WEMS, Richard (d.c.1442), of Northampton, mercer.
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Family and Education
m. by May 1421, Joan.1
Bailiff, Northampton Mich. 1408-9; mayor 1421-2, 1440-1.2
Before his one return as Member for Northampton, Wems had already served a term as bailiff of the town, and had also taken part in the local elections to the previous Parliament of 1410. He was, moreover, one of the group of leading burgesses who witnessed a deed of February 1411 by which the Coventry merchant, John Green, made a settlement of his inheritance. Wems himself accumulated a good deal of property in Northampton, including two shops with solars in the Drapery, for which he paid an annual rent of 12s. to his fellow burgess, Nicholas Horncastle*. On the latter’s death, in 1419, it was found that these and other revenues properly belonged to the Crown as royal escheats, although Wems’s tenancy continued uninterrupted. Two years later he and his wife, Joan, granted a rent of 20s. p.a. from a shop ‘with chambers and houses above builded, set in the old drapery’ to the wardens of the guild of the Holy Trinity in Northampton, of which they were no doubt both members.3
Meanwhile, in July 1419, the influential Northamptonshire landowner, Sir John Trussell*, sold our Member two crofts in ‘Lekynghtstrete’ in the town, his charter being later confirmed by his son and heir, John Trussell the younger. Wems seems to have been consolidating his interests in this part of the town, where he also owned a garden with various appurtenances. These he rented out in February 1434 to a neighbouring fuller, who was to occupy the property for 27 years at an annual rent of 8s. His holdings also comprised a tenement together with other houses and buildings in ‘Golafrelane’, which were leased by the draper, John Brockley. Moreover, in September 1439, Wems joined with a group of local tradesmen in taking on the farm of various plots of wasteland outside the South Gate of Northampton, so he must, all in all, have enjoyed a comparatively high income as a rentier. An indication of his wealth, which was probably derived in the most part from his business dealings as a mercer, may be gained from a lawsuit which he brought in Chancery at some point between 1432 and 1442 against Sir John Trussell’s widow, Margaret. He claimed that she had fraudulently attempted to evade the payment of a debt of £120 by pretending that the land which she had mortgaged to him as security had previously been offered as collateral to another creditor. Given that the latter turned out to be none other than her own son-in-law, Wems’s suspicions were clearly well founded, and it is a further mark of his own position in society that he was prepared to risk the enmity of this powerful and often violent family.4
During his first term as mayor of Northampton, Wems held the election to the Parliament of December 1421, and while serving his second, almost 20 years later, he issued an ordinance for the better regulation of the craft of weavers. He was dead by 25 Jan. 1443, since his property in ‘Golafrelane’ had then passed into the hands of trustees.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Wemmes, Wemmys.