CLERE, Robert (d.1420), of Runham and Stokesbury, Norf.

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



Family and Education

yr. s. of William Clere† (d.1384), of Ormesby St. Margaret, Norf. by Denise (d.1417/20), da. of Sir William Witchingham, j.c.p., of Witchingham, Norf. m. 1409/10, Elizabeth (d. aft. Aug. 1434), da. of John Read of Rougham, wid. of John Yelverton (d.1408), of Rackheath, Norf., 3s., 2da.

Offices Held

Commr. of array, Norf. Mar. 1419.


Clere was descended from a family long settled at Ormesby St. Margaret, about four miles north of Yarmouth, and himself maintained a tradition of parliamentary service dating back from before the middle of the 14th century, for his grandfather Robert (d.c.1358) had represented Norfolk in four Parliaments, and his father had done so once in 1372. The family’s extensive estates, comprising no fewer than seven manors in the east of the county, were held as jointure by Robert’s mother Denise, who lived on at least 33 years after his father’s death, which occurred in 1384, when Robert and his four brothers were all under age. By his father’s will he received a bequest of £20, the same amount as was left to three of his brothers, while the other, Edward, had 200 marks.1 The heir to the bulk of the estates was the eldest, John Clere, in whose line they long remained, but Robert was to acquire certain holdings by dint of surviving the others. In 1386 his mother obtained a royal licence to entail two parts of the manor of Runham, which she held for life, in reversion on her sons, with Robert being named fourth in succession. Then in 1415 he and his brother William, the only two left alive, received from the feoffees of Runham a reversionary interest in lands in Thrigby, Herringby, Stokesby and Mautby (all near Yarmouth) and at Rackheath and Crostwick to the north of Norwich, which were to fall to them in tail after the death of their mother, who in that same year settled on the two of them a messuage in Ormesby and lands at Scratby and Filby. It was not until February 1417, following William’s death, that Runham was granted in reversion to Robert alone and to his issue, and not until his mother died that he actually secured possession, no more than three years before his own demise. Runham was held of the Crown in socage by the unusual service of rendering two muids (modia) of wine and 200 pearmain pears to the King whenever he visited the city of Norwich.2

Robert had come of age by 1402, when he sued Robert Monyn esquire and John Grimsby in London for allegedly having uttered threats against him. A year later, in March 1403, he stood surety at the Exchequer for his brother John when the latter renewed his lease of the manor of Horstead, an estate belonging to Caen abbey. His election for Yarmouth to the Parliament of 1407 may be attributed to the local standing of the family and, in particular, that of his brother John who, earlier in Henry IV’s reign, had served in the port as deputy admiral. Robert himself is not known to have had close personal links with the burgesses of Yarmouth, although he was well connected among the gentry of the shire, being brother-in-law to William Appleyard*, the first mayor of Norwich, and a kinsman of Oliver Groos* esquire. Furthermore, after his brother John’s death not long afterwards, his sister-in-law Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Philip Braunche, married Sir John Rothenale, controller of the King’s household (1413-15) and then its treasurer (1416-20). But although Clere had dealings with Elizabeth Rothenale, there is no evidence that he ever made use of her connexions at Court. He attested the Norfolk elections to the Parliament of 1410, held in the shire house at Norwich, and later that same year he witnessed the conveyance of a manor in the city of which Sir Thomas Erpingham KG was the chief feoffee. Clere’s subsequent activities as deputy to the sheriff (his own kinsman Groos) in summoning defendants to court might suggest that he had some training as a lawyer, a likely profession for him in view of his maternal grandfather’s position as a j.c.p. under Edward III, and of his own close association with other men of law.3 His wife Elizabeth was the widow of John Yelverton, the recorder of Norwich, and the mother of William Yelverton†, a future judge of the King’s bench. Elizabeth brought to the marriage her manor of Rougham. In January 1420 Clere was a feoffee of lands near his own family estates, in trust for the fulfilment of the wills of two local men.4

Clere made his own will on 14 Aug. 1420, and died the same day. He divided his property between his sons, all of whom were under age: John was to have his two parts of the manor of Runham; William, lands at Stokesby; and Edmund lands at Somerton and Winterton. His daughter Denise was to have £50 for her marriage, and his stepson Yelverton half the sheep and corn at Rougham. He made bequests of 20s. each to the friaries at Great and Little Yarmouth, of £2 to the Dominician friars at Norwich, and another sum of money to the priory of Augustinian canons at Mountjoy. His executors were his widow, his stepson and the rectors of Mautby and Stratton Strawless, with William Paston, the future judge, acting as overseer. Clere was buried in St. Andrew’s church at Stokesby, and his will was proved in the Norwich consistory court on 3 Sept.5 The eldest son, John, soon followed him to the grave, and the next, William (then aged eight) died ten years later, whereupon Edmund inherited all the property.6 Clere’s widow, who surrendered Rougham to her son Yelverton in 1425, was still living in 1434.

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Vis. Norf. (Norf. Arch. Soc.), ii. 264-9; CAD, v. A11562, 12367; F. Blomefield, Norf. xi. 234-6; Harl. 10, f. 135.
  • 2. CPR, 1385-9, p. 189; 1416-22, p. 65; Blomefield, xi. 243-4; CAD, iv. A7939, 7984.
  • 3. CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 22, 555; 1409-13, p. 110; CFR, xii. 205; C219/10/5; KB27/596 m. 72.
  • 4. Vis. Norf. ii. 270, 293-4; CAD, iv. A6672.
  • 5. Norf. RO, Reg. Hyrnyng, f. 63.
  • 6. C138/45/19; CCR, 1419-22, p. 104; 1429-35, p. 19. The Norfolk MP of 1447 was this Edmund Clere’s cousin, Edmund Clere of Ormesby. The two are confused in HP ed. Wedgwood 1439-1509, Biogs. 189.