ARCHER, Robert, of Winchester, Hants.
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Family and Education
m. by 1411, Edith.1
Alnager, Winchester (city and soke), 17 Oct. 1399-Jan. 1404.
Commons’ bailiff, Winchester Mich. 1404-5.2
Archer was living in Winchester by 1398, when he and Henry Clerk* were in debt to the Crown for £164. On 18 Dec. the civic authorities were commissioned to arrest them or take security for their appearance before the King’s Council, but it was reported that they could not be found in the city. The sum may have been owing for customs’ duties, for Archer was engaged in the cloth trade, being known to have exported woollen cloth and bedding from Southampton. On occasion he was described as a mercer, but clearly his mercantile interests were diverse, for he also imported wine, and was sometimes referred to as a grocer.3 His debts to Richard II did not prevent his appointment, at the beginning of Henry IV’s reign, as alnager in Winchester, a post he held for over four years. It was while alnager that, in June 1401, Archer leased a tenement and cottage on the east side of Parchment Street for the term of his life and a further 60 years. Later, in 1411, he acquired a house in High Street next to the church of St. Laurence, under a similar agreement and for an annual rent of 33s.4d. In the meantime, two Northampton men had conveyed to Archer all their estate, including ‘Blakehalle’ and seven cottages in ‘Swynderstrete’, ‘Cowelane’ and ‘Spicers rowe’, Northampton, to be held on a 100 years’ lease from St. Andrew’s priory; but in 1414 Archer was forced to transfer these to a London mercer, Richard Harper, after having lost a suit in Chancery for payment of a debt of £400.4 In 1407 another writ had been issued for his arrest, this time by the sheriff of Leicestershire, for failing to relinquish a muniment chest to a Salisbury weaver, but on 24 Nov., when sitting in Parliament for the first time (at Gloucester), Archer obtained a writ of supersedeas on securities offered by his brother William and men from Chichester, Exeter and Salisbury. It may have been to prevent the seizure of his goods for other debts that in June 1409 and again in May 1410 Archer granted to John Blake I*, William Wood II* and other citizens of Winchester all his chattels on land and sea.5
On 3 Sept. 1413 the royal letters of protection granted to Archer the previous July for service in the retinue of the lieutenant of Ireland (most likely as a victualler) were revoked following his delay in leaving Winchester. Perhaps he had secured the letters fraudulently in order to escape prosecution in the courts. He is last heard of in 1420 in connexion with charges made in Chancery by William Burton, who claimed that Archer, abetted by Lewis Greville of Oxfordshire, had, at Collingbourne on 14 May that year, abducted his seven-year-old stepdaughter from her guardian. There was probably more to the incident than Burton disclosed, for it had been the child’s parents, John and Petronilla Wodelok, who had leased to Archer his house in Parchment Street. Greville now refused to give up Alice Wodelok until Burton made a release to Archer of all his debts.6