ELLIS, Richard, of Great Yarmouth, Norf.
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Family and Education
s. of Richard Ellis of Yarmouth by his w. Joan.
Bailiff, Yarmouth Mich. 1418-19, 1423-4, 1427-8, 1430-2.2
Collector of customs and subsidies, Yarmouth 28 Nov. 1420-26 Oct. 1426, 17 Nov. 1431-18 Aug. 1433, ?31 Dec. 1446-5 June 1447; controller 14 Sept. 1428-5 Nov. 1431, 24 Oct. 1433-5 Mar. 1438.
J.p. Yarmouth 23 Oct. 1431-aft. July 1443.
Dep. butler in Yarmouth and Kirkley, Suff. 24 Oct. 1432-c. Nov. 1434.
Richard Ellis belonged to one of Yarmouth’s most prominent families. His father and namesake had been one of the ‘great and powerful men’ of the town accused, at the time of the Good Parliament of 1376, of oppression of the lower orders, and he had served as a bailiff in 1386-7. A prosperous merchant, dealing in cloth and herring, that older Richard owned a number of properties in Yarmouth, including a ‘fish-house’, curing-houses and quays, and although in September 1393 he was ‘languishing and infirm in his mansion’ and unable to go to the borough court, it may nevertheless have been he, rather than his son, who spent from February to May 1398 at sea as master of the royal barge, the Nicholas de la Tour, sailing to and from Brittany to purchase bay salt for the King’s household.3 Richard senior died before 1413 when his widow, by then the wife of William Neville of Yarmouth, confirmed her son in possession of three shops which she held as jointure.4
Ellis was actively engaged in trade by 1410, his principal mercantile interests being, like his father’s, cloth and herring. He was not, it seems, always fair in his dealings: in an undated petition to the chancellor the widow and executrix of Richard Drewe asserted that she had failed in her suit against him in the sheriffs’ court at Norwich for a debt of £47 owed for cloth and malt purchased from her late husband, because Ellis was, as she put it, of the sort ‘that purposeth moche untrowth to dyvers men’. Nevertheless, he was highly regarded in his home town where he served as bailiff for five terms. By virtue of this office he shared responsibility for making the returns of the elections to the Parliaments of 1419, 1431 and 1432. In 1429 he and his kinsman, Robert Ellis II*, were two of only four burgesses named on the electoral indenture, and on other occasions he acted as mainpernor for those chosen — doing so for the same kinsman in May 1421, for Robert Cupper* in 1427, and for his fellow bailiff, John Pynne †, in 1432. In the meantime, when, in July 1424, ‘diverse contentions and discords’ had arisen in the town between John Fastolf† and Geoffrey Pamping*, Richard and his relative, Bartholomew Ellis, were chosen ex parte Fastolf to act as arbiters.5
Ellis was regularly employed in the customs service at Yarmouth from 1420 to 1438, and it was as Bishop Beaufort’s nominee that he was appointed a collector of revenues in 1423 and 1425. In October 1432 he received a writ of aid on being nominated deputy butler by Beaufort’s cousin, Thomas Chaucer*, the King’s chief butler, with authority over Kirkley Road as well as Yarmouth itself; and he probably continued to hold this post until Chaucer’s death two years later. He was among the Norfolk notables who were ordered in May 1434 to take an oath not to maintain lawbreakers in the county.6 Ellis served for upwards of 12 years as a j.p. in Yarmouth, being last appointed in 1443, and it may have been he who was customer in 1447.
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. Only the first name remains on the return: C219/12/2.
- 2. Norf. Official Lists ed. Le Strange, 155-6.
- 3. CCR, 1374-7, pp. 470-1; E122/149/22; Norf. RO, Gt. Yarmouth ct. rolls C4/92, 103, 104; E364/31 m. G.
- 4. Yarmouth ct. roll C4/124.
- 5. E122/150/2, 9; C1/71/14; C219/12/3, 5, 13/5, 14/1-3; Yarmouth ct. roll C4/133.
- 6. CPR, 1429-36, p. 407.