THORNES, Robert, of Shrewsbury, Salop and Thornes, Staffs.
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Family and Education
Commr. to settle disorder, Shrewsbury Mar. 1381; of inquiry, Salop Nov. 1409 (ownership of the manor of Farlow), July 1410 (administration of the lordship of Caus during the minority of Humphrey, earl of Stafford).
Bailiff, Shrewsbury Sept. 1388-9, 1398-13 May 1399, Sept. 1402-3, 1409-10; assessor 1406-7.2
Escheator, Salop and the march 12 Mar.-8 Nov. 1401.
Following the admission in 1344 of Robert’s father, the son of Roger Thornes of Thornes near Lichfield, as a burgess of Shrewsbury, he and his descendants became leading members of the community. The elder Robert, who was one of the four townsmen summoned from Shrewsbury in 1356 to confer with the King in a council of merchants at Westminster, sat for the borough in the Parliaments of 1357, 1361 and 1365, and served as bailiff in 1363-4.3 As the younger Robert was described on the returns for his first three Parliaments (1382-3) as ‘junior’, his father was undoubtedly still alive at this time. Nevertheless, it was probably he who, on 26 Mar. 1381, had been commissioned to help settle the factious disputes then current in Shrewsbury, and three days later was elected as one of the council of 12 appointed to assist the bailiffs for a period of two years.4
During his first bailiffship, Thornes travelled to London with his fellow, Hugh Wigan*, to obtain a royal grant of murage, and also, probably in order to seek advice regarding the unrest still prevalent in Shrewsbury, visited Richard, earl of Arundel, at Much Wenlock. When a further ‘composition’ reforming the town government was agreed on 16 Aug. 1389 at Shrewsbury abbey in the earl’s presence, both Thornes and Wigan were confirmed in office.5 From then on Thornes was frequently required to witness local conveyances, and in 1393 he was enfeoffed by Richard Stury of property in Shrewsbury, Rossall and Onslow. In December 1397 he was named as one of the assessors at a meeting of the Shrewsbury guild merchant.6 It was not long after this that he became further involved in the local political struggles. During his second bailiffship (which began in September 1398), he and his fellow, William Biriton, petitioned the King about the royal grant made to their commonalty in 1394. This had exonerated the townspeople from payment not only of their fee farm for three years but also from certain parliamentary subsidies; and they now alleged that Thomas Pride* and the town attorneys, one of whom was Nicholas Gerard*, had converted the fund to their own use. However, on 16 Apr. 1399 riots broke out at the instigation of one of the serjeants-at-mace, who exhorted a body of townsmen to attack the bailiffs, and on 13 May as a result of another ‘composition’ and in the presence of the burgesses and Hugh, Lord Burnell, one of the King’s justices, Thornes and Biriton were formally removed from office. Furthermore, on 15 Oct. 1400, when Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, drew up letters patent in the common hall of Shrewsbury with regard to the administration of the town, he stated that Thornes and Gerard had been the principal instigators of the recent dissension, and stipulated that they should be bound to keep the peace each under penalty of a fine of £1,000 and threat of expulsion from the liberty.7
But before very long Thornes was again caught up in borough affairs, and, in addition, for eight months in 1401 he was entrusted with the royal office of escheator in Shropshire. He appeared as an assessor at the Shrewsbury guild merchant meeting of January 1408. In July 1410, two months after the dissolution of the Parliament of that year (to which he had been returned while bailiff, and in association with his brother Roger), he was commissioned to make inquiries into the administration of the lordship of Caus, only to be replaced by his brother before 24 Oct. In August 1411 certain Shrewsbury butchers were indicted before the j.p.s for selling hides to, among others, Robert Thornes, at prices contrary to the statutory limitations, yet whether, like his father, he made a living primarily from trade, does not emerge.8
The Thornes family acquired extensive property in Shrewsbury, and Robert himself is known to have held a grange by the castle, buildings in Baxter’s Row (now High Street), and a mansion in Castle Street (where he was living in 1402) which was to be later known as Thornes Place. Also in his possession were a moiety of the manor of Cantlop (purchased by his father in 1359), lands in Eaton Mascott, Berrington and Abbey Foregate, a meadow known as ‘Barnardesclose’, and a house named ‘Hardyngesplace’.9 Thornes attended the shire elections held at Shrewsbury castle in April 1413, and is known to have been still alive the following year. He died, however, before September 1419 by which date his property had come into his brother’s possession.10
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxix), 458.
- 2. Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 1), iii. 240-1; Shrewsbury Guildhall, box II, 67, f. 12.
- 3. Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 2), vi. 329; (ser. 3), ii. 108, 279; (ser. 4), viii. 260-6; RP, ii. 457.
- 4. CPR, 1381-5, p. 2; H. Owen and J. B. Blakeway, Hist. Shrewsbury, i. 169.
- 5. Owen and Blakeway, i. 172; CPR, 1396-9, pp. 472-5; Shrewsbury Guildhall, box VIII, 349.
- 6. Shrewsbury Lib. deed 4534; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 3), iii. 79.