HOLME, Robert I (d.1433), of York.
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Family and Education
s. and h. (poss. illegit.) of Robert Holme† (d.1396), of York, mercer, by Beatrice Forden (fl. 1396); nephew of Thomas Holme*. m. (1) Agnes (d. by Nov. 1400), 1s. 1da. at least 2 other ch. d.v.p.; (2) by Aug. 1423, Joan (d. by Feb. 1428); (3) by July 1430, Margaret, da. and coh. of John Kenlay (d.1430), of York by his w. Agnes (d.1433).1
Sheriff, York Mich. 1398-9; member of the council of 24 by c.1410; mayor 3 Feb. 1413-14; member of the council of 12 by Sept. 1416-aft. Apr. 1424.2
Commr. of inquiry, York July 1415 (holdings of John Skelton).3
As both the son and the nephew of two of the richest and most influential men in York, Robert could confidently expect to assume a prominent place in civic affairs, even though there is more than a hint that he was, in fact, born out of wedlock. The will which his father, Robert Holme the elder, drew up in September 1396, refers to the latter’s two wives, both of whom were then dead, and to Beatrice Forden, the mother of his only child, Robert, to whom he left £10 in cash. Whatever the circumstances of his birth, Robert himself ranked as the principal beneficiary, being assigned 1,000 marks, large quantities of silver plate, the testator’s house in Goodramgate along with all its contents, and the rest of the extensive holdings in the city which Robert senior had accumulated through the profits of trade. But in return Robert was obliged to undertake the onerous task of administrating his late father’s estate, and was thus responsible for disbursing additional sums in excess of £1,450, many of which were intended for pious works. He had only just been admitted to the freedom of York, and there can be little doubt that his appointment as sheriff, a mere two years later, in 1398, was largely due to his recent entry into such an impressive inheritance. Family connexions clearly played an important part in Robert’s career, for his uncle Thomas (who, like his father, had represented York in Parliament) was also able to assert influence on his behalf. Thomas and Robert Holme the elder had been business partners for years, with a base at Calais for their ventures in the wool trade; and on his death, in 1406, Thomas instructed his executors to let his nephew have his share of these premises at a favourable price. Robert in turn felt a strong sense of obligation towards his cousin and namesake, Robert the son of John Holme, who deferred to him as his ‘master’ and may well have served as his apprentice before he too entered the freedom in 1400. This Robert died young at the same time as his uncle Thomas, leaving our Member a gift of ten marks and choosing him to act as an executor.4
It looks very much as if the bulk of Robert’s property (which comprised shops, rents and tenements in Goodramgate, Monkgate, Davygate, Ousegate, Coppergate, Peter Lane, Bishophill and Jubbergate) came to him from his father, although his first wife, Agnes, may well have added to his holdings as well, since she was affluent enough to draw up her own will. Nothing is known of its provisions, save that probate was granted in early November 1400. Robert’s activities during this period followed a fairly predictable pattern: in July 1402 he stood surety at the Exchequer for the lessee of one of the King’s mills in York; and after sitting for some time on the council of 24, he eventually rose to occupy the mayoralty, as his father and uncle had done before him. Election to Parliament, which was by now also something of a family tradition, followed in November 1414. Robert sat only once in the Commons, but he did attest the parliamentary returns for York on at least three occasions, in 1415, 1417 and 1419. During this period he agreed to offer sureties of £40 in Chancery for his friend, William Alne*, being himself engaged in litigation for the recovery of a debt of £4 from a Nottingham chapman. This particular case suggests that he did business in the Midlands, but evidence of his commercial activities (beyond frequent references to him as a merchant) is now hard to find. There can however, be no doubt as to his important position in the community: in 1423 and 1426 he and his second wife, Joan, obtained papal indults for, respectively, the use of a portable altar and plenary remission of sins at the hour of death; and in 1428 he made the remarkably generous gift of 500 marks to civic funds. In return for this donation, which may well have been prompted more by feelings of guilt over his delay in executing his late father’s will than by Joan’s recent demise, the authorities agreed to set aside ten marks a year for the celebration of masses for the souls of various members of Robert’s family, including his two wives, his parents, his paternal grandparents and, significantly under the circumstances, all those ‘from whom he had any goods undeservedly’. It was agreed that after his own death all these obits would be performed at the high altar of the new chapel of St. Anne on Foss Bridge, a foundation in which he took a particular interest, and to which he eventually left a prayer book and a missal.5
Towards the end of his life, when he had effectively retired from the business of local government, Robert married for a third time. His new wife, Margaret, was the daughter and coheir of John Kenlay of York, who died in the summer of 1430, naming her and her sister as his executors and Robert as the supervisor of his will. Kenlay’s widow, Agnes, retained most of his property, although the couple secured immediate possession of tenements in Ousegate and Castlegate, along with certain rents and a quantity of silver. Fortunately for them, Agnes did not survive much longer, so that on her death, three years later, they gained entry to yet more valuable holdings and rents in various parts of the city, along with a half share of Agnes’s estates a few miles away in Selby. Robert himself derived comparatively little benefit from his wife’s inheritance, since he died, just a few months after Agnes, in October 1433. He left two children: Katherine, who had married a son of the York merchant, Henry Preston II*, some years earlier, and now received £30 and a tenement in Davygate, and Thomas, the heir to the rest of his property. By the terms of Robert’s will, his widow was to retain a life interest in some of these premises, while also enjoying a half share of all his effects. In the expectation that a division of the spoils between her and her stepson might give rise to some unseemly quarrels, Robert threatened the young man with disinheritance if he did not behave well towards her; and as his principal executrix she was well placed to enforce such a stipulation.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. Borthwick Inst. York, York registry wills, i. ff. 100v-3v; ii. f. 632; iii. ff. 48, 365-6v; CPL, vii. 305; Surtees Soc. clxxxvi. 81, 102-3, 149-51. Holme had at least four children, two of whom predeceased him. His surviving son and daughter must have been born before he married his third wife, Margaret, but it is otherwise impossible to establish who was the mother of each child (York registry wills, iii. ff. 365v-6v).
- 2. Surtees Soc. xcvi. 117; cxx. 74; cxxv. 52, 62, 64, 74, 79, 84, 110-11.
- 3. Surtees Soc. cxxv. 43.
- 4. York registry wills, i. ff. 100v-3v; iii. ff. 247v, 255v; York City Archs. List of Civic Officials ed. Skaife, ff. 361-2; Surtees Soc. xcvi. 95, 103.
- 5. York registry wills, iii. ff. 48, 365v-6v; CFR, xii. 162; C219/11/7, 12/2, 3; CCR, 1413-19, p. 374; CPR, 1416-22, p. 94; CPL, vii. 305; Surtees Soc. clxxxvi. 149-51.
- 6. Surtees Soc. clxxxvi. 81, 102-3, 149-51; York registry wills, iii. ff. 365v-6v, 632.