FASTOLF, Hugh (d.c.1392), of Great Yarmouth and Caister, Norf. and London.

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
Oct. 1377
? May 1382
Nov. 1390

Family and Education

s. of Alexander Fastolf of Great Yarmouth. m. (1) Agnes (d.1370),1 3s.; (2) bef. June 1381, Joan (bef. 1362-1417/18), da. of John Gisors of London, gdda. and h. of Simon Dolsely (d.1362) of London, pepperer, and wid. of Thomas Hanhampstead of London, grocer, 3s.

Offices Held

Controller of customs and subsidies, Yarmouth 4 Nov. 1351-4; collector 5 Mar. 1361-20 Feb. 1367.

Bailiff, Yarmouth 29 Aug. 1354-5, 1360-2, 1363-4, 1366-8, 1373-6.2

Commr. of inquiry, Yarmouth Oct. 1354 (forestalling) Suff. Jan. 1363 (oppression), Norf., Suff. Mar. 1363 (customs evasion), Suff. Feb. 1366 (illegal passage overseas), Jan., Mar. 1370 (breach of the truce with Scotland), Norf. Sept. 1373, Suff. Oct. 1373 (felonies), Norf., Suff. Nov. 1375 (enfeoffments made by William, earl of Suffolk), Suff. Mar. 1383 (withdrawal of services by crown tenants), Jan. 1385 (outlaws), Norf. Aug. 1389 (arson and murder), Norf., Suff. Nov. 1389 (estates forfeited by Michael, earl of Suffolk), Norf. July 1390 (repairs to Norwich castle); to supply fish to the household of the prince of Wales’s family, Norf. Sept. 1356; to search for illegal shipments of corn and wool, Norf., Suff. Apr. 1361, of herring Dec. 1364; of arrest Sept. 1363, Mar. 1377, Feb. 1384; oyer and terminer, Norf. Mar. 1371, Nov. 1373, Aug. 1379; weirs, river Lea, Apr. 1382; to impress mariners for safeguard of the North Sea June 1382; of array, Kent Apr. 1385; to fortify Yarmouth Aug. 1386, the Orwell estuary Sept. 1386; seize sub-standard cloth, Yorks., Norf., Suff. Feb. 1390.

Lieut. to successive admirals of the northern fleet: to Sir Robert Herle† by Dec. 1362-aft. Sept. 1363, to John, Lord Neville by Dec. 1370, to Sir William Neville by 3 Feb. 1374, to Thomas, earl of Warwick by 21 Jan.-c. Nov. 1378.

Bailiff of the hundreds of Blything and Wansford, Suff. 13 Nov. 1363-28 Nov. 1382, of Framsden, Suff. 9 Feb. 1384-d.

J.p. Norf. 5 May-Nov. 1377, 4 Feb. 1378-May 1380, Kent 29 Feb. 1385-June 1386, Suff. 15 July 1389-Dec. 1391.

Tax surveyor, Norf. Mar. 1381.

Alderman of Tower Ward, London 12 Mar. 1381-2, 1384-12 Aug. 1385, Bridge Ward 12 Mar. 1386-90, sheriff, London and Mdx. 21 Sept. 1387-8.3

Jt. receiver of tunnage and poundage granted in the Parliament of 1382 (May), 18 June-15 Nov. 1382.

Dep. constable of Dover castle and warden of the Cinque Ports by appointment of Sir Simon Burley, by Feb. 1385-aft. Feb. 1386.

Envoy to the dukes of Holland and Guelders 11 Feb.-13 Apr. 1385, 7 Jan.-12 Mar. 1387.

Sheriff, Norf. and Suff. 15 Nov. 1389-7 Nov. 1390.


Hugh Fastolf came from a prolific family of merchant shipowners established at Yarmouth. By 1350 the Fastolfs were already leading figures in the local community: Hugh’s father had served several terms as bailiff, and four other members of the family had been elected as parliamentary representatives for the borough. Yet it was Hugh himself who was to lay the firm foundation for the family’s prosperity in the 15th century, at the same time forging a place for himself and his descendants in the ranks of the landed gentry. Fastolf’s career, so full of varied and interesting incident, may be loosely divided into three periods: his early life as a burgess and merchant of Yarmouth, during which he played an increasingly important part in the organization of naval convoys for the defence of the east coast; the period when, as a citizen of London, he became entangled with other merchant capitalists in major political events; and the last few years of his life, when his activities were those of a typical member of the East Anglian gentry. The many strands of his career were, however, interwoven, by no means following a strictly chronological pattern.

At first Fastolf’s property was for the most part limited to Yarmouth itself, but over the years he acquired substantial landed holdings not only in the neighbourhood of the port in whose trade his wealth originated, but also near Lowestoft and Ipswich. Thus, in 1363 he purchased the manor of ‘Vaux Hall’ in Caister, just outside Yarmouth, to which he and his brother, John (d.1383), subsequently added other premises to create a sizeable estate; and he later acquired the manor of Beighton and other properties in south-east Norfolk at Tunstall and Wheatacre, and, over the border in Suffolk, lands at Carleton, Kirkley, Kessingland and elsewhere.4 With a shrewd eye to the future prosperity and standing of his descendants, Fastolf secured from John Holbrooke (d.1375) of Nacton, Suffolk, the hand in marriage of his daughter, Margery, for his own eldest son, John, procuring in 1376 custody of the share in Holbrooke’s eight manors due to fall to Margery’s young niece and coheir, Elizabeth Fitzrauf; and he also made a good match for his son, William, who thereby acquired a manor in West Tofts (Norfolk) and two more in Suffolk.5

Fastolf was enabled to achieve all this through successful trading ventures and astute investment of earnings as a naval commander. He had already made his mark in the merchant community by 1351 when he secured appointment as controller of customs in his home port; and three years later his fellow burgesses elected him bailiff for the first of nine terms. Yet even at this early stage in his career Fastolf excited enmity, and he was to prove unpopular with the lower orders in Yarmouth. During that first bailiffship he and his brother John were indicted for causing the death of a local goldsmith; they obtained royal pardons in May 1355, but four years later they were again in trouble and brought to trial for an assault.6 Both brothers subsequently entered royal service: John, who began his military career as an esquire to the earl of Warwick, was retained by Edward III before 1374, then being granted a life annuity of £20; while Hugh’s own employment was as a sea captain. In January 1360 he commanded La Waynpayn of Ipswich in a fleet of warships conscripted for defence, and for the next four months he was at sea on La Cog John, manned by 50 mariners and 50 soldiers. Such was his ability that by December 1362 he had been engaged as one of the lieutenants of the admiral, Sir Robert Herle, with a delegated responsibility for the safeguard of the coasts of Norfolk and Suffolk, and although there are gaps in the records, it would appear that he then acted as lieutenant to successive admirals in their fleets sailing the North Sea, being so employed over a period of 17 years. He was most busy in this capacity when vessels were needed to transport English armies to France: thus, in 1369 his tasks included the conscription of mariners from the ports of the east coast to man the fleet assembling at Sandwich, and in March 1370 he was joint commissioner with Lord Morley when assigned to commandeer ships for the King’s forthcoming ‘viage de guerre’. Preparations for Sir Robert Knolles’s expedition that summer involved Fastolf in an immense feat of organization in finding, fitting out and victualling vessels, and in paying the wages of captains and crews. On that occasion he himself sailed to France as commander of a ship containing a large number of soldiers, and by December he was being described as ‘under admiral’ to Lord Neville. From October to December 1372 Hugh and his brother John, in command of 76 men, had charge of a ‘certain great ship’ belonging to the King, which they sailed from Yarmouth to the Thames. Earlier that year Hugh had purchased for himself, from a Fleming, a vessel called the Seintemaryecogg; and this he now equipped for service as a warship in a convoy sent to Gascony, where it was loaded with a cargo of wine for the voyage home. But this was one of the rare occasions that fortune did not favour him; the lighter in which the wine was stowed for bringing into port at Kirkley Roads foundered, and the casks were washed ashore and stolen. In February 1374 Fastolf was appointed lieutenant to Sir William Neville, the admiral of the northern fleet, and he spent the following five months on patrol with a complement of 79 men aboard his own vessel.7

On one occasion it was remarked that Fastolf was ‘constantly attendant ... upon divers of the King’s affairs’, not only at sea but in the execution of numerous royal commissions. Such service sometimes earned him perquisites over and above the normal remuneration. In 1363 he had been granted custody of the bailiwick of two hundreds of Suffolk, which he retained for 20 years, no doubt making a profit after the fixed farm had been paid into the Exchequer. There were considerable trading concessions too, both indirect and direct aids to his mercantile ventures: thus, in 1356 he had been authorized to supply the Black Prince’s family, then living in Norfolk, with fish; and in 1364 he was issued with licences first to take £80 in gold in his ship La Cristofre to purchase wine and salt in Brittany, secondly to ship cloth to Calais where he could procure wine for re-sale in England, and thirdly to export ale, wheat, peas and oats from Yarmouth to Flanders. Then, in 1372 he was permitted to ship 130 sacks of wool to the Low Countries, paying the lower rate of subsidy usually reserved for aliens. In addition, he secured at the Exchequer the farm of the estates of the alien priory of Panfield (Essex) with its cell at Well Hall (Norfolk), an important acquisition which he probably held from 1373 until his death nearly 20 years later.8

Despite his employment by the Crown and his concern for his own business affairs, Fastolf nevertheless continued to be actively involved in the administration of the town of Yarmouth. Besides serving as parliamentary burgess on five occasions, he had also acted as one of the delegates sent in 1367 to discuss before the King’s Council how best to resolve the disputes between the merchants of Yarmouth and those of the Cinque Ports as to whether the latter should continue to have trading privileges at Yarmouth fair. In Yarmouth itself there was considerable unrest, and in 1376, during Fastolf’s last term as bailiff, this erupted in a storm of resentment. The Good Parliament, which sat from April to July, heard petitions from the ‘poor men’ of the town against their ‘great and powerful’ masters, complaining of many oppressions, wrongs and hardships, the principal bone of contention being that the merchant oligarchy had taken control over the herring trade, thus enriching itself and impoverishing the less privileged townsmen. William Ellis was the main target of complaint, but, towards the end of the session, Fastolf was also impeached both ‘by various bills put forward and by clamour, for various extortions, misprisions, champerties, maintenance and oppression done by him’. Edward III yielded to the Commons’ demands; Yarmouth’s charter was revoked; and in October Fastolf and his fellows were required to provide substantial securities that they would not harm the ‘poor men’ of the town. But in the event their regime did not collapse. Judicial inquiries held on 11 Jan. 1377 established that two years earlier a number of townsmen had ‘conspired’ against Fastolf and the bailiffs, fixing the price of corn and other victuals sold in the market, and in the Parliament which assembled the same month (with Fastolf again representing the borough), assertions were made on his behalf that it was ‘by malice of his enemies’ that he had been impeached in the previous Parliament, and his good name was restored.9

By this time, Fastolf had established many influential connexions. In the 1360s he had had business dealings with Mary de St. Pol, the dowager countess of Pembroke, and in later years he occasionally appeared on behalf of Margaret Marshal, countess of Norfolk, serving, for instance, as a mainpernor for her and her daughter Anne, another countess of Pembroke, and, in 1380, assisting in the financial arrangements necessary for her purchase of a ward’s marriage. He was also acquainted with a number of the former retainers of the Black Prince: he acted as a feoffee of the estates of Sir Thomas Felton KG, and had dealings with Sir Lewis Clifford and Sir Richard Stury.10 It was on men from such a background that the new king, Richard II, most heavily relied in the early years of his reign. For a year or so after Richard’s accession Fastolf continued to be involved in the organization of defence at sea. Nor was he neglecting his own trading concerns: he had established friendly relations with a number of merchants from the Low Countries, to whom he offered assistance when they encountered difficulties in England, and he continued to trade with Spain. In March 1380 he and his brother John entered into recognizances to pay the King 600 marks if it was later proved that the cargo in a captured ship of Barcelona belonged to the enemy.11 It had been mercantile interests like these which had brought Fastolf to London several years earlier. There, he traded as a fishmonger at first, but in 1373 he secured admission to the powerful Company of Grocers, and it was at about the same time that he contracted a marriage with a grocer’s widow named Joan Hanhampstead. Through Joan he obtained possession of a number of properties in the City. From her grandfather, Simon Dolsely, the wealthy pepperer and former mayor of London, Joan had inherited valuable shops, tenements and a brewery situated in the parishes of St. Mary Woolchurch, St. John Walbrook, St. Stephen Coleman Street, St. Lawrence Jewry and St. Mary Bothaw, while as jointure from her former husband, Thomas Hanhampstead, she had holdings in four other parishes. (These last she and Fastolf subsequently settled on her daughter, Joan, wife of John Bryan*, in return for an annual rent of £10.)12 Fastolf first became actively involved in the political affairs of the City in 1379 when he made a loan of five marks towards civic expenses ‘to recover the favour of certain great lords’, and in the spring of 1381 he was elected as an alderman. At the outbreak of the Peasants’ Revolt, just three months later, Fastolf’s property and person came under threat. His wife’s kinsman, the late Sir Thomas Salisbury, had leased to him a number of London premises including a house in Thames Street, but this was resented by Salisbury’s son Paul who, having recently come of age, and taking advantage of the collapse of order in the City at the entry of the rebels, went to the house on 14 June, assaulted Fastolf’s wife, extracted from her the title deeds and compelled her to grant him seisin of his inheritance. Salisbury also stole a sword, drank or wasted a quantity of ale and wine, and threatened to behead Fastolf if he found him. Personal grudges may also have been behind the insurgents’ attacks on Fastolf’s property in East Anglia. On 9 July following he obtained a royal licence to recover his stolen goods there ‘howsoever he pleased’. Fastolf was one of the four representatives returned by London to the first Parliament summoned after the suppression of the Revolt. He may also have been a Member of the Commons in the next Parliament, that of 1382 (May), for which the returns for London are missing, since he served on the committee of 14 merchants to whom the House referred the question of a loan to finance the King’s proposed expedition to France. Furthermore, shortly after that Parliament was dissolved, he and Sir John Philipot of London were appointed as principal receivers of the subsidy of tunnage and poundage granted specifically for the safeguard of the sea. They were to be paid 100 marks a year each as a fee in addition to a daily wage of 13s.4d., but in the event they were discharged after no longer than five months. In August 1384 Fastolf was among those citizens of London required to appear before the King’s Council at Reading for the trial of John of Northampton.13

Fastolf did not lack for important contacts at Richard II’s court, and with their help he had recently secured the sinecure post of King’s bailiff of Framsden in Suffolk. He had had financial dealings with Richard’s tutor and friend, Sir Simon Burley, in 1382, and not long afterwards had been appointed by him as his deputy constable of Dover castle and warden of the Cinque Ports. From February to April 1385 he was engaged on a diplomatic mission to the Low Countries, no doubt for negotiations touching trade between the Dutch and the English, and his absence overseas, coupled with his preoccupation with duties at Dover, led to his resignation as an alderman of London in August. He was again sent as an envoy to the Netherlands early in 1387, his principal assignment being to treat for safe conducts for English merchants to trade at Middleburg, although there was also some ‘secret business’ of the King’s to be done. That July Fastolf secured custody at the Exchequer of the important lordship of Lowestoft and the hundred of Lothingland (Suffolk), previously held by the earl of Suffolk, for which he agreed to pay £70 a year. Exactly how long he remained as Burley’s lieutenant is not known, although it seems likely that he left his service before October 1387 when, following disputes with Ralph Ramsey* and other of Burley’s retainers, he was required under a penalty of £1,000 to do them no harm. A month earlier he had been elected sheriff of London. This was to prove an extremely difficult term of office, coinciding as it did with the political crisis in which not only Burley but also Fastolf’s associate Sir Nicholas Brembre was executed. It was probably to the Merciless Parliament of February 1388 that the cutlers of London sent their petition asking that the mayor, Nicholas Exton, the recorder, William Cheyne, and the sheriff, Fastolf, should be ousted from civic office for ever as erstwhile accomplices of the despised Brembre. Although in July Fastolf obtained from the government, now controlled by the Lords Appellant, confirmation of his custody of Lowestoft, only a month later there was a rumour circulating in the City to the effect that he and an alderman named John Churchman had been arrested and taken to the Tower by order of the Council, and that Churchman ‘had had his head broken’ by the duke of Gloucester. While the report proved false, it does indicate that Fastolf was considered to be out of favour with the Appellants, and also that he had become unpopular, at least in certain sectors of the community of London.14

In 1389 the centre of Fastolf’s interests moved away from the capital back to East Anglia. Following Richard II’s re-assertion of his authority over the government, he was appointed as a j.p. in Suffolk and, four months later, as sheriff of the joint bailiwick of Norfolk and Suffolk. He was, therefore, responsible for making the return which recorded his own election as a shire knight to the Parliament of 1390 (Nov.), although no longer in office when the Commons actually met. In the following February the King authorized a gift to Fastolf of 50 marks, perhaps as a token of appreciation for his services over the previous 40 years. It was now that the aged merchant turned his attention to the disposition of his property. In 1385 he had formally leased his lands out to feoffees; now, in August 1391, he placed his goods and chattels in the hands of friends for safe-keeping, and finally, on 11 May 1392 he made arrangements for the disposal of his estates after his death. Those party to the transactions included John Hadley*, the London grocer, and Sir Miles Stapleton, the Norfolk landowner, thus reflecting Fastolf’s major interests. He died intestate not long afterwards,15 leaving as his heir Sir John Fastolf (d.1405), the eldest of his six sons and father of the Sir Hugh Fastolf who died at Caen in the winter of 1417/18.16 His widow survived him by 15 years. She, who in 1401 inherited the substantial Salisbury properties in London, made her will on 13 Sept. 1417 and, dying before 5 Feb. 1418, was buried in the church of St. Mary Bothaw near the tomb of her maternal grandfather. When her executor, Ralph Stoke, another grocer, came to make his own will in 1445, he requested that prayers be said for the souls of Hugh and Joan Fastolf. By then Joan’s descendants, both through her daughter, Joan Bryan, and apparently through her three sons by Fastolf, had all expired, and her property in London had accordingly been shared out among several distant relations.17

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. William of Worcestre described her as a ‘woman of distinction’: Itins. ed. Harvey, 185.
  • 2. H. Manship, Hist. Gt. Yarmouth ed. Palmer, ii. 296-7.
  • 3. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 163, 230, 263, 284, 304, 313, 325, 331, 341.
  • 4. F. Blomefield, Norf. xi. 205-6; CCR, 1360-4, p. 544; 1377-81, p. 230; CPR, 1374-7, p. 51; 1381-5, p. 288; CP25(1)167/169/1287, 222/97/29; Ipswich RO, recog. roll 46-51 Ed. III; Norf. Arch. iv. 319.
  • 5. CIPM, xiv. 231; CFR, viii. 336; CCR, 1374-7, pp. 427, 530, 542, 544; 1385-9, p. 439; Blomefield, ii. 257.
  • 6. CPR, 1354-8, p. 220; 1358-61, pp. 276, 283; CCR, 1354-60, p. 647.
  • 7. CCR, 1354-60, p. 607; 1360-4, p. 66; 1374-7, p. 245; E101/27/21, 29/35, 30/28, 32/8, 397/5 f. 48d; CPP, i. 454; CP, ix. 215; CPR, 1370-4, pp. 24, 307, 405; Issue Roll Brantingham ed. Devon, 196, 253, 265, 404; CIMisc. iii. 502; E364/11 m. Fd.; C76/57 m. 22.
  • 8. CFR, vii. 270; viii. 151, 164, 232; ix. 22, 28, 90, 344; CPR, 1361-4, pp. 492, 495; 1364-7, p. 36; 1370-4, p. 398.
  • 9. CPR, 1364-7, p. 423; CCR, 1374-7, pp. 470-1; E163/5/15; RP, ii. 375; G.A. Holmes, Good Parliament, 109, 117-18.
  • 10. CCR, 1360-4, p. 555; 1369-74, p. 340; 1377-81, pp. 370, 510; CPR, 1374-7, p. 110; 1377-81, p. 525; CFR, viii. 147, 405.
  • 11. C76/61 m. 9; CCR, 1377-81, pp. 209, 297, 362, 492.
  • 12. Ms. Archs. Grocers’ Company ed. Kingdon, i. 47; Corporation of London RO, hr 114/107, 116/35, 142/48, 147/60; CPR, 1391-6, p. 646; CAD, i. C472; Cal. Wills ct. Husting London ed. Sharpe, ii. 76.
  • 13. Cal. Letter Bk. H, 125, 246; CPR, 1381-5, pp. 24, 30-31, 76; RP, iii. 123; CFR, ix. 296 333; Corporation of London RO, hr 130/67.
  • 14. CCR, 1381-5, p. 232; 1385-9, p. 443; Cal. Letter Bk. H, 330; E101/319/18; CFR, x. 192, 244; E364/20 m. Ad.; E403/532 m. 20; F. Welch, Cutlers’ Company, i. 266. Welch ascribes the cutlers’ petition to the Parliament of 1386, but Fastolf was not sheriff at that time.
  • 15. CCR, 1381-5, p. 611; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 176; HMC 4th Rep. 461; E403/532 m. 20; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 167.
  • 16. C137/54/34; Norf. Arch. iv. 320 (where Sir Hugh is confused with his gdfa.).
  • 17. Corporation of London RO, hr 130/67, 147/60, 172/36, 37, 40-49; PCC 40 Marche; Cal. Wills ct. Husting London, ii. 505; Cal. Letter Bk. I, 220-1. Hugh was the uncle of the famous Sir John Fastolf KG (d.1459).