STROTHER, John (d.1424), of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Wallington, Northumb.
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Family and Education
yr. s. of Alan Strother† (d. by 1380) of Kirkwhelpington and Sweethope, Northumb. by his 2nd w. (1) by Nov. 1412, Eleanor; (2) Agnes (d.1459), e. da. of Robert Hebburn*, wid. of Richard Dalton* (d.c.1422) of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, s.p.1
Sheriff, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Mich. 1415-16.
Commr. of inquiry, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Feb. 1416 (losses of Flemish merchants); to measure keels used for transporting coal Sept. 1421.
Mayor, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Mich. 1418-19, 1421-2.2
The Strothers were an old and influential Northumbrian family, with estates centred upon Kirkwhelpington, Wallington and Sweethope. Alan Strother, a notable figure who played a prominent part in the affairs of the east march, was anxious to consolidate his position by establishing connexions with other leading members of the local gentry, and as a result of these dynastic ambitions his son, John, could claim kinship with Sir Thomas Musgrave* and Sir Thomas Blenkinsop* (both of whom married his older half-sisters). He was also related by marriage to Sir William Swinburne*, who actually employed him for a brief period as his agent in Wales. John was a younger child of his father’s second marriage, and thus cannot have inherited much, if anything, when the latter died. The early death of his childless half-brother, Alan, in 1380, improved his chances somewhat, for although the manors of Crookdean and Sweethope were then shared between Alan’s two surviving sisters of the whole blood, the rest of the Strother properties were entailed upon the male line and duly passed to John’s elder brother Thomas, who was then still a minor. Even so, John’s immediate prospects still remained fairly bleak and it was no doubt for this reason that he decided on his coming of age to make a career for himself as a merchant in Newcastle. He was evidently living there by 1393, when John Herle of Newcastle received a payment from him of certain rents due from land at Wallington. Very little is known about his other activities until, in the spring of 1402, he began to act as a receiver for Sir William Swinburne, who had recently been made constable of Beaumaris. On the latter’s death, some two weeks later, John seems to have assumed informal powers of wardship over his son and heir; and in September 1410, as the young man’s ‘uncle and next friend’, he was a party to the settlement of dower upon the widowed Mary Swinburne. Meanwhile, in 1408, his own uncle, Henry Strother, had entailed upon him a reversionary interest in extensive holdings in Northumberland, although his two nephews, Thomas and William, who had by then come into possession of the bulk of the Strother estates, stood to inherit first. Their death without issue changed his circumstances dramatically, for thanks to the happy accidents of mortality he was now able to claim almost everything which had belonged both to his uncle and his father. When he himself died, in 1425, he occupied widespread holdings in at least ten Northumbrian villages and townships, as well as a number of shops and tenements in Newcastle, presumably bought through the profits of trade. It is, unfortunately, now impossible to tell exactly when he obtained seisin of his inheritance, so we do not know if his involvement in mercantile and administrative affairs ceased once he became a landowner of note. A reference of June 1421 to ‘John Strother of Wallington, gentleman’, among the mainpernors who offered securities on behalf of Nicholas Turpin* at the Exchequer, suggests, however, that he was one of the small group of parliamentary burgesses returned during our period who combined an interest in urban politics and commerce with the life of a country squire. His friendship with Turpin is of particular interest, since the latter then stood charged as an accessory to murder, and Strother was almost certainly elected to the May Parliament of 1421 so that he could present a petition on his behalf.3
John first began to play a significant part in local government in the spring of 1414, when he was named as one of the 12 probi homines who were responsible for choosing the parliamentary representatives for Newcastle. He was also present at the elections of November 1414, 1420 and 1422; and he was himself returned to the House of Commons on three occasions. He was certainly well qualified to sit for the borough, since by the time of his first Parliament, in 1417, he had not only served a term as sheriff of Newcastle, but had also gained considerable experience of mercantile affairs. At some point before December 1415, John and his partner, Robert Hornsea, suffered heavy losses during a coastal raid by the Scots. In retaliation, they fitted out two balingers at their own cost, and seized two Flemish vessels which had been taken captive by the enemy. The royal authorities at Newcastle decided to confiscate their booty, however, and it was only after they had petitioned the King’s Council for redress that they obtained restitution. Strother and Hornsea were particularly unfortunate at this time, because the capture of another craft called the Mariknight of Bruges by a number of mariners from South Shields meant that their ships were once again detained until the Flemish merchants received compensation. The reluctance of the port officials to release the vessels, even after they had paid £128 to the Flemings, gave rise to another round of appeals and petitions and actually led to the setting up of a commission of inquiry, on which Strother, in his capacity as sheriff, was ironically required to serve. He faced other problems as a result of his appointment by Thomas Langley, bishop of Durham, in February 1417, as an executor of the will of the wealthy Newcastle merchant, William Essington. The latter had, in fact, chosen his son and heir, Nicholas, but the boy was too young, and required the help of a guardian. The illicit removal of quantities of money, plate, jewels and records belonging to the deceased’s estate made John’s task extremely difficult, and he was obliged to enlist the bishop’s support in proceeding against those involved.4
Very little evidence survives about John’s first wife, Eleanor, who was still alive in November 1412 when a modest rent of two marks from land in ‘Cottesfeld’ was settled upon them both. Towards the end of his life he married Agnes, the elder daughter of Robert Hebburn and widow of Richard Dalton, and thus strengthened his connexions with the mercantile community of Newcastle. He died childless on 11 Mar. 1424, leaving his younger brother, William, to inherit the family estates. A substantial amount of property had, however, been conveyed to Agnes as a jointure, which she retained for no less than 35 years. She and her third husband, John Bedford II* of Kingston-upon-Hull, reached an agreement with William in 1429 with regard to the allocation of her dower, and she evidently remained on friendly terms with the Strothers. Her will, which was made in September 1459, contained bequests to William’s wife and son, as well as a provision for masses to be said in Newcastle for the soul of the late John Strother.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Strothir, Strothour.
- 1. C139/14/15; CP25(1)181/15/12; Test. Ebor. ii. 234-7. The genealogy given by J. Hodgson, Hist. Northumb. ii. (1), 254-5, omits all details of Alan Strother’s first marriage, and mistakenly describes his daughter as his wife. Hodgson is also wrong in his assertion that Mary, the widow of Sir William Swinburne, married Strother as her second husband (ii (1), 232). She was, in fact, married while very young, in 1351, to Henry Strother’s son, Sir John, a kinsman of the MP (Northumb. RO, Swinburne (Capheaton) ms, 1/79).
- 2. Arch. Aeliana (ser. 4), xviii. 13.
- 3. Hodgson, ii (1), 254-5; Swinburne (Capheaton) mss, 1/112, 116, 145-7, 4/62; CCR, 1419-22, p. 152; C139/14/15.
- 4. C1/6/105; C219/11/3, 4, 12/4, 13/1; PPC, ii. 186-7; CPR, 1413-16, pp. 414, 415; Surtees Soc. clxvi. 144-6, 148.
- 5. C139/14/15; CP25(1)181/15/12; Hodgson, ii (1), 241-2, 254-5; Arch. Aeliana (ser. 3), v. 48; Test. Ebor. ii. 234-7.