SAVAGE, Robert (d.1399), of York.
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Family and Education
nephew and h. of William Savage (d.1369) of Tynemouth, Northumb. and York, merchant. m. (1) Katherine; (2) by 1381, Emma (d. by 1415), da. of William Vescy (d.1407) of York, merchant, by his w. Marion (d.1393), wid. of Hugh Hanby of Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorks., merchant, 3s. 1da.1
Chamberlain, York 3 Feb. 1370-1; bailiff 1374-5; member of the council of 24 by Mar. 1376; constable of Saddlertower 1380; mayor 3 Feb. 1384-5, 1391-3; member of the council of 12 by May 1388.2
Collector of a tax, York May 1379.
Commr. of inquiry, York Mar. 1381 (inhabitants of the city), May 1381 (state of Holy Trinity priory), Oct., Nov. 1388 (escape of prisoners from York castle), Dec. 1391 (state of St. Leonard’s hospital); to take securities from lawbreakers Mar. 1382; of gaol delivery, York castle Feb. 1384;3 oyer and terminer Apr. 1388 (obstructions to the river Ouse).
J.p. York 4 Dec. 1385-c. Oct. 1392.
Mayor of the Calais Staple by 1 July 1394.
Savage owed much of his early success to his uncle William, who came from Northumberland and was reputedly descended from one of the prior of Tynemouth’s bakers. William entered the freedom of York as a merchant in 1336, and accumulated a considerable fortune, which, in turn, led to his involvement in civic government. He died while actually in office as mayor (‘circa horam vesperarum’) on 14 June 1369, leaving the reversion of all his property in York after his widow’s death to our Member, with a final remainder, should the latter leave no issue, to the prior of Tynemouth. Robert Savage may also have inherited his uncle’s estates in the north-east, because his own will refers to certain tenements in Tynemouth, and we know that his eldest son eventually succeeded to holdings there and in Preston and Chirton as well. But York remained his home and the centre of his business operations, which, from the time of his admission as a freeman, in 1364, expanded steadily.4 Like other leading members of the mercantile community, his principal investments lay in wool; and although the loss of so many customs accounts for the port of Kingston-upon-Hull makes it difficult to estimate the scale of his exports, it was obviously impressive. In November 1377, for example, he and a small group of York entrepreneurs were allowed to ship 640 sacks of wool to the continent free of duty in part repayment of a loan previously advanced by them to the government; between October 1378 and April 1380 a bare minimum of 110 sarplers of his wool left Hull for sale overseas; early in 1382 a further 28 sarplers followed; and later, in the spring and summer of 1392, he exported at least 139 sacks and 89 lambskins. He was by then also dealing in finished cloth, some 400 of his ‘straight cloths’ being assessed for duty at this time. The extent and nature of his imports is less well documented, but it is quite likely that a consignment of woad worth £24 was intended, in part at least, for use by the dyers who helped to supply him with cloth.5
Yet more good fortune came Savage’s way as a result of his second marriage, to Emma Vescy, the widow of a prosperous Hull merchant, Hugh Hanby, and, of even more importance, the daughter of one of the richest and most influential figures in York. From Hanby she had acquired a quantity of silver plate which Savage promptly earmarked for his own use, while her father represented a particularly valuable commercial connexion. By 1381 Emma and Robert Savage were living with three servants in the parish of St. Martin and St. Gregory in Micklegate. Robert had already by then served as a chamberlain and bailiff of York, and was currently both a member of the council of 24 and one of the local constables appointed to guard the city gates. Not surprisingly, he was summoned in May of that year to give evidence before the royal council at Westminster with regard to the factional disputes which had erupted among the citizens a few months earlier, being himself obliged to offer pledges of future good behaviour to the value of £40. There is, however, no evidence of his personal involvement in the rioting; and he certainly remained aloof when the rival groups again took to the streets that summer. His appointment to a royal commision of 1382 for the collection of further securities from the worst offenders shows that he commanded the trust of the government, which subsequently chose him to serve on other local commissions as well as nominating him to the bench before York’s elevation to the rank of shire-incorporate. His fellow citizens also thought highly of him, as can be seen from his two returns to Parliament (one just before and one just after his first term as mayor), and his striking record of three mayoralities in less than a decade. By now Savage’s reputation (particularly in mercantile circles) extended far beyond the walls of York, and towards the end of his life, in 1394, he was elected mayor of the Calais Staple. Although he was permitted by the Crown to export quantities of wine and pewter from London for the use of his household in Calais, it is unlikely that he spent much time there. He was, after all, beginning to grow old: he had already drafted a long and detailed will in August 1391, and six years later he conveyed his principal messuage in North Street on the banks of the Ouse to trustees, so that they could act on behalf of his widow. Savage’s last days were clouded by a demand which he and his associate, Thomas Middleham, received from King Richard for almost £280 under pain of imprisonment. Along with other influential citizens, the pair of them had fallen victim to Richard’s extortionate fiscal practices, having in all probability entered one of the notorious ‘blank charters’ whereby they bound themselves to pay whatever might be demanded of them—or whatever they might be deemed affluent enough to raise. But Savage may not have lived long enough to surrender the money. He added a codicil to his will on 4 Feb. 1399, requesting that his land in Tynemouth should be sold to meet any outstanding debts, and was dead by 21 Mar. following.6
Savage asked to be buried beside his uncle and benefactor in front of the altar of St. Nicholas in the church of All Saints, North Street. His two elder sons, John and William, were each promised £40, to be spent at the discretion of their mother, together with various personal bequests including a bed, a girdle set with silver and a dagger. The sum of 20 marks was set aside to maintain their brother, Thomas, at university for four years so that he might further his training as a priest, while their sister, Constance, was to receive some plate. Savage’s widow retained a life tenancy of the North Street property, the trustees who held to her use being confirmed in possession by John and William in 1402, when they had presumably both come of age. Since she had also obtained custody of a substantial share of the deceased’s effects as well as recovering plate left to her by her first husband, she represented a valuable prize on the marriage market, and before too long John Northby* made her his wife. It is interesting to note that after her death, in or shortly before 1415, Northby gained possession of certain lands and tenements in York which had belonged to her first husband, Hugh Hanby, so there is every likelihood that Savage, too, had occupied them in his time.7
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. Hist. Northumb. viii. 253-4; Trans. E. Riding Antiq. Soc. xxx. 69; Surtees Soc. clxxxvi. 33-34; Borthwick Inst. York, York registry wills, i. f. 60; iii. ff. 17-18, 266v-8v; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 107, 114.
- 2. Surtees Soc. xcvi. 67, 80, 89, 90; cxx. 26, 32, 36, 152; cxxv. 17, 28-30, 33; clxxxvi. 30, 39, 82; Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. lxxvi. 172; cxi. 187.
- 3. C66/317 m. 22v.
- 4. Surtees Soc. xcvi. 31, 59; Hist. Northumb. viii. 253-4; York City Archs. List of Civic Officials ed. Skaife, f. 375 (where William Savage is mistakenly described as Robert’s father).
- 5. CFR, ix. 42; CCR, 1377-81, pp. 30-31, 60; E122/59/2, 5, 7, 23, 24; Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. lxiv. 23.
- 6. Surtees Soc. clxxxvi. 33-34; Trans. E. Riding Antiq. Soc. xxx. 69; CCR, 1377-81, pp. 524-5; 1392-6, p. 296; CPR, 1396-9, p. 368; York registry wills, iii. ff. 17-18.
- 7. York registry wills, iii. ff. 17-18; CCR, 1413-19, pp. 107, 114.