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Devereux, Walter, first Baron Ferrers of Chartleylocked

(c. 1432–1485)
  • R. A. Griffiths

Devereux, Walter, first Baron Ferrers of Chartley (c. 1432–1485), landowner and soldier, was of Herefordshire stock (at Weobley and Bodenham); his father was a retainer of Richard, duke of York, and he himself became Edward IV's councillor. The son of Sir Walter Devereux (1411–1459) (with whom historians sometimes confuse him) and Elizabeth (d. 1438), daughter and heir of John Merbury, another Herefordshire landowner, he grew up as his father and William Herbert (his sister's husband) strove to dominate south-east Wales and Herefordshire, partly in the Yorkist interest. The elder Walter had become York's tenant, retainer, and councillor by the 1440s: he joined the duke's expedition to Normandy in 1441 and held several captaincies there, and he was knighted about 1441–2. One of the most prominent of Herefordshire landowners and county officials, he was involved in York's protests against the government in 1450–52, sought to strengthen the duke's influence in Hereford itself, and was indicted of treason for his pains (though pardoned in 1452). After he and William Herbert led a force to west Wales in August 1456 to enforce York's authority in the principality shires, he was arrested and placed for a time in the Tower of London. Young Walter was involved in such disturbances in the spring of 1456, exploiting civic factions to control Hereford—though he later claimed that he was falsely accused. When his father died on 22 or 23 April 1459, Walter inherited his estates in Herefordshire and Leicestershire; the Lincolnshire lands had been conveyed to him and his wife, Anne (1438–1469), daughter and heir of Sir William Ferrers of Chartley, Staffordshire, when they married in 1446. Much of Ferrers's estate was entailed to Lady Ferrers (d. 1471), but the rest had been conveyed to Anne in March 1453, even though she was only fifteen.

Walter Devereux continued to serve the house of York, even though he was overshadowed in Wales and the marches and at court by his brother-in-law, Herbert. He was with York at Ludford Bridge in October 1459, but threw himself on the king's mercy to save his life; though attainted in the Coventry parliament, he was able to recover his properties for a fine of 500 marks, and in March 1460 secured a pardon. Once Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, had captured Henry VI at Northampton in July, Devereux returned publicly to his Yorkist allegiance: he was appointed JP in Herefordshire and, along with Sir William Herbert, represented the county in parliament in 1460–61. After the duke of York's death in December 1460 he acted as steward of Duchess Cecily's Herefordshire estates. When her son, Edward, earl of March, gathered an army before the battle of Mortimer's Cross (2–3 February 1461), Devereux probably joined him; he certainly was among the group that proclaimed him king at Baynard's Castle in London on 3 March. He fought at Towton on 29 March and was knighted after Edward's victory. Edward IV summoned him on 26 July to his first parliament, Devereux taking his father-in-law's title as Baron Ferrers of Chartley. A few days earlier, the king granted him a brewhouse in London, appropriately named Le Walsheman. But Ferrers's new dignity required more substantial support, and in February 1462 he received forfeited Lancastrian estates of the earls of Devon and Wiltshire in the midlands and Welsh border shires. These grants were extended in March 1466 to Ferrers's heirs general, presumably because his son John was barely two years old.

Ferrers was associated with Herbert in restoring order in Wales and the marches between the capture of Pembroke Castle in September 1461 and the fall of Harlech in 1468; in June 1463 he was appointed constable of Aberystwyth Castle for life. He was also active elsewhere: in February 1462 he foiled the earl of Oxford's plot against the king, and he accompanied Edward to the north later in the year. He was one of the king's councillors. At the time of the rebellion led by Warwick and Clarence in 1469–70 Ferrers was summoned to support the king, and, when Edward recovered his authority in the autumn, Ferrers, now that Herbert was dead, went to south Wales to suppress disorder. In November he was given control of the lordships of Brecon, Hay, and Huntington during the duke of Buckingham's minority, and in July 1470 became sheriff of Caernarvonshire and master forester of Snowdon for life. He offered protection at Weobley to his sister Anne, countess of Pembroke, and her young wards, Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond, and Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland; and although Lady Margaret Beaufort took steps to recover her son, it seems that Anne kept Richmond at Weobley until the readeption of Henry VI, in October 1470, when the boy was handed over to his uncle Jasper Tudor. Northumberland, however, was moved to the Tower of London, though he was granted his freedom on swearing allegiance to Edward IV and offering bonds, partly provided by Ferrers, in October 1469.

At the readeption Ferrers lost not only his Tudor guest, but possibly also the manors he had enjoyed since 1462; he was removed, too, as JP in Herefordshire. When Edward IV regained his throne in April 1471, Ferrers returned to royal service, especially in Wales and the marches. He was among the lords who swore on 3 July to accept Prince Edward as the king's heir, and was made responsible for imposing order in Wales following the battle of Tewkesbury. In August he and Herbert's son, the earl of Pembroke, whom he presumably advised, pursued Jasper Tudor and his nephew; he was in Carmarthen by October, only to hear of the fugitives' escape to France. In September 1471 he was appointed steward of Elfael by the duke of Clarence. Ferrers's military experience earned him election as a knight of the Garter in 1472, and he was well qualified to join the prince of Wales's council, to which Edward IV gradually assigned governmental responsibilities in the marches and English borderland: on 20 February 1473 he became the prince's tutor as well as a councillor, and was active on numerous commissions in the region.

The king's expedition to France in July 1475 mustered many nobles, including Ferrers, but there was no opportunity to display valour. In 1478 he was a trier of petitions in the parliament of January–February that condemned the duke of Clarence. In September that year he was nominated to investigate treasons and insurrections in Yorkshire, renewing an acquaintance with Richard, duke of Gloucester, that had been formed in Wales in 1470. Ferrers's rewards seem comparatively modest, but they included, in January 1476, the earl of Oxford's forfeited estates in Leicestershire to augment his own holdings. And trust between Ferrers and Edward IV may be indicated by the sale of the marriage of the former's son and heir, John (c.1463/4–1501), to the king in 1478–9. Ferrers himself, having been widowed in 1469, married in 1482 Joan, widow of Thomas Ilam, who outlived him.

Ferrers attended Edward IV's funeral at Windsor in April 1483. His attitude to Richard III is not known, though he attended his coronation in July. But when Buckingham rebelled in October, the duke and his family made for Weobley to raise men, perhaps hoping to exploit Anne Ferrers's Tudor connection; it was while they were hiding in the neighbourhood that the duke was captured and subsequently executed. Richard III's treatment of Ferrers may therefore have been cautious. He gave him an annuity of 100 marks, and in August 1484, for life, the manor of Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, which, as part of the earldom of Richmond, may represent an attempt to induce Ferrers to oppose Henry Tudor. He turned out for the king in 1485 and fell at Bosworth on 22 August. He was attainted in Henry VII's first parliament and his estates were forfeited. In 1486 his son John was allowed to acquire the lands of his mother but had to wait until 1489 for the recovery of the Devereux and Merbury estates.


  • TNA: PRO [esp. Chancery, inquisitions post mortem, C139/176 no. 22]
  • Longleat House, Wiltshire, Devereux MSS
  • RotP, vols. 4–5
  • A. F. Sutton and P. W. Hammond, eds., The coronation of Richard III: the extant documents (New York, 1984)
  • R. Horrox and P. W. Hammond, eds., British Library Harleian manuscript 433, 4 vols. (1979–83)
  • A. Wright, ‘Public order and private violence in Herefordshire, 1413–61’, MA diss., U. Wales, 1978
  • M. A. Hicks, ‘False, fleeting, perjur’d Clarence’: George, duke of Clarence, 1449–78 (1980)
  • F. P. Barnard, Edward IV's French expedition of 1475: the leaders and their badges (1925)
  • D. H. Thomas, ‘The Herberts of Raglan as supporters of the house of York in the second half of the fifteenth century’, MA diss., U. Wales, 1967
  • M. K. Jones, ‘Richard III and Lady Margaret Beaufort: a re-assessment’, Richard III: loyalty, lordship and law, ed. P. W. Hammond (1986), 25–37
  • N. Pronay and J. Cox, eds., The Crowland chronicle continuations, 1459–1486 (1986)
  • visitation of Warwickshire


  • Longleat House, Wiltshire, papers
J. Strachey, ed., , 6 vols. (1767–77)
G. E. C. [G. E. Cokayne], , 8 vols. (1887–98); new edn, ed. V. Gibbs & others, 14 vols. in 15 (1910–98); microprint repr. (1982) and (1987)
Chancery records (Public Record Office)
National Archives of the United Kingdom, Public Record Office, London