CLITHEROE, Richard I (d.1420), of Clitheroe, Lancs. and London and Goldstone in Ash-next-Sandwich, Kent.

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

m. bef. 1400, Alice (d.c.1417), wid. of — Mountford of Hackforth, Yorks. and Riby, Lincs., 1s.1 ?1da. d.v.p.

Offices Held

Keeper of Elham park, Kent 2 June 1391-d.

Commr. of inquiry, Aug. 1391 (whereabouts of a royal ward), Kent Feb. 1397 (wastes, Lewisham priory); sewers Mar. 1397, June 1407, July 1409; to survey the forfeited estates of the principal Appellants of 1387-8 and seize the goods of Lord Cobham, Kent, Mdx. Oct. 1397; of array, Kent Nov. 1403, June 1407, Mar. 1410, May 1415, Apr. 1418; to supervise musters July 1410, Jan. 1415; determine an appeal in the constable’s ct. Apr. 1412; purchase wheat to provision Harfleur, Kent Apr. 1416; raise royal loans Nov. 1419, Jan. 1420.

Changer and assayer of money, Calais 20 July 1392-?1409.

Measurer of cloth and canvas, London 6 July 1395-27 Sept. 1399.

Alnager, London 16 Feb. 1397-28 June 1398.

Collector of tunnage and poundage, London 17 Feb. 1397-28 Nov. 1398, of customs and subsidies, Ipswich 21 May 1409-26 Feb. 1410.

Sheriff, Kent 5 Nov. 1403-22 Nov. 1404, 4 Nov. 1418-23 Nov. 1419.

Dep. treasurer, Calais 9 May 1405-5 Mar. 1406.2

Adm. of the southern and western fleets 1 May-23 Dec. 1406.

Controller of petty custom and subsidies, Sandwich 11 Mar. 1407-29 Sept. 1408.

Victualler, Calais 21 Feb. 1410-15 Apr. 1415.3

Jt. keeper of the temporalities of the see of Canterbury 27 Feb.-12 Oct. 1414.4

Jt. supervisor of Abp. Chichele’s estates from 24 June 1414.5

J.p. Kent 3 Feb. 1416-d.


Clitheroe came from the Ribblesdale town from which he took his name and with which he constantly retained contact, no matter how far afield he was taken by the various commitments of his interesting career. He always kept a house in Clitheroe, and in his will he was to remit all the debts owed him by men of the town. Furthermore, on that same occasion he also made provision for a temporary chantry of eight priests in Clitheroe parish church, left 100 marks for charitable administration in the locality, gave £20 towards mending the bridge over the Ribble and made bequests to the nearby Cistercian monastries of Salley and Whalley. It is surprising that his relationship both to those earlier members of his prolific family who had represented Lancaster and Lancashire in Parliaments of the 1330s, and to his less prominent contemporaries, remains obscure. We cannot be far wrong, however, in assuming that he was a younger son of originally small means, who made his fortune in London, where he resided from about 1385. His success, marked by his establishment as a landowner of substance in Kent, encouraged other relations to move south to the same area, where they became leading townsmen and parliamentary burgesses in New Romney.6

Clitheroe, who was to develop considerable expertise in those tasks of organization needed for the victualling of royal armies and garrisons, had already rendered services of some kind to Richard II before June 1391, when he received the keepership of Elham park near Canterbury for life; and in December following the King granted him certain forfeited goods worth £20. He soon made the acquaintance of the treasurer of Calais, Roger Walden (afterwards the King’s secretary and archbishop of Canterbury), whose ward he had earlier been commissioned to find, and in 1392 he acted as mainpernor at the Exchequer on Walden’s behalf. It may well have been through Walden that he then secured the post of changer and assayer of money at Calais, thus beginning a lifelong, albeit sporadic, involvement in the administration of that vital strategic base. He acquired property in Calais, where he retained the post of assayer for some time; he was clearly still occupying it in October 1394 when he stood surety for the newly-appointed master worker of the mints there and in the Tower. On occasion he acted on official business for Robert Selby, Walden’s successor as treasurer of Calais — notably when the latter was taken ill at Canterbury in 1395 — and he subsequently assumed the executorship of his will. In July 1395, as ‘King’s esquire’, Clitheroe was appointed as measurer of cloth and canvas in London, with authority to accept whatever the merchants ‘chose to give him gratuitously’. This extremely lucrative office, which was to be granted him for life from July 1397, offered unrestricted potential for personal profit, for he was not bound to answer to the Crown for any sums of money received. (Indeed, a few years later the civic authorities, while successfully pleading in the King’s bench for the post to be abolished on the grounds that it led to the oppression and impoverishment of the people, alleged that Clitheroe had levied fees on those trading in cloth ‘by extortion, ... threats against life and limb, and by coercion’.) Further, though less unusual, evidence of Richard II’s generosity in this quarter is provided by the Crown’s sale to Clitheroe in 1395, for as little as 40 marks, of a house and three shops in the city parish of St. Mary Aldermary, perhaps for use as his official premises. Besides this, from September 1396 Clitheroe shared the wardship of lands of Richard, Lord Talbot, during the minority of the heir. The years 1397 and 1398 were busy ones for him, for at the same time as he was actively engaged as measurer in London, he was also holding the posts of alnager in the same city and collector of tunnage and poundage in the port.7

This royal official and entrepreneur did not long escape the notice of members of the baronage, evidently to his material benefit. On 13 Jan. 1396 he had been formally retained by the King’s eldest uncle, John of Gaunt, with a fee of ten marks a year from the honour of Pontefract, and two years later he acted as a trustee of a manor in Essex for its settlement on the duke’s now legitimated daughter, Joan Beaufort, and her husband, Ralph Neville, earl of Westmorland. (It was probably at this time that he began his friendship with John Darell*, Neville’s retainer, who, a northerner like himself, also came to make his mark in Kent.) Then, in April 1399, William, Lord Clinton, named him as his attorney at home while he was overseas with Richard II’s army in Ireland. Even so, Clitheroe’s prosperity depended almost entirely on Richard’s goodwill, so it is not surprising that he proved reluctant to accept the change to Lancastrian rule. On 27 Sept., the eve of Richard’s abdication, he was deprived of his office of measurer in London in favour of a supporter of Henry of Bolingbroke, and although he was named among the buyers for the new King’s household that November, he so much resented the reversal of his fortunes, as actively to seek King Richard’s reinstatement. On 2 Feb. 1400 he appeared at Newgate in the distinguished company of Roger Walden, the deprived archbishop of Canterbury, besides numerous others, on a charge of having between 6 Dec. and 1 Jan. conspired against Henry IV in St. Paul’s cathedral, London, and having raised armed rebellion in support of the deposed monarch. Several of the conspirators had already been executed (notable among them the three earls who had led the revolt), and more were now condemned to death, but somehow Clitheroe cleared his name at the trial, and so convincingly that within two weeks he was released from the Tower and had his confiscated goods restored to him. Henry IV was, in fact, sufficiently assured of Clitheroe’s innocence as to confirm on 25 Feb. the annuity awarded him by his late father, the duke of Lancaster and, on the following day, to grant him, in recompense for the arrears of this annuity and for various sums due to him for wages in the royal household, certain lands in Lincolnshire, worth ten marks a year, during the minority of his stepson, Thomas Mountford.8 Clitheroe’s rehabilitation was completed in May with a handsome gift of 400 marks and a grant for life as ‘King’s esquire’ of an annuity worth as much as £80 charged on the petty custom in London, the latter being deemed adequate compensation for his loss of office as measurer of cloth in the City. His loyalty to the new regime thus procured, he was now engaged in the important task of purveying and shipping military stores to the English army which, led by Henry IV himself, was to invade Scotland on 14 Aug., only to return to England, with nothing achieved, before the end of the month. In the meantime, Clitheroe had been in command of a convoy, north-bound from the Thames estuary, which was seriously delayed by lack of urgency on the part of the London authorities in furnishing the necessary provisions. The business of transporting supplies to the Tyne, for the forces left behind in the march under the overall command of the earl of Northumberland, kept Clitheroe occupied until late November; and, incidentally, it closely involved him with his namesake of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, then deputy butler there, it being the responsibility of the two men to ensure that the English forces in the area received sufficient quantities of wine. At this stage in his career Clitheroe formed an association with the King’s chief butler, John Payn II*, following whose death intestate in 1402 he was to receive a royal pardon exonerating him from all fiscal liability when Payn’s accounts were rendered in the Exchequer. In September 1402 Clitheroe and Thomas Elmeden, another ‘King’s esquire’, received as a reward for their ‘long service’, the sum pertaining to the Crown for the escape of a convicted felon from the bishop of Durham’s prison.9

In the early years of the 15th century Clitheroe took up permanent residence in Kent, although the management of his properties in London (including those in Watling Street sold to him by Richard II, and his mansion in St. Michael Riole, next door to Richard Whittington’s*), not to mention other business, must still have frequently taken him up to the City. Those London properties were later conservatively estimated as being worth £5 a year. Links with the London Carthusians, who in December 1399 had made over to him all their land in Rochester on a 99-year lease, led to his being granted by the Crown in November 1402 a share in the custody of the Charterhouse itself with all its possessions, provided that he helped the priory in its financial difficulties.10 Before his admission to the fraternity of Christ Church cathedral priory, Canterbury, in 1401, Clitheroe had already begun to accumulate estates in Kent, which eventually included at least six manors. Notable among these was Goldstone (now made his chief place of residence), acquired by purchase from Lord Clinton, who also sold him two manors in Hertfordshire. The extent of his wealth may be judged from the fact that in 1412 his Kentish property alone was valued by the subsidy assessors at £141 13s.4d. a year, an income all the more remarkable in view of its having been amassed in the few years since the turn of the century and by using the profits of his fees and offices.11

Clitheroe’s activities in the provisioning of Henry IV’s forces on the Scottish border early in the reign led to his further employment in maritime affairs. Quite possibly he was captain of one of the two ships which captured seven enemy vessels off Sluys in the spring of 1404, for he was subsequently appointed to evaluate and sell the King’s share in the enemy cargoes and to use the profits to pay the wages of the English crews. Then, early in 1405, he was called to a meeting of the King’s Council to discuss detailed plans for a major naval expedition to be led by the earl of Somerset, captain of Calais. For nearly a year, starting that spring, he also served in his capacity of treasurer of Calais as deputy to Thomas Neville, Lord Furnival, one of the treasurers of war appointed in the autumn Parliament of 1404, and was still holding that responsible position when elected as knight of the shire for Kent for the first time in 1406. Such trust was placed in Clitheroe as a naval commander that on 28 Apr., during the first parliamentary session, he was appointed admiral of the southern and western fleets, on the nomination of the merchants to whom Parliament had given responsibility for the safeguard of the seas. On 15 May, the Speaker made a formal request to the King and Lords that as Clitheroe was about to put to sea they would allow his fellow shire knight, Robert Clifford, ‘de comparer en parlement en lour deux nouns’. Clitheroe was supposed to serve as admiral until Michaelmas 1407, but in fact relinquished office shortly before the Parliament was dissolved at Christmas 1406, as a consequence of the merchants’ early discharge. When the Commons met again, at Gloucester in October 1407, with Clitheroe once more representing Kent, it was revealed that neither he nor any member of his retinue had received their full pay; the huge sum of £2,668 was still owed him. Although it was then agreed that the treasurer of the Exchequer should pay him out of the wool customs, the full debt was still outstanding in the following May, prompting the issue of an order for immediate payment out of the first receipts from the subsidy on wools, hides and woolfells in the port of London and six other ports, including Ipswich. No more is heard of the matter, but it may be assumed that, even though Clitheroe’s appointment as collector of customs at Ipswich in 1409 doubtless hastened his receipt of dues from that particular place, it probably took several years for him to be paid off in full. Some compensation may have been had from the royal grant made in March 1409 to Clitheroe and his namesake from Newcastle of a lease of the Yorkshire estates of Joan, Lady Fauconberg, especially as, from the following month, he and Thomas Strickland II* were permitted to retain for themselves £40 a year from the revenues of the same as reward for their ‘good and disinterested service’.12

It was while Henry of Monmouth was at the head of the government in February 1410 that the King’s Council appointed Clitheroe as victualler of Calais. This was during a period when the administration of Calais and the marcher fortresses was highly unsatisfactory and growing complaints of the misuse of public funds had been reaching the ears of the government at home. On at least two occasions Clitheroe’s conduct in the office came under scrutiny: in October 1412 he was summoned before the Council to account for all sums received and disbursed by him, and an inquiry held before the treasurer of England in August 1414 disclosed evidence of frauds perpetrated by him and three other office-holders. Nevertheless, his continued employment at Calais until the spring of 1415 argues against his having been found personally guilty of peculation, or at least for his exoneration. Certainly, he enjoyed Henry V’s favour, for he continued to receive his royal annuity of £80, and for much of 1414 he shared, by royal grant, the farm of the temporalities of the see of Canterbury made vacant by the death of Archbishop Arundel. (The archbishop-elect, Henry Chichele, appointed him as joint supervisor of his estates in June that same year.)13 Then, in August, the King granted him, along with Thomas Brooke*, the farm of such of the estates forfeited by the lollard leader, Sir John Oldcastle*, as the latter had held in right of his wife Joan, Lady Cobham (Brooke’s mother-in-law). Since the grant was made at Lady Cobham’s request, and she also asked that the two men be given occupation of Oldcastle’s London residence, it seems likely that the marriage of Clitheroe’s only son, Roger, to her stepdaughter, Maud Oldcastle, had already taken place. Clitheroe was to retain this share in the custody of the Cobham estates until more than a year after the lollard’s condemnation to death in the Parliament of 1417. To all appearances, Clitheroe’s own views of the Church were strictly orthodox, with no suspicion of lollardy attaching to him; and yet it is worth noting that he later (in 1418) acted as a surety for Sir John Mortimer who was long tainted with heresy before being executed for treason in 1424.14

The preparations for Henry V’s first expedition to France in 1415 made heavy demands on the ability of such as Clitheroe to organize men and materials on a grand scale. Released from the victuallership of Calais, that spring he was despatched to Holland and Zeeland with the huge sum of £9,520 with which to bargain with the masters and owners of ships to permit the chartering of their vessels by the English King. His own ship Cok John had already been commandeered for royal service. No doubt he himself played a major part in arranging the transportation of Henry V’s army across the Channel in August, and in the months that followed the King’s return home after Agincourt he was employed in the provisioning of the garrison at Harfleur. Nor did the remaining years of Clitheroe’s life see any diminution of his energies in the sphere of local administration, culminating in his second term as sheriff of Kent in 1418-19.15

Clitheroe’s many official duties, entailing his participation in commercial and financial dealings of a complex nature, had in the course of his career occasionally brought him into the lawcourts as both creditor and debtor. For example, in 1402 a royal commission had been set up to re-examine the record of a case heard in the Guildhall, London, in which a ‘sherman’ of Calais had successfully sued him for £200, and for at least two years from 1411 he was engaged in litigation with Robert Ashcombe*, the highly acclaimed embroiderer of London, arising from a bill brought against him in Chancery. On two occasions he endeavoured to settle this dispute with Ashcombe outside the courts by a process of arbitration, and the gravity of the quarrel is suggested by the fact that both times the litigants were each bound in recognizances of £1,000 to abide by any award made. It may be of interest in this context to note that in the will made by Henry V on the eve of his departure for France in 1415 he bequeathed to Archbishop Chichele a certain red embroidered velvet gown which Clitheroe had sold to him.16

In December 1417 Clitheroe relinquished to the London Charterhouse the remainder of the lease earlier granted him by the monks, in return for their promise to pray for the soul of his recently deceased wife Alice, who lay buried in the priory church. In his will, made on 17 Jan. 1420, he arranged to be interred next to her, in a tomb costing as much as £40. Evidently a wealthy man, Clitheroe nevertheless displayed considerable generosity by now releasing many of his debtors from their financial commitments. At the last, his ties with his native town in Lancashire proved stronger than those with his newer home in Kent, although he did ask for chaplains to pray for his and his wife’s souls at Plumstead and Ash for periods of ten and 20 years, respectively. The bulk of his estates, together with his property in London, passed to his son Roger, but his nephew and executor, Richard Clitheroe II* of New Romney, received a small bequest of land as well as the sum of 100 marks, and the largest monetary legacy — one of no less than 500 marks — was destined for the children of Thomas Knolles the younger of London, with especial preference for Knolles’s daughter Joan. (It may be conjectured that they were Clitheroe’s grandchildren.) Knolles’s father, Thomas Knolles*, the successful London grocer, was named among Clitheroe’s executors, who also included such prominent figures as Thomas Langley, bishop of Durham, the then chancellor, William Kinwolmarsh, the deputy treasurer, Geoffrey Lowther†, the lieutenant warden of the Cinque Ports, and John Darell, steward to Archbishop Chichele. Clitheroe died at an unknown date between 16 Aug. and 11 Nov.17 He was long remembered: in 1438, in his own will, Darell made provision for prayers for his soul; in 1461 Clitheroe and his wife were on the bede roll of the ‘Knolles chapel’ in St. Antholin’s church in London; and more than 50 years after his death lamps were still kept burning day and night over his tomb in the Charterhouse.18

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


Variants: Clederowe, Cliderawe, Clytherowe. He should not be confused with his namesake and probable kinsman who at different times in the years between 1400 and 1410 held office at Newcastle-upon-Tyne as deputy butler and controller and collector of customs and subsidies, and who from Aug. 1403 to July 1405 was escheator of Northumb. That Richard married bef. May 1400, Elizabeth, wid. of William Bishopdale* of Newcastle: CIMisc. vii. 9; CFR, xii. 59. The same or a third Richard Clitheroe married c. Feb. 1410, Margery, da. and coh. of Sir Alfred Sulney† of Pinxton, Derbys., wid. of Sir Nicholas Longford (d.1401) of Longford, Derbys. and Withington, Lancs. and of Sir Robert Leigh of Cheshire, only for his wife to be excommunicated by Abp. Chichele in 1419 for her persistent refusal to obey orders to restore conjugal rights. Five years later the wife sued for a divorce: DKR, xxxvi. 113; Reg. Chichele, i. 185; C1/6/195, 318; PPC, ii. 329.

  • 1. CPR, 1399-1401, p. 222. The family background of Clitheroe’s wife is obscure. Her son, or stepson, Thomas Mountford, d.c. 1417 possessed of estates in Lincs., Som. and Yorks.: CFR, xiv. 145.
  • 2. E364/46 m. D.
  • 3. Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 199; E364/65 m. A.
  • 4. Reg. Chichele, i. 11.
  • 5. Ibid. iv. 5.
  • 6. DL42/16, f. 16; VCH Lancs. vi. 254; CCR, 1381-5, p. 616; PCC 50 Marche.
  • 7. CPR, 1388-92, pp. 420, 515; 1391-6, pp. 2, 603, 647; 1396-9, p. 185; CFR, xi. 52, 188; CCR, 1392-6, pp. 314, 384; Sel. Cases King’s Bench (Selden Soc. lxxviii), 194-7; Anglo-Norman Letters ed. Legge, no. 11; CIMisc. vii. 234.
  • 8. DL42/15, f. 47; CPR, 1396-9, pp. 285, 596; 1399-1401, pp. 19, 222; Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, pp. 1-4; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 53. Clitheroe remained close to Roger Walden, who, by then bishop of London, made him an executor of his will on 31 Dec. 1405; Lambeth Pal. Lib. Reg. Arundel, 1, f. 227.
  • 9. CPR, 1399-1401, p. 308; 1401-5, pp. 120, 384; E404/15/102, 419, 464, 474; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 165; E364/34 mm. D, Fd; Cal. Scots Docs. (supp.) v. no. 910.
  • 10. Corporation of London RO, hr 152/64, 154/26, 161/46; E326/9311; CPR, 1401-5, p. 174; 1429-36, p. 215; Arch. Jnl. xliv. 80.
  • 11. BL, Arundel 68, f. 57; CCR, 1402-5, p. 302; 1409-13, p. 341; 1435-41, p. 442; 1441-7, p. 141; Feudal Aids, vi. 465; VCH Herts. iii. 48, 411; C139/158/29.
  • 12. CFR, xii. 247; PPC, i. 246; E364/46 m. D; RP, iii. 572, 602-3, 610; CPR, 1405-8, pp. 171, 447; CFR, xiii. 144, 146.
  • 13. E404/31/613; PPC, ii. 36; E364/65 m. A; J.H. Wylie, Hen. V, i. 45; CPR, 1413-16, pp. 69, 173.
  • 14. CFR, xiv. 75; CPR, 1413-16, p. 248; CP, x. 48; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 456-7, 487-91.
  • 15. DKR, xliv. 559; E364/66 m. A; CPR, 1413-16, p. 293.
  • 16. CPR, 1401-5, p. 125; CCR, 1409-13, p. 310; 1413-19, pp. 106, 117; Foedera, ix. 291.
  • 17. E326/9311; PCC 50 Marche; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, pp. 84, 161.
  • 18. Reg. Chichele, ii. 569; Cal. Wills ct. Husting London, ii. 557, 572.