ACCLOM, John I (d.1402), of Scarborough, Yorks.
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Family and Education
Assessor of taxes, Scarborough Dec. 1380.
Bailiff, Scarborough by Aug. 1381-Mich. 1382, Mich. 1387-8, 1390-3, 1394-6, 1397-9, 1401-d.2
Commr. of array, Scarborough Nov. 1386, May 1398; to prevent the sailing of ships May 1401.
Collector of customs, Scarborough 30 Nov. 1400-d.
The Accloms were one of the most powerful families in 14th century Scarborough, although their role in municipal government was often discreditable, and it was by no means unusual for them to take the law into their own hands. John himself is first mentioned in June 1369, when inquiries were about to be held into his reported acts of contempt and trespass against the Crown. His father, Robert Acclom (who had himself already been accused of a variety of violent crimes and was a notorious forestaller of food supplies in the borough), then attended Parliament as a burgess for Scarborough, no doubt with the intention of assisting his son while at Westminster. Four years later, when Robert stood charged yet again with the ‘conspiracies, oppressions, extortions, damages, grievances and excesses’ which characterized his years as a leader of the potentiores (or wealthier townspeople) of Scarborough, John was returned to the House of Commons so that he, in turn, could defend the family interests. Nothing daunted by their repeated brushes with the authorities, Robert and John went on to launch a raid on the property of the late Sir Robert Percy at Hunmanby in Yorkshire, carrying off goods which were then, technically, in the hands of his kinsman and executor, the earl of Northumberland. A royal commission of oyer and terminer was set up in October 1378 to investigate the latter’s complaints, although nothing seems to have been done to discipline the offenders. On the contrary, far from being punished for his misdeeds, Robert was actually elected bailiff of Scarborough by the more prominent potentiores in September 1380, and was thus in office at the time of the Peasants’ Revolt in the following June. The outbreak of violence which convulsed the town at this time was directed, almost exclusively, against the unpopular members of the ruling class, and among these the Accloms were a target of particular hatred. Robert was discharged from office and forced to seek refuge at the house of the Friars Minor, where he remained in hiding until order was restored. Although less infamous than his father, John too suffered from the attention of the mob, his activities as an assessor of the poll tax of the previous December having probably aroused the displeasure of the rebels, who dragged him from his house and robbed him of clothing worth 50s. By August 1381, he himself had assumed the vacant post of bailiff, and used his influence to have his father returned to the Parliament which met in the following November. The potentiores of Scarborough were not, however, absolved from blame so far as the underlying causes of the uprising were concerned; and they had to shoulder some of the responsibility for the general state of disorder there. Together with 40 other members of the ruling elite, John and Robert were not only excluded from the royal letters of pardon issued to the townspeople in October 1382, but also held to account for over half the total fine of 900 marks then imposed on the borough. Although they probably managed to avoid paying most, if not all, of their share, the magnitude of this heavy penalty clearly heightened their sense of grievance against the ringleaders who had inspired the rebellion, chief among whom was a wealthy Scarborough merchant named William Marche. At some point before December 1384 John and his father took their revenge by robbing Marche’s home and ships, stealing a flock of 200 sheep from his land, and releasing from prison two men whom he had previously accused of theft. Once again, a royal commission of oyer and terminer was empowered to examine the charges against them, but as before the matter seems to have been dropped.3
Perhaps because the prospect of retribution seemed so distant, John Acclom continued to behave in a high-handed and often violent fashion. Indeed, by June 1386 he had actually been outlawed for murder, although the issue to him of a royal pardon, followed by his appointment to a commission of array in the following November, shows how little he had to fear in the way of punishment. His own attempts to sue an Ely man for trespass at about this time were, however, themselves hampered by the ineffective workings of the legal system; and the defendant likewise escaped reprisals. In February 1390 Acclom used his influence to obtain a grant of waste land lying next to one of his own properties from the municipal authorites; and for most of the ensuing decade he himself served among their number as one of the two bailiffs of Scarborough. His long tenure of office gave him an unrivalled opportunity to corner the local market in foodstuffs, even though abuses of this kind were categorically forbidden in the town. In June 1397 he saw fit to sue out yet another royal pardon, at a cost of 40s., for forestalling and other illicit commercial enterprises in which he had no doubt been involved, like his father before him, for many years. Twice, in 1388 and 1399, he further exploited his position as bailiff to secure for himself a seat in the House of Commons, but in other respects his activities were fairly routine. He was often called upon to attest deeds, for example, and in August 1392 he witnessed the will of John Colling of Scarborough.4
Acclom died in May or June 1402 while in office as collector of customs for Scarborough, and his eldest son, Robert, was subsequently required to present his accounts at the Exchequer. His depositions, made some two years later in the course of a legal dispute over the question of responsibility for Acclom’s outstanding arrears, reveal that John’s first wife, Isabel, had inherited six tenements in Scarborough from her father, Stephen Carter, thus greatly consolidating his position among the potentiores. On her death John had remarried, and it was to his second wife, Alice, that the task of executing his will fell, along with her stepson, Robert (who first represented Scarborough in the Parliament of 1401, during his father’s lifetime), and a group of influential local men including William Percy*. In addition to the property of his late father-in-law, Acclom left a considerable number of holdings in Scarborough, several of which he settled upon his widow and two younger sons, John II and William, while careful provision was also made for the fourth and youngest, Peter, who was evidently still a mere child. Acclom also set aside rents totalling 62 marks for obits, over and above the customary round of pious bequests. As one of the wealthiest widows in Scarborough, Alice did not lack for suitors, and she soon married John Smith of Whitby, who thus became involved with her in the litigation over the payment of Acclom’s debts as a customs officer.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Acclum, Aclom, Akkelom, Aklom.
- 1. CP25(1)277/137/29, 278/143/11; E159/80, Hil. m. 18v; Borthwick Inst. York, York registry wills, iii. ff. 77-77v; CPR, 1381-5, p. 509.
- 2. C219/8/5, 9/5, 9; E368/155, Mich. m. 13, 163, Mich. m. 7, 167, Mich. m. 11, 169, Mich. m. 10v, 171, Mich. m. 5v, 172 m. 121, 173 m. 185v, 174 m. 196v; White Vellum Bk. Scarborough ed. Jeayes, 23, 25, 27, 83; York registry wills, i. f. 37v.
- 3. CCR, 1369-74, p. 44; 1381-5, p. 526; CPR, 1377-81, p. 308; 1381-5, pp. 209, 509; RP, iii. 136, 396; C219/8/5; C260/94/33; A. Rowntree, Hist. Scarborough, 120-2, 127-9; A. Réville, Soulèvement des Travailleurs, 253-7.