BITTERLEY, John (d.c.1396), of Salisbury, Wilts.

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



Jan. 1377
Jan. 1380
Feb. 1383
Apr. 1384
Feb. 1388
Jan. 1390

Family and Education

m. by June 1377, Alice (d.1406), wid. of William Teynterer, junior, of Salisbury.1

Offices Held

Mayor, Salisbury 1372, 1376, 1 Nov. 1382-3, 1385.2

Commr. to put down rebellion, Wilts. Mar. 1382; confiscate heretical books and make proclamation against lollard doctrines, Salisbury May 1388.

Collector of customs on wool, Southampton 30 Nov. 1390-8 Dec. 1391.


Little is known of Bitterley’s origins or early life, except that in 1370 he acquired in reversion six messuages, four tofts and other property in Salisbury. Early in 1377 he was acting, along with William Warmwell*, William Lord†, town clerk, and others, as executor to William Teynterer, junior, a wealthy Salisbury merchant and former mayor, whose widow Alice (the executrix) he married before June that year. The fulfilment of Teynterer’s will presented many difficulties, and between 1380 and 1383 the executors were engaged (through their proctor, William Montagu, earl of Salisbury, who was the captain of Calais) in a dispute with one William Gilbert, a Salisbury man who had moved to Calais and, it was alleged, owed the deceased’s estate the sum of £329.3

Meanwhile, in June 1377, Bitterley had acted as a surety for Thomas Burford* when the latter obtained the farm of the office of alnager in Wiltshire. In March 1382 he was appointed to the Wiltshire commission of oyer and terminer, directed against any local peasants who had joined the great rebellion of the previous year. Some two years later, in January 1384, he was named as a collector, in the county of Wiltshire at large, of a parliamentary subsidy; he did not, however, act, having managed to obtain a discharge on the ground that with him living continually in Salisbury (where separate collectors had been appointed), he could not reasonably be forced to collect outside the city.4 Bitterley was returned to the Merciless Parliament of February 1388, and on 23 May, during the second session, he was appointed to one of the commissions set up by this Parliament to suppress lollardy. Collaborating with Sir Hugh Cheyne† and Master John Norton, the chancellor of Salisbury cathedral, he was to confiscate all books and documents in Salisbury containing Wycliffite doctrines, and make public proclamation in the city against heresy. Several Salisbury lollards were arrested as a result of their investigations.5

By no means all Bitterley’s activities, however, were centred on Salisbury, or even took place in Wiltshire. A prosperous draper, he sold his cloth as far afield as Exeter and London (where Henry Frowyk, a prominent merchant, owed him £50 in 1388); he had dealings with men of Shropshire, and he is also perhaps to be identified with the John Butterlegh to whom, in February 1380, John of Gaunt had conveyed, by the advice of his council, all the goods in his houses at Chichester in Sussex. Bitterley’s closest links outside Salisbury appear to have been with Hampshire and, more particularly, with two residents of Winchester, Stephen Haym† and Hugh Crane†. Before October 1379 he and Haym were acting as Crane’s agents in transactions relating to a moiety of the manor of Barton Stacey, near Andover, and in May 1380 they leased it for £10 p.a. to a Hampshire gentleman, William Ringbourne. In July 1382 Bitterley and Crane took possession of all Haym’s property in the parishes of St. Margaret Lothbury and St. Olave Old Jewry, London (which they were to return to him in 1385), and at the same time these two took out an Exchequer lease of the manor of Worthy Mortimer near Winchester (though they never, in fact, assumed custody).6 Bitterley’s Hampshire connexions perhaps helped him to obtain the office of collector of the customs on wool and wool-fells in Southampton and its coastal area in 1390. On 24 Oct. 1393 Bitterley, who by then must have been well advanced in years, secured an exemption from being involuntarily appointed to any other royal office. In June 1395, however, he was called upon, with 11 other prominent citizens of Salisbury, to represent the corporation as its attorney when the major dispute it had on its hands with Bishop Waltham of Salisbury was engaging the direct attention of the royal council.7

It was later that same year, in August 1395, that, witnessing a local deed, Bitterley made his last recorded appearance. He died before June 1397. His will has not survived, but from other sources we know that his executors included Stephen Edyngton, a lawyer and deputy town clerk of Salisbury, and that he left property in several counties. His widow Alice married, as her third husband, George Meriot, a fellow citizen, and died, a wealthy woman, in 1406. Among the bequests in her will was a gift of £100 from the sale of the George Inn in Salisbury to the ‘poor commons’ of the city, in discharge of tallages.8

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: Charles Kightly


Variants: Butterlegh, Byturle.

  • 1. C67/28 m. 12; Salisbury RO, ‘Domesday bk.’ II, f. 25.
  • 2. R. Benson and H. Hatcher, Old and New Sarum, 695; Salisbury RO, deeds iv. 8: the exact dates of Bitterley’s mayoralties in 1372, 1376 and 1385 are not known.
  • 3. Wilts. Feet of Fines (Wilts. Rec. Soc. xxix), 597; CPR, 1377-81, p. 469; 1381-5, pp. 21, 71, 79, 135, 262.
  • 4. CCR, 1377-81, p. 81; 1381-5, p. 538; CFR, x. 81.
  • 5. CPR, 1385-9, p. 468; CCR, 1389-92, p. 4.
  • 6. CPR, 1370-4, p. 368; 1377-81, p. 403; 1385-9, p. 420; Exeter City RO, mayors’ ct. rolls 500; Reg. Gaunt 1379-83, no. 221; CCR, 1381-5, p. 206; CAD, ii. B2054, 2059; CFR, ix. 317.
  • 7. CPR, 1391-6, pp. 326, 651; CCR, 1392-6, p. 355.
  • 8. ‘Domesday bk.’ II, ff. 16, 41, 73-74; ledger bk. A, f. 42; CCR, 1396-9, p. 133; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 492; Benson and Hatcher, 100-1.