WHITGRAY, Stephen, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumb.
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Family and Education
m. by Nov. 1393, Mary.2
Bailiff, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Mich. 1369-72; mayor 1384-5.3
Collector of taxes, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Nov. 1377.
Commr. of oyer and terminer, Northumb. Aug. 1385 (disorder at Whittonstall).
Collector of customs, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 24 Aug. 1386 Nov. 1392.
From the time of his election as bailiff of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1369, Whitgray played a prominent part in local affairs. He owed much of his influence to his position in the mercantile community, where for many years he was a leading figure. He dealt in a wide variety of products, including iron, dye-stuffs, salt and cloth; but his principal interest lay in wool, which he shipped in large quantities down the Tyne. Between July 1373 and September 1374, for example, he and a small group of merchants, including William Bishopdale*, obtained licences from the Crown for the export of 420 sacks of wool; and the customs accounts for the next ten years reveal that he also dealt extensively in hides and sheepskins. Without doubt, his appointment as a collector of customs at Newcastle in 1389 worked greatly to his personal advantage, since he was thus ideally placed to further his own commercial interests.4
As befitted a former mayor of Newcastle who had represented the borough in at least three Parliaments, Whitgray was anxious to leave a lasting memorial behind him. In April 1393 an inquisition ad quod damnum was held to determine if he and his wife, Mary, could alienate property worth ten marks a year for the foundation of a chantry in the church of St. Nicholas. The jury found that since the Whitgrays would be left with tenements to the same value, held of the Crown, there would be no loss of royal rights; and in the following February Richard II granted the couple formal authority to make their endowment, in return for a substantial cash payment of 40 marks. No more is heard of Whitgray after this date, and we do not know when he died. Some years later, in 1414, references occur to property in the Northumbrian villages of Whitburn and Boldon previously occupied by Stephen Whitgray and an associate in the right of their wives as feudal tenants of the bishop of Durham, it looks as if he was able to make a good marriage.5
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421