UMFREY, Roger, of Lostwithiel, Cornw.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
m. 1402, Joan, wid. of Joss Aleyn of Lostwithiel.1
Clerk to the receiver of the duchy of Cornw. c. Mich. 1374-5, 1382-3, Feb. 1388-Mich. 1389.2
Controller of the stannaries, Devon Mich. 1374-5, Cornw. June-Mich. 1376.3
Mayor, Lostwithiel Mich. 1378-8.4
Commr. to restore lands wrongly escheated, Cornw. Oct. 1385.
Roger was probably a descendant of Reynold Umfrey who in 1337 occupied a house at Lostwithiel. He himself acquired two tofts and two acres of land in the town in 1372, and six years later he undertook the farm of part of a moor on the banks of the river Fowey at Restormel, the lease from the duchy of Cornwall being for seven years. At the same time, as mayor of Lostwithiel, he held the fishery of the river at farm from the duchy, to the use of the townspeople. Umfrey took a general interest in local affairs: he is known to have attended borough courts on several occasions.5
The two main interests of Umfrey’s career, his mercantile commitments and service as an official of the duchy, were closely interwoven. There is ample evidence of his trading activities, which were centred on Lostwithiel, many of his commercial transactions being made under the seal of the local statute merchant. Over the years from 1367 onwards, he sued out several writs from Chancery to start legal proceedings to secure payment of debts, which took the form not only of large sums of money but also of consignments of uncoined ‘white’ tin. This was clearly the most profitable commodity Umfrey dealt in: there are records of him bringing cartloads of tin weighing 6,000 lbs. at a time to the coinage hall at Lostwithiel, and his contacts with various London pewterers suggest that a large proportion of such consignments was shipped to the capital. Not that this was his only trading interest: in 1387 he was reported to have in his possession part of a cargo of alum illegally taken by men of Dartmouth from a Genoese vessel. There is some evidence of occasional financial embarrassment: in 1392 he had debts of £14 outstanding to the receiver of the duchy, Robert Thorley; four years later he owed £20 to Sir Henry Ilcombe’s* brother, William; and in 1398 he was sued by one of the duchy auditors, Thomas Kent, for the sum of £40. But whether these were, indeed, debts arising from his mercantile ventures, or were rather incurred in his capacity as an official of the duchy, is difficult to determine.6
The profits from the coinage duty on tin mined in Cornwall and Devon, which amounted on average to some £2,500 p.a., were payable to the duke of Cornwall. The collection of such sums was naturally a major concern for the officials of the duchy, and it was probably through Umfrey’s involvement in the tin trade that he came to the notice of the duchy administration. This had happened by as early as 1371 when, at a meeting of the assession court of the duchy, he stood surety for the feodary, Henry Nanfan†, who was then taking on the farm of the tin mines at Helston-in-Kerrier. Within three years he had assumed the position of assistant to the receiver of the Cornish estates of the duchy, Ralph Trenewith I*, not only in the collection of local dues but also in his less routine business in London. At the same time he was serving as controller of the Devonshire stannaries and collector of the revenues owing to Exeter castle, offices which were also accountable to the duchy exchequer. How long he continued to act as clerk to the receiver is uncertain, but at the assession court held in 1378 he went surety for Trenewith when the latter took on a lease of the duchy cellars in Lostwithiel, and he is known to have also served under two of Trenewith’s successors, William Brantingham* and Robert Thorley, although, regrettably, the surviving records do not reveal whether he was continuously in office from 1374 to 1389 and beyond. Umfrey came into contact with many duchy officials both in the course of his duties and at a private level: in 1385, for example, he provided sureties at the Exchequer for the steward of the duchy, Sir John Kentwood*, when the latter was granted a lease of the borough of Lostwithiel and other duchy properties.7 No doubt his position in the duchy administration carried considerable weight when the burgesses of Lostwithiel came to consider his candidacy for election to Parliament.
In April 1385 the prior and monks of the Benedictine house at Tywardreath, close to Lostwithiel, were instructed to admit Umfrey to a lodging there, relinquished to that end by Roscelin d’Ostery, the constable of Restormel castle. This corrody was granted to him for life, probably as a reward for past services, but in 1392 he gave it up so that one Joss Aleyn (to whom, incidentally, he owed the large sum of £300) might enjoy it. Aleyn died early in 1402, whereupon Umfrey promptly married his widow. Together, that same year, he and Joan conveyed to Richard Respryn*, a prominent local lawyer, eight messuages, six acres of land and rents in Lostwithiel and Penkneth. Umfrey was still alive and suing his debtors in June 1405. The date of his death has not been traced, but he certainly died before 1425 when William Bunte, Joan Aleyn’s son-in-law, was still bringing actions for non-payment of several debts owed to Umfrey and Joss Aleyn, some of which had been outstanding since 1370.8
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
- 1. C241/218/5, 219/57.
- 2. SC6/812/14, 818/11, 819/1.
- 3. SC6/812/14, 15.
- 4. E306/2/3; C241/164/17, 73, 165/113, 114, 178/85.
- 5. E306/2/3; Cornw. Feet of Fines (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. 1914), 659; Caption of Seisin (ibid. xvii), 38; SC2/161/6; C241/178/50.
- 6. E101/263/19; CCR, 1385-9, p. 227; C241/162/91, 163/6, 165/113, 173/27, 174/81, 180/39, 185/54, 186/32-34, 187/9.
- 7. E306/2/2, 3; C241/164/17, CFR, x. 126.
- 8. CCR, 1381-5, p. 630; 1389-92, p. 549; Cornw. Fines (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. 1950), 838; C241/195/25, 218/5, 219/57.