WHITE, Richard I, of Bury St. Edmunds, Suff. and Norwich, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

Sept. 1397

Family and Education

m. bet. May 1417, Juliana.

Offices Held

Treasurer, Norwich Mich. 1391-2; bailiff 1393-4, 1399-1400; sheriff 1411-12.1

Biography

White had originally been a burgess of Bury St. Edmunds. Accused of having taken an active part in the Peasants’ Revolt, when the rebels attacked the great Benedictine abbey there, he was one of 20 townsmen specifically excepted, ‘by reason of many grievous misdeeds’, from the pardons granted in the Parliaments of 1381 and 1382. However, as these particular offenders subsequently ‘submitted themselves humbly to his grace’, the King was prepared to pardon them and all the other local people who were alleged to have been implicated, on payment, by instalments, of a fine of 2,000 marks, for the assessment of which White and the 19 others named were made responsible in December 1382. A year later only half of the fine had been paid, but partly because of ‘compassion for the inhabitants’ estate’, and also because the abbot of Bury had failed to give his promised acquittance, the King then decreed that payment of the last two instalments of 500 marks each should be deferred until February 1384. When the appointed day came, payment was again postponed until the matter should have been ‘finally determined by the King and Council’. White and six others described as ‘les pluis suffisantz persones’ of Bury St. Edmunds, went as a delegation to Salisbury where Parliament was being held that April, but forceful representations made there by the abbot led to them being ordered to make personal recognizances to the King and the abbot for the stupendous sum of £10,000 apiece. In all, between then and February 1385, well over 700 persons of Bury were called upon to enter into identical recognizances. It was later alleged by some of the burgesses that White and his colleagues had levied the fine of 2,000 marks ‘unlawfully’. They demanded a re-assessment, but when, before December 1385, the King appointed the bailiffs of Bury as assessors, the abbot at once claimed that the order was in derogation of his liberties, guaranteed under royal charters. The abbot had his way: the order was cancelled, and he himself took on the role of assessor, which, of course, opened up further opportunities for him to oppress the townspeople.2

A petition probably addressed by the ‘men of Bury’ to the same Parliament of 1384 to which White and his fellows had made their appeal, complained that, because of the severity of the fine imposed on them, many inhabitants had sold up their property in the town and had gone to live in Norwich or Colchester; and it was not long before White, too, joined this exodus, no doubt seeking a more peaceful abode—one conducive also for the expansion of his trade as a mercer. He became a freeman of Norwich in 1385-6, when the disputes among the townsmen of Bury were at their height. He soon began to participate in the affairs of the city, serving first as a treasurer and then as a bailiff, and by 1397 he was sufficiently well regarded by his fellow citizens to be sent to the House of Commons as one of their representatives. Whether he retained links with his home town is unclear, but it was as a ‘citizen of Norwich’ that in 1406 he is mentioned as having brought suits for debt in Suffolk. At some point before October 1413 he sued another citizen, Henry Rafman*, for the large sum of £50, but without success. White attended an important meeting of the great assembly at the guildhall in Norwich in February 1414, apparently as a member of the mayor’s council, and later that year he was party to the indenture of election to the Parliament summoned for November.3

Shortly after settling in Norwich, White had purchased a capital messuage in the parish of St. Cross and other property in that of St. John Maddermarket. He is not recorded after May 1417 when he and his wife conveyed these holdings to a number of trustees.4

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger

Notes

  • 1. Norf. Official Lists ed