LANGMEDE (LONGMEDE), Nicolas (by 1489-1541), of Dartmouth and Topsham, Devon and London.
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Family and Education
b. by 1489. m. issue.2
1st bailiff, Dartmouth 1512-13, mayor 1517-18, 1518-19, common councilman by 1541.3
Nicholas Langmede was probably a native of Dartmouth, where there had been namesakes of his since the mid 15th century, and as such he would have been admitted to the freedom of the borough by patrimony in 1510. (If it was he who was disfranchised in the year after his admission, his offence was presumably slight and the sanction temporary, for within another year he had been appointed bailiff.) Yet it was in London that he appears to have served his apprenticeship, even though he may not have practised his trade there long: in 1527 he was to be described as late a haberdasher of London. He had evidently spent much of his earlier life in Dartmouth, where his municipal career spanned the years from 1512 to 1519, but during the next decade he appears in quite other contexts.4
It was perhaps during the Parliament of 1523 that Langmede was the subject of a case of privilege: he was arrested in London but as he was a ‘servant’ of the 2nd Duke of Norfolk the sheriffs were ordered to release him. In what capacity he served the duke, or for how long, is not known, but in October 1532 he was to write to Cromwell from Spain hoping that both the King and the new Duke of Norfolk would be good to him, as he was ‘yet able to serve 20 years’. Langmede’s association with Cromwell may have originated in their common interest in the cloth business, and their first known contact arose from a commercial dispute. On 18 Mar. 1523 Cromwell and John Prude, acting as arbitrators for the court of requests between Langmede and another haberdasher, William Jeffery, ruled that Langmede should pay Jeffery 6s.8d. and a butt of malmsey ‘at such time as the said Nicholas by the grace of God shall next return out of the parts of Levant’.5
By this time Langmede was evidently engaged in overseas trade and it is the vicissitudes of his maritime career which yield most of the further information about him. In the arbitration he was described as of Topsham and this was one of the ports from which he was to trade with northern Spain and the Netherlands as his chief destinations. In 1523 Cromwell had written to John Creke that Langmede was merry, ‘which hath paid William Wilford’, one of the leading London merchants trading with Spain, but three years later he was in trouble when the two ships in which he was engaged to carry a cargo to the Levant for Sir John Brydges were unable to set out from Dartmouth owing to an embargo on sailings. In 1533 he was hit much harder. In September he wrote to Cromwell from Blackfriars, whither he had returned from a disastrous voyage to Corunna: he himself was ‘undone’ and his wife and children were ‘sparkled’ among his friends, and only Cromwell’s favour could help him recover his lost goods. Langmede’s experiences were shared by many English merchants, for relations with Spain were rapidly deteriorating at this time.6
Whether on this occasion Cromwell was able to rescue Langmede we do not know, but the minister’s favour must have helped him to a place in Parliament 14 months later, when he was by-elected at Dartmouth on 20 Dec. 1534 in place of William Holland, who had obtained the King’s leave to withdraw. Langmede had to wait for more than a year before he took his seat, but his attendance during the final session of this Parliament probably resulted in his sitting in its successor in the following summer, in accordance with the King’s general request for the return of the previous Members. Nothing is known of his part in the proceedings of the Commons, and there is no evidence that he was paid by the town; but if his business affairs were still suffering from the effects of the setback of 1533 he may have benefited, as he had done 13 years earlier, from the protection against creditors which Membership afforded.
Little has been discovered about Langmede’s further career. For upwards of a year he kept in touch with Cromwell. In January 1537 he sent the minister a detailed account of the plundering of two ships in Dartmouth harbour and accused William Holland, whom he had succeeded in Parliament, both of instigating this and of being an inveterate trouble-maker in the town; and in the following September he commended to Cromwell an ex-mayor of Dartmouth who had been summoned to appear before the King and Council. That is the last of the correspondence, but Langmede is known to have outlived the minister, being named on a list of Dartmouth common councilmen compiled in April 1541. No will or other evidence has survived to show when he died, but the Nicholas Langmede who was involved in the conveyance of Brixham manor in Easter term 1563 is less likely to have been a man in his seventies than a younger namesake, perhaps a son.7
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: Roger Virgoe
- 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament; Exeter city lib. Dartmouth ms 1982, f. 179v.
- 2. Date of birth estimated from admission as freeman. LP Hen. VIII, vi.
- 3. Add. 24773, f. 75v; Exeter city lib. Dartmouth mss 1982, ff. 8, 46v, 60v, 66; 2003, f. 6.
- 4. H. R. Watkin, Pre-Reformation Dartmouth, 137, 145-6, 254; Add. 24773, f. 148v; CCR, 1500-9, pp. 90, 92.
- 5. LP Hen. VIII, iv, v, xxi; Req.2/4/245.
- 6. Req.2/6/146; Merriman, Letters, Thos. Cromwell, i. 314; G. Connell-Smith, Forerunners of Drake, 64; LP Hen. VIII, vi, add.
- 7. LP Hen. VIII, xii; Exeter city lib. Dartmouth ms 2003, f. 6; CPR, 1563-6, p. 168.