WHELPINGTON, Robert, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumb.
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Family and Education
Commr. of inquiry, Newcastle-upon-Tyne May 1414 (concealments), bp. of Durham’s liberty of Norhamshire c.1429 (claims of Sir Ralph Grey), Northumb. Feb. 1433 (concealments), Dec. 1446 (evasions); gaol delivery, Norhamshire c.1431.2
Controller of customs, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 10 Nov. 1418-28 Nov. 1419.
Sheriff, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Mich. 1420-1; mayor 1435-6, 1438-9.3
J.p. Northumb. 20 July 1424-Nov. 1447, bp. of Durham’s liberty of Norhamshire c.1431-aft. 1438.4
Steward of the prior of Tynemouth’s liberty of Tynemouth 1426-34.5
Escheator, Northumb. 5 Nov. 1432-3.
Assessor of taxes, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Jan. 1436.
Envoy for the ratification of the truce with Scotland May 1438.6
Although nowhere specifically described as such, Whelpington was clearly a lawyer. He is first mentioned in September 1410, when he and his friend, Roger Thornton*, became trustees of Sir Thomas Surtees’s extensive estates in Northumberland. A few months later, he appears in the records of the court of Chancery as one of the five leading burgesses of Newcastle-upon-Tyne who travelled to Westminster during the course of a protracted dispute with Bishop Langley of Durham over the building of a tower by the townspeople on the Gateshead side of the Tyne bridge. Whelpington probably acted as their legal spokesman on this occasion; and by May 1412, when attempts to settle the quarrel out of court had failed, he had assumed the formal title of attorney to the mayor and people of Newcastle. The latter lost their case, but Whelpington evidently acquitted himself well. At all events, he was returned to the first Parliament of Henry V’s reign, in May 1413, and went on to sit in the Commons at least four more times over the next ten years. During this period he remained heavily involved in local affairs, for besides serving briefly as a controller of customs in the port of Newcastle, he discharged a term as sheriff there, and also put in a regular appearance at the parliamentary elections. Indeed, he helped to return Members to ten, if not more, of the Parliaments summoned between April 1414 and 1435, being regularly named along the 12 probi homines of the borough who customarily performed this task.7
Whelpington’s popularity as a trustee makes it difficult to determine exactly where he himself owned property, but we know that in October 1414 he secured a long lease from the Crown of a shop in ‘Flesshewerawe’, Newcastle. He occupied at least one other house in the town, and it was here, in the following year, that William Lumley, a local landowner, offered him and Roger Thornton pledges of 40 marks, and an additional guarantee of rents to the same value as security for a loan of 20 marks. Lumley (who was later knighted) subsequently made him and his parliamentary colleague, Roger Booth, feoffees-to-uses of his land in Eighton; and he also had interests in the manor of Pelton, Northumberland.8
From about 1424 onwards, with his appointment to the Northumbrian bench, Whelpington’s area of operations widened considerably. Although he found time to serve twice as mayor of Newcastle in 1435 and 1438, and to witness a variety of local deeds, he was now chiefly preoccupied with his work for the Crown as an agent of local government in the north-east, and with the demands of his two most important clients, the prior of Tynemouth and the bishop of Durham. Notwithstanding his earlier brush with Bishop Langley, his expertise was such as to secure for him employment as a justice and commissioner in the episcopal liberties of Norhamshire and Islandshire on the Scottish border. By 1438 he was sufficiently respected to be made a royal envoy for the ratification of breaches of the truce with Scotland, remaining active for the best part of a decade, after which he either died or retired from public life.9