SOMER, John (by 1484-1526), of Sandwich, Kent and Calais.
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Family and Education
b. by 1484, s. of one Somer of ‘Hennyswell’. m. Alice, da. of one Haman or Harman of Crayford, Kent, 8da.2
Common councilman, Sandwich (St. Clement’s parish) 1505-6, jurat 1506-d., auditor 1510, 1519, mayor 1512-13, 1514-15, 1523-4, 1524-5, clerk of the market 1525-d.; bailiff to Yarmouth 1515.3
John Somer was one of the merchants of the staple pardoned in November 1505 for breaking trading regulations. He was admitted to the freedom of Sandwich ‘by purchase’ on 4 Dec. 1505, when his sureties included John Cock I. A year later he was elected jurat. For refusing to accept office he was committed briefly to gaol but it was not until April 1508 that he submitted and was sworn in. Although his erratic attendance at council meetings led to his demotion being considered in 1511 he assured the town authorities that henceforth he would not be so lax, and not long afterwards he was chosen mayor for the first time. As mayor in 1513 he took part in the discussions about transporting the army to France. He was thrice re-elected mayor, on the last occasion being allowed to travel overseas if necessary and to appoint a deputy, and he frequently represented the town at the Brotherhood of the Cinque Ports at New Romney and the guestling at Dover. In 1520 he received 30s. for helping to convey the King to the meetings with Francis I and the Emperor. Five years later he administered the oath to the incoming lord warden Sir Edward Guildford on behalf of the Cinque Ports.4
To judge from the town records Somer was an irascible man. In an argument on the quayside with John Westcliff in 1516 he detained his opponent by force; in a fracas with James Hobard two years later he hit Hobard and on drawing his knife was himself attacked and wounded by two of Hobard’s sons; and in 1519 he provoked Vincent Engeham into striking him with a knife. Despite these incidents and a series of disputes where violence seems to have been avoided Somer loomed large in Sandwich and its locality. His return to the Parliament of 1523 was an extension of his municipal career. He and his fellow-Member Roger Manwood I were instructed at their departure to report an escape from the Sandwich gaol to the King’s bailiff for the town, Brian Tuke. After Tuke’s replacement by Sir Edward Ryngeley he acted as one of the town’s spokesmen against Ryngeley and it was as a fund-raiser to take the new bailiff to law that he is last glimpsed on 8 Mar. 1526. By a will made on 16 Feb. 1522 and proved on 27 June 1526 he left money for masses to be said for his soul in St. Clement’s church, Sandwich and for that of his father at ‘Hennyswell’. He stipulated that his part in three ships and houses in Calais and elsewhere should be sold and the proceeds divided between his wife and children. He also remembered his brother-in-law Thomas Browne, several nieces and nephews and his ‘gossip’ Thomas Iden, whom he named executor with Browne. His widow married John Boys.5
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: R. J. Knecht
- 1. Sandwich white bk. f. 315.
- 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. PCC 8 Porch; Vis Kent (Harl. Soc. xlii), 39; Berry, Kent Peds. 440-1.
- 3. Sandwich white bk. ff. 138-359v passim; Cinque Ports White and Black Bks. (Kent Arch. Soc. recs. br. xix), 157-201 passim; W. Boys, Sandwich (1792), 418.
- 4. CPR, 1494-1509, p. 448; Sandwich white bk. ff. 140v-323v passim; treasurers’ accts. Sa/FA t. 20, 25; Cinque Ports White and Black Bks. 193.
- 5. Sandwich white bk. ff. 242, 261v-2, 268v, 315, 316v, 360v-1; PCC 8 Porch.