CLEY, Richard (d.c.1420), of Great Yarmouth, Norf.

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



Jan. 1397

Family and Education

m. bef. July 1391, Katherine, 1s.; (2) bef. Feb. 1420, Petronilla, other ch.

Offices Held

Bailiff, Yarmouth Mich. 1395-6, 1398-9, 1401-2, 1403-4, 1406-7, 1411-12, 1414-15.1

Commr. to assemble shipping for action against pirates, Yarmouth May 1398.


Cley was actively engaged in trade by 1387, when a man from Walsingham, Norfolk, was pardoned his outlawry in the county for failing to appear to answer his suit for a debt of £3. He occasionally shipped cloth to the Low Countries, and imported grain, wine and salt, but his principal trade was in herring. In his ventures as far as Spain and Gascony, he sometimes made use of a vessel owned by his kinsman, Robert Cley (d.1416). The fish trade brought Cley and his fellows into contact with markets widely dispersed through the kingdom: in 1407, for instance, he was being sued for debt by a man from Salisbury.2 Cley's wife was probably a member of the important local family of Drayton, for in 1391 Nicholas Drayton left them in his will a ‘fish-house’ and a curing-house in Yarmouth. Cley later held, as well as these and a ‘salt-house’ in the town, lands, tenements and a mill in the western suburb and over the border in Suffolk. Furthermore, in the 1390s he joined a consortium of merchants from Yarmouth and Norwich who together purchased a number of properties in Norwich itself, situated in the parishes of St. Giles, St. Peter Mancroft and St. Bartholomew, presumably for their greater convenience in selling goods in the city.3

Cley had considerable experience of public service locally: he was elected bailiff seven times in all, and as such is recorded making returns to the Parliaments of 1399, 1407, 1411 and 1414 (Nov.). At the elections to the Parliament of 1419 he stood surety for William Colkirk.4 In February 1420 Cley arranged for the disposal of his property in the event of his death, making provision for his widow and children, and he probably died soon afterwards. Subsequently, his executors sold his ‘fish-house’, curing-house and ‘salt-house’ to Thomas Covehithe* (d.1430/1).5

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Norf. Official Lists ed. Le Strange, 154-5.
  • 2. CPR, 1385-9, p. 336; CCR, 1405-9, p. 294; E122/149/22, 33, 34, 150/2; Norf. RO, Gt. Yarmouth ct. roll, C4/129 (Robert Cley’s will).
  • 3. Yarmouth ct. roll, C4/102; Norwich enrolments, 15 mm. 16d, 22d, 34.
  • 4. C219/10/1, 4, 6, 11/3, 12/3.
  • 5. Yarmouth ct. roll, C4/133; Norf. RO, Reg. Surflete, f. 67.