The Beeby or Beby name in Medieval Leicester

An article contributed by Roger T. Beeby of Leicester, U.K.   August 25, 2000 

Note: Roger has also contributed articles about the village of Beeby in Leicestershire - click here.

Spelling was not an exact business in the 14th Century. The names are as in the documents of the time.

There are some well-documented mentions of the name Beeby or Beby in a scholarly booklet entitled:

"The Religious Gilds of Medieval Leicester"

It was written in 1979 by Jonathan Wilshere, a meticulous and respected local genealogist and local historian.  In the book he gives a detailed bibliography of all his research. The book is now out of print, but available for reference in the Leicester and County Record Office.

Religious Gilds

These Gilds were an important part of the social and religious life of most towns and cities during the 14th –16th Centuries.  Most of the leading citizens were members of the Guilds.  Leicester in the 14th Century was a town of about 4000 people and there were 6 Gilds.

 Each Gild usually held an annual procession and had a feast day.  The Gilds usually maintained a priest to pray for the members and were allocated an altar in a Chapel in one of the Churches.

Note: Trade Guilds were different and united together people of one industry or Craft. They undertook early quality control, and organised the training through apprenticeship schemes and were concerned to enhance the reputation of the Craft.

Members of the Religious Guilds or Gilds were often among the more wealthy and influential people in the town. Many became members of Parliament or Mayors or members of the Town Council.   The half-timbered Guildhall in Leicester is now a museum and is one of Leicester’s historical attractions.  It was built for the Corpus Christi Gild when it was founded in1343. The Guildhall is next to St Martin’s Church (Now the cathedral since 1927).

The Corpus Christi Gild was a large and influential Gild and had a Chapel in St Martin’s Church, the Parish Church of the town. One of the founders of the Gild was Thomas de Beby

The Gild of St Margaret and St Katherine was founded in 1355 and one of the founders was Richard de Beeby.  St Margaret’s Church is probably the finest medieval church in Leicester. Richard de Beeby was a wealthy Mercer (cloth merchant) and was the Member of Parliament for Leicester in 1341 and 1348.

Thomas de Beby was also a member of the Gild of St Margaret and St Katherine

He was Mayor of Leicester in 1362 and 1368 and was also a wealthy Mercer.  He was a Member Parliament for Leicester in 1351, 1355, 1360 and 1361.

Thomas died in 1383 and in his will left money to the Gild of St Margaret’s and St Catherine.

Thomas de Beeby also left some money to the small Gild of St Michael’s. He was at one time Chaplain to this Gild that was based in the small Church of St Michael. (The Church was closed by 1487 and does not now exist.) Whilst at this Church, he was Charged (Prosecuted) by the full Portmoot (Town council) in 1378/9 for Trespass and had to pay a distraint (fine) of a ‘tabard and slop and a bed, price 20 shillings.’

The relationship between Thomas and Richard is not clear.

An unsolved mystery is whether Richard and Thomas came from the Village of Beeby. The village is about 6 miles from Leicester and there is no mention of it in the booklet. It would perhaps be possible to assume that these two had connections with the village in view of the ‘de’ in their name. This is Norman French for ‘of’. Many educated people following the Norman Conquest in 1066 spoke French.

The parish records of Beeby go back to the early 17th Century and there are no mentions of the family name Beeby in the parish register.