PURDANCE (SPURDAUNCE), Richard (d.1436), of Norwich, 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



Nov. 1414

Family and Education

m. (1) bef. Feb. 1395, Emma; (2) aft. 1421, Margaret (d.c.1482), 1s.

Offices Held

Treasurer, Norwich Mich. 1400-1; bailiff 1403-Mar. 1404; sheriff Mich. 1405-6; mayor May 1420-1, 1433-4.1

Tax collector, Norwich July 1413.

Commr. of gaol delivery, Norwich Nov. 1423.2


Purdance came from Ipswich. He was admitted to the freedom of Norwich in 1394-5 as ‘merchant’, a designation which suggests he was already well established in trade. From 1396 he is recorded making shipments of rabbit skins and cloth from Great Yarmouth, and as importing from the Low Countries a variety of commodities including red leather, blankets, hats and brushes. Several years later, in 1433-4, he was asked to supply the ‘vesture for the waytes’ at Norwich. When setting up business in the city in 1395, Purdance had purchased a tenement on the ‘Overrowe’ in the market-place in the parish of St. Peter Mancroft, and he later bought in the same district John Moulton’s* large house, distinguished by its underground vault with a kitchen built over it. As he grew more prosperous, so was he able to extend his interests into land: in 1408 he invested in holdings at Swardeston, Mangreen, Gowthorpe and elsewhere to the south of the city.3

Purdance was one of the last four citizens to hold the office of bailiff of Norwich before the bailiffs were replaced, under the charter of 1404, with a mayor and two sheriffs. During his own term as sheriff he shared responsibility for making returns to the Parliament of 1406; and following his parliamentary service in 1414, he attended no fewer than 12 of the 15 elections of city representatives held at Norwich between 1417 and his death in 1436. On occasion, he provided securities for those chosen, doing so for Richard Moneslee in 1422 and for John Gerard in 1423. Meanwhile, in May 1421, at the end of his first term as mayor, he had been nominated by his successor to act as one of the four j.p.s in the city. Later that same year, he paid back to the treasurer the sum of £18 9s.8d. entrusted to him in the expectation of a visit from Henry V, but in the event not disbursed. As an alderman, he served on a committee assigned the task of organizing a civic reception for the duke of Exeter in December 1422. He sat on the local bench for another annual term beginning in May 1424. On 6 Dec. following he witnessed the regulations drawn up for the better government of the city, in which he and his fellow aldermen were enjoined to perform their duties with greater diligence. From 1429 he acted as a trustee of certain properties in the parishes of St. Edward and St. Peter Southgate, which had originally been bequeathed to provide a fund for repairs to the banks of the river Wensum along its course through Norwich.4 Purdance nearly missed election as mayor in 1433 through the malice of Thomas Wetherby of Intwood, a man whose opponents accused of overweening pride and a desire to rule the city after his own will. When, on 1 May, the citizens met to elect a new mayor, the ‘commons’ nominated Purdance and John Gerard, but Wetherby, the retiring mayor, was determined to have William Grey as his successor. A confused scene of riot followed; the common clerk falsely returned the names of Grey and Gerard, and Wetherby declared that the latter was the new mayor, whereupon the ‘commons’, in a separate gathering, elected Purdance. It was only after the intervention of Bishop Alnwick that Wetherby was persuaded to hand over the sword of office to him.5

Purdance died on 25 Apr. 1436 and was buried in St. Giles’s church, Norwich, where there remains a brass commemorating him and his second wife, Margaret. The latter survived for over 45 years: in 1443 she obtained a papal indult for plenary remission of sins in the hour of death, but it was not until 10 July 1481 that she made her will and probate was not granted before June 1483.6

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Norf. Arch. xxv. 195; Norf. Official Lists ed. Le Strange, 98-101; C267/3/26.
  • 2. Recs. Norwich ed. Hudson and Tingey, i. 300.
  • 3. Norf. RO, Norwich Old Free bk. f. 38d; enrolments, 15 mm. 20, 36, 17 m. 21; E122/149/33, 150/1, 5; CP25(1)168/183/82; Recs. Norwich, ii. 67.
  • 4. C219/10/3, 12/2-6, 13/1, 2, 14/1-5; Recs. Norwich, i. 112, 276, 298, 302; ii. 63; Norwich assembly roll 1 Hen. VI; Liber Albus. f. 13; ‘Domesday bk.’, f. 89.
  • 5. Recs. Norwich, i. pp. lxxxiv, 329-37.
  • 6. F. Blomefield, Norf. iv. 240; CPL, ix. 302; Norf. RO, Reg. A. Caston, ff. 163-5.