BOTKESHAM, Robert (d.1411), of Bishop's Lynn, Norf.
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Family and Education
Councillor, Lynn Mich. 1379-80, 1383-5, 1388-9, 1391-2; chamberlain 1387-8, 1390-1, 1394-5; mayor 1395-6, 1403-4, 1410-d.1
Tax collector, Lynn Dec. 1380, May 1404.
Constable of the Staple, Lynn 25 Mar. 1394-2 Oct. 1396; mayor by July 1406.2
Commr. of array, Lynn May 1398, Dec. 1399, Oct. 1403; inquiry May 1408.
J.p. Lynn 20 Feb. 1400-c.1407.
Alderman, Holy Trinity guild, Lynn by 20 Sept. 1407-aft. Sept. 1408.3
Robert’s father, Thomas, a prominent merchant of Bishop’s Lynn, served three times as mayor (1357-8, 1363-4, 1369-70), once (in 1371) as MP, and for more than 17 years, from 1370, as alderman of the Holy Trinity guild.4 Robert and John Botkesham (probably his brother) entered the freedom of the borough together on 24 May 1372, and later held property in the town in Purfleet, the Saturday Market and ‘Cook Row’.5
Botkesham’s mercantile ventures included a partnership with John Wace* in April 1390 to import 1,300 wainscots, oars, Riga wood and other timber, pitch, bitumen and iron, altogether valued at £63. He regularly traded in dried fish: he paid customs on at least ten lasts worth £100 in 1402, 18 worth £181 in 1405, and 11 the following year worth £110. Cloth was his main export, but he also shipped malt, wine, corn, ale and goat skins in his trade with Danzig, Bremen and Dordrecht. Botkesham was elected by his fellow Lynn merchants as constable of the Staple in 1394, mayor in 1406 and alderman of their guild a year later. He was among the nine merchants who loaned the royal council 200 marks in July 1410 to finance naval defence.6 Actively involved in municipal affairs for more than 30 years, Botkesham was frequently one of the body of 12 electors of the town officers, besides helping to choose the parliamentary representatives in 1378, 1380, 1382, 1383, 1385 and 1394. Shortly before he himself was returned to Parliament for the second time in 1399, he and his fellow Member, Thomas Waterden, were paid £9 16s.10d. expenses for riding to Chester with a letter for the future King, Henry of Bolingbroke.7 He was occasionally required to act as a trustee of property in Lynn and its neighbourhood; in 1401 he was enfeoffed of the manor of Bealfus in South Creake by Sir Thomas Boyvill of Stokerston (Leicestershire), and in 1403 of other holdings nearby.8
In July 1402, in order to avoid arrest on charges brought by their overlord, Bishop Despenser of Norwich, Botkesham and 22 other burgesses of Lynn had each to furnish bonds of £100 before the sheriff of Norfolk, undertaking not to molest the bishop or his men. Six years later he took out royal letters patent of exemption from holding office, despite which he was re-elected mayor in 1410. During this (his third) mayoralty, on 1 Aug. 1411, he joined with