CHICHELE, Robert (d.1439), of London.

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. 1414

Family and Education

yr. bro. of William Chichele*. m. ?(1) by Mich. 1403, Elizabeth (d.c.1421), wid. of William More I* (d.1401/2) of London, vintner; ?(2) by Dec. 1422, Agnes, da. of John Faryngton and wid. of Richard Marlow* (d.1420/1) of London, ironmonger; ?(3) Agnes, da. of William Apulderfield of Challock, Kent; poss. 3 da.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, London and Mdx. Mich. 1402-3.

Alderman, Aldgate Ward by 13 Oct. 1402-aft. 28 June 1407, Vintry Ward by 1 Nov. 1407-5 Dec. 1425; mayor, London 13 Oct. 1411-12, 1421-2.2

Commr. to recruit mariners, London Aug. 1403; of inquiry Jan. 1414 (lollards at large); oyer and terminer July 1415; kiddles, Essex, Mdx. Feb. 1416, Herts., Essex, Mdx. July 1416.

Master of the Grocers’ Co. May 1413-14, 1417-18.3


One of the few distinguished persons to serve two terms as mayor of London during the early 15th century, Robert Chichele occupied a position of great authority and influence in the City by the time of his first return to Parliament. As a young man he probably received help from his elder brother, William, a leading member of the Grocers’ Company, while the third of the Chichele brothers, Henry, pursued a spectacularly successful career in the Church, becoming archbishop of Canterbury in 1414. William Chichele’s early achievements in the world of commerce no doubt encouraged Robert to leave his native Higham Ferrers, where their father, Thomas, had been a prominent member of the community for many years, and settle in London. He was living in the City by December 1390, when he and five other grocers held £240 in trust for the orphaned children of a member of their guild.4 An entry in the Grocers’ Company records for 1399 notes a payment of £6 13s.4d. made to Chichele ‘par comune asent pur le parlement a Schrowsbery’, although his brother, William, had in fact been returned to that Parliament (September 1397) by the electors of London. It is most unlikely, in view of William’s senior position, that the compiler of this account confused the two men: perhaps Robert accompanied his elder brother to Shrewsbury or more probably took his place to spare him the inconvenience of leaving London.5 Yet his own financial dealings were already quite impressive, and grew more complex with the passage of years. In November 1399 Chichele attempted to recover a sum of £51 which was owed to him on a bond of the statute of the Staple of Westminster by the two esquires, Hugh Middleton and Gilbert Purveys. Middleton was subsequently obliged to settle an annual rent of £10 a year upon the grocer and his friend, Thomas Knolles*, in order to clear the debt. Soon afterwards Sir William Bourgchier* and Robert Rykedon bound themselves to pay Chichele £113, but on this occasion the bond appears to have been honoured without delay. Meanwhile, in July 1402, Robert and William Chichele stood surety in Chancery on behalf of their brother, Henry, who, as newly-appointed dean of Salisbury, had been accused by the Crown of contempt. It was then that Robert agreed to offer guarantees of £200, again in Chancery, for the safety of certain goods held by three Genoese merchants trading in London. In June 1410 Chichele joined with William’s trading partner, Thomas Burton, to lend £667 to Henry IV. Again, in 1422, as mayor of London he contributed towards an advance of £520 made to the government on the security of a forthcoming parliamentary subsidy.6

Chichele appears to have rented a house in the London parish of St. Stephen Walbrook until the time of his marriage, in, or shortly before, Michaelmas 1403, to Elizabeth, the widow of the wealthy vintner, William More. Since the latter died childless, Elizabeth had undisputed possession of an impressive estate, comprising land and tenements in the parishes of St. Anthony, St. Michael Queenhithe, St. James Garlichithe and All Hallows the Less. All this property was immediately conveyed by Chichele to his own feoffees, who confirmed him in the reversion should his wife predecease him. This she did some 17 years later, leaving Chichele to enjoy an income of at least £43 a year from premises in London alone. He then married the widow of his friend, Richard Marlow (who had appointed him to supervise the work of his executors), acquiring through her extensive property in four other city parishes, as well as farmland in Stepney and Old Ford, Middlesex. By 1436 his annual revenues from land in both London and the country exceeded £80, although it is now impossible to tell how much of this money came to him through marriage rather than the investment of his own capital in property.7 Chichele had more rural holdings which appear to have belonged to him in his own right. In November 1397, for example, he took possession of two messuages in Havering, Essex, the ownership of which was later contested by the Crown and became the subject of an official inquiry. Nine years later he and his first wife conveyed moieties of the manors of Coldham and Bedford in Cambridgeshire to William Venour; and in 1417 they settled their manor of Garston in Surrey upon John Peny and others. In neither case, however, do we know if the property in question was actually being sold outright or merely settled upon a new body of trustees. From 1405 until 1408, our Member exercised an interest in the Berkshire estates of Nicholas Hertle of Windsor, but again the precise nature of his title remains uncertain. By 1410 Chichele had definitely acquired farmland and a house at Romford in Essex, where he proved a generous benefactor to the local parish church. He provided money for repairs to the fabric, and used his influence with the wardens of New College, Oxford, who owned the living, to extend the privileges enjoyed by the parishioners. He and his elder brother also shared certain holdings in Walthamstow in the same county, being anxious to establish themselves as rentiers on a fairly large scale.8 Robert Chichele was also a party to conveyances of the extensive estates of the Cavendish family in Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, although it looks as if on this occasion he contented himself with performing the duties of a feoffee. He did, even so, become caught up in a protracted legal dispute with the rival claimant, John Hynkley of Thurlow in Suffolk, who at one point accused him and his associates of attempting to bribe a jury.9 Chichele was so often involved in the affairs of others that his own property transactions cannot always be distinguished from those of friends and associates. This is particularly the case in London, where he was called upon to act as a feoffee or executor for some of the most eminent citizens of the day, including John Shadworth*, William Sevenoak*, William Standon*, Thomas Knolles and William Baret*.10 He performed a similar service for a number of influential landowners in the home counties, and in July 1434 he was a party to his younger brother’s settlement of property upon the college of priests which he, as archbishop, had set up in Higham Ferrers.11

Chichele became mayor of London for the first time in October 1414, and as such attended the parliamentary election held in the City in the following month. He was present at six other elections between 1417 and 1426, a period during which rather more is known of his activities than before.12 In May 1417, for example, he was appointed to receive an annuity of 20 marks from the sheriffs of London on behalf of one of the recluses at Barking abbey, and in the following month he advanced £100 of his own money towards the cost of Henry V’s second expedition to France. In September 1419 and again nine months later Chichele arbitrated in disputes arising between foreign merchants in the City, an activity which reveals clearly enough the esteem accorded to him by his peers. Nor were they alone in recognizing his talents. One of the greatest responsibilities shouldered by the MP during his career was that of supervising the execution of Henry IV’s will, a task entrusted to him (officially as Henry VI’s deputy) in October 1423, almost certainly on the recommendation of Archbishop Chichele, the other supervisor. The two brothers and their colleagues then took delivery of 19,000 marks for the payment of various debts, and obtained their final acquittance six years later.13

Chichele’s reputation for generosity towards both the City and the Church was established during his lifetime and was further consolidated by the lavish bequests made in his will. In July 1428 he presented the church of St. Stephen Walbrook (where Archbishop Chichele had served a brief period as rector) with a plot of land which he bought for 200 marks from the Grocers’ Company as the site for a new church. The foundation stone was laid by him at a civic ceremony held in the following spring: according to Stow, ‘the sayde Chichley gave more than one hundred pound to the sayde worke, and bare the chardges of all the timber worke on the procession way, and layde the leade vpon it of his own cost, he also gaue all the timber for the rooffing of the two side Iles, and paid for the carriage thereof’.14 Contact with members of his younger brother’s circle may well have given Chichele a taste for literature as well as expensive building projects. Few city merchants were patrons of this branch of the arts, but he is known to have commissioned the poet, Thomas Hoccleve, a clerk of the privy seal, to translate into English a short ballad ‘to the Virgin and Christ’.15 Robert Chichele made his last will on 5 June 1439 and was dead by 6 Nov. of that year. Altogether he left over £675 for pious and charitable works, and set a further £278 aside for his friends and relatives. Some of his London property was settled upon Archbishop Chichele’s college at Higham Ferrers, but the rest was sold to finance various schemes intended to improve the lot of the London poor. Chichele is even said to have made provision for an annual dinner for 2,400 needy householders in the City, and he was a notable benefactor of many churches there.16

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


Variant: Chychele.

  • 1. Reg. Chichele, ii. 564-8; Cal. Letter Bk. London, K, 4-5; Corporation of London RO, hr 132/1, 146/34, 149/43. According to A. Wood, Colls. and Halls Univ. Oxf. i. 259, Chichele’s third wife, Agnes, was Apulderfield’s da., but the source of this information cannot now be traced. Nor is there any further evidence to support his belief that Chichele had three da. by her. Neither of the MP’s two wills mention any offspring, alive or dead.
  • 2. Beaven, Aldermen, i. 10, 206; Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 97, 108, 261-2; K, 2; Corporation of London RO, jnl. 2, f. 59d.
  • 3. Ms Archs. Grocers’ Company ed. Kingdon, i. 111, 117.
  • 4. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 357.
  • 5. Ms Archs. Grocers’ Company, i. 81.
  • 6. C241/189/10; E401/652, 702; Corporation of London RO, hr 129/18; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 578; 1405-9, p. 74; CPR, 1401-5, p. 132.
  • 7. Reg. Chichele, ii. 564-8; Arch. Jnl. xliv. 62; E179/238/90; CP25(1)152/91/83; Corporation of London RO, hr 129/52, 132/1, 9, 135/92, 100-1, 143/40, 148/14-18, 149/60, 159/16.
  • 8. CCR, 1429-35, p. 38; CIMisc. vii. no. 295; CP25(1)30/93/39, 232/69/25; T. Chichele, Stemata Chichileana, pp. vii-ix; Eton Coll. recs. W704-6, 680-3, 687-9.
  • 9. C1/5/39; CP25(1)223/112/30; CIMisc. vii. no. 590; CCR, 1419-22, p. 47; Essex Feet of Fines, iv. 9-10; RP, iv. 162.
  • 10. London Rec. Soc., i. 247; CCR, 1441-7, p. 299; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, p. 47; Corporation of London RO, hr 135/45, 138/34, 141/58, 142/66, 70-71, 73, 143/36, 146/1, 6, 34-49, 148/2, 25, 57, 149/23, 29, 43, 151/17, 45, 152/52, 68, 153/53, 154/2, 7, 156/18, 21, 157/3, 8, 22, 25, 159/11, 17, 80, 163/25, 167/45-47, 169/41.
  • 11. CAD, vi. C5214; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 244; CCR, 1405-9, pp. 274, 277; CPR, 1401-5, p. 466; 1416-22, p. 10; 1429-36, pp. 334-5.
  • 12. C219/11/4, 12/2, 6, 13/1-2, 4; Corporation of London RO, jnl. 1, f. 60.
  • 13. CPR, 1416-22, pp. 102, 234-5; 1422-9, pp. 43, 188-9; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, pp. 70, 80; Reg. Chichele, ii. 426, 430.
  • 14. Corporation of London RO, hr 157/44; London and Mdx. Arch. Soc. v. 330-1; J. Stow, Surv. London ed. Kingsford, i. 227.
  • 15. T. Hoccleve, Works (EETS, extra ser. lxxii), 67-72.
  • 16. Cal. Letter Bk. London, K, 231; Reg. Chichele, ii. 564-8; Stow, i. 109. Wood, loc. cit., states that Chichele’s three daughters married respectively Valentine Chicche, Thomas Toke of Bore in Kent and an unknown member of the Roper family.