TURK, Sir Robert (d.1400), of London and Hitchin, Herts.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
s. and h. of John Turk (d. by 1363) of London and Redleaf, Kent. m. (1) by July 1363, Alice, da. and h. of John Preston of London; (2) by Sept. 1375, Beatrice (d. by 1400), da. of Sir Edward Kendale (d. by 1373) of Hitchin by his w. Elizabeth (d.1375), and sis. and h. of Sir Edward Kendale (d.s.p. 1375), 1da. Kntd. between Apr. and Oct. 1378.1
J.p. Herts. 6 Dec. 1375-Apr.1378, 26 May-Aug.1380, 14 Dec. 1381-Feb. 1384.
Commr. of inquiry, Herts. Dec. 1375 (felonies and crimes); array Apr., July 1377, Mar. 1380, Dec. 1399; oyer and terminer Mar., Dec. 1382 (suppression of the rebels of 1381); to try a case in the ct. of chivalry, Mar. 1397; of sewers, Herts. June 1398.
Assessor of a tax, Herts. May 1379; collector Dec. 1384.
Sheriff, Essex and Herts. 1 Dec. 1396-3 Nov. 1397, Herts. 17 Nov. 1398-22 Aug. 1399, 30 Sept.-3 Nov. 1399.
Robert Turk grew up in London, where, in accordance with established family tradition, he joined the Fishmongers’ Company. He was fortunate in his early connexions, for besides numbering several members of this, the richest and most powerful of city guilds, among his kinsmen, he was also related to Edward III’s chamberlain, Bartholomew, Lord Burghersh. The latter used his influence to obtain a benefice for Robert’s brother, John, on his graduation from Oxford in 1353, and from then on the young clerk rose steadily in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, collecting a number of extremely lucrative livings and becoming chancellor of his university in 1376. Our MP seems to have owed rather more to the help of his uncle, Walter Turk (d.1352), a former sheriff and mayor of London, and Alexander Turk, his cousin, who was made keeper of the tronage and pesage there in 1357. It was to Alexander that he conveyed the property in London and Redleaf which descended to him on his father’s death, in or before 1363, and which appears to have been worth at least £60 a year. Robert and his first wife, Alice Preston, were, however, faced with debts in the order of 200 marks at this time, and most of their revenues were mortgaged to the skinner, John Devenishe.2
In the following year Turk twice acted as a surety, once in Chancery for a London clergyman, and once before the city chamberlain for a fellow merchant. He was himself in need of mainpernors soon afterwards, since when the Fishmonger’s Company split into rival factions in the spring of 1365 he and his cousin found themselves at odds with Nicholas Exton† and his associates, one of whom was already their sworn enemy. The involvement of journeymen and apprentices in this unedifying dispute led to a serious outbreak of rioting which the civic authorities found hard to quell. Although Robert Turk and the other protagonists were bound over in several sums of £40 to keep the peace as early as 19 Mar., a royal writ issued at the end of April suggests that their employees kept the quarrel alive upon the streets. No more is heard of Turk until December 1368, when he obtained royal letters patent permitting the appointment of two attorneys to act for him in England while he was absent in Flanders. He was back in London by March 1370, the date of a bond in £200 offered to him by one John Idelegh of Kent as security for the repayment of an unspecified loan.3
Turk’s fortunes changed dramatically as a result of his second marriage, which took place at some point before September 1375. His wife, Beatrice, was the daughter of the wealthy landowner, Sir Edward Kendale, who died in 1373, leaving a substantial estate in southern England to his son and heir, Sir Edward. Perhaps as a result of an outbreak of plague or some other epidemic, the latter died suddenly two years later, along with his mother and his younger brother, Thomas, the next heir. Thus it was that in the autumn of 1375 Turk and his wife became seised of the manor of Woodcroft and various rents in Luton, Bedfordshire, the manors of Shalden and Sherfield in Hampshire, and of Hitchin, Wakeley, Moor Hall in Ardeley, Dinsley Furnival and Pepsall in Hertfordshire, together with other property at St. Albans and extensive farmland in the same county. In 1376, Elizabeth, widow of Sir Edward Kendale the younger (who was subsequently to marry Sir Thomas de la Barre*), conveyed the Hertfordshire manor of Titburst and Kendals to Robert and Beatrice Turk for life, thus further consolidating their position as local rentiers. We do not know if the messuage and land in Orwell, Cambridgeshire, which our Member held on his death came to him through his wife. She certainly took possession of several shops and tenements in London, although Sir Robert and his brother John eventually obtained permission from the Crown for the foundation of a family chantry at Hitchin, which was to be financed out of this part of the Kendale inheritance.4 Turk shrewdly retained control of the revenues of his own holdings in the City, and even added to them over the years by renting property from his neighbours. The death of his brother, in or before 1397, further improved his financial position, since he then inherited an impressive number of shops and tenements in various parts of London. Consequently, even though it was burdened with such charges as the annuity of ten marks settled by him on Laurence Pavenham, Sir Robert’s yearly income from this quarter alone must have been considerable. According to an indenture of February 1402 between his daughter, Joan, and the feoffees then in possession of his estate in London, he was sure of at least £95 p.a.; and as late as 1412 his executors were said to receive over £38 p.a. from the city property still in their care.5
Abandoning his mercantile career for the life of a country gentleman, Turk took up residence at Hitchin and was soon appointed to the Hertfordshire bench. In the spring of 1378 he received royal letters of protection pending his departure overseas in the retinue of Sir Michael de la Pole, admiral of England, who was then mounting an expedition to fight in Brittany. He appears to have been knighted shortly before his first return to Parliament for Hertfordshire, which took place in the following autumn, and within the year he began preparations for a return to Brittany. From this date onwards Turk maintained a close and active interest in local government (attending six more Parliaments and serving three terms as sheriff of Hertfordshire) while still remaining involved in military affairs. He took part in the naval battle fought off Margate in March 1387, when the earl of Arundel scored a brilliant victory over a combined French, Spanish and Flemish fleet; and in September 1391 he appointed attorneys before leaving for the duke of Gloucester’s ill-fated expedition against the Prussians (which was disbanded at Tynemouth). He also expected to sail with the duke to Ireland in the following year, but nothing came of these plans, either. It was, in fact, Richard II’s Irish campaign of 1394 which saw Turk’s last known spell of active service, again as one of Gloucester’s retainers, with royal letters of protection for an absence from England of six months.6 Other letters patent of December 1380 exempting our Member from various crown appointments and official duties evidently did not betoken any immediate desire on his part to avoid such responsibilities, although by April 1395, when these letters were re-issued, he had ceased to sit on the local bench and his parliamentary career was already at an end. Undue significance cannot be placed on the letters of pardon accorded to him in June 1398 by Richard II, since these seem to have been made out to him as a matter of routine. Indeed, his readiness to serve two terms as sheriff during the politically tense last years of Richard II’s reign may perhaps indicate a degree of personal attachment to the court party, especially as he was paid wages of £8 in July 1399 for leading a force of II men under the command of the duke of York, to whom Richard had entrusted the defence of the realm in his absence. His partisanship did not, even so, preclude his re-appointment to the shrievalty on the very day of Henry IV’s accession. His removal from this post a few weeks later was probably the result of ill health rather than any change in his political fortunes, since he died just after the following Christmas.7
Comparatively little evidence of Turk’s personal affairs has survived. From 1377 onwards his name appears frequently among the witnesses to property transactions in Hertfordshire, but he was never much in demand there as either a mainpernor or a feoffee-to-uses.8 In October 1386, he was owed a debt of £9 10s. by two Hertfordshire men, and some 11 years later he again lent money, this time making an advance of 40 marks to the King. He had already paid a similar sum to Richard II in September 1392 as the purchase price of letters patent for the foundation of the chantry at Hitchin which occupied much of his attention during the early 1390s. In November 1396 one John Peioun of Luton was pardoned his outlawry for failing to appear in court when sued by Sir Robert for breaking his contract of service: there is, however, nothing to suggest that the MP was of a generally litigious disposition.9
Since Turk’s second wife predeceased him, the Kendale estates, together with most of his own possessions in Kent and London, descended immediately after his death to his only daughter and heir, Joan, the wife of John Waleys of Glynde in Sussex, whom she had married some two years previously.10
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. J.E. Cussans, Herts. (Edwinstree), 97-98; CIPM, xiv. nos. 152-4; CCR, 1360-4, pp. 555-6; CFR, viii. 207, 319; C137/23/36; Beds. RO, Report on the Luton Hoo Estates mss, pedigree.
- 2. Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. ed. Emden, ii. 1916-17; Beaven, Aldermen, i. 205, 266, 386; PCC, i. 253; CPR, 1354-8, p. 621; CCR, 1360-4, pp. 555-6; CIPM, xii. no. 194.
- 3. Cal. P. and M. London, 1364-81, pp. 27, 35; Cal. Letter Bk. London, G, 169-70, 185-6, 190-2; CCR, 1364-8, p. 46; 1369-74, p. 179; CPR, 1367-70, p. 181.
- 4. C137/23/36; Cussans, (Hitchin), 54; (Edwinstree), 97-98; R. Clutterbuck, Herts. iii. 349-50; CIPM, xiv. nos. 152-4; VCH Herts. ii. 156, 197; iii. 8, 197; iv. 21; CFR, viii. 207, 319; CPR, 1391-6, pp. 162-3; Beds. RO, D.D. DW 50-52.
- 5. Corporation of London RO, hr 120/3, 27, 30, 129/101, 105-6, 130/79, 90, 132/47; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37. p. 204.
- 6. Rot Gasc. et. Franc. ed. Carte, ii. 121, 130; E101/40/33 m. 6, 74/1 no. 12; Foedera, ed. Rymer (orig. edn.), vii. 706; CPR, 1391-6, pp. 490, 509.
- 7. CPR, 1377-81, p. 559; 1391-6, p. 563; C137/23/36; C67/30 m. 18; E403/562 m. 14.
- 8. CCR, 1377-81, pp. 98, 519; 1381-5, pp. 226, 231, 286, 405; 1385-9, pp. 468-9; 1389-92, pp. 60, 344, 350-1; 1399-1402, pp. 111, 308-9.
- 9. C143/421/2; CCR, 1385-9, p. 262; CPR, 1391-6, pp. 162-3; 1396-9, pp. 129, 180.
- 10. C137/23/36; CFR, xii. 82, 107; CCR, 1402-5, pp. 9-10; Corporation of London RO, hr 129/106, 130/90, 142/21, 58, 65, 75; N. Saul, Scenes from Provincial Life, 180.