ABBOT, Robert, of Melcombe Regis, Dorset.
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Family and Education
s. of John Abbot*.
Bailiff, Melcombe Regis Sept. 1415-16, 1417-19, 1421-2.1
Robert Abbot’s first term as a bailiff of Melcombe Regis coincided with his brother John’s† bailiffship of the neighbouring town of Weymouth. Both were merchants, and they often acted together in commercial dealings and on important occasions. For instance, they both attended the elections for the knights of the shire for Dorset held at Dorchester in October 1422. While John Abbot was one of the burgesses who attended the county court in other years to report the parliamentary election results for the borough of Weymouth, Robert appeared there on behalf of Melcombe (being so assigned in 1429, 1431, 1432, 1435 and 1437). On the last occasion he is known to have done this (1437), report was made of the election of his other brother, William†. Robert may well have been the eldest brother; at least he was the only one of the family to appear on the list of county notables required to take the oath administered throughout England in 1434 for the enforcement of the statutes prohibiting maintenance.2 He was evidently not always law-abiding himself, however: later that same year, indeed, he and his brother John were, as joint-owners of a barge called Le Petir of Weymouth, held responsible for the capture off Barfleur of the Seint Julian, the seizure of her cargo of wine which was worth 225 marks, and the subsequent imprisonment at Melcombe of her passengers, including an attorney in royal service at Rouen. In January 1435 orders were issued for the arrest of the vessels and for the production of the prisoners in Chancery; and a month later the Abbots, together with the master of their barge, entered into recognizances for 500 marks with Clement Mark, who had chartered the Seint Julian, agreeing to accept arbitration or abide by the award of the chancellor, Bishop Stafford of Bath and Wells. Whatever the outcome of this episode, it failed to dissuade the Abbots from further exploits at sea; and in March 1436 one of their ships was in the small fleet which captured the Seint Nunne while she was at anchor in the harbour of St. Pol de Léon (Brittany). It was not until the autumn that the sheriffs of the west country shires were ordered to arrest the culprits, and there is no evidence that the Abbots ever suffered any penalty.3
Robert Abbot is last recorded in November 1449 when he stood surety in the shire court at Dorchester for the appearance in Parliament of the Melcombe burgesses, thereby endorsing the election of two outsiders, John Gloucester of Southwark and Andrew Keble of London, both of whom were high-ranking officials at the Exchequer.4