GARDENER, Robert (d.1393), of Bristol.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
m. 2s. 1da.
Bailiff, Bristol Mich. 1380-1; sheriff 4 Oct. 1383-4.1
Collector of customs and subsidies, Bristol 1 Feb. 1390-8 Dec. 1391.
Gardener had lived in Bristol for several years before he was elected MP, having been a member of the common council as early as November 1370. Although nominated to the shrievalty of the county of Bristol on 27 Sept. 1379, his first post of any importance was as bailiff in 1380-1, and it was not until another two years had elapsed that he actually took office as sheriff. It proved to be his only term, but in the course of it he was called upon to hold two parliamentary elections: in October 1383 and April 1384.2
Gardener’s commercial interests, notably in the cloth trade, occupied a more prominent place in his career. Between April 1378 and May 1379 he exported 60 cloths (of which 50 were worth £112). These were mostly destined for Ireland. In 1390-1 he shipped 64 lengths of fabric there, but this year 58 to Bayonne as well, the largest consignment leaving Bristol in three ships on 10 May 1391. He also traded in iron, woolfells and skins, and became involved in the lucrative Gascon wine trade, but his principal import seems to have been Irish salmon. Trade with Ireland was beset with mishaps resulting from bad weather and overzealous local officials. In the autumn of 1376 Gardener, in association with two other local merchants, had freighted 24 lasts of hides in Ireland, paying the required subsidies at Cork, but their ship, bound for Calais, was driven by gales into Bristol and the customs officials there demanded further payment. Not until royal instructions had been received was Gardener allowed to re-export his cargo to its original destination. Later, in association with three other Bristol men, who included Elias Spelly*, he freighted the latter’s ship the Cogge John at Lisbon with wine, oil, wax and fruit. Making for Dublin but driven by storm into Kinsale, she was there detained following allegations that members of the crew were Spaniards and therefore enemy aliens. Gardener and his fellows had to provide securities before being allowed to sail the vessel to Bristol. Nor were they released from their bonds until, in August 1377, it was officially decided that the cause of arrest had been frivolous. It was with John Vyel* and six other merchants, that Gardener brought a suit before the King’s Council concerning the Magdaleyn, which had been captured by pirates in the autumn of 1383 on its way to Lisbon laden with cloth and wool allegedly worth £1,000. The case remained unresolved for two years.3
Except for these business associations Gardener seems only rarely to have participated in the affairs of his fellow burgesses. In January 1386, however, he was party with Walter Tedistille† and John Vyel to conveyances following the decease of John Lyme, and two months later his servant, Maud, was remembered in Tedistille’s will.4 He owned buildings and shops in ‘Fisschernelane’, Bristol, mentioned in his own will, composed on 8 Jan. 1393. Gardener made bequests to Worcester cathedral and, provided he might be buried there, to St. Stephen’s church, Bristol. The wardship of his younger son, John, devolved upon John Banbury II*, who like him was much involved in the Irish trade. Other members of the family, Gardener’s brother and wife and his daughter, Cecily, along with seven servants and several friends, including one John Martel, all received legacies, the last of these ‘for his support at school’. Heir to the property was Gardener’s sort Robert, to whom he also assigned his apprentice, who was to receive five marks when he finished his term. Gardener had a personal chaplain, whom he now required to celebrate mass for four years in return for an annual stipend of ten marks. Three of the four executors, who included John Banbury, were each to receive £10. Gardener died before 27 Jan. following, when his will came up for probate before the local authorities. Under the provisions of Banbury’s will of December 1404 the young John Gardener was to receive his father’s legacy of £200. Meanwhile, Robert Gardener, junior, had evidently retained his father’s interests in Ireland, for in December 1400, described as ‘King’s esquire of Bristol’, he had been appointed to supervise the fortification of Cork.5