BOSOM, Richard (d.c.1417), of Exeter, Devon.

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



Apr. 1384
May 1413

Family and Education

m. (1) by 1382, Edith, wid. of Warren Bailly of Exeter; (2) by 1398, Felicity; (3) by 1417, Elizabeth. 1s.2

Offices Held

Steward, Exeter, Mich. 1372-3, 1379-80; member of the council of 12, 1374-7, 1378-9, 1380-1, 1382-7, 1388-9, 1390-1, 1392-3, 1394-7, 1398-1406, 1407-9, 1410-17; receiver 1381-2; mayor 1387-8, 1389-90, 1391-2, 1393-4, 1409-10.3

Collector of customs and subsidies, Exeter and all ports from Bridgwater to Melcombe, 28 Apr. 1385-Oct. 1386, July 1388-Mar. 1390, Aug. 1391-Jan. 1393; controller 28 Oct. 1386-July 1388.

Constable of the Staple, Exeter Oct. 1385-6, 1387-8, 1403-4, 1406-8, 1415-16; mayor Nov. 1388-9, 1416-17.4

Dep. butler, all ports Devon 10 Nov. 1385-Oct. 1386, Som., Dorset, Devon 22 Dec. 1385-c.1388.

Jt. dep. havener, Cornw. and Devon, Jan. 1386-c.1388.

Commr. of inquiry, Devon Mar. 1403 (customs evasion).

Tax collector, Exeter July 1413.


Richard Bosom was related to two influential Exeter figures of this period: John Bosom† (d.c. 1392), parliamentary burgess on eight occasions between 1355 and 1377 for one or other of the boroughs of Exeter, Barnstaple and Tavistock, who was the city’s attorney in the court of common pleas from 1372 to 1382;5 and Robert Bosom (d.1400), B.Cn. and C.L., who from 1383 was chancellor of the cathedral.6 But when Richard became a freeman of the city on 10 Nov. 1371 he was described as ‘of Hampton’ and the £2 fee charged for his admission confirms that he himself was not a native of Exeter. Nevertheless, from the very first he stood out as one of the small group of men who dominated the city’s government. Nearly every year between 1372 and 1417 he was named on the panel sworn to elect the governing body, and in those years when not himself holding office he was a member of the influential council of 12. Bosom attracted notice, too, in the royal departments of the Exchequer and Chancery. In July 1384, shortly after his second Parliament, he obtained the farm of all customs and subsidies (except those leviable on wool, wool-fells and hides) to be collected in the ports of Devon and Cornwall over the next seven years; and the prospects of personal profit were increased by his appointment as collector of the ancient custom in the area. During the same period, from 1385 to about 1388, he was also deputy throughout the West Country to the chief butler of England and the royal havener, both posts then being occupied by John Slegh. Bosom’s dismissal from royal service in 1393 followed on an attempt to defraud the Exchequer; in December 1392 a commission had been issued for his arrest, and a year later he had to pay a fine of £100 to procure a general pardon. His deputy collector of customs in Barnstaple, Ilfracombe and Dunster was clearly an accomplice to the crime, details about which, however, remain obscure. Although Bosom, probably as a victualler, took part in the military expedition to Ireland of 1398, as a member of the retinue of the lieutenant, Thomas, duke of Surrey, it was many years before he was again trusted with a post involving the collection of revenues.7

Bosom’s local prominence was founded on a successful trade through the ports of the River Exe in a wide variety of commodities, including timber, grain, salmon and onions. A more unusual item among his imports was a goshawk worth £1. He had an interest in the expanding cloth industry of Exeter, and the products of local looms formed a large part of his exports. But perhaps more profit was to be made from the shipment of wool to Calais. Occasional losses at sea were to be expected: during the winter of 1396-7 a vessel Bosom had freighted with wool was wrecked off the coast of Normandy. But he was unlucky in other ways, too: in 1384 he and four west country lawyers had stood bail under a pain of £2,000 for John Sampson of Plymouth, but their trust was misplaced; Sampson failed to appear in the King’s bench on the appointed day, and it was not until seven years later and at the cost of a £5 fine that his mainpernors were able to obtain a release from their huge obligation. Bosom’s acquaintance extended beyond the usual sphere of a west country merchant: in July 1388 he assisted the sons of Sir John Cary†, lately chief baron of the Exchequer, to regain custody of part of the family estates following Cary’s impeachment by the Merciless Parliament; in 1393 he provided assurances in Chancery that John Arundell I* of Lanherne would keep the peace, and about the same time he was carrying out arrangements made by William, Lord Botreaux (d.1391) for the settlement of his debts. In 1400 he had in his keeping two antiphonals and two graduals worth £20 which had belonged to John Holand, earl of Huntingdon, who had rebelled against Henry IV.8

Bosom occupied the later years of his life with mainly local affairs. During the last of his five mayoralties (1409-10) he was instrumental in bringing about a ‘love-day’ between the citizens of Exeter and Bishop Stafford, one of many short-lived truces which punctuated the prolonged disputes between the civic and cathedral authorities. He was described as ‘tutor, friend and counsellor’ to the widow of a leading citizen, John Nymet, and in 1412 guest in his house, Roger Watelyngton, asked him to supervise the administration of his will.9 Over the years he had acquired property in High Street, ‘Combestret’ and ‘Ydellond’ Street, but he also held land outside the city on the banks of the Exe, beyond the north gate and in Cowick.10 He is last recorded in 1417 when, with his third wife, he sold property further away still in Poltimore, Farway, Awliscombe and ‘Whitelegh’, having already placed his Exeter holdings in the keeping of trustees, who included the then chief justice, Sir William Hankford. In 1437 the surviving trustees were to relinquish possession to a body appointed by the recorder of the city, William Wynard (d.1441), Bosom’s property thereby coming to be used for the foundation of the almshouses which bear Wynard’s name.11

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. The return gives John Wonard and John Churchehull as the representatives for Exeter in this Parliament, but the local receivers’ accounts record a payment of 50s. to Bosom for ‘the Parliament at Salisbury’ and another of 10s. as a gift ‘because he remained for ten days after Adam Scut his fellow Member had departed’: Trans. Devon Assoc. lx. 188.
  • 2. Exeter City RO, mayor’s ct. roll 5-6 Ric. II m. 44; CP25(1)45/77/50; Reg. Stafford ed. Hingeston-Randolph, 396. His son, Ralph, had a reversionary interest in the estates of John Bosom I* (d.1440) of Bosomzeal: C139/103/38.
  • 3. Mayors’ ct. rolls 46 Edw. III-5 Hen. V.
  • 4. C67/23, 24; C267/6/33, 34; C241/176/15, 194/2, 196/6, 200/15.
  • 5. Receivers’ accts. 46 Edw. III-6 Ric. II; mayor’s ct. roll 16-17 Ric. II m. 8.
  • 6. They were associated together at the assizes and in property transactions: JUST 1/1502 m. 220d; mayor’s ct. roll 5-6 Ric. II m. 44.
  • 7. Mayor’s ct. roll 45-46 Edw. III m. 6; CFR, x. 54; CPR, 1391-6, pp. 234, 337, 571; 1396-9, p. 390.
  • 8. E101/338/11; E122/40/8, 16, 23; CPR, 1396-9, p. 83; CCR, 1381-5, p. 462; 1389-92, pp. 360, 438; 1392-6, p. 246; CFR, x. 244, 358; CIMisc. vii. 137.
  • 9. Hist. Exeter Research Group Mono. v. 63; Reg. Stafford, 398; Exeter City RO, ED/M/596.
  • 10. J. Hooker, Description Excestre (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. 1947), 651; CPR, 1385-8, p. 522; Exeter City RO, weavers, tuckers and shearmen recs. 58/7/2/1/10, 11; mayors’ ct. rolls 48-49 Edw. III m. 29, 3-4 Ric. II m. 39, 5-6 Ric. II m. 44, 22-23 Ric. II m. 1.
  • 11. CP25(1)45/77/50; Exeter City RO, ED/WA/1-12.