ARMORER, Thomas (d.1428/9), of Southampton.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
m. (1) by 1404, Isabel; (2) by May 1427, Maud, gdda. of Walter Thuddon of Binsted, Hants.1
Commr. of inquiry, Southampton May 1398 (possessions of the ‘God’s House’ withheld from Queen’s Hall, Oxford).
Steward, Southampton Mich. 1400-1, 1402-3; bailiff 1404-5, 1406-15; alderman 1416-18.2
Probably a Southampton man by birth, Armorer was engaged in the business of naval supplies, but may also have been a lawyer. Certainly he was often placed in positions of trust by fellow townsmen: in 1394 John Yry, one of the burgesses, appointed him as supervisor of his will; two years later he provided securities in Chancery for Alexander Day, who was then appealing against a sentence of excommunication passed by the abbot of Westminster; from 1400 he served as feoffee of the property in Southampton belonging to William Audley, esquire; and later he acted similarly for two sometime mayors, William Ravenstone and John Renaud, as well as for members of the wealthy Chamberlain family. Armorer also appeared as a trustee of the manor of Suttons Place in Shirley and the ‘Broke’ in Totton, on behalf of Nicholas Banaster.3
It is a measure of Armorer’s competence in administrative matters, that Richard, earl of Warwick, should have employed him as his pesager in Southampton and farmer of all his property there from 1408 until 1418 or later. This period also saw Armorer occupying a position of some importance in the administration of Southampton, in particular during the ten years or more that he held the office of bailiff, his especial responsibility being the collection of the local customs and the payment of the fee farm at the Exchequer.4 Finding these duties onerous, on 15 Dec. 1412 he secured letters patent exempting him for life from holding office, but evidently to no purpose, for it was not until 10 Nov. 1414, after he had twice sat in Parliament, and shortly after he had sent to the sheriff of Hampshire the result of the parliamentary election held that month, that the mayor and congregation, ‘considering how heavy were his businesses, toils and cares’ and in view of the numerous services he had performed on the town’s behalf, officially confirmed his patent of exemption from office and had it enrolled in the Black Book. After his current term as bailiff had ended he was not re-elected, although he did continue to act, in an advisory capacity, as an alderman. At this stage in his career Armorer took an active interest in the works on royal ships then in full progress at Southampton under the supervision of William Soper*. In 1416 he supplied ropes for the maintenance and mooring of the Holigost de la Tour, as well as needles for mending her sails preparatory to her voyage in the duke of Bedford’s expedition, and following the launching of the King’s great ship the Gracedieu he purchased surplus materials, such as shoring, posts, piles and stakes, from the dismantled dock. Shortly after the beginning of Henry VI’s reign he sold Soper six shovels and four ‘watirscoupes’ for bailing out sand and water from the Gracedieu and her boats.5
Meanwhile, Armorer had acquired property in Southampton. In 1404 he and his first wife had taken possession of a large house on the east side of English Street, which they made their home. Later he purchased a tenement on the opposite side of the street and became co-lessee of two more buildings there, but in 1407 it was alleged that he was eight years behind in his payment of rent to ‘God’s House’ hospital for the former property. By now a man of some means, in July 1408 Armorer joined with a local merchant, Thomas Middleton*, in making a loan of £200 to the earl of Kent, the latter pledging a large quantity of plate and jewels which were afterwards redeemed by the King. He continued to build up his property interests in the town and its suburbs, acquiring ‘Lytyllhampton’ (Hampton Croft) outside the north gate near some gardens of his, and by 1420 he was possessed of four houses i