ELLERBY, William, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumb.
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Family and Education
m. wid. of John de la Val of Seghill, Northumb.1
Sheriff, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Mich. 1419-20; mayor 1426-7; alderman by Jan. 1437.2
A prominent figure in early 15th-century Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Ellerby first appears in 1405 when he served on a local jury. Three years later the customs accounts record substantial exports of coal, sheepskins and other commodities made by him in association with William Middleton* and Robert Swinburne*, who may well have been his partners. Little else is known about his activities during this period, but by 1415 he had become one of the leading residents of the borough, being named among the 12 probi homines who then witnessed the return of parliamentary representatives. He himself attended the House of Commons in December 1421, just over a year after discharging a term as sheriff. Although he apparently sat only once in Parliament, he participated in at least ten more of the elections held in Newcastle between May 1421 and 1433, as well as becoming mayor in 1426, and probably holding office for several years as an alderman.3
Ellerby’s business affairs were quite wide ranging. In 1420, for example, he and John Wall* offered property in Newcastle as security for the transactions of Roger Thornton*; and at about the same time he and Robert Swinburne acknowledged a debt of £58 to Henry Bowet (d.1423), the archbishop of York. After Bowet’s death another party to the bond attempted to recover the money from them at common law, even though they claimed that it had been paid in full to the archbishop himself. In a vain attempt to avoid settling their account they countered by submitting an appeal to the court of Chancery, but failed to prove their case. By 1430, Ellerby also owed £16 13s.4d. to Thomas Langley, bishop of Durham, and this may explain why, three years later, two mainpernors offered bail on his behalf to the bishop, who had issued orders for his arrest. He seems to have had a number of connexions with the Church, for later, in 1438 and 1439, the prior of Finchale in Durham owed him modest amounts of money.4
At some unknown date, Ellerby married the widow of John de la Val, the younger son and eventual heir in his issue of Sir William de la Val (d.1390) of Seghill, Benwell and Biddles in Northumberland. In due course, these valuable properties came into the hands of our Member’s stepson, William de la Val, who died childless not long before 1441, having first appointed Ellerby as his sole trustee. Although it was, no doubt, a mark of great trust, his decision gave rise to yet another round of unwelcome litigation, because the next claimant, William’s cousin, Elizabeth, was the wife of Sir John Burcester, a knight of the household of Henry VI, who made strenous attempts to wrest the property from Ellerby’s hands, first by exploiting his influence at Court, and then by filing a suit against him in Chancery. Ellerby (who had perhaps hoped to retain permanent control of the three manors) was no match for such a powerful opponent, and had to surrender his title almost immediately. No more is heard of him after this date, when he must already have been well advanced in years.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. Hist. Northumb. ix. 68, 147, 168; C1/68/254.
- 2. Arch. Aeliana (ser. 3), xviii. 140; (ser. 4), xviii. 14.
- 3. Arch. Aeliana (ser. 4), xviii. 13; C219/11/7, 12/5, 13/1-5, 14/1-4; E122/106/40, 42.
- 4. Newcastle-upon-Tyne RO, Soc. of Antiquaries mss, Blackgate deed, B4/i/1 no. 1; C1/11/508; DKR, xxxiii. 152; Surtees Soc. vi. pp. ccxxv, ccxxix.
- 5. Hist. Northumb. ix. 68, 147, 168; C1/68/254.