BURTON, Robert, of Grimsby, Lincs.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
Mayor, Grimsby Mich. 1392-3.1
As a young man, Burton was engaged by William Barrewe, a London tailor, to collect money on his behalf. We do not know if he worked in the City itself or if he just acted as his employer’s agent in Lincolnshire, but in February 1380, while he was sitting in his very first Parliament, he was outlawed for refusing to appear in court when being sued for debt by Barrewe’s executors. Some five years later he obtained a royal pardon which reveals that he was also charged by them with failing to keep proper accounts, and that two other London merchants were attempting to recover sums in excess of £28 from him as well. In point of fact, Burton never suffered the practical consequences of outlawry, since he managed to retain personal effects worth at least £20 in Grimsby throughout this period. Indeed, in March 1386, he was empanelled as a juror in the town during the sessions of the peace; and again, some nine years later, he served in the same capacity. Nor, despite its somewhat inauspicious beginnings, did his connexion with London cease. In January 1391 he and John Reynwell (who was probably related to the influential alderman and MP of the same name) obtained a joint licence from the Crown allowing them to buy up 300 quarters of grain in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire for shipment from Grimsby to London. Not long afterwards Burton agreed to act as a mainpernor at the borough court for John Hokere* of Hastings whose ship had been arrested during the course of an action for debt. Hokere broke bail, however, leaving him to forfeit his securities.2
Burton’s term as mayor of Grimsby proved extremely busy and taxing, partly because of a quarrel between the burgesses and Sir Edmund Pierrepont, a powerful local landowner. It may, indeed, have been for this reason that he had himself returned to Parliament in January 1393, for while the Commons were actually sitting at Winchester he transacted a good deal of legal business there concerning the Pierrepont case, as well as making two visits to the court of common pleas at Westminster. The same lawsuit also took him, along with the chamberlain, John Kelby (who was also returned to the Lower House at this time) and the common clerk of Grimsby, to the Lincoln assizes on at least two occasions, other, less pressing matters being dealt with there by one William Burton, who may well have been a kinsman of his. Burton, moreover, became involved at this time in a controversy over the raising of a tax intended to meet certain municipal expenses. Geoffrey Askeby*, for one, claimed that Burton had pocketed £29 of the money for his own use, and filed a suit against him in Chancery for wrongful imprisonment and extortion-with-menaces. The final verdict is not recorded, but it evidently had little effect on Burton’s standing in the community, for he was returned to three consecutive Parliaments after leaving office.3
Towards the end of his career, Burton established a partnership with Richard Barber*, who joined with him in purchasing wine worth £10 from Bordeaux as well as expending a further 40 marks on other consignments at Hull and Grimsby. The venture ended acrimoniously, however, and in 1395 the pair went to law over the division of the profits.4