OXNEY (OXENEYE), William I (d.1413), of Great Yarmouth, Norf.

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
Sept. 1397

Family and Education

1st. s. of William Oxney (d.1355/6), of Yarmouth by Joan (d.1393), da. of William and Juliana Fleming. m. (1) Joan; (2) Katherine, 2s. inc. William II*, 2da.; (3) bef. Apr. 1399, Christine,1 1s.

Offices Held

Bailiff, Yarmouth Mich. 1376-7, 1378-9, 1381-2, 1383-4, 1387-8, 1391-2, 1395-6, 1397-8, 1399-1400, 1401-2, 1403-4, 1405-6, 1408-9.2

Collector of customs and subsidies, Yarmouth 1 May 1398-24 Mar. 1401, 7 Dec. 1401-10 Feb. 1404; controller 24 Mar.-26 Nov. 1401.

Commr. to assemble ships for service against pirates, Yarmouth May 1398; conscript workmen for the construction of a new harbour Aug. 1398; recruit men-at-arms and archers for protection against Breton pirates Aug. 1403.

J.p. Yarmouth 14 Oct. 1398-Mar. 1401, 26 Nov. 1408-Jan. 1411.


Oxney’s father, William, the bailiff of 1350-1, was a merchant and shipowner engaged in Yarmouth’s herring trade and in importing wine from Gascony. A member of the important guild of St. George, he founded a chantry in St. Nicholas’s church where the guild met; and in his will made in 1355 he left his sons, the younger William and his brother, Thomas, £40 each. Our MP’s mother lived on nearly 40 years longer: she drew up her will in 1388, adding a codicil in 1393 in which she left William, by then a person of consequence in the town, annual rents of about £2 10s. and a number of properties in Yarmouth, at the same time making provision for his sons (William II and Bartholomew) and daughters.3 To the holdings thus inherited from his parents, Oxney added several more by purchase, although in 1399 he was to sell a plot of land with an adjoining quay to John Gurney*, in order that the latter might give it to a minstrel.4

Oxney’s involvement in the government of Yarmouth began, some 20 years after his father’s death, with his first election as bailiff—the post he was to occupy for as many as 13 annual terms altogether. It was while acting as such that he was returned to all four of his Parliaments. One of the 24 jurats by 1386, he was then named fifth on the list of those assigned to select borough officials. In July 1390 he and a fellow townsman endowed a chantry in ‘Le Charnell’ chapel in Yarmouth providing for the daily celebration of mass for the souls of Sibyl Flathe, her ancestors and others. Then, in September 1392, he and Robert Howlyn became benefactors of the town itself, by making a grant to the bailiffs and commonalty of a messuage, 17 shops and £5 of rent for the maintenance of poor and infirm persons and for other works of charity, this forming the basis for the endowment of the local hospital of St. Mary, which was to be completed in 1398.5

Oxney’s commitments at Yarmouth in no way led him to neglect his own mercantile interests, which included trade with Gascony, Prussia and the Low Countries in such commodities as herring, wine, cloth and salt. He owned at least two ships, and for a while, early on in his career, he was engaged in royal service at sea. Thus, in October 1375, he and the crew of his vessel, the Christopher of Yarmouth, were employed in conveying to France the armies led by Edmund, earl of Cambridge, and Duke John IV of Brittany. In the spring of 1379, when Sir Thomas Percy, admiral of the northern fleet, was appointed with others to defend Scarborough and the neighbouring shores and also to collect a subsidy to cover the expenses of this operation, Oxney was one of 15 men drawn from the east-coast ports and named in Parliament to act as surveyors and controllers of the same. (We do not know if he was representing Yarmouth in the Commons at that time, as returns for the borough have not survived.) In 1401 he secured the arrest at Yarmouth of a French ship, La Julyan of Abbeville, with a cargo destined for a citizen of Norwich, as a reprisal for the seizure at sea by Frenchmen of merchandise of his own; but in October her release was ordered because she had been detained after 3 Aug., contrary to an Anglo-French agreement for the cessation of reprisals as from that date. As part-owner with Hugh atte Fenn* and John Hacon* of the ship built at Cley-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, which, on 22 Mar. 1406, fortuitously captured the heir to the Scottish throne (the future James I) when on his way to France, Oxney shared in the reward granted by Henry IV.6

As William Oxney ‘senior’ the former MP was the leading officer of the guild of St. George in 1401. Among the activities of his last years were participation in the parliamentary election of 1407, the executorship of the will of a fellow merchant and likely kinsman, Bartholomew Drayton (d.1407), and service as a local j.p.7 Oxney’s will, made on 15 Apr. 1412, instructed that he should be buried in the graveyard of St. Nicholas’s church. He left his third wife, Christine, and her heirs his principal dwelling at ‘Middlegate’, a ‘fish-house’ and a garden, and for her lifetime rents from other properties, provided that she promised to keep the obits of his paternal grandfather, parents, and stepfather, Laurence Drayton, on 24 Feb., and those of himself and his former wives on 31 May. After Christine’s death, certain premises were to pass to his sons, one of whom, Bartholomew, was specifically promised a ‘fish-house’ and a ‘salt-house’. Oxney may be presumed to have been living in May 1413, for his son, William, then serving as bailiff and MP, was still being called ‘junior’, but he died before 27 Oct. following, when his will was proved at Norwich. His widow survived until May 1422 or later.8

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. CPL, v. 223.
  • 2. Norf. Official Lists ed. Le Strange, 152-6.
  • 3. C.J. Palmer, Perlustration of Yarmouth, i. 100; H. Manship, Hist Gt. Yarmouth ed. Palmer, 244, 404, 433; Norf. RO, Yarmouth ct. roll C4/106.
  • 4. Yarmouth ct. rolls C4/91, 97, 109, 111.
  • 5. HMC 9th Rep. pt. 1, p. 305; CPR, 1388-92, p. 287; 1391-6, p. 170; Manship, 41-42.
  • 6. E364/12 m. Bd; CPR, 1377-81, p. 355; 1405-8, p. 168; E122/149/22, 27, 28, 33, 34, 150/1; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 429.
  • 7. H. Swinden, Yarmouth, 810; C219/10/4; Yarmouth ct. roll C4/119.
  • 8. Yarmouth ct. roll C4/130.