NAPTON, Robert, of Barnstaple, Devon.
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Family and Education
Napton is first recorded in October 1376, when nominated by Richard Vernon to act as his attorney in England during his absence overseas. By 1388 he had built up a legal practice in the central as well as the local courts: he appeared for the plaintiff in a complicated suit in the court of common pleas over land in Budshead and Little Ernesettle; and in 1392 he stood surety at the Exchequer for Sir William Sturmy* when the latter was granted custody of part of the manor of Tawstock. In July 1396 he was asked by Sir Thomas Fleming, Baron of Slane, to deal with his legal affairs over the next two years while he was away in Ireland. At the assizes at Exeter in the same year Napton provided bail for Robert Cobbley*, who was bound over to keep the peace after insulting the mayor of Barnstaple.1 In the year of his first return to Parliament, Napton was at law in the common pleas on his own account, bringing a number of suits for debt, so he evidently had personal reasons for wanting to be at Westminster. He seems to have also dabbled in trade: certainly in 1406 eight ‘dozens’ of russet and white cloth were shipped from Barnstaple in his name. He is last mentioned, in 1410, starting an action at the assizes for the recovery of an acre of land at Barnstaple.2