BETLEY, Henry (b.1339), of Bishop's Lynn.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Jan. 1377
Nov. 1380
Apr. 1384
Feb. 1388

Family and Education

b. 25 Nov. 1339, 2nd s. and event. h. of Hugh Betley of Lynn (d.1349), by Margery, da. of John Swerdestone of Lynn. m. Margery (d.1411), 1s.

Offices Held

Councillor, Lynn Mich. 1369-71, 1372-5, 1376-7, 1378-82, 1383-92; chamberlain 1371-2, 1377-8; coroner Dec. 1381-Nov. 1382; mayor Mich. 1382-3.2

Tax assessor, Lynn May 1379.

Commr. of array, Lynn May 1385, May 1386.

Alderman, Holy Trinity guild, Lynn by Apr. 1390-aft. Sept. 1392.3


Henry’s father, mayor of Lynn in 1342-3, by the will he made on 17 Jan. 1349, left to his elder son John his messuage and quays near Purfleet, and to the younger, Henry himself, two messuages, in ‘Briggate’ (High Street) and off ‘Dampgate’ (Norfolk Street), and a quay. He died within nine days. On 16 Apr. following his widow bequeathed a building opposite the Tuesday Market to the children, who were orphaned before 10 June, probably by the Black Death.4 John Betley entered the freedom of Lynn in 1355, but he, too, died before Henry came of age in November 1360. The latter secured admission as a burgess just a few days afterwards.5 Active from the first in municipal affairs and elected one of the council of 12 from 1369, in 1372 Betley was appointed to a committee of four who were to decide which wills should be enrolled in the ‘Red Register’. But on 26 Sept. 1375 he was expelled from the liberty for disrespect to the mayor, and his livelihood was jeopardized by an ordinance that no member of the community should trade with him, on pain of a fine of 2os. It was more than a year before Betley, after paying a £5 fine and pledging £100, was re-admitted as a town councillor and member of the Holy Trinity guild of merchants.6 Yet his rehabilitation was clearly complete, for shortly afterwards he was elected to his first Parliament, and in 1382 was himself an elector of Lynn’s parliamentary representatives. He was frequently dispatched on town business, for example in 1380 to seek an audience with Lynn’s overlord, the bishop of Norwich, and in August 1385 he was charged, with John Brunham†, to discuss with the royal council Lynn’s provision of two ships and barges for a military expedition to Flanders.7

Betley had been associated with Brunham earlier, in 1376, as a co-feoffee of local property, and he went on to serve in the same capacity for others. His executorship of the will of Edmund Beeston led to conflict with the royal administration because of the alleged insanity of Beeston’s widow, Emma, and the claims of the Wyth family to her property. In December 1382 the royal escheator inquired of Betley, then mayor, where Emma was dwelling, but he refused to disclose any information. The following month he was ordered on penalty of £300 to deliver guardianship of the widow and her lands to Philip Wyth, but replied that he was ignorant of her whereabouts, alleged a conspiracy between the escheator and Wyth, and asserted that Emma was of sound mind. Although Betley went on to insist that the borough’s liberties provided for the management of an idiot’s estate by the mayor and alderman, after Emma was re-examined that August and found to be insane her lands still escheated to the Crown. Eight years later Betley donated 100 marks from Beeston’s goods to the community.8

Regularly engaged in trade with the Baltic, in 1388 Betley contributed towards the cost of a royal embassy delegated to settle disputes between English and Prussian merchants. In 1393 he exported cloth and blankets to Denmark. Although no longer participating in town government after February 1392, when he ceased to be a jurat, Betley continued to serve as the alderman of the merchants’ guild, as such paying £120 in the following August to secure the royal licence necessary for a grant in mortmain to the same.9 On 13 Aug. he obtained letters patent from Bishop Despenser of Norwich, enabling himself and others to grant to the town, to repair its walls and cleanse the dykes, 32 messuages, three quays, 14 stalls and annual rents of £4 5s.4d. in Lynn, along with lands in Gaywood and South Lynn and the profits of two ferries (to which his own personal contribution was sizeable, consisting of 17 messuages, two quays, all the rents and the income from the boats). The additional royal licence, obtained on 2 Sept., cost £80.10 Betley also owned a tenement in ‘Jews Lane’. In 1393 he purchased a small landed estate at Holme Hale and North Pickenham, Norfolk, and by 1402 he was joint-owner of half a knight’s fee in Crostwight.11

Betley died before March 1405. His son and heir, Hugh, had been admitted as a burgess in 1401, but predeceased his mother, Margery, who made her will in London on 6 Feb. 1411. Margery requested burial in St. Nicholas’s church, Lynn, next to her husband’s tomb. Most of her possessions, including £20, silver vessels, a psalter, beds and linen, were bequeathed to a relative, Cecily Harsyk. Thomas Derham* received £10 as one of her executors. Probate was given at Canterbury on 14 May.12

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Red. Reg. King’s Lynn ed. Ingleby, ii. f. 154.
  • 2. Ibid. ff. 121, 124, 126-7, 129d, 131, 133, 135, 148, 150-5, 158, 160-4, 166-9.
  • 3. CPR , 1391-6, p. 149; King’s Lynn Town Hall, Be 508.
  • 4. Norf. Official Lists ed. Le Strange, 189; Red Reg. ff. 92d, 95. Henry’s uncle Henry also made awill at this time; it was proved in June 1349 (ibid. f. 94d).
  • 5. Red. Reg. ff. 139d, 173d.
  • 6. Ibid. ff. 153, 156, 158; Lynn Town Hall, Ea 33.
  • 7. Red Reg. ff. 122, 167d; Lynn Town Hall, Ea 36, 38.
  • 8. CP25(1)167/175/1580, 168/180/207; CIMisc. iv. 227; CCR, 1385-9, p. 229; Red Reg. f. 134.
  • 9. CCR, 1385-9, p. 565; N.S.B. Gras, Early English Customs System, 536, 543; Red Reg. f. 115d; C143/420/1; CPR, 1391-6, p. 149.
  • 10. Add. Ch. 6703; C143/418/20; CPR, 1391-6, p. 144.
  • 11. CP25(1)168/180/237; Add. Ch. 692; Feudal Aids. iii. 619.
  • 12. CCR, 1402-5, p. 504; Cal. Freemen Lynn, 30; PCC 23 Marche.