SPICER, alias NEWPORT, Richard (d.c.1435), of Plymouth, Devon and Portsmouth, Hants.

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



Family and Education

m. Elizabeth, 2s. Richard and John.

Offices Held

Dep. butler, Plymouth 29 Nov. 1397-c.1399.

Water bailiff of Sutton Pool, Devon, by appointment of John, duke of Exeter, c.1397-Jan. 1400.1

Commr. of inquiry, Hants Feb. 1412 (concealments by the royal searcher of Southampton Water); to take musters, Southampton Mar., Apr. 1418; of array, Hants Apr. 1418, Mar. 1419, June 1421.


Spicer was of West Country origin. He is first mentioned, as ‘of Devon’, in 1397, when a royal serjeant-at-arms was ordered to bring him under arrest before the King’s Council. Nevertheless, six months later he was appointed as deputy to the chief butler of England in the port of Plymouth, a post he probably owed to the King’s half-brother John Holand, earl of Huntingdon and newly created duke of Exeter, whom he was to serve not only as bailiff of the water of Sutton Pool, but also as a ‘counsellor’. Early in Henry IV’s reign he was employed in the service of the new King’s sister, Queen Philippa of Portugal, and before setting out on a voyage to the Iberian peninsula he entrusted his lands at Sutton ‘Vautort’ and Sutton ‘Prior’ in Plymouth, along with all his moveable goods, to Holand, the latter’s henchman (Sir) Thomas Shelley* and his own brother, John Newport. As a consequence, these properties were all made forfeit to the Crown following Holand’s involvement in the rebellion of January 1400, and the damaging findings of inquiries made in Devon which held that Spicer had been party to his treason. In order to recover them, on 24 Feb. Spicer provided securities totalling £260, while on the same day two friends formally undertook in Chancery that he would appear before the Council when so required; and he later successfully established his innocence on the basis that false information had been given by his enemies.2

Spicer’s reputation as a notorious pirate stemmed largely from his exploits at sea in the early months of 1400. He twice captured galleys belonging to the great Florentine firm of the Albertini, including the St. Marie et St. Katherine, and he also seized La Matthewe of Brittany, perhaps in reprisal for the recent capture by Breton sailors of a barge of his own. Despite the fact that he had been acting, with John Hawley I*, as commander of a semi-official fleet sent to defend the Channel coast against the French, and had apparently taken these vessels as containing merchandise belonging to the enemy, after the truce with France was renewed in June he lost a suit brought in the admiralty court by certain French merchants, who as a result recovered over £146 and were awarded £50 damages against him. In August a royal commission was set up for the arrest of the mayor of Plymouth, William Bentley*, following reports that he intended to abscond abroad with goods worth as much as £2,000 confiscated from Spicer. The latter himself successfully evaded several attempts by royal officers to take him prisoner.3

Spicer had established connexions in Hampshire by September 1401 when, described as a resident of Plymouth, he made assurances before the sheriff of the county on behalf of several local men, undertaking that they would keep the peace. No doubt he used Portsmouth harbour, too, as a base for his seafaring activities—in fact, in the year of his election as parliamentary burgess (1402), both he and his brother were said to be living in the town. It was at least partly as a consequence of the exploits of the Spicer brothers, as well as those of John Hawley and other west country privateers, that so much ill-feeling arose between Flanders and England, for when combatting a powerful Franco-Scottish fleet in the months from March to July that year, they inflicted substantial losses on merchants from neutral and friendly nations. Thus, for example, the Spicers seized off the Isle of Wight the St. George of Campe, containing 119 tuns of wine which, since it belonged to men of La Rochelle, was retained as a lawful prize; but they offended the Flemings by keeping prisoner Paulin Kengiard, a young man aged 16, and Henry Claizone, a merchant who was sent to Portsmouth to request Kengiard’s release. On 19 Aug. Spicer was ordered, under penalty of £100, to free these foreigners, return their goods and present himself before the King’s Council, but not only did he fail to put in an appearance in the course of his attendance, as representative for Portsmouth, at the Parliament which sat from 30 Sept. to 25 Nov., he also neglected to obey further writs issued in January following. Nor did he appear before the Council’s delegates considering the Flemish merchants’ complaints at Calais in July 1403.4 He had in fact continued in the meantime to sweep the Channel: in April he helped himself to merchandise worth 675 crowns from the Marieknyght of Danzig; a month later, off the coast of Brittany, he captured the Seinte Marie of Castile; and in July he seized a barge containing a cargo of salt, rice and almonds belonging to the Albertini. He sailed his prizes to Guernsey, where the spoil was divided among members of his crew. It was in the same month that, when the Trinity of Plymouth was captured at sea by the French off the Isle of Wight, Spicer effected her rescue. Next year, despite the truce with France, John Keighley, another sea robber, sailed into Weymouth harbour on board one of the Spicers’ ships and carried off the Marie of Bordeaux from her anchorage.5

In February 1404 Richard and his brother John relinquished their feoffeeship of lands in Devon, Somerset and Cornwall, held by them in trust for John Durneford, and apparently then also gave up their other contacts in the West Country. In April John provided securities of £100 in Chancery that Richard, now described as living in Hampshire, would appear before the Council within the next six months. It was, however, some time later that the latter, now using his alias of Newport more regularly, acquired property in the shire: in October 1410 the abbot of Beaulieu demised to him and his heirs the manor of Soberton, some 12 miles from Portsmouth, for 200 years; and it was at Soberton that he made the forcible entry (into a messuage, 28 acres of arable and two acres of woodland) of which he was found guilty at the Winchester assizes in September 1414. Then, in 1421, he arraigned an assize of novel disseisin against William, Lord Botreaux, over rents in the same township, starting litigation which dragged on for several years.6 Meanwhile, in November 1417, as Richard Spicer, ‘esquire’, he had been retained by Henry V, along with a force of 40 archers, to defend the royal carracks then at anchor in the port of Southampton for a period of three months. There, too, in April following, he supervised the musters of the retinues of the admiral, Thomas, duke of Exeter, and Sir Edward Holand before they embarked for Normandy. Spicer served, moreover, on royal commissions of array in the shire in 1418 and 1419 (specifically for defence against an armada launched by the king of Castile and to protect Henry V’s vessels at Southampton and Portsmouth), and again in 1421.7

Spicer became associated with members of the Hampshire gentry. In January 1418 at Wyke he had attested a conveyance of the estates in that county and in Wiltshire belonging to Sir William Sturmy*, and it may have been he, rather than his son of the same name, who in June 1433 was to witness another such transaction, regarding properties in Winchester, on behalf of William Chamberlain*. In 1426, 1427, 1429, 1431 and 1432 he had attended the elections to Parliament held in the shire court, and two years later he was included in the list of Hampshire notables who were to take the general oath to observe the laws relating to maintenance. He died before January 1436, for it was as his widow that Elizabeth ‘Newport’ was assessed for the purposes of taxation on lands in Hampshire worth £34 a year.8

Spicer’s two sons, Richard (d.1477) and John Newport, both represented Hampshire in Parliament, the former in 1439 and the latter in 1447. His widow died before March 1449.9

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. CIMisc. vii. 75.
  • 2. CPR, 1396-9, p. 158; 1399-1401, p. 276; CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 59, 83, 126; CIMisc. vii. 66, 75.
  • 3. C.L. Kingsford, Prejudice and Promise, 84-85; CPR, 1399-1401, pp. 271, 349; 1405-8, p. 95; CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 147, 149, 172; C.J. Ford, ‘Piracy or Policy’, TRHS, ser. 5, xxix. 66.
  • 4. CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 412, 546-7; 1402-5, p. 76; Letters Hen. IV ed. Hingston, i. pp. li, 113; SC1/43/136, 49/130; Ford, 71-73.
  • 5. CCR, 1402-5, pp. 27, 70, 100; CPR, 1401-5, pp. 277, 283, 424; CIMisc. vii. 254.
  • 6. CCR, 1402-5, pp. 318, 320, 324; CPR, 1408-13, p. 266; JUST 1/1529 m. 1, 1531 mm. 41, 47, 1540 m. 3.
  • 7. E404/33/202; CPR, 1416-22, pp. 145, 148.
  • 8. CCR, 1413-19, p. 458; 1429-35, p. 288; CPR, 1429-36, p. 396; E179/173/92; C219/13/4, 5, 14/1-3.
  • 9. CCR, 1447-54, p. 124; C140/61/35.