I’m researching the Hampshire roots of Richard Rich, mercer and Sheriff of London, d 1464 or 1496, and of the other Richard Rich, c1497-1567, Henry VIII’s execrable Lord Chancellor of “Man for all Seasons” fame.
Richard Rich the mercer was the son of Richard Rich esq of London, who died in 1415, according to Wotton’s ”Baronetage of England” (1771), and was the son of "John le Rich of Rich’s Place, Hampshire, son of Robert le Rich t Edw III (1327-1377), son of John le Rich of Rich’s place, t Edw II (1307-1327)". This lineage has been copied into subsequent accounts of the family, but has it ever been verified? Can this impossibly vague “Rich’s Place Hampshire” be identified?
For Lord Chancellor Rich two conflicting accounts of his parentage have been produced. One is that he was born in London, the son of another Richard and great-grandson of Rich the mercer. The other is that he was born in Basingstoke, the son of John Rich of Penton Mewsey, Hampshire, who died about 1509, and Agnes his wife.
This is where the story gets fascinating, but mystifying.
The Penton Mewsey connection
The Rich family of Andover did indeed have property in Penton Mewsey, Andover, but at a very much earlier date. The family were long established as merchants in Andover. In 1270 Alexander le Riche represented all English wool merchants in delicate negotiations with the Flemings who bought their wool. In 1277 Alexander and Thomas le Riche of Andover were granted licences to export large amounts of wool, which they bought from farmers from Cricklade to Somerset, through Southampton. Both Alexander and Thomas were very prominent and active in merchant gild matters in Andover . In 1278 Thomas le Riche of Andover and his wife purchased land in Penton Mewsey, while Alexander and Philip le Riche, another active merchant, bought fields in Andover.
It looks as though the next generation - consisting of a John le Riche with a brother Thomas, who may be the same as John, son of Philip, with a brother Alexander - wound down the Andover operations. In 1319 John le Riche is the last member of the family to be mentioned in the gild rolls. Other local surnames continue to recur through the generations, but the Riches are gone. Old Thomas died, and young Thomas le Riche sold the property in Penton Mewsey in 1322. John, presumably the son of Philip, sold the field in Andover in 1329.
There are occasional sightings of Riches in Hampshire after that – a John le Riche witnessed a deed at nearby Freefolk in 1326 and a Thomas le Riche one in Andover in 1333 – but there are no signs of activity and no known record of family property in Penton Mewsey after 1329.
It seems likely to me that these Andover wool merchants are the ancestors of Richard Rich the mercer, and I wonder if other researchers agree. It would be apt for Richard Rich to be apprenticed as a mercer if his family were in the cloth trade as wool merchants. I can find no other Riches in Hampshire, or almost anywhere else, at that period. The dates for John le Riche of Andover match with Wotton’s John of the reign of Edward II. I speculate that the Riches moved from Andover to London, perhaps maintaining a country home in Hampshire. The only people called Rich that I can find in London at that time are a John son of John le Ryche in 1318, and John le Ryche the elder and younger in 1389.
I’m wondering if anybody has more information about early Riches, of if there is any proof of the existence of a John Rich of Penton Mewsey in 1509 and his wife Agnes.
I can provide detailed sources if anybody responds to this thread.