SALERNE, John I (d.1415), of Rye and Leigh in Iden, Suss.

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



May 1382
Feb. 1383
Oct. 1383

Family and Education

prob. s. of Walter Salerne of Rye by his w. Isabel.1 m. (1) bef. Apr. 1379, Agnes, 2da.; (2) aft. 1405, Margery, 1da.

Offices Held

Collector of poundage, Rye 30 Oct. 1371-2.

Commr. of sewers, Suss. Nov. 1374; inquiry Feb. 1398 (diversion of a stream); to collect an aid Dec. 1401.

Mayor, Rye Aug. 1377-8, 1382-3, 1386-7, 1390-1.2

Tax collector, Suss. Nov. 1386, Mar. 1395, Dec. 1414, Nov. 1415.

Sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 3 Nov. 1397-17 Nov. 1398.


Salerne would appear to have begun his career at Hastings, and to be the same man who, as a ‘vintner of Hastings’, procured a royal licence in 1364 to export cloth and currency in order to buy wine in Gascony. He acted as a mainpernor for the Hastings MPs of 1366, witnessed deeds in the town in the 1380s, and long retained property there.3 Nevertheless, and during the same period, he also established interests at Rye, where he was similarly engaged in trade. In November 1374 he arranged to have John Glesham of Beckley, whom he was suing for debt, arrested by the mayor of Rye; but Glesham resisted fiercely, wounding the mayor’s officers, and although he was finally overpowered by the posse of the town, his confederates broke open the prison by night, thus effecting his escape. On Salerne’s behalf the indignant townsmen successfully appealed to William, Lord Latimer, the warden of the Cinque Ports, to obtain a royal commission for Glesham’s re-arrest with the town levy and so save Salerne from loss. Salerne stayed on in Rye for a few years after the disastrous attack by the French in 1377, but evidently left the town subsequently in the face of danger from further enemy raids, for in January 1385 the commissioners appointed to restore the walls of Rye were empowered to extract from him a contribution to the cost of fortification, even though he was absent. He returned to Rye not long afterwards, and in January 1387 managed to obtain an official exoneration from acting as a collector of parliamentary subsidies in Sussex, not only because he was occupied preparing the Cinque Ports’ ships for a naval expedition on royal orders, but also on the ground that he did not wish to neglect his duties as mayor. In 1388 Salerne sat with Robert Harry I*, mayor of Winchelsea, on an inquest into the expenditure incurred by the late warden, Sir Robert Assheton, for naval defence in 1382-3.4

Over the years Salerne established himself as a landowner of some consequence both in Sussex and Kent. He systematically built up holdings near Rye: between 1373 and 1380 he owned land at Udimore and Icklesham, on which as a Portsman he claimed exemption from taxation, and in 1379 he and Agnes, his first wife, bought property and some 90 acres of land at Stone cum Ebony in the Isle of Oxney, to which they made later additions. When, in 1389, Salerne obtained seven market annual rent at Iden, he was already in possession of the manor-house at Leigh in the same parish, which he made his principal residence. During the year of his shrievalty of Surrey and Sussex he completed the first of a number of settlements on his two elder daughters. Anne, who had been married into the landed family of Ashburnham, was given a reversionary interest in some 500 acres of land and £4 13s.4d. annual rents in Iden, Playden, Rye and Beckley—an interest which was to be transferred in 1400 to her second husband, Richard, the son and heir of Sir William Brenchesle, j.c.p. Young Brenchesle was also promised (in 1403) the premises in Lydd and Broomhill (Kent) and Icklesham (Sussex) which his mother-in-law, Agnes Salerne, held for life of the inheritance of Petronilla, wife of Thomas Bette*. It is indicative of Salerne’s standing in the locality not only that he was asked in 1406 by the judge’s widow to act as a trustee of her estates, but also that a year or so earlier his second daughter, Eleanor, had been wedded to William Cheyne* of Shurland, the future shire knight. As their marriage portion, the Cheynes were given the reversion of property in Stone cum Ebony and Wittersham. All this took place while Salerne retained holdings in Rye and Hastings, as well as lands scattered throughout Romney Marsh.5

Salerne clearly aspired to the rank of a country gentleman. Round about Christmas 1389 he encountered a priest named William Sheridan, who, claiming to be an agent for obtaining papal bulls, persuaded him to apply for an indulgence for himself and his wife, and a licence to keep a chaplain at his manor-house at Iden. He advanced two marks towards the priest’s expenses, but when, by midsummer following, the indults had failed to appear, he was forced to obtain a letter of process claiming redress and £40 damages at the town where Sheridan dwelt. Salerne was often engaged in financial dealings on a large scale, and may even have been in the business of money lending. For instance, in 1392 Vincent Fynch I* of Winchelsea agreed to pay him £96 in instalments of £12 each. On another occasion Salerne extracted bonds worth 100 marks from two men on the verbal understanding that they would pay him £33 6s.8d., but nevertheless, even though the conditions were met, he brought a writ of debt against them for the full amount. His income from land was quite substantial: by 1412 his manor of Leigh alone could be assessed for the purposes of taxation at £40 a year.6

Salerne made his will on 14 Nov. 1415, asking to be buried in the new chapel in Iden parish church, and died before 8 Dec., the date of probate. The residue of his estate went to his widow and executrix, Margery, on whom was subsequently settled the manor of Norwood in Sheppey together with properties elsewhere, all of which after her death were to pass to Isabel, Salerne’s daughter by this second marriage, with remainder to the Cheynes. Margery was still living in 1420.7

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Authors: A. P.M. Wright / L. S. Woodger


  • 1. C143/394/35.
  • 2. E368/154 Mich. rot. 3, 163, 166; Cat. Rye Recs. ed. Dell, 136/138.
  • 3. CPR, 1364-7, p. 17; C219/7/17; Sale Cat. Battle Abbey Chs. (1835), 85.
  • 4. Cat. Rye Recs. 136/108, 138, 151, 168; SC1/42/108; CPR, 1374-7, p. 57; 1381-5, p. 519; CCR, 1385-9, p. 290; E101/18/7.
  • 5. E179/225/3, 5, 12; CP25(1)108/211/81, 110/243/876, 112/263/248, 290/60/66; Suss. Feet of Fines (Suss. Rec. Soc. xxiii), nos. 2588, 2680, 2713; Cat. Rye Recs. 122/2, 136/152, 163; C1/4/78.
  • 6. Rye Corporation ms, 47/1/4; Add. Ch. 20198; C1/6/6; Feudal Aids, vi. 527.
  • 7. Reg. Chichele, ii. 70; CP25(1)113/291/316.