CLITHEROE, William (d.1421), of New Romney, Kent.

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



Feb. 1413
May 1413
Nov. 1414

Family and Education

Offices Held

poss. bro. of Richard Clitheroe I* and fa. of Richard II* and John, bp. of Bangor (1423-35). m. (1) bef. Jan. 1408, Elizabeth;1 (2) bef. June 1419, Margaret ( d. 1442), da. and coh. of John Fraunceys of Romney (bailiff 1367-83), wid. of John Badmyngton.2

Collector of customs and subsidies, Sandwich 17 Feb. 1397-19 May 1398.

Jurat, Romney 25 Mar. 1397-8, 1400-1, 1402-3, 1410-14, 1416-17, 1420-1.3

Bailiff, Romney (by royal appointment) 5 Oct. 1397-c.1410; Abp. Chichele’s bailiff 31 July-7 Dec. 1414.4


Clitheroe would appear to have settled in Kent during the last decade of the 14th century, not long after his enterprising kinsman, Richard Clitheroe I, had come south from Lancashire to make his fortune both in the mercantile community of London and through service to Richard II. He paid maltolts as resident in Holyngbroke ward in Romney (where lived the leading townsmen) from 1396 until his death, and in 1408 he was associated with his kinsman in the acquisition of land at Burwash in Romney Marsh. Both of his marriages increased his interests in the region: his first wife owned lands and rents in Selling and Sheldwich, besides having a claim to the manors of Shurland in Pluckley and Tremhatch in Charing; and his second wife shared, with her sister, patronage of the hospital of St. Mary and St. Stephen in Romney, which their father had re-founded.5

In 1397, shortly after the see of Canterbury was vacated when Archbishop Arundel was sent into exile, the Crown appointed Clitheroe as bailiff of Romney. This was at a time when his kinsman Richard, a ‘King’s esquire’, was enjoying considerable benefits from royal patronage. But William himself seems to have avoided involvement in the political upheavals of the time, for he was apparently retained as bailiff not only throughout Roger Walden’s occupation of the see, but also after Arundel’s return to it on Henry IV’s accession. Nor does he seem ever to have forfeited the goodwill of the burgesses (who had been known at other times to express hostility to the archbishop’s appointee), for they continued to choose him as a jurat. (Incidentally, John Talbot*, his predecessor as bailiff, named him as an executor in 1403.) Clitheroe was frequently employed on the business of the town and, indeed, of the Cinque Ports generally. In 1401-2 he was sent up to London to obtain writs to the tax collectors to enforce the Ports’ customary tax exemption (as he was to do again seven years later), and that same year he was engaged in obtaining a renewal of the Ports’ charter. He was among the bailiffs of the Ports whom, in 1403, Sir Thomas Erpingham, the then warden, accused of refusing to surrender to him the customary profits from the forfeited chattels of felons and outlaws; but then, when the Exchequer obliged him to come and account, he was able to state that he had received no more than 7d. (from a murderer’s goods). In 1404-5 he handed over to Romney five marks from the proceeds of the sale of wine confiscated in Winchelsea harbour. In 1407-8 he went up to London to obtain writs to protect Romney’s advocants from being put on juries outside the Ports’ jurisdiction, in contravention of their privileges. Later he was at a meeting at Dover which agreed to find shipping for the King’s use. In 1409-10 he took advantage of the agreement which, the year before, the jurats had made with the vicar of Romney — that is, to cease holding their assemblies in the church, where they disturbed divine service — by offering them a lease on a house in which to meet. Next year the Brodhull twice despatched him to London to sue before the prince of Wales, then warden, for a favourable settlement of various matters concerning the rights (‘status’) of the Ports. (Dover and Romney paid him £5 10s. as their share of the expenses.) Later he visited Canterbury to consult Romney’s counsel about certain difficult points arising out of pleas in the courts of the city. In April 1413 Clitheroe attended Henry V’s coronation, no doubt as one of the barons of the Ports privileged to carry the canopy over the new King; and, while attending Henry’s first Parliament a few weeks afterwards, he paid 12d. ‘pro scripcione Parliamenti’ and gave the clerk of the rolls 3s.4d. for his assistance in obtaining the usual tax exemption.6 Although in the following year the new archbishop, Henry Chichele, reappointed him bailiff of Romney, he was replaced after only a few months in office.

Nothing is known of any mercantile activities on Clitheroe’s part. However, in 1410-11 he purchased the common ship of Romney for £20, and an interest in the herring trade is possibly suggested by his standing surety in 1413 for a local fisherman.7 He died in 1421, some time before 4 Dec., when the widowed Margaret Clitheroe was named as sole patron of the hospital of St. Mary and St. Stephen. Still in possession of his land in Selling in 1431, she survived until 1442.8

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Authors: A. P.M. Wright / L. S. Woodger


  • 1. CP25(1)112/269/381.
  • 2. E364/9 m. A; Reg. Chichele, i. 188.
  • 3. C262/8/3, no. 8; Romney assmt. bk. 2, ff. 46, 52, 72, 74, 76, 79, 88, 94.
  • 4. CPR, 1396-9, p. 205; Reg. Chichele, iv. 97, 111; Kent AO, NR/JBr/6 nos. 12-34, 7 nos. 5-8.
  • 5. Romney assmt. bk. 2, f. 93; CP25(1)112/269/381, 270/425, 273/487; Arch. Cant. xcvi. 22-23.
  • 6. Lambeth Pal. Lib. Reg. Arundel, i. f. 200; Romney assmt. bk. 2, ff. 55, 61, 66, 68, 70, 72, 80; E364/37 m. D. 38 m. B.
  • 7. Romney assmt. bk. 2, f. 72; CCR, 1409-13, p. 433.
  • 8. Reg. Chichele, iv. 201; Feudal Aids, iii. 78; Romney assmt. bk. 2, ff. 99-130.