BLITHE, John (d.1410), of Wells, Som.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
m. Christine Plomer, 1s.1
Rent collector, Wells Mich. 1378-81, 1383-6, constable of the peace 1381-3; master 1387-8, 1393-4, 1397-8, 1401-3, 1405-7; auditor 1389-90.2
Tax collector, Wells Dec. 1380.
Blithe, who had been admitted to the freedom of Wells by 1378, became a prominent figure in the locality. In 1379 in association with Thomas Tanner*, a fellow clothier, he stood as a pledge for Walter Duddesden* when he became a freeman, and during the following 12 years he acted similarly five times, including on behalf of John Bowyer*. He became closely concerned in the administration of Wells, being elected on several occasions to minor offices, and in December 1383 he was one of those sent to Bristol to conduct business for the town. Towards the end of the first of his seven annual terms as master of Wells, he was elected to Parliament for the first time. Blithe’s less important local duties included tax collection in the High Street, and the arbitration of disputes between burgesses. In September 1397 he was a juror at an inquisition held at Wells involving a case of mistaken identity, and he later acted similarly in March 1400 with regard to the possessions of adherents of the late King, Richard II.3
Blithe’s business in the manufacture and sale of cloth seems to have flourished. He was assessed for alnage on 170 ‘dozens’ sold in Somerset in the years from 1395 to 1397, and on 28 broad cloths in 1402-3. He spent some of the proceeds on property in Wells, including a house on the High Street with grounds extending to those of the prior of St. John the Baptist behind, and two cottages with their curtilages adjoining New Street.4 Before July 1379 Blithe had been named with Nicholas Cristesham* as executor of the will of John Roper, a local merchant, and as such they sold certain of Roper’s property to the cathedral canons. In 1397 he acted on Cristesham’s behalf as an attorney for the delivery of seisin of certain other premises. He was mentioned in the will of Thomas Tanner as then (in 1401) owing 40s. which the testator wished to bequeath to the cathedral.5
Blithe took part in at least two parliamentary elections: in October 1407 he witnessed at Wells the indentures for all four Somerset boroughs, and in January 1410 he attended the shire court at Ilchester to attest the return for Wells. He died shortly after this, for before the end of the year his widow married Richard Setter*, by virtue of this marriage, was enabled to become a burgess of Wells. Blithe had settled most of his property on his wife shortly before his death, and this now came into Setter’s possession. Blithe left one son, Thomas, a merchant who became a freeman of Wells ‘by patrimony’ in 1434.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. Wells Town Clerk’s Office, convoc. bk. 1378-1450, f. 240; Wells City Chs. (Som. Rec. Soc. xlvi), 105, 143.
- 2. Wells convoc. bk. ff. 2, 9, 15, 25, 34, 38, 46, 57, 70, 86, 107, 128, 145, 150, 166, 169; Wells City Chs. 102-3.
- 3. Wells City Chs. 125-6, 129; Wells convoc. bk. ff. 18, 103, 174; C145/260/12, 277/9.
- 4. E101/343/28, 30, 344/3, 4; Wells City Chs. 104-5.
- 5. HMC Wells, i. 280-1; Wells City Chs. 101-3; Som. Med. Wills (Som. Rec. Soc. xvi), 6-8.
- 6. C219/10/4, 5; Wells City Chs. 135, 143; DKR, xlviii. 260.