RIVER, Adam de la, of Oxford.

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



Nov. 1390
Jan. 1397
Sept. 1397

Family and Education

m. (1) Mariota (d.1375), wid. of Roger Lyford of Oxford; (2) bef. 1380, Alice, 1s. 1da.1

Offices Held

Bailiff, Oxford Mich. 1380-2, 1412-13; surveyor of nuisances 1384-5.2

Commr. to make proclamation against and arrest rebels, Oxford June 1381; arrest Irish rebels and spies Jan. 1387.

Tax collector, Oxford Dec. 1414, Nov. 1415.


Though a native of Ireland, de la River was evidently established in Oxford by 1371, when he was cited before the chancellor of the university’s court for debt. In 1380 he paid 3s.4d. as poll tax. Evidently, he was not at that time among the most substantial burgesses, but it was in the same year that he first became bailiff. He then served ex officio on a royal commission to make proclamation against the rebellious peasants of 1381, with authority to arrest and punish them. Three years later he was one of the townspeople forced to enter into a bond in Chancery undertaking to keep the peace towards the scholars of Merton college.3

It was presumably de la River’s Irish birth which gained him a place on a commission of 1387, authorized to arrest Irish rebels alleged to have entered England as spies. The commissioners, however, evidently abused their power, for in the following month a second body, now including the sheriff of Oxfordshire, Thomas Barantyn*, was instructed to investigate their misdeeds: it was alleged that de la River and his associates had ‘for gain arrested divers trusty Irish students in the university of Oxford, the King’s lieges’, and had extorted money from them. To what extent these accusations were true is unknown, but when there was a general expulsion of Irishmen from England in 1394, and de la River himself needed a licence to remain in Oxford, he only obtained it in return for the exceptionally large payment of 40s., the usual one being 6s.8d.4

De la River served in both the Parliaments of 1397, and thus became deeply involved in the dispute over tolls between Oxford and the City of London then in progress. When he attended the January Parliament, he and his fellow Member, Walter Benham, were asked by the mayor, Richard Garston*, to purchase a royal writ confirming the right of local merchants to be free of toll when trading in London and, when de la River attended the Commons again in September following, it was he who, along with his colleague, John Ottworth, presented this writ to the civic authorities. They seem also to have proffered a second writ, but the Londoners refused to concede the case.5 After officiating as bailiff for the second time in 1412-13, notwithstanding a break of 20 years, in November following de la River was required to renew his licence to live in England, now paying a fee of 20s. His last recorded act occurred in 1419, when he was present at the borough elections to Parliament.6

De la River’s property in Oxford included Chimney Hall in Merton Street (acquired through his first marriage) and a large house in High Street called ‘Swynbroke’s’ which he and his second wife rented from St. John’s hospital. From the commonalty he leased all the town ‘ditch’ from Eastgate to Smithgate, which was about 600 yards long, together with the area between it and the wall. That section of the ditch contained several fisheries.7

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: Charles Kightly


  • 1. Oxf. Hist. Soc. lxvi. nos. 537, 608-9.
  • 2. Ibid. xxxvii. 18, 20; Bodl. Twyne ms 23, f. 351.
  • 3. CPR, 1391-6, p. 454; Twyne ms 9, f. 106; Oxf. Hist. Soc. xviii. 11; CCR, 1381-5, pp. 451-2.
  • 4. CPR, 1385-9, p. 322; 1391-6, p. 454.
  • 5. Oxf. Hist. Soc. lxxi. no. 180; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, pp. 248-9; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 436.
  • 6. CPR, 1413-16, p. 122; C219/12/3.
  • 7. Oxf. Hist. Soc. xv. 263; lxvi. nos. 537, 608-9; lxxi. no. 164; (ser. 2), xiv. 202; Twyne ms 23, f. 171.