PORTER, alias KENT, Simon, of Reading, Berks.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
?s. of John Kent I* of Reading. m. ?2s. (1 d.v.p.).
Mayor, Reading Mich. 1427-8, 1429-30, 1441-2, 1450-1.1
Coroner, Berks. bef. July 1430.
Porter and Thomas Lavyngton dominated the parliamentary representation of Reading in the first half of the 15th century, sitting ten and 12 times respectively during that period, a record unmatched by any other burgess. Little is known about Porter’s family or antecedents; although he was almost certainly locally born, and quite likely the son of John Kent, a prominent townsman, after whose death in 1413 he took over his fish stall in the market. Porter is described as a mercer on the parliamentary return of February 1449, but he probably also had other commercial interests, for he continued to rent this stall until 1454.2
In addition to his service in the Commons, Porter was closely connected with the administration of the borough for nearly 40 years. After attending the election of MPs in 1420, he witnessed the returns of 1426, 1429, 1431, 1442 and 1453—on almost all occasions, in fact, when he was not himself elected. First appointed mayor in 1427, he probably became coroner for Berkshire at about the same time. He was replaced in this office in July 1430, on the ground that he was busy elsewhere, and, indeed, he was then mayor again. During his second term of office, the corporation voted him and his successors five marks a year for the maintenance of their ‘status’. In 1431, Porter was entrusted with the safe-keeping of £20 belonging to the community, and in the following year he was elected one of the 24 burgesses to negotiate with the abbot of Reading on behalf of the guild merchant. Henceforth he was frequently employed on the town’s behalf in lengthy lawsuits connected in the main with the dispute between the abbot and the burgesses over guild rights: in 1433-4 he and Robert Morys* received 40s. as expenses for a visit to London ‘pro certis causis maioris et communitatis’ and 14s. for riding to Newbury. In 1434 he was important enough to be listed among the Berkshire gentry and notables who were to take the oath not to maintain breakers of the peace.3
Porter was nominated mayor in 1439, but on this occasion he was not accepted by the abbot for the office. During his third mayoralty, in 1441-2, he was elected to head a commission to supervise the repair of the guildhall, and to tax the guild members accordingly. Four years later he was again chosen for the mayoralty, but once more the abbot objected. At the close of the decade, he sat in three successive Parliaments, those of 1447 and of February and November 1449; and for his expenses in attending the second, which met at Winchester for its final session, the authorities granted him ten marks.4 During his last mayoralty Porter was again involved in lawsuits between the town and the abbey over guild privileges: the cofferers’ account for the year mentions his allowance of expenses for riding to London ‘ad ostendendum evidencias’, most probably in Chancery; and in August 1451 he set up a committee of burgesses to help him prosecute the case. The importance of the suit is illustrated by the large sums paid by the commonalty to various messengers sent to London, Canterbury, Henley and Islip to consult legal advisors, and towards the cost of Porter’s horses and servants accompanying him on his excursions to the capital. Porter continued to be involved even after his term of office ended: he was granted 12d. expenses ‘pro negociis Gilde Aule’ in 1452, and was still a member of the ad hoc committee in 1453. The Parliament of 1453-4 first met at Reading, and Porter, fittingly as a senior burgess, was one of those who, having been specially granted robes for the purpose, rode out with the mayor to welcome the King and escort him into the town.5
Porter probably died shortly after 1454, when his name last occurs in the town records. In 1452 he had made over all his goods and chattels to Sir John Lisle†, Thomas Beke† of Reading and others, perhaps to avoid their forfeiture in a lawsuit. Robert Kent, whose entry into the guild Simon had sponsored five years earlier, may well have been his son. Another presumed son was John Kent, who entered Winchester college in 1431, and died there, while still a scholar, in 1434.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: Charles Kightly
Simon Porter and Simon Kent have previously been distinguished, e.g. by A. Aspinall etc. in Parl. Through Seven Centuries, 25, 28. A close examination of the records, however, shows them to have been one and the same person. Thus, in 1425 the parliamentary return refers to Kent, while the indenture names Porter, and in 1450 Kent was nominated as mayor, but Porter took office; C219/13/3; Reading Recs. ed. Guilding, i. 34-35. Confirmation of this identification is provided in CCR, 1447-54, p. 469.
- 1. C219/15/2; Reading Pub. Lib. deeds 113, 114; CAD, i. 565; Reading Recs. i. 34-35; C. Coates, Hist. Reading app. xiv.
- 2. Reading cofferers’ accts. R/FA/1414-15, 1419-55; C219/15/7.
- 3. C219/12/4, 13/4, 14/1, 2, 15/2, 16/2; CCR, 1429-35, p. 4; cofferers’ accts. 1430-1, 1433-4; Reading deed 113; Reading Recs. i. 1; CPR, 1429-36, p. 403.
- 4. Reading Recs. i. 9, 15, 26, 31-32; Berks. Arch. Jnl. lxi. 72-73.
- 5. Reading Recs. i. 37, 39-40; cofferers’ accts. 1450-2, 1453-4.
- 6. CCR, 1447-54, p. 469; Reading Recs. i. 27; Winchester Scholars ed. Kirby, frontispiece and p. 54.