BERNARD, John III (d.1421), of Akenham, near Ipswich, Suff.
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Family and Education
m. Juliana, ?1s. John†.
Searcher of ships, Ipswich 1 Mar. 1392-27 May 1397.
Controller of customs and subsidies, Ipswich 18 Oct. 1395-10 Oct. 1399, 28 Nov. 1400-24 Mar. 1401.
Bailiff, Ipswich Sept. 1396-7, 1401-2; coroner 1397-1401, 1404-10, 1413-14, 1416-20.1
J.p. Ipswich 20 June 1397-c. Oct. 1399.
Commr. to close the port of Ipswich May 1401.
Bernard is first recorded in October 1388 when he loaded on board Le George of Ipswich a consignment of grain worth £4. He was later engaged in exporting cloth, and he also dealt in herring and in iron imported from Spain. Some time in the 1390s he held ‘Bigot’s quay’ in Ipswich, on lease from Margaret Marshal, countess of Norfolk. He had trading links with the merchants of Colchester, and in 1392 he brought a plea of debt for 37s. in their borough court. In the meantime, in June 1390, he had appeared in Chancery, then undertaking to keep the peace in a local dispute. Throughout the greater part of this decade he was concerned with the customs administration at Ipswich, and it was while holding office as both searcher and controller that he was elected to his first Parliament. By virtue of his position as bailiff of Ipswich, he made the local returns to both Parliaments of 1397, being himself elected on each occasion.2
Bernard lost his Ipswich customs office on the accession of Henry IV, and although he was reappointed one year later, it was only to be removed again in March 1401, probably following the revelations by John Arnold I* of the conspiracy by which they, together with Thomas Godstone* of Colchester, had embezzled £525 from the customs revenues collected in 1397. The case was heard in the Exchequer that August. Bernard was not present, but was nevertheless fined £10 for receiving £120 as his share of the spoils, as well as being ordered to repay the embezzled sum within ten weeks. The informer, Arnold, was sent to arrest him and to seize the memoranda relating to his customs office. Bernard seems to have had difficulty in repaying the money: although he forfeited £30 in cash and a further £40 by assignment, it is not clear whether he ever fully settled his account, and it would appear that some of the remainder had to be recovered through the Ipswich town authorities.3
Thereafter Bernard held no further government appointment, and the case quite possibly came close to ruining him. In March 1399 he had purchased five shops in Ipswich from Arnold who now, in 1403, sued him for a debt of £240. Nevertheless, he was able to obtain a royal pardon of outlawry following his failure to respond to this suit. Moreover, he was evidently still held in respect by his fellow burgesses, for they chose him as coroner for 11 more terms of office, and elected him to two more Parliaments. In 1411 Bernard acquired land in Coddenham. He attested the Ipswich parliamentary indentures in 1410 and again in May 1421, shortly before his death.4
In his will, dated 9 June 1421 and proved at Norwich on 14 Oct. following, Bernard directed his executors to make distribution of his goods to the value of £5 among those who had lost property in Normandy during the wars in France, a provision which may well indicate that he was the John Bernard who had been granted a safe conduct for passage to France in January 1415. His widow, Juliana, was granted administration of the will, and it was presumably his son John who was returned for Ipswich in 1423.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: K.N. Houghton
Not to be confused with the John Bernard who was clerk of the King’s works Dec. 1396-Sept. 1397, and treasurer of Calais Oct. 1397-Aug. 1399, for