RYDER, William (d.1432/3), of Totnes, 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



Nov. 1414

Family and Education

s. of William Ryder of ‘Barlecomb’. m. Joan, s.p.

Offices Held

Mayor, Totnes Nov. 1405-11, 1414-16, 1418-19, 1428-9.1


It could have been the MP’s father who acted as an attorney at the assizes at Exeter in 1395 and at the parliamentary elections held in the city two years later stood surety on behalf of John Gunne.2 But he himself evidently already held a position of some importance in Totnes and was first elected mayor only eight years afterwards. Moreover, he was to be the most prominent townsman of Totnes in the early 15th century. Between 1405 and 1429 he served as mayor for at least ten annual terms; and it was probably he who promoted the rebuilding of the parish church of St. Mary. During his seventh mayoralty, in June 1415, a memorandum recorded that in future there would be celebrated on the vigil and festival of St. George the Martyr an anniversary, called ‘Seynt George hys myndey’, for the souls of all persons contributing towards the fabric of the church; and by his will he bequeathed £2 towards this work (a sum which he said he had promised to donate if the other parishioners fulfilled their obligations), plus an extra 34s.8d. payable over a period of four years. The townspeople were not uncritical of some of Ryder’s achievements, however: in May 1416 they presented a list of specific grievances, stating in conclusion that he did not safe-guard the liberties of the town as they had been looked after in the past, and that they wished in future to have better advice for preserving their rights. Three years later another jury, this time empanelled at Exeter by royal commissioners, claimed that through his negligence a felon had escaped from the prison at Totnes.3

On the last noted occasion Ryder was described as a ‘gentleman’, and this description is perhaps borne out by his circle of acquaintance. In 1407 he had acted as proxy for the rector of Combe Raleigh on the occasion of his presentation to the benefice by Sir Thomas Pomeroy*, and in 1420 and 1431 he witnessed deeds at Bridgetown on behalf of Edward Pomeroy*, esquire. Then, too, at the parliamentary elections of 1423 and 1431 he stood surety for another ‘gentleman’, William Cosyn* of Totnes. Meanwhile, a different encounter had been much less amicable: in 1421 Sir John Beaufo* of Seaton (Rutland) alleged that Ryder and other men of Totnes had assaulted him, imprisoned him at Exeter, and stolen from him goods worth £40. However, royal pardons granted to Beaufo himself for two murders committed during an affray at Totnes seven years earlier indicate that the affair was more complicated than he was now pretending.4

In the year of his only return to Parliament Ryder had been assessed third highest among contributors to the parliamentary subsidies collected at Totnes, and two years later he bore the largest share (4s.) of any townsman (except for John Simon, a mercer and sometime mayor, who contributed the same amount). He evidently derived a comfortable income from his properties in Totnes and nearby Bridgetown, which were to be divided after his death between the three sons of Robert Ryder, probably his brother.5Ryder made his will on 18 Nov. 1432. He requested burial in the cemetery of St. Mary’s church, beneath the processional path leading from the nearby Cluniac priory. As well as leaving 2s. for ten masses to be sung in the priory and 6d. to every monk dwelling there, he made small monetary bequests to local chantries and also for repairs to Totnes bridge, all of which, together with his provisions for the fabric of St. Mary’s, amounted to more than £4. He died before 6 Feb. 1433, when Bishop Lacy of Exeter granted probate at Chudleigh. Lacy noted that ‘suas robas dum vixit gerentis’, which may perhaps be taken to mean that Ryder had been a lay official of the diocese.6

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. H.R. Watkin, Hist. Totnes Priory and Town, 930, 933; CI Misc. vii. 573.
  • 2. JUST 1/1502 m. 217d; C219/9/12.
  • 3. Watkin, 332, 335; P. Russell, Totnes, 22; CIMisc. vii. 573.
  • 4. Reg. Stafford ed. Hingeston-Randolph, 158; HMC 15th Rep. VII, 142; C219/13/2, 14/2; CPR, 1416-22, pp. 36, 52, 260, 329.
  • 5. Watkin, 325, 328, 1080.
  • 6. Reg. Lacy (Canterbury and York Soc.), iv. 16-18.