BURGIS, Richard (-d.1620), of St. Mary's ward, Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorks.
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Family and Education
Burgis’s origins are obscure: a man of this name matriculated as a sizar from Trinity, Cambridge at Easter 1576,10 but the MP is more likely to have been apprenticed to a merchant. A newcomer to Hull, Burgis first appears in trade records in 1589,11 buying his freedom and joining the Hull Merchants’ Company in 1592.12 Between 1589 and 1595 he imported about 700 weys of Scottish salt.13 He initially carried on this trade under licence from the courtier Sir Thomas Wilkes†, who held a monopoly to supply Hull and its outports before assigning it to the town corporation in 1591.14 This import business must have been lucrative, as Burgis was able to lend the corporation £150 towards the outright purchase of the salt monopoly from Wilkes in 1594-5.15
Burgis undoubtedly hoped to acquire a share in the salt monopoly, and must have been disappointed when the corporation granted it to a rival consortium in August 1595. His activity in the trade ceased a few months later, and he had no further involvement until 1616, when he was part of a consortium licensed to erect salt-pans at Scarborough.16 Although appointed one of the town’s chamberlains in 1596,17 customs records suggest that his subsequent trading activities were on a small scale, exchanging a few hundred cloths a year for wine at Bordeaux, together with occasional adventures to the Low Countries for sugar and spices.18 The post of chamberlain was the most costly and time-consuming office in the municipal hierarchy,19 and Burgis perhaps found it difficult to bear. Coupled with his business troubles, it is not surprising that he played no further part in the borough’s government until 1606, when he was elected sheriff.20
As sheriff, Burgis was responsible for the conduct of the parliamentary by-election held on 9 Mar. 1607 to replace the deceased alderman Anthony Cole*. The town’s steward, Robert Cecil†, 1st earl of Salisbury, recommended one of his clients, Sir Edward Michelborne†, whom the corporation subsequently claimed to have endorsed. However, at the hustings Burgis ignored this nomination, and proceeded instead by the more usual method of putting the names of two aldermen to the assembled burgesses.21 He eventually allowed Michelborne’s name to be included, but the victor was the apparently reluctant alderman Joseph Field.22 Despite the apologetic tone of the mayor’s letter informing Salisbury of Michelborne’s defeat, it is likely that the corporation used the by-election to deliver a rebuke to the earl for having neglected the town’s economic interests: their letter was accompanied by another which drew attention to the mistreatment of the town’s whalers by the king of Denmark,23 an old grievance for which they had pressed Salisbury to secure them compensation since 1599.24 They certainly felt no animosity towards Burgis, electing him to the aldermanic bench four months later, and (as customary with new aldermen) to the mayoralty in the following year.25
At the next general election, in 1614, Burgis was himself returned to Parliament in place of Field. He left no trace on the Commons’ records, nor does any of the surviving evidence suggest that he corresponded with his constituents during the session, as Cole had done. However, the Hull burgesses were named to the bill to prevent the appointment of ‘brewers and tipplers’ as magistrates (31 May), a measure the borough’s godly aldermen would doubtless have welcomed. Additionally, Burgis, who had himself invested in at least two whaling voyages in 1609 and 1611, was probably briefed to promote the cause of the Hull whalers against their rivals in the London-based Muscovy Company in 1614. The Hull Trinity House had sent a petition to London on the whalers’ behalf at the beginning of the year, and the question was twice ordered to be considered by the Commons at the end of May, but was delayed by the furore which blew up over Bishop Neile. On 1 June, order was made for ‘Hull and Muscovy, upon Tuesday next’ [7 June], but this was the day on which the Parliament was dissolved.26
Burgis’s finances, already declining in 1613, apparently collapsed during his sojourn at Westminster.27 This was either due to neglect, or to his recent purchase of a one-eighth share in the newly erected town waterworks, for which he borrowed £100 from the wealthy mariner Thomas Ferres.28 Unable to repay this modest debt, he turned to his father-in-law for assistance, but the two men were still disputing the ownership of the waterworks share in 1618.29 Burgis looked to the corporation for assistance, asking for a lease of the lucrative post of borough weighmaster in place of the incumbent, James Watkinson*. Though unsuccessful, he was granted £20 for the following year, ‘in regard of his former pains taken at divers times to London and otherwise about the town’s businesses’. The allowance was renewed for another year on 10 Feb. 1620, but Burgis was buried in St. Mary Lowgate on 17 April.30 No will has been found, and his estate was probably too small to justify an administration. None of his descendants remained in Hull after his death, nor were any subsequently returned to Parliament.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Simon Healy
- 1. Their earliest recorded child was baptized on 5 Mar. 1590, see Yorks. ERRO, PE158/1, p. 24.
- 2. Yorks. ERRO, PE158/1, p. 24, PE185/1.
- 3. Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. iii. 307. Their mar. lic. is recorded in Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xi. 217.
- 4. Yorks. ERRO, PE185/1.
- 5. Hull RO, freemen’s reg. 1443-1645, f. 118v; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, ff. 301v, 369-70, 375, Bench Bk. 5, f. 35v.
- 6. E359/5, m. 31 (dorse).
- 7. Hull RO, Merchants’ Soc. Reg. 1647-1706.
- 8. Spanish Co. ed. P. Croft (Lond. Rec. Soc. ix), 98.
- 9. Select Charters of Trading Cos. ed. C.T. Carr (Selden Soc. xxviii), 65.
- 10. Al. Cant.
- 11. Hull Trinity House, acct. bk. 2, f. 213.
- 12. Hull RO, freemen’s reg. f. 118v; Merchants’ Soc. Reg. 1647-1706.
- 13. The figures, some conjectural, are taken from Hull Trinity House, accts. 2, ff. 213-69v passim; about half of the cargoes are specifically stated to have come from Scotland. A wey was equal to 21 cwt.
- 14. E. Hughes, Studies in Admin. and Finance, 45-56; Hull RO, D.760.
- 15. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, ff. 287v, 288, 292, 293v.
- 16. Hull RO, D.760; Hull Trinity House, accts. 2, f. 264; Scarborough Recs. 1600-1640 ed. M.Y. Ashcroft (N. Yorks. RO, xlvii, 2nd edn.), 66.
- 17. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, f. 301v.
- 18. His trading interests after 1600 can be pieced together from E122/67/31; E190/311/11; 190/312/6, 7; 190/313/5.
- 19. The Chamberlain’s accts. in Hull RO, BRF2, reveal that each had to pay a £20 fine on their appointment, and to lend the town £100 to cover any shortfall in their accounts at the end of the year.
- 20. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, f. 369.
- 21. This was the method ordained by the letters patent of 1443, see Charters and Letters Patent of Hull translated J.R. Boyle, 52.
- 22. HMC Hatfield, xix. 65.
- 23. Ibid. xix. 66.
- 24. Ibid. ix. 349; x. 62; xi. 152, 588; xii. 70, 296; xv 124-5, 208; xvi. 43-4, 239, 445; xvii. 20; xviii. 253; xix. 513; xxiii. 105-6, 219; xxiv. 61.
- 25. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, ff. 370, 375.
- 26. E190/312/6, ff. 20v, 34v; 190/312/7, unfol.; Misc. (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. cxvi), 24; CJ, i. 494b, 502a, 503b; Hull Trinity House, acct. bk. 3, f. 144; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 444-5.
- 27. Having imported 40-80 tuns of French wines in 1605, 1609 and 1611 [E122/67/31; E190/312/6, 7], he received just under 16 in 1613 [E190/313/5]. His name is not mentioned in the port bk. for 1614 [E190/313/8].
- 28. Hull RO, D.797A/1; VCH Yorks. (E. Riding), i. 371-2.
- 29. Hull RO, D.797A/2; Borthwick, Reg. Test. 35, f. 239v.
- 30. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, ff. 30v, 34v; Yorks. ERRO, PE185/1, unfol. (17 Apr. 1620).