NEWPORT, Robert (d.1416/17), of Pelham Furneux, Herts.
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Family and Education
prob. s. of John Newport of Essex by his 1st w. Margery, da. of William Davy of Essex. m. by Mar. 1394, Margery or Margaret, da. of Sir John Lee (d.1370) of Albury, Herts. and sis. and coh. of Sir Walter Lee*, at least 1s. William†.1
J.p. Essex 28 July 1387-9, 12 Nov. 1397-9, Herts. 27 Nov. 1391-Feb. 1392, 12 Nov. 1397-9, 13 Feb. 1407-d.
Commr. of oyer and terminer, Essex Nov. 1397 (withdrawal of labour services at Great Bromley), Mdx. Dec. 1403 (withdrawal of labour services at Tottenham); sewers, Essex, Herts., June 1398, Essex Feb. 1402; array, Herts. Dec. 1399, Sept. 1403; inquiry, Cambs., Essex Nov. 1397 (dispute between Sir Robert Denny* and William Clipston), Essex Apr. 1405 (treasons committed at St. John’s abbey, Colchester), Essex, Herts. Jan. 1416 (concealments); to arrest all lollards at large, Herts. Jan. 1414.
Collector of all aid on the marriage of Princess Blanche, Herts. Dec. 1401; of a tax Mar. 1404; of a royal loan Sept. 1405.
Justice of assize, Essex by Oct. 1412.
The Newport family is now chiefly remembered for its attachment to Richard II, although by a curious paradox the subject of this biography seems to have enjoyed rather more prestige and local influence after the Lancastrian usurpation. He was probably the son of John Newport the elder, an Essex landowner, whose second marriage, to the widowed Isabel Hyde, brought him a substantial estate in that county and across the border in Hertfordshire. Since our Member had no title to his stepmother’s property his inheritance was apparently confined to the manor of Peyton in Munden, Essex, which lay near the village of Newport, whence his ancestors derived their name.2 Robert was undoubtedly related to both John Newport the younger, an escheator first of Calais and then of Kent for Richard II, and the more powerful Andrew Newport, who represented London in the Parliament of September 1397 while high in the King’s favour.3 Perhaps it was through the efforts of his kinsmen that he himself first came to Richard’s notice, and thus, in May 1389, shared with John Doreward* the lease of two Essex manors recently confiscated from Sir James Berners*, a victim of the Lords Appellant. Two months later, Newport was one of the group of prominent local figures who purchased Justice Sir John Holt’s manor of Sacombe in Hertfordshire from the Crown, although Sir John’s forfeiture proved temporary and the property was eventually restored to him. Newport also possessed a joint title to the wardship and marriage of Sir John Chalers’s* young son, Thomas*, which he and his friends bought from John Corbet of Essex at about this time.4
Newport’s connexions with the Court were further strengthened by his marriage to Margery, one of the three daughters of Sir John Lee, sometime steward of Edward III’s household. The couple were married by March 1394, when they received a papal indult for the plenary remission of sins at the hour of death. Margery’s brother, Sir Walter, a near neighbour of Newport’s, was himself a loyal and honoured servant of King Richard, and in June 1395 our Member joined with him in offering sureties of 200 marks to Thomas, duke of Gloucester (who was then claiming compensation for the escape of a prisoner). On Sir Walter’s death, soon afterwards, the Lee inheritance was partitioned between his sisters, each of whom received an impressive amount of property. Newport and his wife obtained seisin of the manors of Brent Pelham, Furneux Pelham and Waterford Hall, together with land in Stapleford and Bengeo in Hertfordshire; their share of Lee’s Essex estates comprised holdings in Salcott and Virley, as well as the manors of Barn Hall and More Hall in Tolleshunt Knights. Over the next few years, Newport was closely involved with his sister-in-law, Joan, and her husband, John Barley, in a series of conveyances probably intended to secure their title to the land thus allocated to them. Certain property was settled by them upon rival claimants whose title Sir Walter had previously recognized, but the rest seems to have passed into the hands of trustees.5 Among these men were John Boys of Essex and the King’s esquire, Richard de la Pantry*, with whom Newport had quarrelled seriously over the administration of Sir Walter’s estate, attempting to debar them from their executorship of his will, and also challenging their position as feoffees. In December 1397 he was bound over in sums totalling £200 to keep the peace towards the aggrieved trustees, who were then suing him in Chancery, although he later had the satisfaction of bringing an action for menaces against Boys. Whatever the outcome of the dispute, a compromise seems to have been reached by 1407, when the above-mentioned enfeoffments were completed; and from then onwards Newport remained securely in possession of estates worth at least £82 a year, if not far more.6
Although employed as a j.p. and occasionally as a royal commissioner during Richard II’s reign, Newport began to play a far more active part in local government from 1400 onwards. Against his removal from the Essex bench in 1399 must be set his work in other administrative capacities and his election to the Parliament of 1401. Unlike his kinsman, Andrew Newport, who never recovered from the change of dynasty, he was not so directly committed to the survival of the court party, and had therefore less to lose when its policies failed. Indeed, the only mark of royal favour shown to him during Richard’s last years was a formal pardon, issued in June 1398, for which he had perhaps to pay.7 Newport’s success in weathering the crisis may, in part at least have been due to his skill as a lawyer and the wide range of connexions which he was thus able to establish. No specific references survive to him as a member of the legal profession, but there can be little doubt that he possessed some training in the law. His almost continuous involvement in the property transactions of several of the most eminent landowners in the home counties certainly supports such a view. From the late 1380s onwards he acted as a trustee for 20 or more persons, including the Londoners, John Gedney*, John Walden*, Sir Adam Francis* (who was his mainpernor in 1397) and John Hende. He was a trustee of Aubrey de Vere, earl of Oxford, Joan de Bohun, countess of Hereford, and of at least four members of the Bourgchier family, most notably Bartholomew, Lord Bourgchier (d.1409) and his cousin, Sir William*. The Essex MP, Robert Tey, engaged his services in this capacity, as did two successive Lords Fitzwalter, and Joan, the widow of Sir Thomas Felton, a retainer of the Black Prince.8 Newport was no less in demand as a mainpernor. In December 1390, for example, he joined with Sir Thomas Swinburne* in offering sureties of £100 in Chancery on behalf of the latter’s attorney, John Rokele; and one year later he was a party to a complex series of bonds and obligations arising from the settlement of the estates of Swinburne’s late father, Sir Robert*, upon Sir Thomas Mortimer and other feoffees.9 His association with the main branch of the house of Mortimer may well have owed something to an established family tradition. In December 1385, John Bataill, steward of the lordship of Denbigh during the minority of Roger Mortimer, earl of March (and then heir presumptive to the throne), made Newport his attorney for the next two years. The latter’s readiness to perform a similar office much later, in May 1397, for the earl’s most eminent retainer, Sir John Cheyne, together with the appearance of his kinsman, John Newport, among Earl Roger’s mainpernors at the Exchequer during the intervening period, suggests that the links between the two families were far stronger than might at first appear.10
Newport’s other friends and patrons included Agnes, Lady Bardolf (wife for many years of Sir Thomas Mortimer, whose forfeiture for treason in 1397 may well have prompted the MP to sue out his own royal pardon), who chose him as an executor, and Sir William Marney*, whose will of August 1414 was committed to his supervision. His relations with St. John’s abbey, Colchester, were also close; and, although there is no reason to suppose that he was actively involved in the treasonous plots against Henry IV hatched there in 1404, his failure to appear on the commission set up to investigate the affair may possibly be seen as evidence of a certain sympathy towards the protagonists. His claim never to have received the royal letters patent appointing him to this commission assumes rather more significance in view of his position as both a demesne tenant and feoffee-to-uses of the dowager countess of Oxford (who organized the plot) and a former associate of John Sumpter* (who played a leading part in it). As late as February 1415 Newport was approached by the abbot to arbitrate in a dispute between the abbey and the townspeople of Colchester, although by then his attachment to the house had ceased to carry any sinister political implications.11
Rather less is known about Newport’s personal affairs, which are often hard to distinguish from his professional activities. From time to time he was the recipient of securities, often worth quite large sums, although some of these were probably held by him for other people. At least one transaction, by which a local farmer mortgaged his land in Pelham Furneux to Newport in 1405 in return for a loan of £100, denotes the possible range of his financial dealings.12 His involvement in legal and administrative affairs continued until within a year of his death, which occurred shortly before May 1417. His widow, Margery, survived him to marry John Durham*, who died three years later leaving her to supervise the execution of his will. She had married her third husband, Henry Hert, by 1431, but was eventually buried beside Newport in Pelham Furneux church, where a number of family monuments were subsequently erected. William Newport, the next heir, followed his father’s example, and represented Hertfordshire in two Parliaments before his early death in 1433.13
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. J.E. Cussans, Herts. (Edwinstree), 148-9; H. Chauncy, Herts. i. 278-9; CPL, iv. 486.
- 2. Cussans, 148-9; CCR, 1360-4, pp. 240-3, 269, 512, 525-6, 545; 1369-74, pp. 572-3; 1374-7, p. 366; 1381-5, p. 243; CFR, viii. 157-8.
- 3. CFR, xi. 153; PRO List ‘Escheators’, 69; CPR, 1391-6, p. 206.
- 4. CFR, x. 285; CPR, 1388-92, pp. 79-80; CCR, 1385-9, p. 486; 1396-9, pp. 275-6.
- 5. CPL, iv. 486; CCR, 1392-6, p. 427; 1396-9, p. 430; 1399-1402, p. 251; 1405-9, pp. 88, 148, 151, 220; P. Morant, Essex, i. 393; VCH Herts. iii. 79, 477; iv. 96, 101-2; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 246-7, 263; Chauncy, i. 278-9, 291-2.
- 6. SC8/224/11152; CCR, 1396-9, pp. 236-7, 306; 1399-1402, p. 251; Feudal Aids, vi. 442, 459.
- 7. C67/30 m. 15.
- 8. CPR, 1388-92, p. 337; 1391-6, pp. 99, 699; 1405-8, p. 344; 1413-16, pp. 151, 397-8; 1416-22, p. 151; 1429-36, pp. 210-11; CCR, 1389-92, pp. 319, 482; 1392-6, pp. 397, 416, 512-14; 1396-9, pp. 313-14, 383; 1399-1402, pp. 396-7, 561; 1402-5, pp. 297-8, 498-9; 1405-9, pp. 446-7; 1409-13, p. 345; 1413-19, pp. 137, 163-4, 172-3, 187-8, 324-5, 370-5, 392-3, 478; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 209, 217, 233, 256, 264, 266; G.A. Holmes, Estates of Higher Nobility, 53, 131-3.
- 9. CCR, 1381-5, p. 640; 1385-9, p. 80; 1389-92, pp. 308, 533; 1392-6, p. 284; CFR, xi. 14.
- 10. CPR, 1385-9, p. 71; 1396-9, p. 146; CFR, x. 271.
- 11. PCC 29 Marche; CCR, 1389-92, p. 533; 1399-1402, p. 112; 1405-9, p. 240; 1413-19, pp. 201-2.
- 12. CCR, 1381-5, p. 622; 1389-92, p. 525; 1402-5, p. 298; 1405-9, pp. 126, 483, 488; 1409-13, p. 107.
- 13. VCH Herts. iv. 101-3; Mon. Brasses ed. Mill Stephenson, 191; PCC 49 Marche; CFR, xvi. 167; Cussans, 148-9.