A Sergeant of the King’s Bakehouse: Richard Gyll (d.1511)


I would like to thank Dr Heather Falvey and Dr Sean Cunningham for all the information they kindly shared with me and all their generous support. All errors, of course, remain my own.

Some time ago, while looking for something completely different and getting carried away by all sorts of distractions, I came across the mention of a “Sergeant of the King’s Bakehouse”.

The reference was to an existing brass in St John the Baptist Church in Shottesbrooke, Berkshire. It shows a man in armour with his hands held in prayer, bare headed with shoulder-length hair. He seems to be standing on a mound of grass, with a flower between his feet.

The brass of Richard Gyll, in: Cassell’s Illustrated History of England, vol. 2, 1858, p.609

Underneath is an inscription, which explains that this is Richard Gyll Esq, Sergeant of the Bakehouse for both Henry VII and Henry VIII, and bailiff of the “Seven Hundreds of Cookham and Bray” and that he died on 7 August 1511.

Here lyeth the body of Richard Gyll squyer late sergeat of the Bakehous wt kyng henry VII and also wyth kyng henry the VIII and bayly of the VII hundred of Cokam and Bray.[i] 

The reference to an official of a bakehouse caught my eye, because I like baking bread. And it is a necessity, too. For someone used to the variety and taste of German bread, the average Australian bread is not very exciting. Therefore I decided to find out more about Richard Gyll. Fortunately, his will is still extant. It gives us some information about his personal circumstances (see below).

Read more

While researching and writing this post, I feel that I have got to know this gentleman quite well, so I hope he’ll excuse me for talking about him by his first name.

Some Background Information


Shottesbrooke is a village in Berkshire, just to the south-east of Maidenhead. Its present church, dedicated to St John the Baptist, goes back to 1337. In that year, Sir William Trussell (d.1363) founded a college of a warden, five chaplains and two clerks, which he endowed with the church at Shottesbrooke. While a church had already been mentioned in the Domesday Survey, the present building goes back to Sir William Trussell’s work and is today regarded as the “finest decorated church in Berkshire”.[ii] 

Trussell had bought Shottesbrooke from a London vintner, John de Oxonia, two years previously and made it his main residence. It then descended through the Trussell family until 1499. Then Edward Trussell died, aged only 21. He left a son, aged one, who died a few months later, and a daughter, Elizabeth (b. 1496, d. in or before 1527), then aged three. Elizabeth was a very wealthy heiress, as she inherited a number of other properties along with Shottesbrooke. She was married probably around 1509 or 1510, to John de Vere (1482–1540). John was about fourteen years older than her. He would later become the fifteenth earl of Oxford.

Bailiff of the Seven Hundreds of Cookham and Bray

From the inscription on his brass we know that Richard was bailiff of the “Seven Hundreds of Cookham and Bray”, also called the seven hundreds of Windsor Forest. They had formed an administrative union from an early stage (first mentioned in 1190).[iii] In addition to Cookham and Bray, the other hundreds were Beynhurst (which included Shottesbrooke), Ripplesmere (including Windsor), Charlton, Sonning and Wargrave.

Sergeant of the King’s Bakehouse

Richard was obviously proud of his position as “Sergeant of the King’s Bakehouse”, as it is not only included in the inscription, but also in his will. So what did this actually entail?

The Eltham Ordinances were compiled for the court of Henry VIII only 15 years after Richard’s death in 1526. It’s not likely that the duties of the various office-holders had changed very much in this time, we can therefore assume that they give us a fairly accurate idea of the duties of a sergeant of the bakehouse. His was a supervisory role of all aspects of the baking process. He was responsible for safeguarding the quality of the bread, which had to be “sweet and good, and meete to be spent in the King’s House”, as well as preventing waste.

Working in a bakehouse

The sergeant of the bakehouse had to answer to the sergeant of the pantry, who had to tally with him “daily … the number of bread he doth receive of him”.[iv]

However, I suspect that, as with many other positions in the royal household, the Sergeant of the Bakehouse was also an honorary position, which had less to do with the person’s expertise in baking but was rather a reward for other services.

Richard Gyll, the Man

What do we know about Richard Gyll’s personal background?

Not much! We don’t know the date of his birth, nor can we be certain about the place. In his will, he leaves 20 marks (£20 6s 8d) to the church in “Moremonten”, saying that this is where he was born. Unfortunately, there is no indication where “Moremonten” is, making it tricky to ascertain what this place might be known as today.

Heather Falvey suggested Moor Monkton in North Yorkshire as a possibility. It might be significant that Richard’s first grant was the office of steward of a castle in North Yorkshire: Helmsley, approx. 50km (30 miles) north of Moor Monkton. In his will, he does not mention any family members, apart from his wife and daughter, which is no further help. Clearly, wherever his place of birth was, his later life was centred on Berkshire.

Steward of Helmsley Castle

The earliest official mention of Richard Gyll can be found in the Materials Illustrative of the Reign of Henry VII. On 22 September 1485, he was made steward of the castle of Helmsley and its two parks for life, as well as bailiff of Helmsley. This was in acknowledgement of his service “aswelle in the parties beyonde the see as within this oure realm”. [v]  

The date, one month after the battle of Bosworth, gives us some idea what this service was all about. It seems that Richard had joined Henry Tudor in France (“parties beyond the see”), came with him when he invaded England and fought for him at the battle of Bosworth against king Richard III.

I would love to know why he chose to go into exile and support Henry Tudor, but without any further information on his previous life, it is impossible to speculate.

Helmsley Castle[vi] had belonged to the Ros family since the 12th century. However, in 1464 Thomas Ros, 9th Baron Ros, was executed, because he had fought in various battles for the Lancastrians against king Edward IV.[vii] Edward IV then granted the castle to his brother George, duke of Clarence. After George’s execution in 1478, it came into the hands of Richard of Gloucester (later Richard III). It’s not quite clear how, some say he bought it from the Ros family. However, it seems that all through this, Thomas Ros’ eldest daughter Eleanor (d.1487) and her husband Sir Robert Manners (d.1495) stayed in residence at Helmsley. Manners fought on Richard III’s side at Bosworth, but made his peace with the new regime fairly quickly. On 12 Sept. 1485 he was appointed sheriff of his home county of Northumberland.[viii]  Their son George would support Henry VII loyally.

After 1485, Helmsley was restored to Edmund, the son of Thomas Ros, Eleanor’s brother. Apparently, Edmund was not good at taking care of his estate, and in 1492 custody of the estates was granted to another of his brothers-in-law, Sir Thomas Lovell. Lovell had taken part in the 1483 revolt against Richard III and then joined Henry Tudor. After 1485, he had a stellar career at the Tudor court. [ix]

Richard Gyll’s Career

The 1490s and Henry VII

Before Bosworth, Henry Tudor had only a limited number of English servants, who shared his exile. Cunningham suggests that Henry probably knew them all personally and that these men were to form the core of his household staff.[x] These men had the added advantage of being directly available to the king, without the time-consuming agency of noblemen. As Richard had been with Henry before Bosworth, it seems likely that he was one of these servants.

For the best part of the 1490s, one problem kept Henry busy: Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be Richard of York, the younger son of Edward IV. Whether he actually was who he claimed to be is irrelevant. As long as there were former Yorkists, who had – in the absence of a Yorkist claimant – made their peace with the Tudor regime, but now could switch back to their old allegiance, he posed a threat for Henry. Therefore, it was important for the king to have loyal men like Richard.

France in 1492

So far it had only been an educated guess that Richard’s services were of a military nature in Henry Tudor’s invasion in 1485. The events of 1492 show that this assumption was correct.

By 1492, Perkin Warbeck was in France, and Henry knew from his own experience that French support could spell serious danger to an English king. He therefore planned an invasion.

Here, we find Richard as one of the principal military officers of the household, along with others like Christopher Vincent, marshal of the Hall, and William Skinninghton, esquire. For his services Richard was to be paid 18d day for the planned three months of the campaign.[xi]

The National Archives of the UK, ref. E36E 36_285 fol 41v-42r. A list of the wages for the war in 1492 mentioning Richard Gyll in the last line.

In the end, the planned invasion did not really come to much.  The huge invasion force crossed the channel in October. This was pretty late in the year to start with a campaign, and Henry and Charles VIII agreed on a peace treaty fairly quickly – the Peace of Étaples was signed on 3 November 1492. It did achieve one very important aim: Charles renounced his support for Warbeck, who quickly fled to Burgundy. [xii]

Scotland and Cornwall 1496/7

For Henry that was obviously not an end to his problem, and in late1495 Warbeck arrived in Scotland. It suited James IV of Scotland to accept him as king of England. In September 1496, there was a short Scottish incursion in England, but confronted with the realities of war, Perkin got cold feet.

In retaliation, Henry prepared to go to war against Scotland. To do so, he needed to raise huge amounts of men and money. These demands lead to a revolt mainly in the southwest of the country in late May 1497.  This was quickly squashed with the victory of Henry’s army at Blackheath on 16 June.

In July 1497, James IV and Warbeck split up. Warbeck first went to Ireland. In September, he arrived in Cornwall and then Devon, without much success. By 5 October 1497, he was captured and held by Henry VII.  James and Henry arranged a peace treaty.

Given Richard’s previous track record of fighting for Henry VII, it is likely that he was involved in the military conflicts of 1497, and/or squashing the uprising in Cornwall. Although he is not named in the extant lists, it is highly likely that he was involved, unless he was ill.[xiii] His military experience at Bosworth, in 1492 and probably 1497 would explain why he is depicted in armour on his brass.

Other mentions of Richard Gyll

There are also consistent mentions of Richard in his position in the king’s household. When Elizabeth of York, Henry VII’s queen, died in 1503, Richard received mourning cloth as the head of the bakehouse. The same happened in 1509, when Henry VII died, though the bakehouse team received less cloth on this occasion – maybe there were fewer people working.

The Chamber Books of Henry VII for 1505 mention a “Richard Guylle” who was fined for escapes from Windsor goal. This might very well have been our Richard, who was bailiff of the local hundred. Mentioned together with him is a William Smith. Of course, with a name like that it is difficult to be certain, but there was a William Smith, who was one of the king’s closest servants. On the whole a much more colourful character than Richard Gyll. And he seems to have had a bit of a history with escaping prisoners, as the following shows.

After his capture, Perkin Warbeck was initially held in relative comfort at Henry’s court. His accommodation was in the quarters of the wardrobe of robes, his guards were two privy servants, one of them William Smith. Then in June 1498, Perkin Warbeck escaped through an unlocked window, without either of the two servants or any of the palace guards noticing. He was quickly recaptured and then locked up in the Tower.

The whole episode just didn’t make sense. Even at the time, there was a suspicion that he had been put up to escape, as this would allow Henry a stricter confinement of his problem. Neither of the servants was fined for neglecting his duty. On the contrary, in November Smith was rewarded £5 in cash and soon after promoted to escheator in Lancashire, with further promotions in later years. His downfall only came after Henry VII’s death, when he was accused of perversion of justice and intimidation, together with Empson and Dudley. However, unlike the other two, he was released on bail and retired.[xiv] This is in contrast to Richard’s career, which seems to have continued without major upheavals into the reign of Henry VIII.

Richard Gyll’s Personal Circumstances

The only source for personal details about Richard is his will. It was written in English and dated 4 August 1511, just three days before his death. We learn that he was married to Agnes (no maiden name given) and they had one child, a young daughter, Johane. She is referred to as “Johane Gyll”, so clearly was not yet married. He also makes it clear that she is not yet 14 years old.

No memorials to either Agnes or Johane remain in the church in Shottesbrooke. There might have been memorials, which were lost over time. However, it is more likely that Johane married once she was older and is buried somewhere else with her husband. Agnes might have remarried and be buried with her later husband.

Richard was clearly a man with the religious convictions of his time. The first item of the will is that the tithes in Cookham amounting to 40d (= 3s 4d), which he had “forgotten” to pay, should be sorted out. He finishes his will by requesting that all his debts should be paid for the “health of his soul”. This was clearly important to him, as at the time it was believed that unpaid debt would lead to a longer time in purgatory.[xv]

Richard Gyll’s bequests

To his wife Agnes he left 40 marks and the goods she had brought to their marriage. She also was to have all lands and tenements he had given her by deed during his lifetime. After her death these were to go to their daughter Johane.

As there were no male heirs, Richard left to his daughter and her heirs land and tenements in Berkshire. He stipulates that until Johane was 14 years old, Agnes should receive the profits of these lands.

He seems to have placed a lot of confidence in Agnes’ business sense, as he names her as his executrix, with sir Robert Pocapart and William Duffeld as overseers, possibly friends of Richard. As indicated by the small “s” in “sir”, Robert Pocapart was a cleric and therefore able to read and write. The will says that he was one of those who were present when the will was signed, thus it seems likely that he was the person who wrote Richard’s will.

Richard leaves bequests to both William Duffeld and Robert Pocapart. William was to have his best gown and Robert a gown. They were also to receive 5 marks each and their expenses should be reimbursed when they carried out their responsibilities on his behalf. There were also bequests to others and several servants. He seems to have been particularly close to one servant, Thomas Berensted. He was to receive a whole year’s wages, his clothes, meat and drink, and a young heifer. The remainder and, after having paid off his debts for the “health of his soul”, was to go to Agnes.

Land and tenements

Summing up, Richard’s will and the probate clause show a man who was reasonably well off and was taking care of his affairs. He left goods and debts in several dioceses in the province of Canterbury and goods and tenements in Berkshire. It is likely that he had land in Shottesbrooke, which would explain his connection to the church. As he forgot to pay some tithes in Cookham, he definitely held land there. There might be other non-specified land. In addition, his bequests involve sums of money, a number of gowns, farm animals. This shows that even if Richard had originally come from Yorkshire, as speculated above, by the time of his death his interests were focussed on Berkshire. Clearly, Richard must have felt a connection to Shottesbrooke and its church.

Agnes as executrix was not given much time to make an inventory. The probate clause was dated 23 August 1511 and she had two weeks (until 8 September) to get the inventory made and returned to the court.

His will gives us some valuable information of Richard’s personal circumstances, but leads to another question:

Where did Richard Gyll’s want to be buried?

Richard is very specific in his request to be buried in the “churche of seynt John Baptist in the College of Shottyesbroke in the Countie of Berks in the chapel of our lady nexte Dame Elizabeth Penbroke” (italics mine).  The first part is no problem. As requested, he was buried in that church, his brass is in the north-east corner of the north transept.

St John the Baptist parish church, seen from the southeast, Andrew Smith, geograph.org

It’s the last part of his request that is intriguing. Who was ”Dame Elizabeth Penbroke”?  Obviously, she had to have been buried in the church prior to Richard’s death. In the whole church there are only two tombs of women which predate Richard’s death, both next to his brass in the north transept, but neither is called Elizabeth.

Sir William Trussel and his wives

One is the double-tomb of Sir William Trussell and one of his wives. At the time of founding the college in 1337, Sir William was married to his first wife Isabelle (d. before 1348). Her maiden name is not known[xvi]. Whatever it was, it is likely that Richard would have referred to her by her married name. Sir William’s second wife’s name was Ida Boteler. It is generally assumed that Ida was buried here with Sir William, though it has also been suggested that it was Isabelle.[xvii] On the whole though, neither of them seem likely contenders for “Dame Elizabeth Penbroke”.

Sir William Trussel’s daughter

The second is a memorial of the daughter and heir of Sir William Trussell and his second wife Ida. The daughter was born in 1348 and married Fulk Pennbrigg (Pembridge) of Tong in Shropshire. When she died in 1399, she chose to be buried in Shottesbrooke rather than in Tong. Her memorial brass is in the middle of the north transept in front of her father’s tomb. She is wearing an elaborate headdress, her head resting on a cushion.

From “Penbroke” to Pennbrigg/Pembridge is not too far-fetched, but her first name was Margaret, not Elizabeth. Would Richard not have known this, especially as there used to be a brass border inscription naming her as Lady Margaret? This inscription is now lost, but It was still there in the mid-17th century, when Elias Ashmole visited the church and described the brass. [xviii]  Therefore it was definitely in place in Richard’s time.

Considering the options, I would suggest that somewhere some confusion about her first name crept in and it is Margaret Penbroke’s memorial that Richard wanted to be buried next to.

Incidentally, after Margaret’s death, Fulk Pembridge married again and his second wife was called Isabel or Elizabeth, but she was buried in Tong. She founded the college of St Bartholomew in Tong a year after Fulk’s death, using Sir William’s college in Shottesbrooke as a blueprint. “Its principal function was to intercede for the souls of Isabel and her three former husbands, Sir Thomas Peytevin, Sir John Ludlow, and Sir Fulk Pembridge”.[xix]

Richard’s brass exists to this day in St John the Baptist Church in Shottesbrooke and it was interesting to find out more about the life of the man behind the description “Richard Gyll squyer late sergeat the Bakehous wt kyng henry VII and also wyth kyng henry the VIII and bayly of the VII hundred of Cokam and Bray”.

Dr Cunningham indicated that there would be more on Richard Gyll in his forthcoming book, co-authored with Dr James Ross, Kingship and Political Society in England, 1485-1529: the projection and reception of royal authority under Henry VII and Henry VIII. That is definitely something to look forward to.


TNA PROB 11/17/63. I am extremely grateful to Heather Falvey, who kindly transcribed it for me and made valuable comments.

Arthurson, I., ‘Chapter 1: The Rising of 1497: A Revolt of the Peasantry?’, in: People, Politics and Community in the Later Middle Ages, ed. J. Rosenthal & C. Richmond. Alan Sutton, Gloucester, 1987, pp. 1–18

Cunningham, S., ‘The establishment of the Tudor regime: Henry VII, rebellion, and the financial control of the aristocracy 1485-1509’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Lancaster (1995)

Cunningham, S., ‘National War and Dynastic Politics: Henry VII’s Capacity to Wage War in the Scottish Campaigns of 1496-1497’, in: England and Scotland at War, c.1296-c.1513, ed. A. King & D. Simpkin. Brill, Leiden, 2012, pp. 297-328

Personal communication from Dr Sean Cunningham, 17 Oct. 2021

Darracott, A., History Trail of the C14th St John the Baptist Church, Shottesbrooke. Maidenhead Civic Society, 2014, p. 3

Darracott, A., The Genealogy of the Trussell Family from C13th to C15th/16th. Maidenhead Civic Society (Aug. 2018)

Ditchfield, P.H. & William Page (ed), ‘Parishes: Shottesbrook’, in: A History of the County of Berkshire, vol. 3. London, 1923, pp. 164-171. British History Online URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/berks/vol3/pp164-171

Ditchfield, P.H. & William Page (ed), ‘Collegiate churches: Shottesbrook’, in: A History of the County of Berkshire, vol. 2. London, 1907, pp. 102-103. British History Online URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/berks/vol2/pp102-103

Ford, D.N., ‘Sir William Trussell (d. 1363)’, Royal Berkshire History. URL: http://www.berkshirehistory.com/bios/wtrussellj.html

Hughes, J., ‘Vere, John de, sixteenth earl of Oxford (1516–1562)’, Oxford DNB (online 2010)

Mattingly, D.J., The Eltham Ordinances: A New Perspective. Lulu Press Inc., 2016. ISBN 978-1-365-39582-6

Ross, J., ‘The Trussell Wardship: Elizabeth Trussell, the woman who bankrupted an Earl and married another’, Tudor Chamber Books (22 June 2017).  URL:  https://www.tudorchamberbooks.org/the-trussell-wardship/

‘Richard Gyll’, Hamline University – Brass Rubbings Collection. URL: https://cdm16120.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16120coll31/id/376/rec/1

[i] The full text of the inscription is quoted in Ditchfield & Page (ed), ‘Parishes: Shottesbrook’.

[ii] Darracott, History Trail; Ditchfield & Page (ed), ‘Collegiate churches: Shottesbrook’

[iii] Cam, H.M., ‘Early Groups of Hundreds’, in: Historical Essays in Honour of James Tait. Manchester University Press, 1933, pp. 13-26 (here p. 19); Ditchfield, P.H. & William Page (ed), ‘The hundred of Cookham: Introduction’, in: A History of the County of Berkshire, vol. 3, London, 1923, pp. 117-118. British History Online URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/berks/vol3/pp117-118 [last accessed online 4 Sept. 2021]

[iv] Round, J.H., The King’s Serjeants & Officers of State: Kings & Sergeants. Routledge, 2006 (originally published 1911), p. 214

[v] Campbell, W. (ed), Materials for a History of the Reign of Henry VII: From Original Documents Preserved in the Public Record Office, vol. 1. London, 1873 p. 35. Online URL: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89095820866&view=1up&seq=59&skin=2021

[vi] ‘Parishes: Helmsley’, in: A History of the County of York North Riding, vol. 1, ed. W. Page. London, 1914, pp. 485-505. British History Online URL: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/yorks/north/vol1/pp485-505

[vii] Dockray. K., ‘Ros, Thomas, ninth Baron Ros (1427–1464)’, Oxford DNB (online 2006)

[viii] Campbell, Materials for a History of the Reign of Henry VII, 1873, p. 548

[ix] Gunn, S.J., ‘Lovell, Sir Thomas (c. 1449–1524)’, Oxford DNB (online 2008); Fortey, N., ‘The Mystery of Edmund Roos’, Bottesford Living History, 2015. URL: https://www.bottesfordhistory.org.uk/content/new-contributions/mystery-edmund-roos-3; Richardson, D., ‘Robert Manners, Knt’, in: Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, vol. III. Salt Lake City, 2011, p. 125

[x] Cunningham, ‘The establishment of the Tudor regime’, pp. 14-38

[xi] Personal communication from Dr Sean Cunningham, 17 Oct. 2021

[xii] Cunningham, ‘The establishment of the Tudor regime’, pp. 99-104; Cunningham, ‘National War and Dynastic Politics’, pp. 298-299; Penn, T., Winter King:  The Dawn of Tudor England.  Penguin Books, 20120, pp. 24-25

[xiii] Private communication from Dr Sean Cunningham, 17 Oct. 2021

[xiv] Gunn, S.J., ‘The Courtiers of Henry VII’, The English Historical Review, vol. 108, no. 426 (1993), here pp. 31-33; Penn, Winter King, p. 36; Wroe, A., The Perfect Prince. Random House, New York, 2003, pp. 448-462

[xv] Laynesmith, J., ‘Reading Edward IV’s debit card statement’, Ricardian Bulletin (Sept. 2021), pp. 26-28

[xvi] Darracott, Genealogy, n. 20: There are suggestions that Isabelle was a daughter of Hugh Venables of Kinderton cum Hulme, Cheshire. It is debated though whether Hugh’s daughter was married to this William Trussell or his nephew, another William.

[xvii] Darracott, History Trail, says it is for his second wife, while Ford suggests his first wife.

[xviii] Darracott, Genealogy, n. 29; Woodger, L.S., ‘Pembridge, Sir Fulk (d.1409), of Tong castle, Salop’, in: The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe. Boydell & Brewer, 1993. Online URL: https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1386-1421/member/pembridge-sir-fulk-1409

[xix] Angold, M.J. et al, ‘Colleges of secular canons: Tong, St Bartholomew’, in: A History of the County of Shropshire, vol. 2, ed. A.T. Gaydon & R.B. Pugh. London, 1973, pp. 131-133. British History Online URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/salop/vol2/pp131-133; ‘Church of St Bartholomew (1053606)’, Historic England. URL: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1053606; ‘The Tomb of Sir Fulk Pembrugge IV and Dame Isabel Lingen’, Discovering Tong (2007). URL: https://www.discoveringtong.org/founders-tomb.htm

(All links checked 6 May 2022)

2 thoughts on “A Sergeant of the King’s Bakehouse: Richard Gyll (d.1511)

  1. Very interesting as 50 years ago I did a brass rubbing of this man’s tomb in said church and have never been able to decipher the script below , so thank you. I have kept the rubbing in storage all this time not being able to figure out what to do with it. Any suggestions? At this point I am ready to hand it over. I don’t think it is a high quality rubbing, my first!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s