GRIMSBY, Simon I, of Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorks.
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Family and Education
m. by Jan. 1391, Agnes (fl. 1410), wid. of Thomas Wodeman (fl. 1379) of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.1
Searcher of ships, Kingston-upon-Hull 20 June 1384-18 Apr. 1387.
Controller of customs, Kingston-upon-Hull 16 Sept. 1384-20 June 1389, 8 Dec. 1391-13 Nov. 1393, 17 Feb.-23 July 1397, 3 Dec. 1397-14 May 1398, 1 Aug. 1415-2 Feb. 1416; collector 3 Nov. 1390-8 Dec. 1391, 1 July 1410-Mar. 1403, 10 Feb.-6 Dec. 1412.
Bailiff, Kingston-upon-Hull, Mich. 1384-5; mayor 1390-1, 1402-3, 1405-6, 1411-12.2
Dep. butler, Kingston-upon-Hull 28 Aug. 1395-15 Sept. 1399, 24 Oct. 1401-12 Feb. 1402.
Commr. to prevent the sailing of ships, Kingston-upon-Hull May 1401; make an arrest May 1406; for the restoration of a Scottish ship Sept. 1412.
Mayor of the Staple of Kingston-upon-Hull, date unknown.3
The subject of this biography was quite probably a son or close relative of the Peter Grimsby who represented Hull in three Parliaments during the third quarter of the 14th century. He seems also to have been a kinsman of Sir John Grimsby and his son, Robert, the latter of whom was heir, through his mother, to an extensive estate in and around the Lincolnshire village of Wainfleet. In March 1388, Robert settled his reversionary interest upon a group of trustees, including Simon Grimsby, who maintained an active interest in his property transactions there, and in Hull, for the next ten years at least.4 Simon himself first appears in 1378, when he had already become involved in the Yorkshire cloth trade. He occasionally exported cloth from the port of Hull, where he dealt in other commodities such as herring.5 His main preoccupation, however, was with the local land market, which he exploited with considerable success. It is not always easy to tell when Simon was acting as a feoffee-to-uses for others rather than doing business on his own account, but his purchases seem to have begun quite modestly in April 1384, when he bought a garden called Nettlegarth from the mayor and corporation of Hull. His financial position soon showed a marked improvement, for by May 1391 he was able to negotiate the lease of a substantial amount of property in Hull Street from Sir Michael de la Pole (whose father, the earl of Suffolk, had been attainted for treason in 1388 by the Merciless Parliament, of which Simon was actually a Member). In return for an annual rent of £15 6s.8d., Simon and his wife then obtained the tenancy of a number of riverside tenements and a landing-stage with a crane, later known as ‘Grimsby Staith’. From 1395 onwards, however, Simon’s piecemeal acquisition of other holdings in Hull was underaken not for any personal benefit, but on behalf of a group of priests at the chapel of Holy Trinity. Eventually, in November 1408, he and his associates, John Birken* and Walter Melton, secured a royal licence permitting them to endow a chantry there with three messuages and rents worth 100s. p.a. which they already held in trust.6
Simon’s attempts to consolidate his position as a landowner involved him in at least four lawsuits, the most notable of which concerned his wife’s claims to property worth 40 marks a year in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which had allegedly been settled upon her for life by her first husband, Thomas Wodeman. In a petition addressed to the court of Chancery at some point after 1391, the couple complained that three Newcastle men had evicted them ‘through champerty and maintenance’, and had subsequently refused to accept repeated offers of settlement by arbitration. The outcome of the case is not recorded, but Simon had already managed to secure some of his wife’s jointure by 1394, when he was in possession of a third share of five messuages and other holdings in Newcastle. According to the tax returns of 1412, his income from property there and in Hull stood at £20 p.a., which suggests that he eventually recovered most of the land at issue. During this period he was also embroiled in litigation with the mayor and commonalty of Hull over the ownership of a messuage in Hull and a plot of land in Myton, as well as facing allegations of fraud with regard to another local transaction. Early in the 15th century John and Joan Bingley accused him of using ‘son subtile ymaginacion ... son mauies conseil et exitacion, et auxi ... soun donnes et bealx promesses’ to suborn one of their trustees so that he himself could gain control of their property. Whatever the truth of these accusations, no lasting harm was done to Simon’s career, which went from strength to strength. For over 28 years he not only served regularly as a collector and controller of the royal customs in the port of Hull, but played a prominent part in local government too, discharging a term as bailiff and no less than four terms as mayor, besides representing the borough in at least four Parliaments.7
Not surprisingly, in view of his wealth and influence, Simon was often involved as a mainpernor, witness or executor in the affairs of other northerners. On at least four occasions between 1382 and 1403 he offered securities for Yorkshiremen with business either in the court of Chancery or at the royal Exchequer; and from time to time he attested deeds for such friends and neighbours as William Terry I*. He was, moreover, involved with John Leversegge* in arrangements for the endowment of a hospital at Myton by Sir Michael de la Pole (who recovered his father’s earldom in 1398). A good deal of his time seems to have been devoted to responsibilities of this kind, which occasionally proved onerous. He and Leversegge were, for example, embroiled in a protracted lawsuit for the recovery of debts owed to the Hull merchant, John Colthorp (d.1395), who had made them both his executors; and in 1403 he was entrusted by the archbishop of York with the task of administering the estate of Thomas Snainton, a chaplain who had died intestate. Two years before, Grimsby had witnessed the will of William Snainton’s widow, Joan, so it looks as if their two families were related in some way.8Simon was, almost certainly, a close kinsman (perhaps even the father) of Walter Grimsby*, who twice stood surety on his behalf. On the first occasion, in 1409, he was being sued for debt by Richard Grove of London, and on the second, three years later, he faced unspecified charges brought by the parson of Brantingham, near Hull. A John Grimsby also acted as his mainpernor, but again their precise relationship remains unknown. The terms of a recognizance of 1406 whereby Simon bound himself in £42 to two members of the Staveley family from Cheshire is likewise a matter of speculation, since so far as we can tell, he had no connexions with that part of the country. He may, however, have maintained an interest in trade, which would also explain why he had dealings in London. Simon either die