KEEN, John, of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs.
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Family and Education
s. of Nicholas Keen (d. by 1363) of Newcastle-under-Lyme.1
Bailiff, Newcastle-under-Lyme Mich. 1372-4, 1376-7, 1382-4, 1389-90; steward of the guild merchant by Mich. 1388-aft. 1396.2
According to evidence heard in the court of common pleas during the early 1360s, this MP was the son and heir of Nicholas Keen, a Newcastle burgess, and a kinsman by marriage of Richard Buntable†, one of the borough’s leading residents. By the autumn of 1363, Keen had inherited certain property in Newcastle, which was then the subject of litigation between members of the Podmore family. One year later Richard and Margaret Podmore sued Keen himself on a plea of warranty, although the action may well have been collusive. Nothing is otherwise known of his career until 1372, when he served the first of six terms as bailiff of Newcastle. Three years later he contributed 40d. towards the cost of building a new guildhall there. Between then and 1401 he stood surety for six other bailiffs on their election to office, and he twice acted as a mainpernor for persons newly elected to the freedom of the borough. Keen played a prominent part in municipal affairs, being made steward (that is presiding officer) of the merchant guild at Michaelmas 1388, if not earlier. He held the same post seven years later, and was then, as before, listed among the prima duodena or senior members of the guild. The election of one Nicholas Keen, who was perhaps his son, to the freedom of Newcastle in 1388-9 probably owed something to his influence, especially as the young man was excused payment of the customary fine by the consent of the ruling body.3 The Newcastle MP Richard Colclough† made Keen one of his executors, with the result that from 1385 onwards he and the deceased’s son,