SAGE, William I (d.1397), of Scarborough, Yorks.
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Family and Education
Collector of customs, Scarborough 1 Nov. 1366-7, 30 Oct. 1371-24 May 1378; surveyor and controller 16 June 1379.2
Bailiff, Scarborough, Mich. 1384-6, 1394-5.3
Commr. of array, Scarborough Nov. 1386.
The Sage family is known to have lived in Scarborough from at latest the beginning of the 14th century; and it seems likely that William was either the son or a grandson of the William Sage who owned property and ships there during the 1330s. He himself is first mentioned in February 1365, when one of the former bailiffs complained to the authorities that he had tried to arrest him for ‘perpetrating many enormities against the King’s lieges of the town’, but that he had violently resisted and escaped with the help of various kinsmen. Notwithstanding this early brush with the law, William was made a collector of customs in the following year; and in 1368 he was permitted to lease certain wasteland belonging to the commonalty. As one of the leading residents of Scarborough, he acted as a mainpernor in 1376 for Peter Newcastle (Castro Novo), who took over the farm of the parish church of St. Mary after its confiscation as an alien house during the war with France. Scarborough suffered badly from enemy raids, and it was in response to an urgent petition to the Parliament of 1379 that William and other merchants with experience of government finance were appointed to survey and control the collection of a special subsidy voted for coastal defence.4
Not surprisingly, William was named on the list of 42 potentiores (or prominent burgesses) of Scarborough who were required to pay an additional fine of 400 marks, in 1382, following their failure to maintain order during the upheaval of the Peasants’ Revolt in the previous year. The local rebellion, directed almost exclusively against the corrupt and oppressive ruling elite, had been led by William Marche, a merchant of some substance; and in 1384 the MP and his associates (who included John Acclom I* and William Percy*) seized the opportunity for revenge by robbing Marche’s house and ships, assaulting his servants and releasing two of his enemies from gaol. A royal commission of oyer and terminer was set up to investigate the affair, but once again William went unpunished. He was, indeed, serving as bailiff of Scarborough at this time, and exploited his official position to trade extensively in a variety of foodstuffs, even though such activities were forbidden by statute. In October 1388 and again in July 1395 he paid 40s. for a royal pardon, which suggests that he may have committed the more serious offence of forestalling the market as well.5 So far as we can tell, William sat in the House of Commons only once, in the Merciless Parliament of 1388, but he remained active until his death nine years later. In 1389, for example, he made a release to the community of certain land in the borough which he had received from Sir William Percy, as well as attesting a number of local deeds. Later, in 1392, he witnessed the will of John Collyng of Scarborough, and not long afterwards he acted as a mainpernor for William Carter I on his return to Parliament.6
William drew up his will on 15 Aug. 1397 and died at some point during the next ten days. His son, William Sage II, and his close friend, John Carter I*, were both named as his executors (along with his widow, Maud), being rewarded with two of the three ships which he had owned in the port of Scarborough. He left two daughters and a number of relatives, all of whom received modest bequests.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. Borthwick Inst. York, York registry wills, ii. ff. 4v-5.
- 2. E122/158/22; RP, iii. 63.
- 3. C219/8/11, 12, 9/1, 11; White Vellum Bk. Scarborough, ed. Jeayes, no. 44A; Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. lxxxiii. no. 467.
- 4. White Vellum Bk. Scarborough, nos. 20E, 23E, 24A; CIPM, xi. nos. 1495, 1654; CPR, 1364-7, p. 139; CFR, viii. 354; RP, iii. 63.
- 5. C260/94/33; RP, iii. 136, 396-7; CPR, 1381-5, p. 509; 1385-9, p. 516; 1391-6, p. 605; CCR, 1381-5, p. 526.
- 6. White Vellum Bk. Scarborough, nos. 18C, 28B, 30A, B, 32C, 33A, 36B; CPR, 1396-9, p. 261; C219/9/10; York registry wills, i. f. 37v.
- 7. York registry wills, ii. ff. 4v-5.