ROPER, Lancelot (1568/9-1647), of High Street, Austin ward, Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorks.
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Family and Education
Freeman, Hull 1597;5 collector subsidy, Whitefriar Ward, Hull 1599;6 chamberlain, Hull 1603-4;7 collector Tenth and Fifteenth, Hull 1606;8 sheriff, Hull 1612-13, alderman 1617-d., mayor 1619-20, 1630-31;9 commr. piracy, Hull 1637, subsidy 1641, Poll Tax 1641, recvr. (jt.) billeting monies 1641, assessment 1642;10 member, governing cttee., Hull 1643.11
A newcomer to Hull, Roper was not apparently related to the town market-keeper William Roper (d.1587), or the latter’s son Oswald, a glover.14 Instead, he was apprenticed to the London merchant Robert Poulson, who, after suing the Hull corporation in Star Chamber in the early 1590s, purchased his freedom in 1593 and subsequently took up residence in Hull, serving as one of the town’s chamberlains in 1594-5.15 Poulson probably returned to London during the latter half of the 1590s, leaving Roper, who bought his freedom in January 1597, to act as his factor. Rated at £3 in goods for the 1599 subsidy, Roper was wealthy enough to be elected chamberlain himself in 1603.16 His domestic business was mainly in iron and ironmongery, but as a factor, much of his overseas trade was not registered in his own name in the customs records. In 1605 he chartered the Providence of Hull for a whaling voyage to the north of Norway, and he later imported Norwegian timber in his own name. He developed a trade in lead and cloth with Amsterdam, though he was often obliged to register his cargoes for false destinations in order to evade the monopoly regulations of the Merchant Adventurers’ Company. He also acted as factor for at least one Dutch merchant, Peter Allen of Amsterdam, in 1618.17
Roper played little part in municipal affairs while developing his business. He was involved in the transfer of the town grammar school’s lands to new feoffees in 1604, and as a lead merchant he was consulted by the corporation in 1607 over the decision to oppose the patent for prisage of lead granted to the customer of Hull, William Rande. In 1611 he was one of the burgesses chosen to select the town lands to be leased to defray the £500 spent on renewing the corporation’s charter.18 He served as sheriff in 1612-13, and was nominated for three successive vacancies on the aldermanic bench from 1615, eventually taking office in 1617.19 In January 1619 Roper’s business suffered a major reverse when the Merchant Adventurers, attempting to re-establish their authority after the collapse of Alderman Cockayne’s rival venture, secured a Privy Council order forbidding interlopers from shipping any cloth or lead from Hull to the Low Countries. Roper’s trade briefly but completely collapsed under the embargo: he exported nothing for the rest of the year, and imported only a single cargo of salt. John Lister*, then mayor of Hull, led the protests, and on succeeding him as mayor in October, Roper took the case to the Privy Council, which rescinded the order at the end of the year.20
Trade was badly affected by the outbreak of war with Spain, falling by one-third or more during the winter of 1625-6. At the general election of January 1626 the corporation chose the London alderman (Sir) Maurice Abbot*, but when he opted to sit for London, Roper was elected in his stead.21 Roper left no trace on the records of his only Parliament, but as a Yorkshire burgess he was entitled to attend the committee for the estate bill of Sir Timothy and Matthew Hutton* (11 May). On 7 Apr. he joined a deputation of Yorkshire MPs who persuaded the Privy Council to reduce the county’s contribution to the Privy Seal loan, while he and Lister were presumably responsible for the Council order of the same day providing three armed colliers for the protection of the Hull cloth fleet. The corporation awarded him £20 6s. 7d. towards his parliamentary expenses.22
Roper stood for re-election to Parliament in 1628, but was rejected in favour of James Watkinson. He served an eventful second term as mayor in 1630-1, dealing with a grain shortage, a plague scare and the implementation of the Book of Orders, at which time he also paid £20 to compound for his knighthood fine.23 He continued to attend corporation meetings regularly thereafter, but played little active part in the town’s affairs.24 In January 1636 he complained after he was accused of plotting to poison another burgess, but two months later he lent the corporation £100 to help it out of a financial crisis.25 During the Scots invasion of 1640, he was one of the senior aldermen ordered ‘to remain together during this time of danger’, and in June 1643 he was one of the committee appointed after Sir John Hotham’s plot to betray the town to the king’s forces was discovered.26
Roper ceased to attend corporation meetings after March 1646, and on 18 Apr. a scrivener and the town clerk drafted his will. He left most of his property to his eldest surviving son, and legacies to relatives and friends in Hull and London. He was buried in Holy Trinity on 27 Apr. 1647. Probate of his will was granted at York on 5 Aug. 1647, and at London in 1654. His eldest son subsequently became a Hull alderman, but died only a decade later. None of his descendants sat in Parliament.27
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Simon Healy
- 1. E178/5816.
- 2. Hull RO, Freemen’s Reg. 1396-1645, f. 125v.
- 3. Yorks. ERRO, PE158/1, pp. 87, 96, 101, 104, 112, 116, 452, 464, 466, 496; PE185/1, unfol.
- 4. Yorks. ERRO, PE158/1, p. 510.
- 5. Hull RO, Freemen’s Reg. 1396-1645, f. 125v.
- 6. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, f. 323.
- 7. Ibid. f. 353.
- 8. E401/2406.
- 9. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 12, 25v, 34, 116, 377.
- 10. C181/5, p. 80; SR, v. 84, 107, 115, 151
- 11. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, f. 292.
- 12. Hull RO, Merchants’ Soc. Reg. 1647-1706 [DSN 1].
- 13. Select Charters of Trading Cos. ed. T.C. Carr (Selden Soc. xxviii), 65.
- 14. Hull RO, Freemen’s Reg. 1396-1645, ff. 52v, 105; Borthwick, Reg. Test. 23, f. 573; Yorks. ERRO, PE185/1 unfol.
- 15. Hull RO, Freemen’s Reg. ff. 119v, 125v; Bench Bk. 4, ff. 271, 278, 286v, 297v-9v.
- 16. Hull RO, Freemen’s Reg. 1396-1645, f. 125v; E179/204/336; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, ff. 344, 353.
- 17. ‘Early Trinity House Judgments’, in Misc. (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. cxvi), 19; Hull RO, Water Bailiff’s Acct. 1607-8 [WT1]; Bench Bk. 5, ff. 31, 207v; E190/312/6-7; E190/313/5, 8; Hull Trinity House, Accts. 3, ff. 47v, 127; A. Friis, Alderman Cokayne’s Project, 121-2.
- 18. Hull RO, D.786; Bench Bk. 4, f. 371v; Bench Bk. 5, f. 7.
- 19. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 10, 12, 21, 22v, 25v.
- 20. Friis, 123-7; E190/314/14, f. 6v; Lansd. 162, ff. 1-3; APC, 1618-19, pp. 351-2, 482-3; 1619-21, pp. 90-1.
- 21. Hull Trinity House, Accts. 3, ff. 333-47; W.B. Stephens, ‘Cloth exports of provincial ports’, Ec.HR (ser. 2), xxii. 247; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, f. 70v; CJ, i. 816b.
- 22. CJ, i. 859a; APC, 1626, pp. 421-2, 424; CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 306, 462; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, f. 76v.
- 23. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 91, 119-31; APC, 1630-1, pp. 214-15; E407/35, f. 68v.
- 24. He normally attended more than half of the 30-50 meetings held each year from 1632-45, ex inf. Sarah McCrow.
- 25. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 198v, 201.
- 26. Ibid. ff. 264, 292.
- 27. Borthwick, York Wills, Holderness deanery, Aug. 1647 (Holderness deanery); PROB 11/242, f. 332v; PROB 11/265, ff. 225-6; Yorks. ERRO, PE158/1, p. 51.