SPENCER, Walter, of Barnstaple, Devon.
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Family and Education
m. (1) by 1394, Rose; (2) by 1407, Alice.
Mayor, Barnstaple Mich. 1393-5.1
Spencer owned a curtilage near Barnstaple castle, and in 1394 he and his first wife leased out their messuage in ‘Bar’ Street along with a new tenter. This last indicates the MP’s trade as a manufacturer of woollen cloth. In 1397 he was assessed for alnage on 16 ‘dozens’ made in Barnstaple, and he shipped the products of his looms from the local port.2 Spencer had been a leading townsman and a member of the guild of St. Nicholas since 1378, when he had been one of a group of burgesses, headed by the mayor, who granted a lease of the communally-owned bakery. In 1394-5, during the second of his two successive mayoralties, he was paid expenses of 7s.5½d. for attending the assizes at Exeter for four days on the borough’s behalf (although he probably took advantage of this appearance to defend himself in a suit brought by Thomas Mollond), and he also received £2 for his official fee.3
Spencer’s career ended ignominiously with his trial, in April 1404, before William Burlestone*, steward of the lord of the borough, for spreading malicious slanders about a former mayor, Thomas Hertescote. He had alleged that Hertescote, when mayor, had taken bread found to be deficient in weight for his own use, instead of fining the bakers, and also had sold wine, salt and ale above the legally fixed price; but, more important, he had roundly accused him of sending supplies to the Welsh rebel leader, Owen Glendower. It seems that Spencer was seeking revenge for his expulsion from the parish church on Easter Day on the ground that he had refused to pay the mayor a fine of £2. The court not only cleared Hertescote of all Spencer’s imputations, but noted that he had made them ‘from his own malice and wickedness, and not in the service of the King’.4
Spencer witnessed a deed at Barnstaple in January 1405, and is last recorded in May 1407 when he and his wife were allowed their house in Maiden Street, for which they had been paying 3s. a year, rent-free for the rest of their lives.5