EMERY, William (d.1431/2), of Canterbury, Kent.

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



May 1413

Family and Education

m. (1) bef. Sept. 1409 Christine; (2) Agnes.

Offices Held

Bailiff, Canterbury Mich. 1404-5, 1409-10, 1413-14, 1416-17; jurat 1407-9, 1412-13, 1415-16, 1417-19, 1427-9, 1430-d.1


Emery’s career in the law began in the 1380s with him building up a practice as an attorney in the court of common pleas, notably in the business of registering conveyances of landed property in Kent. He was already well acquainted with William Makenade, a fellow lawyer who a few years later was to achieve local prominence as the archbishop of Canterbury’s steward, and it may be that Makenade assisted in his training. He also had contact with two future judges, both with Kentish connexions: William Rickhill and William Brenchesle. In 1384 Emery was made a trustee for the sale to Makenade of the reversion of the manor of Horton by Roger, de jure Lord Northwood, and arrangements for the further settlement of this property were still requiring his attention 25 years afterwards.2 From 1387 to 1409 he made regular appearances as an attorney at the Kent assizes, held at Rochester, Canterbury and Dartford; and during that same period he frequently acted as a surety for defendants in lawsuits begun in the locality.3 His practice in the central and regional courts led to his acquaintance with members of the Kentish gentry, such as Nicholas Potyn*, as well as with successful local lawyers like Stephen Bettenham and William Ellis*. In the spring of 1399 he was nominated as a general attorney for persons who were about to join Richard II’s expedition to Ireland. In 1400 a yearly rent of 20 marks from the manor of Shawstead in Chatham was quitclaimed to him and others by Sir Robert Bealknap, the former chief justice. On occasion he would be given a brief by one of the religious houses of the shire, among them the priories of Tonbridge and Rochester and the abbey of Lesnes.4

Emery’s involvement in the affairs of Canterbury had begun by 1396, when he received from the city’s coffers the sum of 13s.4d., in order to pay another lawyer engaged to appear on the community’s behalf at the assizes; and he was elected bailiff for the first of four terms in 1404. No doubt his counsel was often given to the civic authorities, although there is no record of his ever receiving a fee on a regular basis. In November 1409 he and four others obtained a royal licence to grant a messuage in Canterbury to the commonalty as an endowment for works on the city walls and fortifications. Perhaps this was the same building as Le Lyon which he and others formally conveyed to the bailiffs and citizens two years later, for eventual use as an extension to the guildhall. Emery was present at the parliamentary elections held at Canterbury in 1411, then attesting the composite indenture for the shire and both its boroughs. When returned to Parliament for apparently the only time, at the beginning of Henry V’s reign, he was serving as one of the city’s 12 jurats.5

The fruits of Emery’s professional career enabled him to become established as a landowner. He is recorded from 1382 onwards making purchases of parcels of land and other properties scattered throughout east Kent, but concentrated in the main on Harrietshaw and Canterbury. According to the assessments made in 1412 for the purposes of taxation, his landed holdings then provided him with an annual income of £20 6s.8d.6

Emery was still active, as a feoffee of lands to the south of Canterbury, in 1427. In his will, made on 11 Mar. 1431, he required his executors to settle on his widow his house in Stour Street, Canterbury, and to ensure that she received not only the £20 she had brought him as a marriage portion, but also another £20 from his estate, together with all her own household stuff and half the contents of their home. He died at an unknown date sometime after Michaelmas 1431 and before 26 Aug. 1432, when the will was enrolled in the burghmote court of the city.7

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. Canterbury Cathedral City and Diocesan RO, city accts. FA1, ff. 79, 83, 104, 115d, 128, 133d, 182, 186, 200d, 207d; List Canterbury Officials comp. Urry and Bunce, 49.
  • 2. CP25(1)108/214/172, 218/269; CCR, 1381-5, pp. 607, 612-13; 1385-9, p. 131; 1405-9, pp. 264-5, 360-1.
  • 3. JUST 1/1498 m. 20, 1503 mm. 73, 76, 1512 mm. 64, 66; CCR, 1389-92, pp. 96, 481; 1392-6, pp. 130, 358; 1399-1402, p. 569; 1402-5, pp. 380-1.
  • 4. CP25(1)109/226/454, 110/234/665, 235/679; CPR, 1396-9, pp. 551, 554; CCR, 1399-1402, p. 277; 1402-5, p. 54; JUST 1/1512 m. 65d, 1521 m. 48.
  • 5. CPR, 1408-13, p. 150; Canterbury accts. FA1, f. 25; ‘Civis’ (W. Welfitt), Mins. Canterbury Recs. no. xxxiv; C219/10/6.
  • 6. CP25(1)108/219/287, 109/229/548, 232/610, 110/234/672, 111/249/1036, 253/1153, 259/143, 112/272/470; Feudal Aids, vi. 470.
  • 7. CCR, 1422-9, p. 386; Canterbury burghmote reg. O/A1, f. 40d.