PERCY, William, of Scarborough.
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Family and Education
Bailiff, Scarborough Mich. 1388-9, 1391-2, 1396-9, 1401-2, 1403-4.1
Coroner, Scarborough by 29 Dec. 1390-aft. Mich. 1392.2
Commr. of array, Scarborough May 1398; to prevent the sailing of ships May 1401.
Percy belonged to one of the leading families in Scarborough, and may perhaps have been the son or nephew of the Peter Percy† who represented the borough twice in Parliament during the early 1360s. He himself was named among the 42 potentiores (or wealthier burgesses) who were obliged to pay an additional fine of 500 marks to the government after the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, and this reason alone explains his animosity towards his neighbour, William Marche, one of the leaders of the rebels in the town. In 1384 Percy joined with John Acclom I*, William Sage I* and other local merchants in an attack on Marche’s property, during which they allegedly made off with a large flock of sheep, assaulted his servants and robbed his home. A royal commission of oyer and terminer was set up to investigate the affair, but little, if anything, seems to have been done to discipline the offenders. Relations between Marche and Percy grew more cordial later, and in 1395 Percy actually attested a deed for his erstwhile enemy.3
There is good reason to believe that Percy was a lawyer, since besides acting as a coroner of Scarborough for at least two years, he was in considerable demand both as a witness to local property transactions and as an executor of the wills of the more influential burgesses. His efforts in the latter capacity earned him many rewards, but also entailed quite heavy responsibilities. In his will of 1394, Robert Rillington left Percy a large quantity of grain and a half-share in one of his ships in return for his services as an executor; and four years later John Wawan entrusted him with the task of overseeing the repair of the holdings he already occupied as a feoffee. Together with John Acclom’s son, Robert*, Percy faced the prospect of forfeiture, in 1404, because Acclom had died while in office as a collector of customs, leaving the settlement of his accounts to his executors. Fortunately for him, fewer problems attended the administration of the estate of Robert Hosier of Scarborough, who had died in the previous year.4
Percy entered Parliament for the first time in January 1397, during his third term as bailiff of Scarborough, and thus was responsible for returning himself to the Lower House. He had already gone surety for William Carter I, who sat in the Parliament of 1394; and he was clearly an ideal choice to represent the borough at Westminster. By then he owned a sizeable amount of property, to which he added, in 1390 and 1403, by leasing land from the corporation. He also prospered through trade; and although little evidence now survives about his commercial activities, we know that he shipped wine into Hull in 1399, and that he later took part in a piratical raid by a group of Scarborough shipowners upon the vessel of a Hanse merchant in the North Sea. Between May 1407 and February 1412, repeated attempts were made by the government to bring the malefactors to book and extract compensation of 400 marks, but the local authorities were either reluctant or afraid to proceed against them. Eventually, in July 1412, Percy capitulated by handing over his share of the damages (which amounted to £63), although the others steadfastly refused to do so. He himself had been trying to sue a Beverley man for debt at this time, but with little hope of success.5
It seems quite likely that the William Percy who was married to one of the five daughters of Thomas Rightwise (d.1429) of Scarborough, and thus became the brother-in-law of William Sage III*, was Percy’s son. This William died in the summer of 1439, having asked to be buried next to his father in St. Mary’s church, Scarborough.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. C219/9/12; E159/176, Easter, m. 11, 180, Mich. m. 14; E368/ 162, Mich. m. 12, 167, Trin. m. 2, 169, Mihc. m. 10v, 175 m. 129, 177 m. 106; CPR, 1396-9, p. 261; 1399-1401, p. 394.
- 2. JUST 2/249 m. 2.
- 3. C260/94/33; RP, iii. 136, 396; CPR, 1381-5, pp. 209, 509; CCR, 1381-5, p. 526; White Vellum Bk. Scarborough ed. Jeayes, nos. 27b, 44A.
- 4. Borthwick Inst. York registry wills, i.f. 68; iii. ff. 9, 77-77v, 204v-5; E159/180 Hil. m. 15v; White Vellum Bk. Scarborough, nos. 18C, 30A, B, 32C; CPR, 1401-5, p. 202.
- 5. C219/9/10, 12; E122/159/11; White Vellum Bk. Scarborough, nos. 28C, 29A; CPR, 1405-8, p. 353; 1408-13, pp. 62-63, 319; 1413-16, p. 64; CCR, 1409-13, pp. 195, 265, 284, 357-8.
- 6. York registry wills, ii. f. 565v; iii. ff. 585-5v.