17 May, 2019

Rohese Burford née Romeyn, Merchant of London (c. 1286-1329)

On 17 May 1317, Edward II paid fifty marks to Rohese or Rose Burford of London - half of what was owed to her - for making an embroidered cope as a present from Queen Isabella to Pope John XXII. [1] What do we know about Rohese Burford? Quite a lot, as it happens.

Rohese was said to be forty years old in 1326, hence was born in or around 1286, so was just slightly younger than Edward II. She was one of the four daughters of Thomas Romeyn and Juliana Hauteyn; her sister Margery was younger, born about 1290, and married Robert Upton before December 1312 and secondly William Weston before June 1326, and their other sisters Alice and Joan became nuns at Holywell Priory in Shoreditch. Rohese's father Thomas Romeyn or Romayn almost certainly was Italian or at the very least was of Italian origin (Romayn = Roman), and was a well-off pepperer, i.e. he worked in the lucrative spice trade. Thomas was sheriff of London in 1290/91, acted as alderman of Cordwainer ward from 1294 until his death, and was mayor in 1309/10. He wrote his will on 21 December 1312 and it was proved on 19 May 1313, so he had died by then. Thomas mentioned all four of his daughters in his will, his wife, and his daughters' aunt 'Dame Cristina de Kent', also a nun of Holywell. [2

Thomas Romeyn's wife Juliana, Rohese's mother, by birth was a Hauteyn, a well-known London family of the era, and died in May 1326. Her heirs to the lands, houses and tenements she owned in London, Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Middlesex were her two secular daughters, Rohese Burford and Margery Weston. [3] Juliana Romeyn was probably the sister of Philip Hauteyn, also a pepperer; Philip wrote his will in 1304 and mentioned his mother Juliana, and another 'Juliana, the wife of Thomas Romeyn' was appointed as one of his executors. [4] The Romayns lived in the parish of St Mary Aldermary on Watling Street, at the junction with Bowe Lane.

At an unknown date sometime before 21 December 1312 when they are mentioned in her father's will, Rohese Romeyn married John Burford, who, like her father, was a pepperer, and came originally from Southampton. They had three children: James, their heir, born around 1320; Joan, who was older than James; and Katherine. Joan Burford married Thomas Betoyne sometime before March 1329, and her younger brother James rose high: he was knighted before 1 June 1340. Rohese's son-in-law Thomas Betoyne, who must have been a relative of Richard Betoyne (d. 1340), elected mayor of London in late 1326, presumably either his son or nephew, was one of the executors of her will. [5] Richard Betoyne's father William or Guillaume (d. 1305) was French, so the Burford/Romeyn-Betoyne union represented a partly Italian woman marrying a partly French man, who lived in London all their lives.

Rohese née Romeyn and John Burford lived on Soper Lane, a London road which has not existed since the Great Fire of 1666, though it was newly laid out afterwards and renamed Queen Street. Their home belonged to her father Thomas Romeyn. One of their servants there was called Joan de Stodleie, who was married to John de Assheford and had children Thomas, Alice and Joan. [6] John Burford was old enough to pays sixty shillings' tax in the lay subsidy of 1292, and was a sheriff of London in 1303/4. [7] He would seem therefore to have been a good few years older than Rohese, who was only about six in 1292. In 1316, John Burford was one of the pepperers of Soper Lane who created an Ordinance of Pepperers. Another was Richard Betoyne, mentioned above, whose son or nephew married the Burfords' elder daughter Joan. [8] John was still alive on 11 December 1320 and probably in August 1321, but dead by 8 October 1322. [9] Given that his and Rohese's son James Burford was born in or about 1320, the little boy cannot have been more than a toddler when he lost his father.

The widowed Rohese was sufficiently wealthy to be able to lend Brother Thomas Larchier, prior of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, 1,000 marks (£666) in January 1325. [10] Her late husband had lent Edward II the sum of £142, and in the early 1320s Rohese had to petition the king several times asking for the money to be repaid to her as his widow and executor. Evidently a highly capable woman, Rohese ran her late husband's spice business as well as her own wool-exporting business. [11] Rohese Burford née Romeyn wrote her will on Friday, 31 March 1329, and died shortly before 12 April at the age of about forty-three, leaving her nine-year-old son James, later Sir James Burford, as her heir. [12] She bequeathed forty shillings for repairs to be carried out on London Bridge, and requested John Pulteney, then mayor of London, to act as the guardian of her two young unmarried children Katherine and James until they came of age. Sir James' heir was his daughter Margaret. [13]


1) Thomas Stapleton, 'A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh and fourteenth years of King Edward the Second', Archaeologia, 26 (1836), p. 322.
2) Calendar of Wills Proved and Enrolled in the Court of Husting, London, Part 1: 1258-1358, ed. R. R. Sharpe (1889), pp. 238-9; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1321-4, pp. 11-12.
3) Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1317-27, no. 696; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1319-27, p. 393; Calendar of Close Rolls 1323-7, pp. 582-5.
4) Wills Proved, p. 161.
5) CIPM 1327-36, no. 229; Wills Proved, p. 352; CCR 1339-41, p. 481; CCR 1341-3, pp. 550-51. Richard's son was called Thomas, but when Richard wrote his will in 1340 Thomas was married to an Isabella, so presumably Joan Burford had died. Richard also had a brother called Thomas Betoyne.
6) Wills Proved, pp. 354-5.
7) Two Early London Subsidy Rolls, here: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/early-london-subsidy-rolls/pp175-181.
8) Calendar of Letter-Books of London, Letter-Book E, 1312-1337, p. 67.
9) CPR 1317-21, p. 533; CPR 1321-4, pp. 12, 207.
10) CCR 1323-7, p. 336.
11) The National Archives SC 8/178/8894, SC 8/158/7871 and 7872, SC 8/113/5604 and 5605; Calendar of Memoranda Rolls 1326-7, no. 445.
12) CIPM 1327-36, no. 229.
13) https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/surrey/vol4/pp50-64.


Amanda said...

Sweet Edward, what a lovely character he was... I adore him.

Kathryn Warner said...

<3 <3

sami parkkonen said...

Wondeful piece of information which once again shows that even in medieval times there were independent and capable women who forged their own destiny and lives and who excelled in male dominated business and society. There were others too. I can't remember in which city it was, but one French woman ran the biggest bakery business in that city and invested in real estate ending up being one of the property tycoons in that city. If my memory does not fail me totally, there were such women also in imperial Rome who ran successful businesses without any male companions or guardians. So, women have always been capable to shine despite today's ideas and notions.