HARRY, Robert I, of Winchelsea, Suss.
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Family and Education
m. bef. Easter 1378, Agnes.
Mayor, Winchelsea, Easter 1369-70, 1379-80, 1386-9.1
Collector of tunnage and poundage, Winchelsea 16 Nov. 1378-9.
Jt. searcher in Suss. ports 4 Feb. 1387-c.1388.
Robert was probably related to John Harry, a Winchelsea fisherman living in Edward III’s reign. He himself witnessed deeds at Winchelsea from 1365, while owning land at Udimore, Pett, Fairlight and Icklesham on which, as a Portsman, he claimed exemption from taxation between 1357 and 1385. In 1378 he and his wife acquired 27 acres of land at Biddenden (Kent) for which he sought a similar exemption a year later.2
In August 1364 Harry, described as ‘vintner of Winchelsea’, had obtained a royal licence to ship coin and cloth worth 100 marks to Gascony in order to purchase wine of the new vintage. During his first mayoralty, in 1369, he was distrained to appear in the Exchequer to account for any goods seized at Winchelsea as being exported contrary to prohibitions. He sat on the jury which in 1375 gave evidence before William, Lord Latimer, the warden of the Cinque Ports, and John, Lord Neville, the admiral, about the laws and customs currently in use at sea. In 1385 and 1386 he was recorded on the electoral returns sent to Chancery by the lieutenant warden, as acting as mainpernor for all the parliamentary representatives from the Ports.3
In 1388, either as mayor or as searcher, Harry had in his possession the sum of £80 raised by the sale of herring lately captured by privateers based at Calais and the Ports; and on 7 Mar. the government ordered him, on pain of the King’s wrath (suggesting previous disobedience), to hand the money over to the abbot of Robertsbridge. It may have been in order to answer this charge or to deal with other matters at Westminster that Harry took the place of John Pulham in the Merciless Parliament, then in progress. Certainly, he attended the second session, held after Easter, for ten days in the company of William Skele I*, the two men being paid 33s.4d. for so doing. In June he twice rode to Dover to see the lieutenant warden, in response to writs summoning him to London to render accounts. Two months later he visited Battle on Winchelsea’s business, for discussions with the abbot, and in the autumn he went to Rye to speak with one of the bailiffs lately sent to Yarmouth about certain profits due to the Cinque Ports from the herring fair. Probably in the same year he helped with an inquiry into the late warden Sir Robert Assheton’s expenditure as commander of a fleet engaged in defending English shipping in 1382-3, which enabled the Exchequer to ascertain how much of the £1,000 originally assigned to Assheton had been properly spent. He may have been the ‘Herri’ whom the authorities at Amsterdam, perhaps in 1389, accused of capturing off Calais a Hamburg ship containing goods belonging to Dutch merchants, and of taking them to Rye.4