BEDFORD, John II (d.1451), of Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorks.
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Family and Education
m. (1) by Mar. 1413, Elizabeth, 4s. 1da.; (2) by June 1429, Agnes (d.1459), e. da. of Robert Hebburn*, wid. of Richard Dalton* (d.c.1422) of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and John Strother* (d.1424) of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Wallington.1
Dep. butler, Grimsby, Kingston-upon-Hull, Scarborough and Whitby 12 June 1410-28 Oct. 1435, Hartlepool 28 Mar. 1413-28 Oct. 1435.
Collector of customs, Kingston-upon-Hull 28 Feb. 1416-16 Feb. 1429, 14 Sept. 1431-28 Nov. 1440.
Bailiff, Kingston-upon-Hull Mich. 1417-18; mayor 1418-20, 1425-6; alderman of White Friars Ward 1443-d.2
Commr. of array, Yorks. (E. Riding) July 1434; inquiry, Yorks., Lincs. Feb. 1435 (seizure of ships by men of Hull and Grimsby), Yorks. Nov. 1436, Feb. 1438 (evasions); to arrest ships to transport soldiers to France, Hull Mar. 1436, May 1439; raise royal loans Aug. 1442.
Little is known for certain about this rich and influential Hull merchant before his appointment, in the summer of 1410, as deputy to Thomas Chaucer*, the chief butler of England, in the three main ports along the Yorkshire coast. By July 1412, if not before, he had established an even more important connexion with John, duke of Bedford, who then employed him, possibly on Chaucer’s recommendation, as a trustee of certain holdings in Hull. Much later, in 1433, the two men were again associated in similar property transactions; and it looks very much as if the duke made use of our Member’s services on a fairly regular basis throughout the intervening period. Certainly, the latter is described, inter alia, in a royal pardon of 1443 as sometime receiver of ducal revenues in Yorkshire; and in his will he made generous provision for the foundation of a chantry where prayers were to be said for the soul of his former patron.3 John had already grown fairly prosperous by March 1413, when he and his first wife, Elizabeth, received a papal indult for the use of a portable altar. Three years later he began a long term as collector of customs duties in the port of Kingston-upon-Hull, and soon afterwards he was elected to the post of town bailiff. At the time of his first return to Parliament, in 1419, he was actually serving as mayor of the borough, and must therefore have been instrumental in getting himself a seat, although he was clearly well-qualified to represent the townspeople in the Lower House. In the following year John offered sureties at the Exchequer on behalf of Richard Ulverston, another customs official at Hull. Somewhat surprisingly, in view of his position and experience of local government, he attended no more than three Parliaments. He retained the complementary posts of deputy butler and collector of customs for several more years, however, and no doubt was thus able to advance his own private interests. Not much survives about these commercial activities before 1427, when he took on the lease of a dock at Trippet, just north of the walls of Hull, for 100 years at a rent of £12 p.a. It was also at this time that he obtained a royal licence to export grain from Hull, but we may be reasonably sure that he had long been active as both a shipowner and a leading member of the mercantile community.4 That he did not stop short of piracy is evident from a petition submitted to the court of Chancery early in 1436 by a Dutchman named John Betson, who claimed to have been robbed at sea of a cargo worth £200 by a convoy of ships from Hull, including one part-owned by John Bedford, called Le Gabriell, and cast ashore on the coast of Brittany. Bedford may, in fact, have been seeking revenge for an armed attack on another of his vessels, Le James, while it had been in harbour at Norbarn, since he, too, addressed a complaint to the chancellor. His allegations that Betson had made off with merchandise worth 1,000 marks seems to have carried little weight with the authorities, even so; and in May 1437 orders were issued by the mayor of Hull for his immediate arrest, along with Robert Holme II* and other shipowners involved in the affair. The outcome of the two lawsuits is not known, but John continued as an employee of the Crown, and it is thus unlikely that he was either disgraced or kept in prison for long. At all events, the government recognized the dangers faced at sea by him and his fellow merchants, for while litigation was still in progress they were permitted to arm a vessel called La Marie and fit her out as a ship of war. At some point over the next 12 years, he acquired a major share in a fourth ship, Le Bartilmew, which he bought from John Brompton, one of the leading burgesses of Beverley. He did other business with Brompton, too, although he was slow in settling his accounts; and when the latter died, in 1411, £65 was still owing in ‘debts as contained in a small red book’.5
John clearly derived considerable material benefit from his second marriage, in, or just before, June 1429, to Agnes, the elder daughter of Robert Hebburn, one of the wealthiest and most powerful merchants in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Her first husband, Richard Dalton, another Newcastle merchant, had entrusted her with money for the use of their young son, John, which she now advanced to Bedford to finance his commercial ventures. Well over half the estates of her second husband, John Strother, a Northumbrian landowner with interests in trade, had been settled upon her as a jointure, along with rents and tenements in the town of Newcastle; and although she disposed of some of these to Strother’s next heirs in return for a fixed annual income, she still kept up many connexions with the north east. Throughout the rest of her life, Agnes maintained friendly relations with members of her first husband’s family, several of whom lived in York. In 1445, for example, the widow of William Dalton, an affluent wool merchant, left her an elaborately ornamented silver cup which made a valuable addition to the impressive collection of plate accumulated by her and Bedford over the years. The latter’s links with the mercantile community of York had already been strengthened by the marriage of his only daughter, Ellen, to Thomas Gare† (d.1439), who served successively as chamberlain, sheriff and mayor of the city. In his will of September 1438, Gare remembered his father-in-law with a gift, and promised the reversion of certain land in Calais to Bedford’s younger son, Nicholas. John also became drawn into the affairs of William, earl of Suffolk, the owner of extensive estates around Hull, for whom he acted as a trustee.6 After years of active service he was finally replaced as a collector of customs in November 1440, being later pardoned any irregularities in his accounts. He seems to have retired altogether from public life about then, so that his eldest son and namesake was left to carry on with the family business. John Bedford the younger, who is easily confused with his father, first appears in 1432 when he was named as an executor (and leading beneficiary) of the will of John Tutbury, an extremely rich Hull merchant. He was still preoccupied with the task of administering Tutbury’s estate as late as 1450, but evidently predeceased his father by a few months, since no more is heard of him after this date. One of his tasks as Tutbury’s executor was to hand over his share in the above-mentioned ship, Le Gabriell, along with its tackle and some plate to John Bedford the elder, who appears to have been Tutbury’s trading partner.7
The subject of this biography died shortly afterwards, during the spring of 1451. He was buried, according to his wishes, beside his first wife in the choir of the church of Holy Trinity, Hull. He left at least three sons and a daughter, to whom he made generous bequests of plate, hangings, and other luxury goods. Two of his sons, Richard and Thomas, were named as his executors, along with his stepson, John Dalton, whom he clearly regarded with great affection. His chief concern was to endow a perpetual chantry at Holy Trinity with land worth £5 a year. An inquisition ad quod damnum held in Hull four years later found that rents and houses to the value of £13 p.a. would still remain in the hands of his trustees, so they were duly permitted to make the necessary conveyances. Other rents were set aside for the provision of obits for the souls of various friends and relatives, as well as for the late duke of Bedford. The widowed Agnes Bedford lived on until 1459 and was buried in the same church as her last husband, ‘before the image of the Virgin’.8
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. CPL, vi. 345; Arch. Aeliana (ser. 3), v. 48; Surtees Soc. xxx. 234n; lvii. 11; Borthwick Inst. York, York registry wills ii, f. 220; iii, ff. 371-2v.
- 2. E368/190 m. 104, 192 m. 120v; Cal. Hull Deeds ed. Stanewell, D249-53, 256, 271; J. Tickell, Kingston-upon-Hull, 101.
- 3. Cal. Hull Deeds, D216, 307-9; CPR, 1441-6, p. 160; Surtees Soc. xxx. 234n.
- 4. CPL, vi. 345; CFR, xiv. 338; DKR, xlviii. 252.
- 5. C1/11/196, 197; Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. cxli. 181; CPR, 1429-36, p. 510; 1436-41, p. 87; Test. Ebor. ii. 98.
- 6. Arch. Aeliana (ser. 3), v. 48; Test. Ebor. ii. 109; Surtees Soc. lvii. 11; Cal. Hull Deeds, D322; C139/14/15; J. Hodgson, Hist. Northumb. ii(1), 241-2; York registry wills ii, ff. 110-11v.
- 7. CPR, 1441-6, pp. 160, 365-6; Cal. Hull Deeds, D390-1; C143/450/8; York registry wills ii, f. 220; iii, ff. 371-2v; CPR, 1436-41, p. 59.
- 8. York registry wills ii, f. 220; Test. Ebor. ii. 234-7; Cal. Hull Deeds, 415-18, 421-2; C143/481/25.