BRASIER, Robert (d.1435), of Norwich, Norf.
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Family and Education
m. bef. Apr. 1403, Christine, da. and coh. of Thomas Francis* of Colchester, Essex by his w. Agnes, 3s.
Bailiff, Norwich Mich. 1391-2, 1398-9, 1403-Mar. 1404; sheriff Mar.-Mich. 1404; mayor Apr. 1410-11.1
Commr. of array, Norwich Jan. 1404; inquiry Jan. 1412 (those liable to contribute to a subsidy), Jan. 1414 (illegal congregations and riots).
Tax collector, Norwich Dec. 1406, July 1413.
Brasier came from a well-known Norwich family of bell-founders, but he himself set up in business as a mercer. In 1390-1 he contributed 20s. towards the cost of having the wool Staple in Norwich, this being clearly in the interests of the merchant community to which he belonged. He is recorded from 1396 making shipments of cloth and skins through Great Yarmouth, and importing from the Low Countries and the Baltic substantial quantities of such wares as blankets, girdles, purses, pins, needles, combs, thread, brass rings, mirrors, chests, painted cloths and paper. On occasion, he also traded in foodstuffs — onions, garlic and grain — and in cargoes of timber, tar and iron.2 It was probably through his trading connexions that he came to marry Christine Francis, for her father Thomas (14 times MP for Colchester) had an interest in the cloth trade. The marriage took place before the spring of 1403, when Brasier and his wife obtained a papal indult for a portable altar. Under the terms of her father’s will, made in 1416, Christine was to share with her sister several properties in Colchester and nearby at New Hythe.3 Brasier’s own holdings in his native city of Norwich were scattered over five parishes and included a plot of land containing four racks for use in the process of cloth manufacture. His principal dwelling-place was in St. Stephen’s parish, where he also had several shops and a tavern known as Brasyer’s yn. Towards the end of his life he purchased land at Markshall, to the south of the city.4
Brasier’s active involvement in civic affairs began in 1391 with the first of his three terms as bailiff, and continued for about 35 years. In September 1399 he and one of his fellow bailiffs were sent to London to secure from Henry of Bolingbroke assurances that he would assist in the achievement of the citizens’ ambition for Norwich to be made a shire-incorporate, no doubt offering in return for Henry’s favour the city’s support for his usurpation of the Crown. In 1403, when invasion by the French appeared imminent, Brasier and other ‘chief citizens’ of Norwich rode to Yarmouth with a body of men-at-arms and archers, remaining there until relief came from the royal forces. After Norwich had eventually obtained its charter, in January 1404, he and another bailiff were chosen as the first sheriffs of the newly-made county. Three years later he served on the committee elected to raise funds for the building of a new guildhall. He was elected to the highest civic office, the mayoralty, in 1410, though not as a parliamentary representative until four years later. Brasier was party to the electoral indentures drawn up at Norwich for the Parliaments of 1407, 1414 (Nov.), 1419, 1421 (Dec.) and 1422. It was as an officially-appointed trustee that from 1415 to 1429 he administered a messuage and certain shops and lime kilns in the parishes of St. Edward and St. Peter Southgate, for the purposes of financing repairs to the banks of the river Wensum where it flowed through the city. At an assembly held in May 1421 he was one of four men selected by the mayor to act as j.p.s in Norwich for the forthcoming year. By that time holding aldermanic rank, he was selected for the committee assigned to organize a civic reception for the duke of Exeter in December 1422, and two years later was present at the sealing of new regulations drawn up for the better government of the city which sought to enforce higher standards on him and his fellow aldermen.