SOMERSET, Thomas, of Oxford.
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Family and Education
m. bef. 1375, Helen (d.1399), 1s.1
Bailiff, Oxford Mich. 1376-8; alderman 1388-92, 1393-5; mayor 1392-3.2
Commr. of arrest, Oxford July 1378.
Tax collector, Oxford May 1384.
J.p. Oxford Oct. 1392-3.
A draper by trade, Somerset (or, as he was sometimes called, Pophull) was established in Oxford by 1369, when he acted as executor for another burgess. He was obviously successful in business for he paid 13s.4d. towards the poll tax of 1380, the largest sum mentioned on the roll for the town, and one which only three others paid. He served two consecutive terms as bailiff, during the second of which (in Richard II’s first year) he and his fellow, John Shawe I*, were ordered to repair the town’s defences, levying costs from the inhabitants. It was also in their capacity as bailiffs that, in 1378, Somerset and Shawe were appointed to a royal commission to assist the prior of St. Frideswide’s, who was being forcibly prevented from administering the priory by some rebellious canons.3 After two appearances as an MP and at least two years as an alderman, Somerset became mayor of Oxford at Michaelmas 1392, and was appointed ex officio to the borough’s commission of the peace. Towards the end of this, his only mayoralty, in September 1393, leading a deputation of the burgesses, he appeared before the mayor and aldermen of London in their Guildhall, seeking confirmation of the royal charter which allowed Oxford merchants to trade in the City free of tolls. The Londoners agreed to recognize this right, although four years later the dispute was renewed.4
Somerset resided in St. Martin’s parish, near Carfax, where he and his wife held property by the gift of Richard Alston, perhaps a kinsman of hers. In 1376 the abbot of Osney had agreed to lease to them and their son, Thomas, a vacant plot in High Street at a reduced rent for 60 years, provided that they built a house there, and this doubtless became their home. Elsewhere, Somerset possessed other premises as a tenant of St. John’s hospital, and half a messuage and a fishery at Grandpont, which last he conveyed to John Spicer I* in 1387.5
Somerset is last recorded in 1396 and it was as his widow that Helen made her will in October 1399. Nothing more is heard of their son.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: Charles Kightly
- 1. Oxf. Hist. Soc. xviii. 25; Bodl. Twyne ms 23, f. 630.
- 2. Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxxvii. 17-19; lxvi. no. 735; xc. no. 770.
- 3. Oxf. Hist. Soc. xviii. 25; Liber Albus Oxoniensis ed. Ellis, no. 175; CCR, 1377-81, p. 51; CPR, 1377-81, p. 304.
- 4. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 398-9; Twyne ms 4, f. 203.
- 5. Oxf. Hist. Soc. lxix. 183; xc. no. 511; xci. 178, 184; (ser. 2), xiv. 3-4, 14-17; xx. 6.
- 6. Twyne ms 23, f. 630; Oxf. Hist. Soc. lxix. 250.