LEDES, Robert, of Lincoln.
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Family and Education
Bailiff, Lincoln Sept. 1377-8; mayor 1387-8.1
Commr. of array, Lincoln Dec. 1383.2
Mayor of the Boston Staple, Lincs. 1390-1.3
Alnager, Lincoln 18 Nov. 1395-17 Oct. 1399.4
One of the richest and most influential figures in late 14th-century Lincoln, Ledes derived most of his profits from the wool trade. He was a member of the consortium of English merchants who, in September 1377, raised a loan of £10,000 for the government. He and the nine other Lincoln men involved in this transaction were promised repayment in the form of exemption from customs duties at the port of Boston: sure enough, over the next few months he shipped at least nine sarplers of wool thence to Calais. He was by then serving as bailiff of Lincoln, and it was in this capacity that he held the elections to the Parliament of October 1377. Ledes played a prominent part in the foundation of a chantry at St. Benedict’s church, Lincoln, dedicated to the memory of Roger Tetesall, for whom he appears to have acted as an executor or trustee. The chantry was licensed in March 1378 upon payment of a fee of 26 marks by Ledes and his associates, who endowed it with extensive property in the city. But not all his plans were achieved so smoothly. During his term as bailiff, Ledes became involved in the dispute between the dean and chapter of Lincoln cathedral and the civic authorities over the exercise of their respective jurisdictions. In June 1382 he and several other former office-holders and leading citizens were summoned to appear in Chancery to answer the charge that, ‘like the insurgents in the late devilish insurrection’ (the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381), they had prevented the dean from exercising his commercial and judicial privileges. The matter was not resolved, however: by March 1390 relations between the ecclesiastical authorities and the citizenry had deteriorated so badly that several of the latter, including Ledes, were bound over in personal securities of 100 marks to keep the peace and stay away from the cathedral. A royal commission of oyer and terminer was set up in the following May to examine the dean’s allegations; and a few weeks later John of Gaunt imposed an award upon both parties. Gaunt himself had previously been engaged in a similar struggle with the people of Lincoln over the administration of his franchises as keeper of the castle, and Ledes’s name likewise appears on the list of those who had opposed him.5
Meanwhile, in the spring of 1381, Ledes acted as a juror at an inquest held at Lincoln into the death of a local man. In May of the following year he considered it expedient to sue out royal letters of pardon, perhaps because of certain dubious trading ventures on his part. A more specific pardon, for fraudulent and illegal dealings in wool, was accorded to him several years later, in 1395, so he clearly remained active in this field for most of his life. Indeed, his appointment as aluager of Lincoln towards the close of his career suggests that he continued to wield considerable authority in the trading community. In both 1382 and 1387 Ledes appeared as a defendant at the local assizes, being found guilty on the former occasion of evicting the rightful owner of the manor of Askthorp near Brattleby. He was holding office as mayor of Lincoln when the Lords Appellant seized the political initiative in 1388, and he was duly required to take the general oath of fealty to their cause. Although he was quite often involved in the property transactions of others, comparatively little is known about his own possessions, which were none the less probably quite extensive. Between 1389 and 1392, for example, his title to a messuage in St. Mark’s parish was repeatedly confirmed; and it seems that this was but one of several holdings which he owned in the city. The land conveyed by him in June 1392 to St. Katherine’s priory, Lincoln, for the upkeep of a chantry was not, however, his, but seems to have been held in trust by him for Walter Kelby†, to whom the chantry was dedicated. Nothing more is heard of Ledes after the autumn of 1399, when he either died or retired from commercial and public life.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
This MP is not to be confused with his contemporary and namesake who lived at Skipton in Yorks. and occasionally served on royal commissions there (CPR, 1374-7, p. 324; 1381-5, pp. 414, 585, 593).
- 1. C219/8/1; Lincs. AO, St. Mark’s deed FL2/4.
- 2. Rot. Scot. ed. Macpherson etc. ii. 58.
- 3. J.W.F. Hill, Med. Lincoln, 251.
- 4. E101/339/29, 30.
- 5. C143/393/19; C219/8/1; E122/7/13; CFR, ix. 41, 50-51; CCR, 1377-81, pp. 30-31; 1381-5, p. 62; 1389-92, pp. 164-5; CPR, 1377-81, p. 157; 1388-92, p. 220, 270-1.
- 6. C67/29 m. 8; C143/413/22; JUST 1/1488 rot. 36v, 1496 rot. 5; JUST 2/80; CPR, 1391-6, pp. 105, 631; RP, iii. 403; Lincs. AO, St. Mark’s deeds FL2/5-7.