CUMBERWORTH, Robert (d.1404/5), of Somerby and Stain, Lincs.

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

s. and h. of Thomas Cumberworth (d. by 1374) of Somerby by his w. Katherine (fl. 1386). m. Sibyl (d.c.1408), da. and coh. of Sir William Ergum (d.c.1403) of Argam, Yorks., 1s. Thomas*, 1da.1

Offices Held

Commr. of oyer and terminer, Lincs. July 1378 (felonies in Lincoln), Nov. 1385 (attack on the prior of Drax’s property at Roxby); to suppress the rebels of 1381, Mar., Dec. 1382; of sewers (Lindsey) Mar. 1383, Dec. 1384, Mar. 1397; array Apr. 1385, Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399, Sept. 1403; inquiry Nov. 1389 (petition for the restitution of lands to Michael de la Pole), Feb. 1391 (alleged extortions by the abbot of Louth), Feb. 1392 (counterfeits and treasons at Lincoln), July 1393 (use of excessive weights by wool-merchants), Jan. 1394 (assault on the clergy of Lincoln cathedral), Dec. 1397 (disorders at Lincoln), Dec. 1402 (theft of victuals intended for the royal army); gaol delivery, Grimsby Mar., Oct. 1397, Lincoln Apr. 1398;2 to enforce the statutes regarding weirs and kiddles, Lincs. June 1398.

J.p. Lincs. (Lindsey) 27 July 1397-d.3

Controller of a tax, Lincs. (Lindsey) Mar. 1404.


The subject of this biography was the elder son of a fairly prosperous Lincolnshire landowner who served on a few royal commissions during the early 1360s, but otherwise lived quietly at his home in Somerby. Robert is first mentioned in 1371, when he witnessed a local deed. Three years later he and his mother, Katherine, presented jointly to the chapel of Stain so we may assume that he had by then inherited the family estates which included the two manors of Stain and Theddlethorpe. In August 1374, a Robert Cumberworth took part in a vicious assault upon one of the coroners of Lincolnshire at Coningsby, but it is not entirely certain that he and the subject of this biography were one and the same person.4 At all events, Robert’s involvement in local government began in 1378 with his appointment to the first of many royal commissions; and he was soon in great demand as a trustee and a witness to property transactions in the surrounding area. Over the next two decades, he acted as a feoffee-to-uses on innumerable occasions, most notably for John Skipwith*, Sir Henry Retford*, Elizabeth, the widow of the influential Yorkshire knight, Sir William Vavasour, John, Lord Welles, and many other prominent figures in the local community. He was, moreover, a party to the endowment of Greenfield priory (in 1392) and to the establishment of a chantry at Alford for the soul of Sir John Toutheby (in 1396).5 On several occasions his younger brother, John, was also named in these conveyances. Their relationship was evidently close, as, in January 1386, they and their mother together received a licence from the bishop of Lincoln to have mass celebrated for them privately in their home. Meanwhile, in July 1382, Cumberworth arraigned one of his neighbours on an assize of novel disseisin at Lincoln. The case may well have concerned his interests as a feoffee, although he did have quite sizeable holdings of his own to protect. Between 1387 and 1395 he added to these by purchasing small blocs of property in the Lincolnshire villages of Gayton, West Keale and Riseholm, as well as, in 1391, leasing farmland in and around Ashby from Robert, Lord Willoughby of Eresby. It is thus hardly surprising to find him on the list of Lincolnshire gentlemen whom the Lords Appellant approached in March 1388 for promises of support, although there is no evidence to suggest that Cumberworth gave positive assistance to their cause.6

Comparatively little is known about this MP’s more personal activities, which, on the whole, give little cause for comment. In November 1385, he offered a bond worth £20 to the wealthy Lincoln merchant, Robert Sutton*; and five years later he contributed towards the securities of £500 which Sir Edmund Pierrepont pledged as a guarantee of his future good behaviour during the course of a particularly acrimonious dispute with the authorities of Grimsby. He had by then become a man of some substance, his first return to Parliament, in 1393, being clearly made in recognition of this fact. Yet, although he obtained the keepership of the estates of the late John Beelsby in June 1394, he received no further marks of favour from Richard II. On the contrary, a lawsuit in which he was then engaged for the recovery of a debt of £20 had to be abandoned after the award of a royal pardon for outlawry to the defendant; and despite his appointment to the Lincolnshire bench in 1397, no specific rewards or additional offices came his way.7 He was thus quite prepared to throw in his lot with the Lancastrian regime after Richard’s deposition, and he continued to act as a j.p. and commissioner once Henry IV mounted the throne. That the latter recognized his importance is evident from his appearance as a representative for Lincolnshire at great councils summoned to meet at Westminster in August 1401 and 1403. He was also approached by the Crown for a ‘benevolence’ or gift of money at this time. Another lawsuit (against Sir Robert Sleght, who reputedly owed him £20) occupied his attention at the turn of the century, but once again the case never reached a verdict.8

Robert Cumberworth drew up his will on 15 July 1404, and died within the following year. He wished to be buried at either Stain or Somerby, both benefices having long been in his gift. As well as making bequests worth over £34 in cash, he left a goblet ‘vocatum Westmeles’ to John Huntman, the chancellor of Lincoln cathedral, and a silver cup which had been given to him by his father-in-law, Sir William Ergum, to his daughter, Katherine. She had by then married Sir Robert Constable’s* son and heir, Sir Marmaduke, and was the mother of four young sons. The task of executing the will fell, inter alios, to Cumberworth’s widow, Sibyl, his younger brother, John, and his only son, Thomas, who promptly took possession of his inheritance. Sibyl survived her husband for at least three more years, and made her will in the autumn of 1408.9

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


Variants: Combreworth, Cumbirworth, Cumbreworth, Cumburworth.

  • 1. W.O. Massingberd, Ormsby-cum-Ketsby, 194, 259n; Lincs. AO, Reg. Buckingham, XII, f. 316; CCR, 1369-74, p. 337; Test. Ebor. ii. 23-25; Rep. Repingdon (Lincoln Rec. Soc. lvii), 34-36.
  • 2. C66/346 m. 37v, 347 m. 4v, 351 m. 12v.
  • 3. Cumberworth was allegedly appointed to the bench on 2 Dec. 1387, but the commission was never delivered to him (CCR, 1392-6, pp. 103-4).
  • 4. CPR, 1358-61, p. 417; 1361-4, pp. 206, 212; CCR, 1369-74, p. 337; 1374-7, p. 229; Massingberd, 194; Lincoln Rec. Soc. xxx. 75-76.
  • 5. C143/426/15; CP25(1)143/145/12, 146/1, 147/25, 144/149/18; DKR, xxxii(1), 328; xxxiii. 50; CCR, 1377-81, p. 461; 1389-92, pp. 171, 181; 1396-9, p. 414; 1399-1401, p. 298; 1405-9, p. 417; CPR, 1391-6, pp. 110-11; 1396-9, p. 11; 1399-1401, p. 411; Cott. Ch. XXVII 5; Harl. Chs. 56 F 47, 57 G 14; Lincs. AO, MM1/3/4.
  • 6. Reg. Buckingham, XII, f. 316; Lincs. AO, 5ANC1/1/27; CP25(1)143/146/50, 144/148/27, 149/36; JUST 1/1488 rot. 36; RP, iii. 401.
  • 7. CPR, 1391-6, p. 515; 1396-9, p. 128; CCR, 1385-9, p. 91; 1389-92, p. 106; CFR, xi. 116.
  • 8. PPC, i. 160; ii. 75, 76, 86; CPR, 1401-5, p. 337.
  • 9. Reg. Repingdon, 34-36; Massingberd, 259n.