BEESBY, Gilbert, of Lincoln.
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Family and Education
Bailiff, Lincoln Sept. 1371-2; mayor 1380-1.1
Assessor of a tax, Lincoln May 1379; collector Mar. 1380.
Commr. of array, Lincoln Jan. 1400; inquiry Apr. 1407 (wastes at the hospital of the Holy Innocents).
Nothing is known about Beesby before September 1371, at which time he not only became bailiff of Lincoln but was also sued in the mayor’s court over the ownership of a messuage in the city. The plaintiffs’ failure to appear in court led, however, to the confirmation of Beesby’s title; and it may well be that the action was collusive. He comes to notice again four years later when one John Locksmith was indicted before a local jury for stealing his horse; but it was not until his period of service as a tax assessor and collector in Lincoln at the end of the decade that he achieved real prominence in the community. Soon afterwards he held office as mayor and was returned to Parliament for the first time; he also appears, in March 1383, as a juror at the Lincoln sessions of the peace. That his commercial interests were already wide-ranging and lucrative can be seen from a pardon for outlawry granted by the King in the following November to William Hornby, a York merchant, who had failed to appear in court when being sued by Beesby for a debt of 100 marks. He was evidently involved in the affairs of the influential guild of Corpus Christi at Boston, being a party, in 1387, to a collusive suit brought by John Rochford*, Sir Philip Tilney* and John Bell* for its additional endowment with property in the area. Understandably enough, Beesby was one of the leading residents of Lincoln required, in March 1388, to take the general oath in support of the Lords Appellant. Moreover, when relations between the citizens and the bishop of Lincoln reached such a low ebb that the government itself was obliged to intervene, he was among the small group of local notables from whom personal guarantees of good behaviour were demanded. In March 1390 he and his colleagues were each bound over in 100 marks to keep the peace towards the bishop and stay away from the precincts of the cathedral.2
Beesby was evidently on close terms with his fellow merchant, William Snelleston†, who chose him in 1395 to execute his will, and left him a personal bequest of five marks for doing so. This task seems to have caused some problems, for three years later Beesby sued out a royal pardon specifically as Snelleston’s executor. Two further lawsuits over property preoccupied him during this period, both of which were heard at the Lincoln assizes. The first, begun just before Easter 1396, was brought by him against John Norman, a local merchant, while in the second he himself appears as plaintiff. Neither case is known to have reached a verdict. Further evidence of Beesby’s interest in the property market as a result of his growing affluence may be found in his transactions with Thomas, earl of Kent, who, in the autumn of 1396, leased him and an associate 80 acres of woodland on the manor of Thorley (in Minting, Lincoloshire) for a term of six years. The two lessees agreed to pay no less than 100 marks when they first began to fell trees, followed by a further sum of 40 marks p.a., and despite the earl’s forfeiture for treason in 1400 they were allowed to keep their contract because no one else could afford to meet such terms.3 Although he is usually described as a skinner, Beesby also had dealings in the cloth trade, and he is named in the alnage accounts for Lincoln drawn up at Michaelmas 1400. He again faced considerable difficulties as an executor, this time for Thomas Horncastle of Lincoln, who seems to have owed money to one John Harwode. The latter’s attempt to recover a debt of £40 from Beesby ended in failure, and in February 1404 the MP was pardoned his outlawry for persistently ignoring successive writs of summons. Matters did not stop there, however: Beesby bore such a grudge towards his adversary that he was subsequently bound over because of his threatening behaviour. He no doubt redeemed himself in the eyes of the authorities by contributing towards a loan of £200 made by a small group of Lincoln merchants in the summer of 1404 for national defence. He found himself in the courts yet again as a result of Sir John Mountenay’s refusal to honour a debt of £20, but Sir John proved just as adept at exploiting the law as Beesby had done, and in July 1406 he too received a pardon for outlawry.