Looking at a possible link between the Boucher family of Holbeach, Lincolnshire, that used the same arms as our Fermer family.
The earliest Boucher records in Holbeach to date are Richard Boucher 1327, 1332 and another Richard in 1377. Earlier records are in Norfolk: Robert 1312 Swaffham, Bartholomew 1316 Grimston, John 1326 Stanhoe and his father Auger.
I'm investigating if there is a link with the Fermer family of Norfolk. The earliest Norfolk records to date are Simon 1227 and 1232, and Henry who held a manor at Pudding-Norton for one year in 1219. The records then jump 100 years to Richard in Burnham from 1330 to 1356. In 1359 he had to relinquish the Burnham estate. This coincides with the records for William as the vicar at Barsham from 1358 to 1398.
Humberside, Melton : William le Fermour bc 1250 (father of Roger, 1303 record), John le Fermour 1301/2 record. Welton : Thomas and Ricardo Fermour, 1379 poll tax.
Norfolk, Pudding-Norton : Henry Fermer, 1219-20. No location : Simon Fermer, 1227/1232. Burnham : Richard le Fermer, 1330-1359 (family moves to Barsham). Barsham : William Fermer, 1358-1398. King's Lynn : John Fermer, 1389 and 1397. Ar. on a saltire az. (sometimes sa.) betw. four lions' heads erased gu. ...a chief of the second charged with an anchor and two palets of the fourth (Barsham, prob 16th C).
Essex, Foxearth : Robert, bc 1240. Erm. a chev. sa. betw. three roses (1335-9).
Essex, Bumpstead : William le Fermer, bc 1210, Feat of Fines 1238 (question family group). Ar. on a fesse betw. three bucks' heads couped gu. as many bugle horns or.
Gloucester, Paganhill : Henry Fermer, bc 1240.
Oxford : John Fermor bc 1325 (Tusmore, Somerton and Easton Neston family). Arg. on a fess sa. betw. three lions' heads erased gu. as many anchors or.
London : Robert le Fermor, 1321 record. Adam, 1371 record. Lambert, grant of office 1388 & grant 1391.
Sussex, Rotherfield, Welches : John, arrives from Picardy 1327, record in petitions 1358. Gu. a chev. vair betw. three lions ramp. or.
Leicester, Houghton on the Hill : Henry Fermour, 1440. Sa. a chev. betw. three lamps ar. flames ppr.
Leicester, Hugglescote : Thomas Warde alias Farmer, born in Cheshire c.1515-25. Vair ar. and sa.
Bedford, Elsworth : William Hobson alias Fermour, 1434. John, 1441. (Adopted Fermour surname after 1430).
My findings are steering me to conclude that Richard de Tours, the abbot of Leicester Abbey, was not a member of a Fermer/Finemer family but most probably from the Turville family (the same as John de Tours) from Normanton Turville.
An explanation for him using the name Firm' in the tax return might be it was a nickname that he liked and chose to adopt... Richard the Firm Abbot.
In Burke's General Armory there is an entry for Fermer that presents the same arms as the Finemer Oxfordshire family. Burke attributes this to a Fermer family of Norfolk and Suffolk. Research has found this to be unfounded:
The original source Burke bases this entry on is found in the British Museum Catalogue of Seals Volume 2, 1892 by W. de G. Birch. Page 790, seal number 9669: William Fermager, knight (AD 1400-1) Cast in red composition from imperfect impression. 1 inch. A shield of arms: ermine, two chevrons, FERMER etc. Within a carved cinquefoil panel. * Sigillum : willelmi : .ermager...
A 'furmager' or 'fermager' is a tax 'farmer', paying the king a fee for the right to collect the tax in a given area. www.furminger.org.uk
Burke may have referred to 16th Century records for the Firmage family held at the National Archives relating to Norfolk and Suffolk.
A Calendar of Patent Rolls record dated 1374 places William le Furmager in London:
...a tenement late of William le Furmager in the said parish of St. Martin Oteswiche, situated between the land and garden late of the said James on the north and the land of the said William le Furmager, which he bought from the heirs of Mabel de Stonhous, and the land and shops of Isabel relict of Peter le Hoder on the south.