CORP, John (d.c.1417), of Dartmouth, Devon.

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



May 1413

Family and Education

prob. s. of John Corp (d.1361), of Dartmouth by his w. Eleanor (d.1391).1 m. by 1383, Elizabeth, wid. of Richard Barbour† of Weymouth, Dorset.

Offices Held

Commr. to fortify Dartmouth and Kingswear, Nov. 1381, Mar. 1406; confiscate merchandise illegally taken at sea Feb. 1386; close the ports of Kingsbridge, Tor Bay and Dartmouth May 1401; of inquiry, Devon May 1403, May 1405, May 1408 (breaches of truces at sea); to organize the defence of merchant shipping Aug. 1403; of arrest, south coast Feb. 1408.

Searcher, Dartmouth 12 June 1385-c.1386, all ports in Devon, except Plymouth 3 Mar. 1397-c.1399.

Controller of customs and subsidies from Bridgwater to Melcombe Regis 20 June 1389-91, Exeter and Dartmouth 3 Feb. 1412-13; collector, Dartmouth 18 Dec. 1404-5, Exeter and Dartmouth Oct. 1405-6, Fowey, Plymouth, Dartmouth and Exeter Apr. 1406-7.

Dep. butler in all ports of Devon 28 Jan. 1393-1402, Dartmouth Nov. 1402-Feb. 1412.

Water bailiff, Dartmouth 18 Mar. 1400-d.


Corp, who came from a Dartmouth family and owned property there and in villages nearby, married the widow of a Weymouth merchant whose dower included property both in Weymouth and on the quay at Melcombe Regis. His stepdaughter, Alice Barbour, became the wife of William Mountfort II*, a wealthy merchant of Dartmouth and Bridport who, like Corp, sat in Henry V’s first Parliament.2

Although he was never elected mayor of Dartmouth, Corp stands out, along with Edmund Arnold* and the two John Hawleys*, as one of the most important men of the town in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. He was the very first warden of the new chapel of the Holy Trinity (later St. Saviour’s church); and, in 1393, pending the settlement of a dispute over burial fees and other offerings between the townspeople and the abbot of Torre, it was agreed that all such fees should be left in his care. A firmer indication of his local standing is supplied by his appointment by the constable of England, Thomas, duke of Gloucester, to examine witnesses at Dartmouth in a suit brought before the court of chivalry by Sir John Roches* against the older John Hawley, and in January and March 1394 Corp supervised, in relation to this case, the swearing in of more than 55 witnesses in the church at Dartmouth, subsequently listening to their depositions in his own house.3

But already, of course, Corp was making his mark in a number of important areas of royal administration in the West Country as a whole. In fact, from 1385 he held royal office almost continuously for 30 years as a searcher, customs official, deputy butler and water bailiff. Although as a commissioner he was most concerned with disputes arising from incidents at sea, little has been discovered of his own seafaring activities and mercantile interests. However, he is known to have been engaged in the profitable business of taking pilgrims to the shrine of St. James of Compostella, and it was his balinger, the Elianore, which, in 1396, was used to convey Richard II and his immediate entourage to Calais for the King’s marriage to Isabella of France. In 1400 Henry of Monmouth, as duke of Cornwall, appointed Corp as water bailiff of Dartmouth for life, and he continued to exercise the office even after the prince formally granted it to one of his yeomen, John Clink*, in 1405. The strength of sea captains like Corp was relied on by the government for the protection of merchant shipping, especially in wartime. But evidently Corp was also expected to contribute to the defences of Dartmouth: in October 1402 he was granted a royal licence to crenellate his house at the entrance to the harbour. In the following year he and Thomas Saundres of Bristol were ordered to collect together the cargoes of wine, wax, oil and fruit recently seized from French ships, in order to provision the royal household which was then in Gloucestershire. Corp was involved in repelling the enemy attack at Black Pool, on the coast near Dartmouth, in the summer of 1404, then availing himself of the opportunity to purchase, from the bailiff of Moreleigh, one important prisoner, a French knight whom he held to ransom. During the war years his own ships were party to attacks on foreign vessels, some of which claimed to be neutral: in 1408 as joint owner of La Rose, one of the ships involved in the capture of the Marie Knight of Sluys, he was held responsible for the seizure and ordered by the King’s Council to make full restitution; and shortly afterwards a Portuguese merchant claimed that the crew of one of Corp’s bailingers had seized La Marie de la Scale, taken her to Shoreham and sold her cargo, even though she had been sailing under royal protection.4

It is not surprising to find Corp providing securities at the Exchequer in 1400 for his neighbour and friend John Hawley I, but his contacts extended beyond the immediate circle of seamen and merchants, to include such prominent landowners as Sir Thomas Carew. In 1409, moreover, he was one of a group of Dartmouth men who harboured John William* of Kingswear, thus defying a royal writ for his arrest. His solidarity with his fellows is further suggested by the Council’s insistence that he and Edmund Arnold should enter into bonds for 500 marks in order to make sure that the younger John Hawley would appear in Chancery. It was Carew and Hawley II who, in 1412, asked him to act as an arbitrator in their dispute with men of Paignton over a captured Breton vessel; and in the same year Corp was party to a conveyance of the manors of Combe-in-Teignhead, Godford and Columbjohn, then held by the widow of Sir John Prideaux*.5 Corp was returned to Parliament for the second and last time in May 1413. He probably died before February 1417 when Arnold is recorded as occupying his post as water bailiff at Dartmouth.

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. H.R. Watkin, Dartmouth, 353. Eleanor is erroneously described in Trans. Devon Assoc. c. 32 as the elder John Corp’s grand daughter.
  • 2. Watkin, 72, 75, 105, 387; CP25(1)44/63/46.
  • 3. Watkin, 288, 294; C47/6/4/7; Trans. Devon Assoc. xcviii. 191.
  • 4. CPR, 1391-6, p. 565; 1401-5, pp. 219, 329; E101/41/38; C1/3/130-2; CIMisc. vii. 282, 376.
  • 5. CFR, xii. 57; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 511; 1402-5, p. 129; 1405-9, pp. 437, 479; 1409-13, p. 130.