HILLARY, Robert, of Dorset.
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Family and Education
Commr. of inquiry, Dorset Aug. 1426 (q. necromancy), Som. Jan. 1438, July 1443 (felonies), Dorset Feb. 1439 (the failure of the burgesses of Dorchester to pay their fee farm); gaol delivery, Dorchester May 1441, Feb. 1446, July 1458; to assess contributions to a parliamentary grant, Dorset Aug. 1450; assign responsibility for financing a force of archers Dec. 1457.
Bailiff of the liberty of Bp. Stafford of Bath and Wells, Dorset and Som. c.1429-43.1
J.p. Dorset 22 May 1432-Nov. 1458.
Hillary was not a proper burgess of any of the three Dorset boroughs which he represented in Parliament, and it was probably his capabilities as a lawyer which brought him to the attention of the inhabitants. That he enjoyed some standing in the shire is suggested by the inclusion of his name on the indentures recording the parliamentary elections of 1419 and 1421. His legal clients were not, however, drawn from Dorset alone: in 1423 he defended Roger Kyde of Southampton in a plea of debt and detention of goods which had been filed in the courts at Dartmouth; and a year later he acted as arbiter in a dispute in London. It may have been this Roger Hillary whom, in 1428, the sheriff of Devon was ordered to arrest and bring before the royal council, but, if so, the charges can hardly have been serious, for he continued to serve on commissions in Dorset and Somerset, and four years later he was appointed to the Dorset bench.2 Hillary acted as a j.p. for more than a quarter of a century.
Both Robert and John Hillary (perhaps his brother) were connected with John Stafford, bishop of Bath and Wells. In 1425, when Stafford was treasurer of the Exchequer, John had been named there as a custodian of the Dorset manors of Marshwood and Gussage ‘Bohun’ during the minority of the heir, Richard, duke of York, only for the lease to be transferred later on, in February 1429, to the bishop himself (now no longer treasurer) and Robert Hillary, to hold for the next seven years. In November following, during his fourth Parliament, Robert stood surety for Stafford when, by arrangement with the Exchequer, the latter became keeper of the royal manor of Byfleet, and at Bath on 21 Sept. 1433, the very day on which John Hillary was appointed bailiff of the episcopal liberty in the shires of Somerset and Gloucestershire, Robert witnessed a grant of a different kind made under the bishop’s seal. The exact date of Robert’s own appointment as bailiff of the bishop’s liberty in Somerset and Dorset is not known, but when, in January 1445, Stafford, who had succeeded to the archbishopric of Canterbury two years earlier, was pardoned debts arising from a lease of the manor of Swallowfield (Berkshire), Hillary was allowed a similar privilege for the period when he had been employed by him. Meanwhile, the Stafford connexion had been evident in 1431 when Hillary had appeared at the Exchequer to stand surety for Alice, widow of Sir Edmund Cheyne† of Brooke (Wiltshire), when she was granted custody of the Lincolnshire estates of the Cheyne family which her father, Sir Humphrey Stafford II* of Hooke, and her uncle, Bishop Stafford, had enjoyed for the previous four months.3
In 1440 Hillary was acting as a feoffee of lands in Gussage St. Andrew (Dorset), but where his own property was situated is, curiously enough, not recorded.4 He probably died in 1458, when his name was omitted from the commission of the peace, never to re-appear.