HILLY, John (d.1457), of Arundel and Chichester, Suss.
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Family and Education
m. Alice, 1s. 1da.
Commr. of inquiry, Suss. Feb. 1431 (capture of a barge of St. Mâlo); to make restitution for piracy June 1431.
Bailiff, Chichester Mich. 1441-2; mayor ?1450-1, 1451-2.1
Tax collector, Suss. Aug. 1449.
Hilly was perhaps already living in Chichester by 1416, for he appeared in the shire court held there to witness the indenture of return for the county to the first Parliament of that year. He was again to do so in the spring of 1421, on the occasion of his own second election for Arundel, and again in 1431 and 1432. Described as ‘of Chichester’, in July 1422 he stood surety in the Exchequer for the grantees of the farm of the temporalities of the vacant see of Chichester, and it would seem that he usually resided there, although in 1428 he was fined in the court of the hundred of Arundel for offences against local trading regulations. Hilly was listed among those of Sussex required in the spring of 1434 to take the generally administered oath against maintenance.2
During Hilly’s bailiffship of Chichester in the autumn of 1441, disputes erupted between the two outgoing constables of the Staple, in which one, a butcher named Thomas atte Wode, went so far as to accuse the other, Robert Seman†, a tanner, of uttering treasonable words about the King, formally making his appeal at a view of frankpledge held before Hilly and the mayor. Both atte Wode and Seman were arrested, and Hilly, now called ‘gentleman’, came forward to stand surety for the appearance of the latter to stand trial in the King’s bench. Nevertheless, he was later at odds with Seman, who as one of the executors of William Hore* (d.1448) required from him payment of £200, as contained in a bond entered into between him and the deceased. Hilly complained in a petition to the chancellor that he had been forced to spend three years in prison as a consequence of a false indictment brought by Hore, and that the bond had been intended merely to ensure their mutual agreement to an award. Presumably, this term of imprisonment had taken place in the mid 1440s. It was apparently while Hilly was mayor of Chichester that the city received an important royal charter, dated 3 Sept. 1451, in confirmation and enlargement of its liberties.3
When appointed a tax collector in 1449 Hilly had been said to be ‘late of Alfold’, near Petworth, but he did not mention any property there in his will dated 24 Mar. 1457. In this, he made provision for his widow, Alice, to have for life their dwelling-place in East Street, Chichester, and his tenements and shops in South Street and the market, with successive remainders in the case of his home to John, his son, and the latter’s issue, and to his daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband William James, the rest to be sold for pious uses. Ownership of Hilly’s tenement in the parish of St. Nicholas Olave in London was currently under dispute between his son and the tenant. Hilly now strictly forbade his children to set foot in the property unless the courts found in their favour. John, Elizabeth and William James were each to have one of the testator’s brightly coloured robes, Elizabeth’s being lined with otter skins, while his young grand daughter, Joan James, was bequeathed a silver salt-cellar worth 10s. Hilly’s widow was to receive certain payments as they fell due in the course of the next few months, these debts amounting to £26. He died before 13 Sept. that same year, and was buried in the Franciscan priory at Chichester.4