TERRY, William I, of Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorks.

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. by Nov. 1402, Agnes, at least 1s. 3da.1

Offices Held

Bailiff, Kingston-upon-Hull Mich. 1386-7; mayor 1397-8.2

Commr. to suppress piracy, Kingston-upon-Hull May 1398.


One of the richest and most influential merchants in the north-east during our period, Terry owed his wealth as much to piracy as commerce, often falling foul of the authorities because of his freebooting ventures. From 1378 onwards, if not before, he traded regularly from the port of Hull, shipping consignments of cloth and wool overseas, and importing cargoes of goods as diverse as herring, wine, iron and salt.3 Frequent attacks by hostile vessels from Scotland and France led Terry and four other merchants (including Thomas Fountenay*) to obtain a royal licence in July 1387 allowing them to find and fit out at their own cost ‘a large ship, a barge, and a balinger of war arrayed and equipped for the safe passage and return of fishmongers, merchants and other the King’s lieges at sea in the northern parts’. But Terry did not confine his attention to the enemy, and before long he was embroiled in a dispute with John Hawley I* of Dartmouth. Claiming that the master of one of Hawley’s ships had been instrumental in having two of their agents arrested and ransomed in France, he and his partner, William Hornsea, prevailed upon the mayor of Hull to seize a cargo worth £24 from one of Hawley’s vessels then at anchor in the port. In November 1393 Terry, Hornsea and the mayor were all summoned to appear in the court of Chancery to explain themselves, and ordered to reimburse Hawley at once. No more is heard of this incident and for a while Terry managed to avoid any further confrontations.4 He was, indeed, returned to the first Parliament of 1397, as well as being chosen to serve as mayor of Hull later in the same year. During his term of office he was actually nominated to sit on a royal commission for the searching out of pirates in the North Sea—a somewhat inappropriate appointment in view of his own burgeoning career as a sea robber.

Yet it was to ‘pirates’ such as Terry and Hawley that Henry IV turned for help with coastal defence during the difficult first months of his reign. Between them, two semi-official fleets prepared to resist possible invasion from north and south by the French and their allies, the Scots, Terry and two other captains having command of the northern fleet, whose principal task was to blockade the Scottish ports. After the renewal of the truce with France, in June 1400, the southern fleet was recalled, but Terry once again petitioned the Crown for permission ‘pur guerir et debeller sur la meer et les costes de la meer envers voz enemys d’escoce et de ffriseland’. He even offered to place his own ship, Le George of Hull, and a balinger at the government’s disposal, in return for a half-share of all the booty and a royal commission permitting him to recruit men-at-arms and mariners whenever he wished. Since King Henry was then embarking upon a full-scale invasion of Scotland, he gratefully acceded to this request. By March 1402 another of Terry’s ships, Le Jonet, had been pressed into service, along with a contingent of 40 mariners, although by then he had a rather different enemy in mind.

It was at about this time that violent attacks were being made upon English merchants and their premises in the towns of the Hanseatic League, and Terry personally lost a consignment of cloth worth an estimated £200 in the rioting. He was naturally avid for revenge; and in the spring of 1402 he and his men captured two Prussian vessels, which, they claimed, were carrying victuals for the relief of the Scots. In early June, Terry and his associate, John Tutbury, asked if they might keep the cargo of one, La Hulke de la Buke, as a reward for ‘their great travail and expense in the King’s service at sea’. Permission was duly granted to them in return for a pledge of securities to the same value as the merchandise in case their claim to the prize should later be contested. This proved to be the case, for by the following October the Master of the Teutonic Order and his envoys in England had lodged a protest with the government on behalf of the owners of the second ship, La George of Lübeck, whose cargo had mysteriously vanished, along with that of La Hulke. Far from succouring the King’s enemies, the vessels had in fact been transporting supplies to the royal garrison at Berwick-upon-Tweed; and in order to avoid an unpleasant diplomatic incident the royal council intervened promptly to ensure that full reparation was made to the Prussians. In an attempt to postpone the final reckoning, Terry and Tutbury protested that their mariners had made off with everything leaving them empty-handed. A commission of inquiry was set up in February 1403 to interrogate those involved, but the investigations proved futile, and the two merchants were ordered to pay £178 5s. in compensation. They were still denying liability three years later, having successfully avoided all the demands made upon them. As the royal council recognized, the local authorities were in part to blame for these constant delays (which now threatened to jeopardize the treaty between England and Prussia), and in September 1406 Nicholas Blackburn, the admiral of the north, was instructed to recover the money, by distraint if necessary.5

Terry’s dealings with the authorities during this period were further complicated by the fact that he and Tutbury were also embroiled in litigation in the court of the admiral of England, where William Prince (a commander of the northern fleet in 1400 and now the master of one of Thomas, earl of Arundel’s ships) had recovered from them costs and damages totalling £1,180. They appealed against this judgement on the ground of its undue severity, but while a royal commission of inquiry was still examining the evidence, in February 1404, Sir Thomas Beaufort, the then admiral, impounded one of their ships along with quantities of valuable merchandise, and had them thrown into prison. The outcome of this dispute is not recorded, but it looks very much as if Terry gave up the unequal struggle against his more powerful opponents and retired from public life after his release.6

Rather less is known about Terry’s personal affairs, which are overshadowed by his activities at sea. He owned a substantial amount of property in Hull, centred largely upon Marketgate, Hull Street, and Finkle Street, as well as land in Kirkleatham and other parts of north Yorkshire which was released to him, in June 1392, by one John Terry of Cleveland. Five months later he conveyed all these holdings, along with his goods and chattels at home and abroad, to a group of trustees, including Thomas Terry, a clergyman, who may well have been his brother. It was probably through his wife, Agnes, that he acquired other estates in the Lincolnshire villages of Conesby, Crosby and Gunhouse. In November 1402, the couple obtained royal letters patent confirming a grant of rights of free warren there made in 1347 to John Boys and his heirs, among whom Agnes herself was, perhaps, numbered.7

Terry was closely related to another affluent Hull merchant, Thomas Stillingfleet, whose daughter married his kinsman and trading partner, Richard Terry. He and Richard both witnessed Stillingfleet’s will of January 1394; and he alone was named as an executor of the latter’s widow, who died in 1405, leaving bequests to his younger daughters, Margaret and Joan. Their elder sister, Alice (d.1451), married John Ben (d.1429) of Hull as her first husband at some point before July 1413, when she received one of Terry’s messuages in Hull Street by way of a settlement. She later inherited part of his property in Marketgate as well, occupying it jointly with her second husband, Thomas Mountenay. One of Terry’s last acts was to join with his son and heir, Robert, in conveying two messuages in Hull to John Curson of Lynn, in April 1414, after which date he disappears from the records.8

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


Variants: Tarre, Tarry, Tyrry.

  • 1. Cal. Hull Deeds ed. Stanewell, D219, 220, 225, 281; CPR, 1402-5, p. 176; Borthwick Inst. York, York registry wills, i. f. 62v; ii. ff. 228-28v; iii. f. 240v.
  • 2. E368/159, Mich. rot. 4v, 160 Mich. rot. 6v, 171 rot. 140v.
  • 3. Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. lxiv. 15, 25, 26; C. Frost, Hull, app. p. 16; E122/59/23-25, 60/2, 158/2, 159/11.
  • 4. VCH Yorks. (E. Riding), i. 62; CPR, 1385-9, p. 339; CCR, 1392-6, pp. 174-5.
  • 5. CPR, 1399-1401, pp. 352, 360; 1401-5, p. 55; 1405-8, p. 302; C.J. Ford, ‘Piracy or Policy’, TRHS, ser. 5, xxix. 66; J. Tickell, Kingston-upon-Hull, 82-83; Cal. Scots. Docs. iv. no. 623; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 533; 1402, p. 533; 1402-5, pp. 1-2, 42-43; 1405-9, p. 60; SC8/217/10802, 232/11577, 254/12686.
  • 6. CPR, 1401-5, pp. 365-6; CCR, 1402-5, pp. 56, 256; SC8/229/11428-9.
  • 7. Cal. Hull Deeds, D155; CP25(1)278/142; CCR, 1389-92, p. 567; 1392-6, p. 99; 1401-5, p. 176; York registry wills, iii. f. 508.
  • 8. Cal. Hull Deeds, D219, 220, 225, 281; York registry wills, i. f. 62v; ii. ff. 228-28v; iii. f. 240v.