FLETCHER, Richard (by 1523-59/60), of Rye, Suss.
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Family and Education
Jurat, Rye 1549-59, mayor 1554-5, 1555-6; bailiff to Yarmouth 1559; commr. sewers, Suss. 1555.3
Richard Fletcher was, like his father, a seaman who plied his trade both in war and peace. In September 1544 a ship of his was victualled in Rye for a voyage to Boulogne, and in the following year he appeared with the Marlion in a list of captains of galliasses and sloops. In May 1546 he had a Council letter ordering the mayor and jurats of Rye to allow him to put to sea with two ships on a privateering voyage; when in 1558 he returned to this activity he captured at least two vessels belonging to Londoners which he had to restore. In February 1551 he was licensed to convey overseas 20,000 billets of firewood.4
Of Fletcher’s three appearances in the Commons the first is attended by some obscurity. That he and John Holmes I attended the Parliament of March 1553 is clear from the payment to them on 11 Apr. of wages for 32 and 31 days respectively, at 2s. a day, the Parliament having sat from the first to the last day of the month: Fletcher was also reimbursed 5s. which he had given to the Speaker. Yet on the day preceding this payment two other men, Robert Wood and Alexander Welles, had received the substantial sum of £3 ‘for the riding up and down to the Parliament’: it is, moreover, their names which appear for Rye on the list of Members for the Cinque Ports derived from the Dering manuscripts of the early 17th century. The explanation of what appears to be a double return almost certainly lies in an intervention by the lord warden of the Cinque Ports, Sir Thomas Cheyne, who is known to have interfered on this occasion at both New Romney and Sandwich. At Rye it was not until II Feb., more than two weeks after the receipt of the writ, that the return was made, and then only after the arrival on the previous day of a letter from the warden ‘for the election of the burgesses to the Parliament’. What probably happened was that during this interval the port elected Wood and Welles, only to have them rejected by Cheyne, who demanded the return of Fletcher and Holmes; that Rye nevertheless despatched the first pair to Westminster, where the warden’s return naming the other two was accepted and Wood and Welles turned away; and that Rye found itself obliged to compensate them as well as to pay Fletcher and Holmes. The fact that Welles had sat as the port’s senior Member in the two previous Parliaments gives colour to this interpretation, but nothing has been found to link either Fletcher or Holmes with Cheyne save the presumption that Fletcher’s maritime activities were well known at Dover castle. The initiative may not have been the warden’s: the Duke of Northumberland, under whose aegis this Parliament was summoned, had employed Fletcher’s father when he was admiral and could have recommended the son to Cheyne.5
Fletcher was returned again, seemingly without contention, to the Parliaments of April 1554 and 1559: on the first occasion he was paid for 20 days (13 less than the Parliament lasted) and on the second for 112 days, both at 2s. a day and in 1559 with small extra payments. He was also involved in the Parliament of November 1554: on 17 Nov. an assembly of the town resolved ‘that Mr. Mayor [that is, Fletcher] and his brethren shall sue to the Council and Parliament house for the repeal of the statute concerning fishermen to deliver their herring at the town of Great Yarmouth’, a sidelight on the port’s opinion of the ability or willingness of its Members, two non-jurats, to forward such a suit.
With the renewal of war in 1557 Fletcher fell foul of authority, although for what reason is not clear. It may have been either his depredations as a privateer, or his championship of Rye’s resistance to the government’s forced loan, which led first to his appearance before the Privy Council in December 1557 and then to his imprisonment in the Fleet on 3 Jan. 1558. The upshot of the affair is not known.