BURGH, Simon (d.c.1395), of Wimpole, Cambs.
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Family and Education
m. bef. Apr. 1374, Joan (c.1332-28 Dec. 1404), da. of Robert Barkworth and sis. and h. of John Barkworth (d.1357) of Tuxford, Notts., wid. of Edward Lovetoft (d.1369) of Southoe, Hunts., ?1s.
Constable of the abp. of Canterbury’s castle at Saltwood, Kent 15 May 1364-? d.
Keeper of the parks pertaining to the abpric., Surr. Suss., Mdx. 30 Apr.-Nov. 1366.
Surveyor, Preston and Elham parks, Kent 27 Jan. 1368-c.1369.
Jt. guardian of the temporalities of the abpric. 14 Nov. 1368-23 July 1369, 18 June 1374-c.1375.
Constable, Rochester castle, Kent 14 Apr. 1370-25 Oct. 1379.
Commr. of inquiry, Kent Oct. 1370 (forestalling), Oct. 1374 (poaching), Beds., Bucks., Cambs., Hunts. Nov. 1375 (concealments), Cambs. May, July 1389 (ferry-rights), July 1389 (breach of statutes of assizes of wine and victuals); to arrest deserters from royal fleet, Kent Sept. 1372; survey buildings on crown estates in preparation for sale Nov. 1374; of array, Hunts. Apr., July 1377, Mar. 1380, Cambs. Mar. 1392; to put down rebellion, Hunts. June 1381; of oyer and terminer, Cambs., Hunts. Aug. 1381; to examine goods forfeited by the rebels Aug. 1381; take musters, Calais Apr. 1386.1
Envoy to treat with Charles II of Navarre 12 July 1378.2
Overseer of the work of the escheator, Cambs. and Hunts. from 18 July 1381.
Treasurer and victualler of Calais 18 Nov. 1383-17 Jan. 1387.3
Custodian of Marck castle (Pas-de-Calais) from 25 Jan. 1386.4
J.p. Hunts. 22 Oct. 1393-d.
Probably a Kentish man by origin, Simon Burgh began his career as a yeoman in the service of Archbishop Islip of Canterbury, who in 1364 rewarded him with a grant for life of the constableship of Saltwood castle, along with the keeping of all the archiepiscopal parks in Kent and the assurance of an annuity of 20 marks. Within a year he had acquired from the royal Exchequer custody of the lands forfeited by a former sheriff of Kent named John Vieleston, having by then sufficient influence in official circles to obtain exoneration from nearly half of the annual farm of £9 3s.8d. initially demanded for the property. An association with Sir Thomas Aldon (for whom he acted as an attorney during his absence overseas) indirectly led to Burgh’s involvement in proceedings before the Parliament of May 1366, when allegations were made of corrupt practice in the matter of the guardianship of Aldon’s godson William Septvans†, for Burgh was said to have persuaded the young man to retain him as his counsel, with an annual rent of as much as £10 payable to him and his heirs as his fee. The case had no serious consequences for Burgh, for by the time Parliament assembled he had found favour at Court. A week earlier Archbishop Islip had died, and on 27 Apr. Burgh had accompanied the late archbishop’s chancellor, Master Nicholas Chaddesden, to Windsor to report the event to Edward III, with the outcome that he had been able to secure custody of the parks pertaining to the archbishopric for as long as the temporalities should remain in the Crown’s possession. Evidently, he continued to be involved in the administration of the see for some time longer, for in November 1368, following the resignation of Archbishop Langham, he himself was appointed as one of six guardians of the temporalities.5
In the 1360s Burgh invested in property in Kent; he purchased houses in Canterbury, and bought out Vieleston’s heirs from his manors and land near Groombridge on the Sussex border. His increasing prosperity was owed in part to royal patronage: by January 1370, when he obtained exoneration from paying the rest of the farm due from Vieleston’s estate, he had entered the King’s service; and that April, as a ‘King’s esquire’, he was allowed a life annuity of £10 at the Exchequer, at the same time being granted for life the farm of the city of Rochester and the constableship of the castle there. When, a few years later, an annual increment of ten marks became payable on top of the farm of £50 already charged for Rochester, the King granted it to Burgh as an additional annuity. To what extent Burgh was engaged in military duties at home and overseas is unclear, although he was certainly active as a soldier in the last years of Edward III’s reign.6 As an esquire in the King’s household, Burgh received the standard fee of 40s. a year, but access to royal patronage led to other perquisites too, such as a lease of the subsidy of alnage collected in Essex and Hertfordshire which was given him in 1372. In 1374 he was once more made joint guardian of the temporalities of the archbishopric of Canterbury, this time following the death of Archbishop Whittlesey. Misfortune struck him a year later when, returning home after visiting Rome as an envoy from Edward III to the Pope, he was held captive by followers of Cardinal Robert of Geneva (the future anti-Pope Clement VII) until he paid a ransom of 800 francs. In October 1375 he petitioned the King for restitution from the cardinal’s effects in England, and succeeded in obtaining a sequestration order, but it seems unlikely that he ever received back the full amount of his ransom. Following Edward III’s death Burgh was retained as a ‘King’s esquire’ by Richard II, and was sent by him to Navarre in the summer of 1378 as a member of the embassy led by Henry, Lord Scrope, to negotiate with Charles the Bad. Although he resigned from his post as constable of Rochester castle just over a year later, and in April 1380 took out letters patent of exemption from holding further office against his will, he nevertheless continued to wear the royal livery until Michaelmas 1384, if not later, and having uprooted himself from Kent, became engaged in the administration of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire.7
Burgh’s decision to leave Kent was probably prompted by his marriage to Joan Lovetoft, who held for life a number of properties in Huntingdonshire — notably the manor of Boughton in Southoe and rents of £10 a year from lands there and at Overton Waterville — as well as, in Cambridgeshire, an estate at Great and Little Wilbraham and, in Lincolnshire, lands including the manors of Skillington and Owmby, all of which had belonged to her former husband. Her inheritance from her brother John Barkworth in Nottinghamshire, at Markham and Tuxford, was first, in 1374, settled on Burgh and herself jointly, and then, three years later, exchanged with Sir Robert Swillington for property in Cambridgeshire.8 His wife’s dower apart, Burgh’s landed holdings in the latter county were nearly all acquired by purchase, using the proceeds of the sale of those in Kent. They included the manor of ‘Bassingbourn’ in Wimpole, and lands in Arrington, Malton (in Orwell) and Eversden — interests which he consolidated in the years after 1377.9
Although Burgh was active on royal commissions in Cambridgeshire from 1375, it was the uprising of June 1381 which brought him to the fore in the government of the region, for as a royal esquire he was naturally expected to assist in the suppression of the rebellion and the restoration of order. In July he was charged with the responsibility of supervising the work of the escheator of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire in holding inquiries about goods confiscated from the rebels, and for three months he enjoyed custody of land forfeited by Geoffrey Cobbe, one of the principal leaders of the insurrection. It was to the Parliament summoned in the following autumn, whose business was to allay the effects of the revolt, that Burgh was returned for the first time as shire knight for Cambridgeshire, and he was re-elected in the spring of 1382 to consider further measures to restore stability. His absence from the locality during the three years beginning late in 1383, was occasioned by his appointment as treasurer of Calais. The office kept him busily occupied overseas; and during that period the only record of him in England was his appearance in Chancery in May 1384 as one of the guarantors that Robert Fitzrauf, esquire, would pay the Crown in instalments the 400 francs he had dishonourably received from the French by colour of treaties made when on Bishop Despenser’s ‘crusade’ in Flanders, a serious matter for which Fitzrauf had been censured by the Parliament of the previous October. During his time at Calais Burgh undertook the building of new fortifications and organized the manufacture of 60 cannons. The reason for his eventual dismissal from the treasurership is unclear, although it cannot be attributed to any dissatisfaction with his work on the part of his immediate superiors, for William, Lord Beauchamp of Abergavenny, the governor of Calais, and Sir Edmund de la Pole*, captain of Calais castle and controller of Burgh’s accounts, both came forward in February 1387 to provide securities that Burgh would not ‘absent himself’ until he had rendered full account for his term of office. Neither Richard II, during the rest of that year, nor the government controlled by the Lords Appellant in the year following had any use for Burgh’s services. However, unlike certain other royal retainers, he escaped imprisonment and proscription by the Appellants; during the Merciless Parliament when Sir Richard Stury obtained from them custody of the alien priory of Lewisham, Burgh was at liberty to assist him in putting up a bond for 160 marks as surety for payment of the farm. He may well have been treated leniently because of his friendship of many years’ standing with the duke of Gloucester’s retainer, Sir John Gildesburgh*, who had in earlier times acted as his mainpernor and feoffee. It was indeed at this juncture, in the spring of 1388, that Sir John named him as a trustee of his estates in Essex.10
Following Richard II’s re-assumption of control over the government a year later, Burgh was appointed to royal commissions once more. The Cambridgeshire electors returned him to the three consecutive Parliaments of January and November 1390 and 1391. But Burgh’s years of service were nearing an end, and he is not recorded as alive after July 1394. In the previous year he had sold his estate at Wimpole along with other properties in Cambridgeshire to William Standon*, the mayor of London, and it was as his widow that in 1396 Joan Burgh made a formal release of the premises. Joan survived until 1404, whereupon the Lovetoft properties passed to her daughter Margaret, wife of Sir John Cheyne I* of Beckford.11
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
He has been distinguished from Simon atte Bergh, who held office by appointment of 30 Mar. 1367 as keeper of Queen Philippa’s fees and liberties in Kent, and similarly had a wife named Joan. That Simon died on 13 Feb. 1374: CFR, ix. 14-15; E364/8 m. G.
- 1. Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 152.
- 2. Foedera ed. Rymer (Hague edn.), iv. 46.
- 3. E364/22 m. H.
- 4. Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ii. 150.
- 5. CPR, 1364-7, pp. 26, 157, 172; 1367-70, p. 76; RP, ii. 292; Arch. Cant. i. 130; SC1/56/125; CFR, vii. 327, 390; viii. 18.
- 6. CCR, 1364-9, pp. 408, 458; 1369-74, p. 96; CPR, 1367-70, pp. 170, 342, 390, 394; 1370-4, pp. 200, 240, 464; 1374-7, p. 395; Issue Roll Brantingham ed. Devon, 493.
- 7. CCR, 1369-74, p. 424; 1374-7, pp. 173-4; CFR, viii. 250; E101/398/9, f. 27, 401/2, f. 42v; CPR, 1377-81, pp. 189, 192, 193, 395, 455.
- 8. CIPM, ix. 186; x. 148, 345; xii. 372; CPR, 1370-4, p. 433; 1374-7, p. 456; VCH Hunts. ii. 351; C137/47/15; R. Thoroton, Notts. ed. Throsby, iii. 223.
- 9. VCH Cambs. v. 265, 267; Add. 36234, ff. 5-6, 21-22; Add. Ch. 7507; CCR, 1374-7, p. 549; 1377-81, pp. 334-6, 383; 1381-5, p. 131.
- 10. CFR, ix. 265; x. 211; CCR, 1381-5, pp. 14, 444; 1385-9, pp. 306, 632, 638, 645; 1389-92, p. 71; Issues ed. Devon, 229.
- 11. Add. 36234, ff. 5-6, 21-22; C137/47/15; CCR, 1402-5, pp. 424, 427; CFR, xii. 297-8.