MILLE, Robert atte, of Guildford, Surr.
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Family and Education
m. by 1392, Alice.
Commr. of inquiry, Surr. Oct. 1383 (repair of the road from Staines bridge to Egham), Suss. July 1388 (estates of John Blake).
J.p. Surr. 15 July 1389-28 June 1390.
Sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 15 Nov. 1389-7 Nov. 1390.
Escheator, Surr. and Suss. 12 Dec. 1390-2 Jan. 1391.
Bailiff, Guildford Mich. 1396-7.1
Atte Mille’s early life remains obscure, although he may possibly have been the son of the Robert atte Mille who, in May 1367, was serving as under sheriff of Sussex. He certainly had kinsmen in that county, for in 1381 Richard and Joan atte Mille of Waldron granted him a messuage and 30 acres of land which they had previously held there. Most of his property lay within a few miles’ radius of Guildford, however, and in February 1385 he was called upon to witness certain transactions of Thomas Holand, earl of Kent, and Robert Wyvil, bishop of Salisbury, in the nearby vills of Godalming and Artington. In the following year he offered sureties in Chancery for Hugh Roger, then a prisoner in London; and at some point before June 1387 he was made a feoffee by Sir John St. Cler† and his wife, Mary.2 The years 1388 to 1391 were a time of great activity for atte Mille, who held the important offices of j.p., sheriff and escheator in rapid succession, besides executing at least two royal commissions. In March 1388 he was among the local men empowered to lease parcels of land in the manor of Worpelsdon, Surrey, to suitable tenants; and shortly afterwards he was made a surveyor of the possessions of Alexander Neville, archbishop of York, Robert de Vere, duke of Ireland, Michael de la Pole, earl of Suffolk, and others who had been pronounced traitors by the Merciless Parliament. Atte Mille himself faced the prospect of confiscation and a crippling fine of £600 in July 1392, when he and his wife were found guilty of concealing treasure trove allegedly worth £700. According to a petition addressed by atte Mille to Parliament, this verdict had been secured by his enemies, who had removed the case from the Guildford assizes and arranged for it to be heard by a packed jury and hostile judges at Southwark. The under sheriff, John Wadham, against whom Mille bore a particular grudge, was also said to have fraudulently undervalued the land, tenements and goods which had subsequently been seized from him and farmed out to Thomas, Lord Camoys, at 50 marks a year until the whole fine should be paid. This sudden reversal of fortune proved a great set-back in atte Mille’s career, and explains his virtual disappearance from public life for the next few years. Although his property was restored to him almost immediately, he found it very hard to pay off the fine in regular instalments and soon fell into arrears. His claim to have been robbed of grain, stock and goods worth £40 from a close at Stoke, near Guildford, within a few months of his forfeiture may well have been used as an excuse to postpone the next date of payment. Nevertheless, despite these repeated complaints and petitions, it was not until November 1399 (when 500 marks of the fine had already been paid into the Exchequer) that atte Mille finally obtained a full royal pardon. Richard II had already given orders for the balance to be remitted, and these instructions were approved by his successor—in consideration of the petitioner’s apparent poverty.3
Atte Mille had meanwhile continued to live in Guildford; and in 1394 he was summoned to attend the assizes there as the defendant in an action of novel disseisin brought by William and Joan atte Well. He stood surety for a local man being sued for trespass in 1401, and witnessed a number of deeds drawn up in the Guildford area at the turn of the century. His decision to sell a messuage and eight acres of land in the borough to John Willersey in 1405 may perhaps have been forced on him by financial necessity, but this cannot now be proved. It is, indeed, by no means certain that he was permanently ruined because of his earlier misfortunes: he actually appears at about this time as lord of the manor of Hambledon, Surrey, with the right of presentation to the living. Atte Mille was still alive in February 1414, when he was again being sued at the Guildford assizes by William atte Well.