BEAUPYNE, Thomas (d.1404), of Bristol.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
m. bef. 1380, Margaret (d. 26 July 1409), 1s. d.v.p. 4da.1
Commr. to requisition ships May 1370;2 of gaol delivery, Bristol Oct. 1377 (q), Aug. 1384 (q); arrest, Bristol, Som., Dorset Jan. 1387, Jan. 1392; inquiry, Bristol, Som., Glos. Feb. 1387 (customs evasion); to assign dower, Som., Dorset May 1398 (Gorges estates).
Farmer of the cloth subsidy, Som., Dorset, Glos. 24 June 1371-Sept. 1383, Sept. 1384-bef. May 1395, Bristol, Devon, Cornw. 5 Dec. 1373-Sept. 1383, Sept. 1384-c. May 1395.
Bailiff, Bristol Mich. 1371-2; sheriff 1 Oct. 1374-5; mayor Mich. 1377-8, 1383-4;3 councillor Aug. 1381.
Collector, customs and subsidies, Bristol and all ports to Chepstow, Gloucester and Bridgwater 29 Oct. 1371-Sept. 1375, Bristol and all ports to Exeter and Chepstow 30 Sept. 1375-Sept. 1376, 16 Jan. 1387-Jan. 1392, subsidy for the Gascony convoy, Bristol and Bridgwater 13 Mar.-Dec. 1373.
Tax assessor, Bristol Aug. 1379.
Surveyor of works, Bristol castle 6 Feb. 1382-c.1383.
Jt. receiver of parliamentary subsidies for the safekeeping of the seas, Melcombe and all ports Devon and Cornw. May 1382-Sept. 1384.4
J.p. Bristol 8 Feb. 1386-c.1387.
Dep. butler, Bristol 19 Jan. 1387-Oct. 1390.
Envoy to treat at Calais with representatives of the Flemish towns 20 May-July 1388.5
Controller, Bristol and Bridgwater and all ports to Chepstow 8 May 1398-Oct. 1399.
Constable of Bristol castle c. July 1399-d.6
Beaupyne was descended from a family of wool merchants who had emigrated from France or Flanders at the beginning of the 14th century and had settled in the Gloucestershire wool town of Cirencester. He himself became a merchant, his earliest trading connexions being with Cirencester, and from 1370, if not before, his interests came to be centred on Bristol. His trading concerns broadened beyond wool to cloth (indeed, he was able to secure the farm of the cloth subsidy in Bristol and neighbouring counties for over 20 years), grain (in 1375 he was involved in its supply to Bristol) and oil (which he imported from Portugal). In 1389 he and four other merchants chartered a ship from Danzig to import pitch, tar, boards, bowstaves and wax, worth £300, but suffered substantial losses when it foundered off Great Yarmouth. Beaupyne’s position in Bristol rapidly grew to be influential, and in the 1370s he held all the municipal offices in succession and represented the borough in three Parliaments. That he continued to be a figure of considerable local standing is suggested not only by his election to three later Parliaments, but also by his appointment in 1382 with the constable of Bristol castle to survey the structure and organize repairs in preparation for the visit of Richard II and his newly married queen. On 20 Mar. 1388, the final day of the first session of the Merciless Parliament, of which he was a Member, he was ordered together with the sheriff of Bristol to administer the oath of loyalty to the Lords Appellant throughout the town. In 1395, when the King made a formal grant of the borough to the mayor and commonalty, it was Beaupyne who provided sureties for the payment of the annual fee farm of £100.7
Yet from the very beginning of his career Beaupyne’s activities had by no means been confined to Bristol. In May 1370 he had been sent from Weymouth along the coast to Mousehole to requisition ships for the duke of Lancaster’s voyage to Gascony. During the Parliament of 1382 (May) he was one of 14 merchants (not all of them, like him, Members of the Commons) selected to discuss a subsidy to be used for the safe-keeping of the seas, and subsequently he was appointed with John Polymond† of Southampton to be the receiver of the subsidy of tunnage and poundage collected in Southampton and all the western ports, he himself taking charge of those between Bristol and Melcombe. In July the receivers were permitted to farm out the subsidy so that ships might put to sea as speedily as possible. For this responsible office Beaupyne was allocated an annual fee of £40 and an additional 6s.8d. a day when working away from home. Accordingly, on 20 July 1383 he received his fee and also £26 13s.4d. for 80 days’ work spent in organizing troops of men-at-arms, archers and seamen to serve on board ship, and for several journeys from Bristol to London where he reported to the Council on the state of the collection. In the following year he claimed £50 for his labours between 1 May and Michaelmas 1383. Beaupyne’s experience in mercantile affairs led to his appointment along with three prominent London merchants, Henry Vanner*, John Clenhand* and Thomas Newton*, as a diplomatic envoy sent to Calais to treat with the delegates of the towns of Flanders regarding the preservation of truces. On this occasion Beaupyne was paid at a daily rate of one mark from the day he left London, 29 May 1388, until he returned, on 5 July, a total of £25 6s.8d. Besides his duties as collector of special subsidies, Beaupyne was for many years a collector of customs dues at Bristol, and on 3 Feb. 1389 he was rewarded with £16 13s.4d. for his costs, labour and diligence in this respect, as well as for his expenses in travelling to London on various occasions on the instructions of the treasurer.8
Beaupyne had only a little property in Bristol, some of it held in right of his wife, the rest acquired by purchase. Further acquisitions made over the course of his career extended his interests in land outside the town, first to the south and west on the outskirts and then further afield, mostly in Somerset but also beyond the county boundaries. Under an Exchequer lease of 1377 he held lands in Knole (which were again leased to him in 1402); and in 1385 he obtained from Sir Matthew Gournay the manors of Moreton and Knole in exchange for Milton Falconbridge (in Martock). Shortly afterwards he was permitted by royal licence to cut and sell the underwood of 160 acres of forest at Knole. In 1380 he had paid £10 for another such licence, on that occasion to purchase from Cecily Turburville part of her inheritance from the Beauchamps of Hatch: the manors of Hatch Beauchamp in Somerset, Little Haugh in Suffolk and Sturminster Marshall in Dorset. The next decade saw more additions to Beaupyne’s estate, notably the manor and hundred of North Petherton, which he acquired from John Cole III* of Bridgwater in 1391. Four years later the bailiff of North Petherton was nearly £50 in arrears and was put into Bridgwater gaol, only to be freed (as a result of collusion) so that Beaupyne had to resort to Chancery for redress. On 24 Apr. 1398 Beaupyne received a royal charter, ‘of special grace and for good service rendered and to be rendered’, granting him the return of writs and other special rights within the hundred. By the time of his death Beaupyne had also acquired other properties in Somerset: Beer Crocombe had come into his possession before 1391, and East Capland and lands in Buckland St. Mary may have been added at the same time. His interests also extended to Bedminster, Chilton and Washford. Several of these acquisitions lay in royal forests. In 1391 he had obtained a licence to lop and sell trees in his wood at Beer Crocombe, part of the royal forest of Neroche, and in March 1394 the King quitclaimed to him for life the annual farm of 105s. payable for North Petherton, Knole and Beer Crocombe (situated in the forests of Petherton, ‘Fillwood’ and Neroche, respectively) this being ‘in consideration of great damage and loss sustained ... by the feeding and resort of the King’s deer’.9
Clearly an able administrator, a substantial merchant and an extensive landowner, Beaupyne balanced his career evenly between the three spheres of activity. His financial control over customs and subsidies in the south west for nearly 20 years, culminating in his appointment as controller of the port of Bristol during royal pleasure in 1398, may well have provided the money for his impressive speculation in land. Occasionally royal patronage assisted the process. As reward for his services, Beaupyne also enjoyed two grants of wardship: in 1382 the manor of Easton in Gordano (Somerset) had been committed to him for £20 a year during the minority of the earl of March; and in 1388 he had been made guardian of land in Edington and Milverton in the same county during a dispute over ownership. Then, too, there were payments made to him at the Exchequer, including the sum of £20 issued to him in February 1391 as reward for good service in the previous year and expenses in travelling to London. In May 1395 as well as receiving repayment of a loan of £100 made to the Crown in the previous December, he was paid 50 marks as compensation for being removed from the royal office of farmer of the cloth subsidy before the end of his appointed term.10
It might be expected that, given Beaupyne’s long years of service to Richard II and the many marks of royal favour he had received in the course of Richard’s reign, he would show some signs of loyalty to him during the crisis of 1399. This was evidently not the case. When Bristol castle surrendered to Henry of Bolingbroke in July that year the man the latter chose to install as its constable was Beaupyne, by verbal appointment in the first instance but formalized by letters patent in the November following Henry’s accession. It is clear that in January 1400 Beaupyne made no attempt to assist the rebel lords, Kent, Salisbury and Despenser, in their flight to Cirencester and Bristol. Henry IV confirmed Beaupyne’s charter of liberties at North Petherton and that same year the merchant made the new King a loan of £40.11
Earlier on in his life Beaupyne had shown interest in the Augustinian house at Woodspring, in Somerset: in 1386 he and two other Bristol merchants, Elias Spelly* and Walter Derby†, had granted it land worth £4 for the maintenance of a perpetual light on the high altar. But in his will, dated at Horsley (Gloucestershire) on 14 June 1403, Beaupyne expressed a wish to be buried in Cirencester abbey. His connexions with his home town had been maintained throughout his life, and he now wanted to be interred in the local abbey, in the chapel built by Sir Henry Mourton. Beaupyne left £60 for the poor, another £60 for the marriage of poor girls, and the like sum for the construction of roads and causeways. To a servant he bequeathed an annual rent of ten marks for life, from some property in Bristol. Beaupyne’s son, Thomas, was already dead, and so, also in the summer of 1403, Beaupyne parcelled out his estates between his four daughters: Agnes, then the wife of John Bluet of Grindham and later married to John Beville* of Woolston; Margery, the wife of John Harewell* of Warwickshire, nephew of a former bishop of Bath and Wells; Elizabeth, the wife of a prominent London merchant, William Venour; and Margaret, wife of a Wiltshire landowner, William Worfton*. Harewell, Bluet and Thomas Calston* of Littlecote, Wiltshire, were all executors of Beaupyne’s will, while his wealthy neighbour Sir Thomas Brooke* acted as supervisor. Beaupyne died shortly before 5 Feb. 1404, and his executors received their acquittal on 30 June following.