathe, co. Warwick, and 16 acres of pasture in Monkespathe, which are in the king's hand on account of a distraint, since Thomas Porter, late escheator of Warwick and Leicester, now deceased, was bound to the king on the day of his death . . . “ [106].

Baldwin Porter was Thomas and Anne's eldest son. In 1457 Baldwin sold his right to the manor of Moseley to his uncle, Thomas Littleton. Baldwin died in 1499 and was buried in Barston chapel. The inscription on his tomb was recorded by William Dugdale in his book, Antiquities of Warwickshire: “Here lieth Baldwin Porter, son and heir of Thomas Porter, Esquire, and Anne his wife, eldest sister of Thomas Litleton of Frankley Knight, and Justice of the Common-Pleas, temp. Edw. quarti: which Baldwin died . . . . . Anno 1499. And Anne . . . . . Anno 1506[107]. If the Anne named in this inscription was Baldwin's mother she would have been at least in her late eighties when she died and have survived her husband by almost 50 years. The inscription noted by Dugdale appears to be incomplete, however, and it's possible that the Anne in the inscription was Baldwin's wife rather than his mother. He was certainly married and had at least one son, John, who in turn had two sons, Baldwin and Henry [102].

Nothing is known of Thomas and Elizabeth's three younger daughters. Frederick Lee, in his book on the history of Thame church, suggested that there may have been a family connection between the family of Sir John Clerke of Rycote, who appointed Christopher Westcote as one of his executors, and the Littleton family: “There had evidently been some marriage or connection between the Clerkes of Warwickshire and the family of Littleton alias Westcott . . .” [108]. His book includes a pedigree of Sir John's family, who were originally from the Warwickshire village of Willoughby. According to this pedigree his parents were William and Agnes, his grandparents William and Elizabeth and his great-grandparents William and Alice. Whether any of these ladies was a Littleton or Westcote descendant remains unknown.

Roger Heuster of London:

There is a possibility that Roger Heuster, a London mercer, may have been related to Thomas Heuster. Roger's name appears in the records of the Mercer's Company, one of the London Livery Companies. It was granted permission to purchase lands in 1393 by Richard II and was located in Cheapside in the parish of St Mary Colechurch:
1412-13 – Roger Heuster was the apprentice of Martyn Kelom, mercer, London
1422-23 – Roger Heuster was a master of the Mercer's Company, with an apprentice, John Staverton
There is no further information in these apprenticeship records which would help to identify Roger's father's name or occupation or his home town. The above dates suggest that he was an apprentice from 1412 for the customary 10 years, after which he was admitted to the Mercer's Company as a master mercer, with an apprentice, John Staverton [109]. Thomas Heuster part-owned tenement 13, on the corner of Cheapside and Ironmongery Lane, between 1412 and 1418 [41].

In 1423 there is a record of a “Memorandum of a mainprise under a pain of 40l, made in chancery 16 May this year by Robert Charyngworth of Middlesex and Roger Heuster of London for Thomas Bradshawe of Kent, and of an undertaking by him under a pain of 100l, for his good behaviour toward the king and people until the quinzaine of Trinity next, and he shall that day appear in person in chancery”. In the same year Robert Charyngworth and others were mentioned in association with Thomas Heuster in connection with lands in Westminster held of Elena Hulle, widow: “Release by John Benteley and William Bury to John Cornewayle, knt., Robert Charryngworth, John Corve, Thomas Hewster, John Beeks, of co. Oxon, Roger Popingeay, and others named, of all lands, &c., in Westminster or elsewhere which they, with others now dead, lately had by feoffment from Elena Hulle, widow[24].

It's not possible to know whether Thomas and Roger were related, although these records hint at a possible family connection. Roger could have been Thomas's son from his first marriage, although this would make him no more than 7 or 8 years old at the start of his apprenticeship. Alternatively, Roger could have been Thomas's younger brother. However, the records provide only the briefest of circumstantial evidence, which could be coincidental. No other records have been found relating to Roger Heuster of London and what became of him remains unknown.

Final Resting Place

Thomas Heuster's name last appears in both the court of common pleas records and in the Patent Rolls, as a commissioner of the peace, in 1440. He had died by 23 June 1441 when his wife and eldest son were recorded as the “Executors of Thomas: Elizabeth who was the wife of Thomas Henster of Collesdon in the diocese of Worcs., and Thomas, the son of Thomas Henster” and was living at Cowsden when he died [28]. His widow, Elizabeth, never remarried. She lived for another 35 years until her death in 1476, probably at Frankley Hall.

According to George Lipscomb, Thomas and Elizabeth were buried in Ludgershall church, Buckinghamshire: “. . . an ancient sepulchral slab, long deprived of its brasses, has been removed to the north door. This was probably a memorial of the family of Westcote. Thomas Westcote and Elizabeth his wife, and others of the same name, were buried here; and their arms were formerly in a chapel on the south side of this church . . . “ [75]. However, it is highly unlikely that Thomas and Elizabeth were buried in Ludgershall. The absence of any inscription on the tomb makes it impossible to say with any certainty who was buried there but it is more likely to have been either their son, Guy Westcote, and his wife or one of Guy's descendants. Thomas and Elizabeth were almost certainly buried closer to home, although their burial places have never been identified. There were no interments in St Leonard's chapel at Frankley. St. Kenelm's in Upton Snodsbury would have been the nearest church to Cowsden and Arthur Collins suggested that Elizabeth was buried in Halesowen, which is about three miles north west of Frankley Hall.

Sir Thomas Littleton organised the restoration of Frankley chapel in the mid-fifteenth century and commissioned several stained glass windows depicting himself and his wife, his parents and his Littleton grandparents, together with their associated heraldry. These windows are no longer extant, probably having been destroyed at the time of the civil war. However, a detailed description of the 15th century windows can be found in Thomas Habington's book, “A Survey of Worcestershire”, written in the first half of the 17th century. Thomas and Elizabeth were depicted in the south window, as described by Habington: “In the botome of the windowe a man prayinge with a coyfe on his heade, and behind him his fowre sons. The inscription all broaken and onely left Thomae Westcote. In the next payne his wyfe with Litelton's Armes on her Mantell, and fowre daughters behind her; the Inscription, Et Elizabethae uxoris ejus [and Elizabeth his wife]” [110]. William Carter has a different description, apparently sourced from “Lord Hatherton's volume”, where Thomas is described as “an armed man kneeling; on his armour the arms of Littleton”. This is clearly an error, the description being of Elizabeth's father, Thomas Littleton, who was known to have been a soldier, and not her husband, an attorney and judge. Elizabeth is described as “a woman kneeling, holding a rosary. Her head-dress (almost) butterfly style; on her mantle the arms of Littleton. Above her a scroll inscribed Elizabethe uxoris eius”. According to “The Beauties of England and Wales etc.” by Brayley et al., there are paintings of the Frankley windows in MS 5841 of the Harleian Collection (Visitation of Worcester), now in the British Library [111].


Thomas Heuster was clearly an astute, intelligent and hard-working lawyer whose influence percolated down through many generations of descendants. His legacy was a dynasty of distinguished and successful men – knights and barons, priests and scholars, judges and politicians – none of whom bore the Heuster surname. However, the origin of the Westcote alias and his reasons for adopting it remain unknown and are as puzzling as ever.

J.S. January 2017