HEBBURN, Robert (c.1350-1415), of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Newton-by-the-Sea, Northumb.
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Family and Education
b.c.1350, s. and h. of John Hebburn (d. by Sept. 1379) of Newcastle-upon-Tyne by his w. Isabel (d. by Sept. 1379), da. of Robert Wendout and sis. and coh. in her issue of John Wendout (d. July 1367) of Hebburn and Newton-by-the-Sea. m. Agnes (d. 7 July 1424), da. of William Carnaby (fl. 1347), by his w. Margaret (d. 26 Nov. 1361), er. da. and coh. of Sir John Halton (d. 31 Mar. 1345) of Halton and Whittington, Northumb., 3s. inc. Thomas*, 2da.1
Assessor of taxes, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Dec. 1380; collector Dec. 1385.
Collector of pontage, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 20 Feb. 1390-2, pontage and pavage 4 Feb. 1406-11.
Commr. to prevent the sailing of ships, Newcastle-upon-Tyne May 1401.
Sheriff, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Mich. 1403-4, 1410-11; mayor 1414-d.2
Collector of customs, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 22 Jan. 1411-28 Oct. 1414.
Although he maintained an interest in trade throughout his life, and derived the bulk of his income as a merchant, exporting large quantities of wool and hides from Newcastle-upon-Tyne from 1380 onwards, Hebburn also occupied a fairly important place among the Northumbrian gentry. From the time of King John his family had owned modest estates at Newton-by-the-Sea, but his own possessions were considerably augmented through a claim which he inherited from his late mother, one of the six aunts and coheirs in their issue of Robert Wendout (d.s.p.1379); and it was thanks to her that he acquired a share in property in Alnwick, Ditchburn, Ellington, Hebburn, Newton-by-the-Sea and Yardhill. These holdings were partitioned in June 1381, some two years after his young relative had died while still a minor in the wardship of the Crown, and Hebburn duly took possession of the land allocated to him. As late as 1387, however, further divisions were still being made, and it looks very much as if he eventually came into far more than his original entitlement, possibly buying out the other interested parties. At all events, by the time of his death, in 1415, he was securely in control of almost all his cousin’s property, which he passed on to his own descendants. He also acquired the manor of Earle and some farmland in Wooler, but cannot have derived much profit either from these or most of his other holdings because of repeated devastation by the Scots. This may, in part, explain why he continued in business at Newcastle, where his great influence and prestige in commercial circles was no doubt buttressed by his position as a local landowner. Hebburn’s marriage to Agnes, the sister of Sir William Carnaby*, a leading figure in the county community, must have proved a great help in terms of social advancement, even if it brought him little, if anything, in the way of property.3
On his own testimony, Hebburn was 30 years old when he attended the baptism of Alexander Surtees’s son, Thomas, in April 1380, at Dinsdale-on-Tees. Not much is known about his life before this date, but he soon began shipping consignments of wool down the Tyne, and by December he had taken on his first official post as assessor of taxes in Newcastle, where he owned at least three houses. In 1382 a ship carrying some of his merchandise to Flanders was driven ashore near Calais, and at first it seemed as if he and his associates might have to pay customs duties twice on the cargo. They obtained royal letters of exemption, however, and were allowed to recover their wool from the authorities. Hebburn was no less fortunate with regard to bonds worth £78 which he and three other Newcastle merchants offered to Sampson Hardyng* in October 1388 as security for a transaction involving eight casks of woad. The money was still unpaid three years later, and as a result the bailiffs of Colchester (where they evidently did business) received instructions to confiscate goods to that value from them. By a stroke of luck, Hebburn had by then shipped all his wares out of the port, so the others were left to settle their accounts while he escaped. Some years later, in 1406, Hebburn again found himself in difficulties over the detention of a ship carrying coal and grindstones to London for delivery to a city merchant who employed him as a middle-man, but once again he managed to protect his interests.4
Like his brother-in-law, Sir William Carnaby, Hebburn did not become really active in local administration until the accession of Henry IV in 1399. From then onwards he served two terms as sheriff of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, sat at least once for the borough in Parliament and held office for three years as a collector of customs there. Not surprisingly, he was a member of the delegation of leading townsmen who travelled to Durham, in March 1412, in an unsuccessful attempt to settle a protracted dispute with the bishop, Thomas Langley, over the building of a tower by the people of Newcastle on the Gateshead side of the Tyne bridge. Along with William Langton* and John Wall*, he had previously shared financial dealings with the bishop, to whom they had offered recognizances for debt in 1408, but the reasons for this are now unknown. Hebburn maintained a number of connexions among the northern gentry, for at about this time he is to be found acting as a trustee of the manor of Byker, Northumberland, on behalf of Sir Richard Arundel. On the other hand, he was happy to sit as a juror at inquisitions in Newcastle, and to witness deeds on behalf of the tradesmen who were his neighbours. Hebburn attended the borough elections to the Parliaments of 1413 (May) and 1414 (April and November), having recently been made mayor on the last of these occasions. He died on 31 Aug. 1415, while still in office, and was buried, according to his wishes, in the church of All Saints, Newcastle.5
The task of executing Hebburn’s will fell to his eldest son, Thomas, and his widow Agnes, to whom he left a life interest in their home in Newcastle, as well as the customary third of his other properties in Northumberland. His son-in-law, Richard Dalton*, was named as supervisor, and given the power to choose a suitable husband for his younger daughter, Margaret, who received a personal legacy of 40 marks. Her sister, Agnes, had married Dalton in, or just after, January 1411, at which time the commissaries of the bishop of Durham were called upon to determine a dispute between him and another Newcastle