KEPE (KEEP), John (d.1406), of Bishop's Lynn, Norf.
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Family and Education
Tronager and pesager of wool, the port and Staple of Lynn 8 May 1374-d.
Poll tax collector, Lynn Mar. 1377.
Councillor, Lynn Mich. 1378-9, 1380-3, 1384-6, 1387-8; chamberlain 1379-80.2
Controller of war subsidies 16 June 1379.3
Commr. of arrest, Lynn Feb. 1384.
Collector of customs and subsidies, Lynn 20 Mar. 1388-July 1389.
Kepe purchased admission as a burgess of Lynn in the same year that he was first appointed tronager of wool in the port, 1374. This office, granted initially during royal pleasure, was confirmed to him by Richard II in 1377 and 1392, and he did in fact hold it for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, in June 1377, a royal commission of oyer and terminer had been set up following a complaint by the overlord of the town, Bishop Despenser of Norwich, that Kepe and other burgesses had assaulted him there and, threatening murder, chased him to St. Margaret’s priory where they besieged him. They were also alleged to have killed 20 horses and attacked the bishop’s officers and servants.4 But none of this evidently did him much harm in the eyes of his fellow townsmen: he was chosen as an elector of the municipal officers on 11 occasions between 1375 and 1393, and of the parliamentary burgesses in 1376, 1378, 1383, 1386 and 1394. He went surety in 1397 for the appearance in Parliament of Roger Rawlin.5
When, in June 1379, in response to a petition by the Commons, the admiral of the north, Sir Thomas Percy, was ordered to defend Scarborough and the neighbouring shores, Kepe was named among the 16 men who, from eight east-coast ports, were directed by Parliament to supervise his accounts. About this time, too, as master of the King’s ship La James, he petitioned the chancellor for a commission to impress mariners in Norfolk, and in November 1380 he purchased 20 shields and 17 lances from the town authorities of Lynn, perhaps to arm these men. Similar duties again came his way in September 1386, when the bailiffs of Great Yarmouth were ordered to allow him to conscript seamen there, the reason being that he was under royal instructions to have all ships in ports within the admiralty of the north assemble in the Thames estuary for purposes of defence against French attack. The following year he provided securities in Chancery that a Newcastle merchant would sail his ship to Yarmouth where it was to be detained. It was allegedly as a result of the great losses and injury Kepe had suffered at sea that, in April 1388, the town council of Lynn exonerated him from a fine imposed by the court leet.6 But being engaged in royal service of one kind or another did not prevent Kepe from trading on his own account. Among the commodities he dealt in were evidently coarse salt (a cargo on the Trinity of Lynn in 1390 was worth £40), dried fish, wine, corn, timber, iron and cloth.7
Very early in Henry IV’s reign, on 11 Nov. 1399, Kepe’s office of tronager was given him for life. He died shortly before 7 Apr. 1406, when a groom of the King’s chamber secured the post.8
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. His son, William, entered the freedom of Lynn on 2 Dec. 1383 by payment of a fine of £2, as he had been born bef. John’s own admission (Red Reg. King’s Lynn ed. Ingleby, f. 169). William was farmer of Gooderstone (Norf.) for the earl of Arundel bef. 1397 (CIMisc. vi. 263).
- 2. Red Reg. ff. 121, 127, 161d, 164, 166-8.
- 3. RP, iii. 63b; CPR, 1377-81, p. 355.
- 4. Cal. Freemen Lynn, 20; CPR, 1374-7, p. 502.
- 5. Red. Reg. ff. 116-17, 124d, 126, 129, 131, 133, 135, 156-8, 160-1, 168-9; C219/9/13.
- 6. SC8/306/15282; CCR, 1385-9, pp. 169, 357; Red Reg. ff. 129, 166.
- 7. E122/93/31, 94/12; N.S.B. Gras, Early Eng. Customs System, 531-2, 540, 546.
- 8. CPR, 1399-1401, p. 74; 1405-8, p. 166.