BIERE, Walter, of Shaftesbury, Dorset.

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



Jan. 1397
Sept. 1397
May 1413
Nov. 1414

Family and Education

m. (1) by 1393, Alice, 1s; (2) Agnes.

Offices Held

Mayor, Shaftesbury Mich. 1392-3, 1401-2, 1404-6.1

J.p. Dorset 1 July 1396-1423.

Commr. of inquiry, Dorset July 1397 (tithes due to Holy Trinity church, Dorchester), Wilts., Som., Dorset July 1405 (estates of Thomas, Lord West); to confiscate stolen goods, Shaftesbury July 1402; of array, Dorset May 1416.

Bailiff, Shaftesbury abbey estates, Dorset by Feb. 1400.2

Verderer, Gillingham forest 29 Oct. 1408-?d. 3


Much of Walter Biere’s early career was spent as an attorney at the central courts at Westminster; he is often found acting there for defendants in suits for debt, trespass and breach of the peace, and providing securities in Chancery for his clients’ good behaviour. He evidently established a successful legal practice attracting business from as far away as Leicestershire and Kent besides places nearer home in Dorset and Wiltshire. In 1380 he was asked to stand surety at the Exchequer for John Bedford, the newly appointed royal alnager of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, and among the more interesting of his cases was a defence to charges of debt brought by the executors of Archbishop Sudbury (following the latter’s murder in the Peasants’ Revolt).4 Biere’s frequent absence from Shaftesbury did not mean that he neglected local affairs: he was mayor for at least four terms, including that of 1392-3 during which he was returned to Parliament for the first of ten times; and he was often asked to witness conveyances of property in the town, as well as on occasion to act as a feoffee for local tradesmen.5

After his nomination as a j.p. in 1396 Biere made fewer appearances in the central courts, for the next 25 years devoting more of his time to the local bench and to the business of other royal commissions. In October 1398 he did, however, appear as mainpernor in the Exchequer for Thomas Cammell of Shaftesbury, his fellow Member of 1393, when the latter took over a lease of part of the Poynings inheritance. Since 1368 Walter’s kinsman, Robert Biere*, had been an annuitant of Shaftesbury abbey, and his own connexion with the nunnery may have been furthered by this relationship. On 20 Jan. 1397, when up at Westminster for his third Parliament, he had taken out a royal pardon for himself, his first wife and their son John for failing to obtain a royal licence for a grant to them by the abbess, Cecily Fovent, of four shops and a solar in Shaftesbury for term of their lives;6 and it was as bailiff for the abbess that Biere defended her in a suit of novel disseisin brought before the Dorchester assizes three years later.

Biere’s property was situated mainly in Shaftesbury. He lived on Gold Hill and as well as the shops granted him by the convent he owned a garden in Cop Street and a house in All Saints’ parish. In 1402 he sold the last to Robert Fovent*, a kinsman of the abbess, and a few years later it formed part of the foundation of St. Katherine’s chantry in the abbey church. He also held a short lease on land at Compton Abbas, about two miles from Shaftesbury. Biere was one of four delegates sent to the shire court at Dorchester to report the results of the borough elections to the Parliaments of 1407, 1414 (Apr.), 1420, 1421 and 1422, having in the meantime, on the occasion of his own last attendance at Parliament (1417), witnessed the indenture of return for the knights of the shire for Dorset.7 His omission from the first commissions of the peace for Dorset to be sent out in Henry VI’s reign, in July 1423, perhaps suggests that he died earlier that year. The date of his widow’s marriage to Robert Watercombe is not known.8

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Egerton 3135, ff. 36v, 37v, 76, 80v, 111v.
  • 2. JUST 1/1513 m. 13; Harl. 61, f. 123.
  • 3. C242/8.
  • 4. CCR, 1377-81, pp. 378, 462, 481, 510; 1381-5, p. 394; 1385-9, pp. 110, 130, 151, 276, 314, 436, 460, 477, 484, 489, 658, 664.
  • 5. Egerton 3135, ff. 36, 37, 68; Harl. Ch. 78 D16; Shaftesbury Recs. ed. Mayo, 37 (D15), 76.
  • 6. CFR, xi. 282; CPR, 1396-9, p. 60.
  • 7. Shaftesbury Recs. 76 (D14); Egerton 3135, ff. 67, 74v; Dorset Feet of Fines, ii. 284; C219/10/4, 11/3, 12/2, 4-6, 13/1.
  • 8. Shaftesbury Recs. 36, 78 (D51).