MAISTERMAN, Richard, of Cambridge and Duxford, Cambs.
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Family and Education
Tax collector, Cambs. Dec. 1380.
Mayor, Cambridge, Sept. 1381-6, 1388-90.1
Commr. of gaol delivery, Cambridge Apr. 1383; arrest Apr. 1387.
In 1363 Maisterman and his wife rented from the nunnery of St. Radegund a vacant site in the parish of Barnwell, a suburb of Cambridge. Nothing more is heard of him, however, until January 1380, when he attended the county court at Cambridge for the shire elections to Parliament, there offering mainprise for Roger Harleston†, a prominent figure in the town.2 He may have already acquired the farm of an estate a few miles to the south at Duxford, which belonged to the prior of St. John’s, but this connexion with the unpopular Hospitallers, coupled with his post as a collector of the hated poll tax levied early in 1381, made him a target for attack during the revolt of June that year. The rebels raided Duxford, destroying Maisterman’s house there and stealing goods worth £20. The part played in the rising in Cambridge itself by many leading burgesses, including John Marshall I*, prompted the Crown to intervene when Marshall was elected mayor in the following September: the election was quashed and Maisterman promptly replaced him, probably as a result of royal pressure. As mayor and parliamentary burgess for Cambridge, Maisterman was among those local officials who appeared before Parliament in December 1381 in order to give account of the disturbances earlier in the year. Acting as their spokesman, he claimed that certain incriminatory evidence had been repeatedly offered to him by Edmund Lister, his predecessor as mayor, but that he had refused to become involved. The defence of the burgesses being rejected, the custody of the borough was granted to Maisterman for him to exercise in the King’s name all its privileges, and he himself was to be responsible for rendering the town’s dues at the Exchequer. It was not until 1 May 1382 that Cambridge was restored to most of its liberties, in return for an increase in its fee farm; and Maisterman, described as ‘of Barnwell’, took the precaution of obtaining a royal pardon for himself a few days later, while attending his second Parliament. Even so, resentment and unrest continued to smoulder in Cambridge, for in November a royal writ of aid was issued in favour of Maisterman, who was still mayor, ordering the other officers and townspeople ‘at their peril, [and] as they will avoid the King’s wrath, to be obedient to him ... especially as he represents the King’s person’.3
Notwithstanding his unpopularity with certain sections of the community, Maisterman continued to hold the mayoral office until 1391 with only one interruption (1386-8), a length of service extremely unusual in the borough. He was also returned to a remarkably long succession of Parliaments, from his first in 1381 to his seventh in 1385, the sole exception being the Salisbury Parliament of April 1384, to