BAXTER, John, of Stafford.
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Family and Education
Bailiff, Stafford c.1378/9, 1 Nov. 1406-7.1
A resident, if not a native, of Stafford, Baxter first appears during the Easter term of 1372 when he sued two local men for breaking into his close in the borough and grazing cattle there. He may perhaps have been in office as bailiff of Stafford at the time of his first return to Parliament in 1378, but the precise date of his appointment remains unknown. Like other bailiffs before him, Baxter abused his position by attempting to corner the market in wine and foodstuffs, and in November 1382 a royal commission was set up to examine this breach of statute. The letters patent authorizing the inquiry describe Baxter as a draper — an occupation which he evidently combined with farming on a small but not unprofitable scale.2 It is by no means certain that the John Baxter who received a royal pardon in January 1397 for a murder committed some three years previously ever represented Stafford in Parliament, or that the subject of this biography was involved in a feud with one Laurence Dreenge of Yorkshire during the same period. He was, on the other hand, clearly implicated in an assault on the late Sir John Gresley’s† manor of Drakelow in Derbyshire, which took place in the spring of 1395, shortly after Sir John’s death. Together with his fellow MP, Richard Stanford, and Gresley’s widow, who had evidently enlisted their help in an attempt to secure her dower, he was accused of stealing plate and cash worth £400; but although he refused to appear in court to answer these charges he still obtained a royal pardon in the following year.3
Despite the fact that he never achieved more than local prominence, Baxter enjoyed considerable influence in the Stafford area, as can be seen from his five returns to Parliament and his two (or more) terms as bailiff of the borough, during which he was responsible for leasing out property on the townspeople’s behalf. In June 1398 he and three other leading burgesses were required to surrender a deodand to the escheator of Staffordshire, and at various times his name appears among the witnesses to property transactions in and around Stafford. On one occasion, in the summer of 1400, he witnessed a deed for Edmund, earl of Stafford, from whom he rented a garden next to the parish church of St. Mary.4 Baxter is last mentioned in October 1407, when, as bailiff of Stafford, he took part in both the borough and county elections to Parliament.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421