NETHERSOLE, Robert (by 1482-?1556), of Dover, Kent.
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Family and Education
b. by 1482, 2nd s. of William Nethersole of Nethersole. m. at least 1s.3
Jurat, Dover by 1503-?d., mayor 1505-6, 1508-9, 1512-13; bailiff to Yarmouth 1503.4
Robert Nethersole appears to have been baptized Richard but to have renamed himself Robert, the name by which he is known throughout his career. He was probably not a native of Dover but it was there that he established himself as a merchant shipowner and man of property. During the first quarter of the century he was prominent as both businessman and town official, capacities which tended to overlap: thus in 1514-15 he went to London to buy ordnance for Dover and in May 1520 he supplied three ships for the port’s service.5
The war with France in 1523 involved Nethersole in large contracts with the central government and at the same time he made his first appearance in the House of Commons. The election writ, issued on 23 Jan. but forwarded by the lord warden only on 20 Feb., was accompanied by a letter calling for the return of ‘discreet, expert and sufficient persons continually resident and inhabited there as now do or heretofore have exercised the office and administration of justice within the same’. By these criteria Nethersole was well qualified: a jurat of 20 years’ standing and three times mayor, he had also represented Dover at the Brotherhood of the Cinque Ports since 1503, although in 1523 he and his fellows would be charged with contempt for non-appearance there. Since 1513 he had been involved in the great question of the liability of the ports to pay subsidy, a matter which was to engage him during his attendance at Parliament. He and his fellow Thomas Vaughan were in London throughout the first session in April and May, but Nethersole alone appears to have travelled up for the second, and even he started from Dover 12 days late for its opening and arrived back four days before its end. Such laxity was not without its compensation in reducing the wages bill incurred by the town: in July the corporation sent letters and messengers to Faversham, Folkestone and the Isle of Thanet asking these ‘limbs’ to share the burden, but by September it had no option but to levy a tax to raise the money.6
The liability became heavier still when Nethersole represented Dover again, this time with John Warren, in the long drawn-out Parliament of 1529, especially as both Members seem to have attended throughout the greater part of its successive sessions. The town was none the less able to record in its accounts for 1536 that the Members were ‘clear paid for this Parliament wages of all old debts and of all service that they have done since’. This service included their attention to a matter of great moment to Dover, the restoration of its harbour after the breach of an embankment in 1530. The Members acted as go-betweens, memorializing Cromwell and seeking statutory support for the rebuilding scheme. Re-elected with Warren, in accordance with the King’s request for the return of the previous Members, to the brief Parliament of 1536, Nethersole was not to sit in any subsequent one. He might have done so but for his propensity to get himself involved in disputes even with close colleagues. Three weeks before his last election on 28 May 1536 he and John Warren were each bound over in 100 to keep the peace towards one another. Fresh trouble arose as soon as the Parliamant was over, with the town refusing to meet Nethersole’s wage-bill. This dispute had eventually to be remitted to two arbitrators drawn from the jurats, of whom Nethersole chose William Granger; the settlement which followed included payments to Nethersole for coming from London to Dover twice ‘with Mr. Gonstone [William Gonson, clerk of the King’s ships] and three Frenchmen and also with Sergeant Plomer and his brother’.7
Nethersole is last mentioned in the local records on 25 Nov. 1555 when he handed over to the town two slings with three chambers from the cliff bulwarks which had been given to him by Sir Christopher Morrice. His name was crossed off the list of jurats for 1555-6 so that he presumably died in the latter year. No will has been found but Nethersole is known to have had at least one son, another Robert, who was chamberlain of Dover in 1547 and probably also captain of the Black Bulwark on the cliff until 1553.8
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: Patricia Hyde
- 1. Egerton 2093, f. 51.
- 2. Ibid. f. 139.
- 3. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. lxxv), 138.
- 4. Cinque Ports White and Black Bks. (Kent Arch. Soc. recs. br. xix), 130; Egerton 2093, f.91v; 2094, ff. 1, 7; Add. 29618, f. 57.
- 5. C1/845/7-13; Egerton 2092, f. 510; 2093, ff. 4v-19, 48-49; Add. 29618, ff. 139, 148, 606.
- 6. LP Hen. VIII, iii, iv; add. 29618, ff.187-92v; Cinque Ports White and Black Bks. 130-1, 152, 187-9; Egerton 2092, f. 538.
- 7. Add. 29617, ff. 265v, 353; 29618, ff. 280v, 281-2, 289v, 292, 294, 296, 296v, 300v, 302v; S. P. H. Statham, Dover, 96-102. Egerton 2092, f. 538; 2093, ff. 92, 133, 136, 138, 139, 155v, 158; 2094, ff. 50, 79, 90v, 109v; C1/792/31-33, 845/7-13; Dover hundred ct. bk. ff. 225, 225v; J. Lyons, Dover (1813), i. 46-47, 135.
- 8. Egerton 2094, f. 140; Dover accts. 1547-58, ff. 1, 281v; Cinque Ports White and Black Bks. 223; LP Hen. VIII, xvi; Lansd. 156, f. 110.