Keywords: medieval London York Lynn Beverley Norwich commerce risks merchants property arrest assault homicide cloth trade fish shipping contracts breach war damage
Subject: Perils of engaging in international trade
Original source: Königsberg State Archives, Pergamentblatt. K 1 daselbst; s. B. Gedrucht: aus K Voigt 5, Nr. 13.
Transcription in: Academies Lubeck. Die Recesse und Andere Akten der Hansetage, von 1256-1430. Vol.3 (ca.1877), 404-411.
Original language: Latin
Location: London, York, Lynn, Beverley, Norwich
Date: 1388


Before the most serene prince and their most dread lord, the lord king of England etc., his liegemen, merchants of those of his cities and towns indicated herein, make a presentation for his wise consideration, in which they vehemently complain of all sorts of injuries, grievances, and damages caused them by the people of Prussia – as are described below – whereof they beg him to obtain due remedy consonant with justice.

First the merchants complain in this regard that in 1385, without them having given any cause for offence, their goods and merchandize, wherever they could be found, were suddenly and outrageously seized and appraised at far lower price than their actual value, with the result that the greater part of their goods and merchandize was lost at no little cost to the complainants.

    The names of the London merchants whose goods being in Prussia, as mentioned, [were] arrested and held, with the amounts due them.

    1. Robert Reynham, to the value of £31
    2. William Reynevelt, to the value of £130
    3. John Kracon, to the value of £32 sterling
    4. Edward Bys and Richard Wedonum , to the value of £44.10s.
    5. Thomas Bloos and John Peper, to the value of £100
    6. Richard Wilesdon, to the value of £3.6s.
    7. Henry Whitewelt, to the value of £4
    8. John Sewalt, to the value of £4.14s.4d
    9. John Whitehed, to the value of £5

    Total: £386.3s.4d.

    The names of the York merchants whose goods [being] in Prussia, as mentioned, were arrested and held, with the amounts due them.

    1. Thomas Howmer, to the value of 54 marks sterling
    2. William de Burton, to the value of 140 marks sterling
    3. John de Schefelt, to the value of 109 marks sterling
    4. Robert Warde, to the value of 180 marks sterling
    5. William de Leuesham, to the value of 210 marks sterling
    6. Alan de Danby and John de Danby, to the value of 85 marks sterling
    7. William de Wytton, to the value of 27 marks 6s.8d sterling
    8. Richard de Sourby, to the value of 29 marks sterling
    9. John de Thorntone, to the value of 60 marks sterling
    10. William Westy, to the value of 6 marks sterling
    11. Richard de Ulleston, to the value of 220 marks sterling
    12. Robert de Duffelt, to the value of 30 marks sterling
    13. John de Sellebarum, to the value of 60 marks sterling
    14. Richard Chace, to the value of 50 marks sterling
    15. John de Appilton, to the value of 60 marks sterling
    16. Robert de Louthe, to the value of 35 marks sterling
    17. William Palmer, to the value of 65 marks sterling
    18. Adam de Burton, to the value of 20 marks sterling
    19. John de Sezay, to the value of 27 marks 6s.8d sterling
    20. William de Sellay, to the value of 20 marks sterling
    21. John de Candeler, to the value of 80 marks sterling
    22. Simon de Wachton and William de Waghton, to the value of 155 marks sterling
    23. William de Reuston, to the value of 55 marks sterling
    24. John de Orewarm, to the value of 207 marks 6s.8d sterling
    25. John Neuby, to the value of 60 marks sterling
    26. Alan de Thacheham, to the value of 110 marks sterling
    27. John Bolton and Roger de Wyhton, to the value of 200 marks sterling
    28. John Grezaere, to the value of 20 marks sterling
    29. Robert Wrenche, to the value of 18 marks sterling
    30. William Tykhilt, to the value of 32 marks sterling
    Total: 2454 English [coinage], which makes £1636

    The names of the Lynn merchants whose goods and merchandize, [being] in Prussia, were arrested and held, with the amounts due them.

    1. John Balunche to the value of £148 sterling
    2. John Kempe, to the value of £300 sterling
    3. John Brandon, to the value of £106.8d
    4. Thomas de Waterden, to the value of £164.9s
    5. Walter Urry, to the value of £116.5s.4d
    6. John Locke, to the value of £120
    7. John Draper, to the value of £67
    8. John atte Lathe, to the value of £100
    9. John Falyate, to the value of £62.8s.4d
    10. Edward Belleyeterre, to the value of £108
    11. Geoffrey de Fransham, to the value of £116
    12. Robert de Waterden, to the value of £40
    13. John Langnyht, to the value of £39
    14. Roger Goldesmith, to the value of £6
    15. Peter Merfey, to the value of £65
    16. Henry Galle, to the value of £51
    17. John atte Style, to the value of £12
    18. Roger Paxman, to the value of £260
    19. Thomas Brekehede, in a debt to Martin Homan of Königsberg, £32

    Total: £1914.18s.4d

    The names of the Beverley merchants whose goods and merchandize, [being] in Prussia, were arrested and held, with the amounts due them.

    1. William Brid, to the value of £90.13s.4d
    2. Richard Aglion, to the value of £17
    3. Henry Brakyn, to the value of £17
    4. John de Oke draper, to the value of £40
    5. Stephen Copindale, to the value of £10
    6. William de Rolleston and John Burgoyn, to the value of £40
    7. Thomas Yole, to the value of 100s.
    8. John Stalker, to the value of £40
    9. Henry Mason, to the value of £13.13s.4d
    10. John Burthon, to the value of £10
    11. Richard Holm, to the value of £23

    Total: £306 sterling

    1. Item, John Seborgh of Colchester had goods arrested to the value of £43.6s.8d
    2. Item, John atte Hall of Hadley had goods arrested to the value of £66.13s.4d
    3. Item, merchants of Boston and Coventry had goods arrested to the value of £300 sterling
    4. Item, John Lamb of Stanfeld in Middlesex had goods arrested to the value of £60 sterling

    Total: £470

    The names of the Norwich merchants whose goods and merchandize, [being] in Prussia, were arrested and held, with the amounts due them.

  • Thomas Ludham, to the value of £30 sterling
  • Thomas Gherad, to the value of £20 sterling
  • William Bakon, to the value of £22 sterling
  • John Daniel, to the value of £18 sterling
  • John Dunfone, to the value of £60 sterling
  • Thomas Fincheham, to the value of £50 sterling
  • Adam Alotys, to the value of £40 sterling
  • Robert Howlyn, to the value of £60 sterling
  • John Moldrehe, to the value of £100 sterling
  • John Caumbruge, to the value of £80 sterling
  • Robert Cao, to the value of £100 sterling
  • Peter Bixton, to the value of £100 sterling
  • John Hare, to the value of £100 sterling
  • John Rythwys, to the value of £100 sterling
  • William Mithe, to the value of £57.13s.4d sterling

    Total: £937.13s.4d

      Grand total of this roll £5650.15s.

These merchants also complain that they are quite astonished how the Prussian authorities, who claim to be protectors of the people, have failed to remedy out of the fear of God the aforementioned injuries and those outlined below, when they were repeatedly requested to do so. Rather, themselves dissembling, they have in the name of justice encouraged or entertained claimants bringing all kinds of trumped up counter-charges before them against the English.

[Several paragraphs follow in which the merchants make a plea, based on various types of arguments, for support from the king.]

These are the injuries or damages which the Prussians have inflicted on English merchants as a whole :

    First, English merchants as a whole have been unjustly injured by the people of Prussia, in that they give support and show favour to the enemies of the king and the kingdom – such as the French, Scots, and Flemings – using their ships to take them arms, victuals, and all kinds of supplies; even worse, they defend and protect those enemies and the enemies' goods with their ships, which openly appeared at Skone, Flanders in 1385, as was determined through the testimony and indisputable proofs of soldiers and other trustworthy persons who were present there.

    Also, whereas English merchants were once free to enter and leave Prussian territory with their merchandize, just as Prussians were in England, it was recently ordained there that no Prussian, upon penalty of death and confiscation of all possessions, nor anyone of another nation, upon penalty of exile, should transport by ship the goods of Englishmen from Prussia to England.

    Also, whereas English merchants were free to sell their merchandize anywhere whatsoever in Prussia, it was recently ordained to their prejudice and damage, under [threat of] a serious penalty, that no Englishman might sell his merchandize in Prussia [except?] in Elbing; as a result of which ordinance the merchants of York and Hull recently lost goods worth over £500.

    Also, it was recently ordained to the prejudice of English merchants that, whenever they brought their merchandize to Elbing, they might not (under penalty) remove it again from the town, where previously they were free to bring merchandize in and out, paying the usual customs; as a result of which ordinance, two bundles of cloth belonging to John de Brandon of Lynn were confiscated and his servant Edward Scot was expelled, to the loss of John in the amount of £40 sterling.

    Also, whereas English merchants were accustomed to sell a broad cloth as 42 Prussian ells, it was recently ordained under penalty of forfeiture [of defective cloths] that a broad cloth should be no less than 44 ells, to the loss of merchants in the amount of over one thousand marks per year.

    Also, whereas men of every nationality who contributed to the capture of Skone have been accustomed to salt herring there and freely to take the same away with them, to wherever they might wish; and whereas English merchants were among the first to contribute to the capture of that place Skone, just like many other nations, nonetheless they have been prevented from [accessing] it and right up to the present have been prevented by Prussians and their accomplices from salting herring there, and have been housed in a miserable location; nor [alternatively] have the Prussians bothered to refund the money which they levied from the English (as from other nations), to cover the costs of capturing Skone.

These are the physical injuries which Prussians have recently and unjustly inflicted on Englishmen, without their meriting it:

    Around the year 1383 Richard Harry of Bristol was unjustly and almost without warning beheaded, when according to Prussian law he should have had a year and a day after bringing testimonial letters from English sources concerning his status and character.

    In 1385 Thomas Flotegate, the Prussia-based servant of John Lamb was beaten, wounded, and maltreated, to the damage of 40 marks.

    John de Wyton, servant of John Erewan of Hull, was killed by night and [his body] cast into a pit in Brigstreet in the town of Elbing.

    Roger de Whiton of York was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of £40.

    John Yaraam of York was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of 40 marks.

    William Palmer of York was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of 40 marks.

    John Parker of Hull was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of 40 marks.

    John Sparwe of Beverley was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of 10 marks.

    Henry Mason was stoned and wounded there, to the damage of £40.

    John Hare of Norwich was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of 40 marks.

    John Chaumberleyn of London was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of 40 marks.

    John Spitzer of Lynne was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of £40.

    William Bleckeney of Lynn was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of 40 marks.

    Richard Nel of Lynn was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of 10 marks.

    John Capenote of Lynn was beaten and wounded there, to the damage of 40 marks.

    Hord of Norwich was beaten and wounded there to the damage of 40 marks.

These are the personal damages and injuries inflicted on the English by men of Prussia.

    Thomas Gyrdeler, merchant of London, complains in this regard that, in 1370 in London he placed in a ship called the Cog of Gdansk, whose master was named Lambert Scomaker of Prussia, two bundles of woollen cloth to be taken safely to Prussia or to Skone where the ship would be properly unloaded, in return for a freight-charge for the bundles agreed upon between Thomas and Lambert. With malicious intent, willingly, un-coerced and of his own accord, that Lambert sailed to Sluis, Flanders, knowing it to be the practice according to Flemish law that cloth from other places must be confiscated. With the result that Thomas suffered damages to the value of £250 sterling.

    William Bunnhamm of Whitton and a certain John, servant of John Pulmond of Southampton, at Skone loaded into the ship of John Bonekouse of Gdansk 40 last of herring and other merchandize, to the value of £340 sterling, to be shipped to Southampton and unloaded there. Which John Bonekouse, of his own accord and decision, set sail for Sluis in Flanders where, thanks to that wrongdoing of John Bonekouse, both the said goods and also William and the servant John were captured by the Flemish enemy and William and John were imprisoned – from which imprisonment the enemy refused to release them until paid £50 sterling for their ransom.

    The aforesaid Thomas Gerdeler charges that when Conrad Westfale, master of a certain ship of Gdansk, was attached at the suit of William de Thorun of Harwich, circa 1378, to answer him at the Redecline near London, before the then-admiral Sir Michael de la Pole, and was condemned to pay a certain sum of money, Thomas was compelled as a result of the judgement to pay William £46 sterling (the amount that Conrad was convicted of owing), which he owed Conrad in part satisfaction of shipping fees. Notwithstanding which, later in Prussia Conrad was awarded £46 from the goods and chattels of Thomas; he repeatedly has complained there about it, but so far has been unable to obtain any redress, to the damage to Thomas of £56.

    Gilbert Maufeld, merchant of London, charges in this regard that in 1380 his apprentice Richard Rovet made, in Prussia, a contract with Gerard Brande of Gdansk to buy from him certain merchandize worth 200 [marks?] sterling, on the condition that Gerard guarantee bringing the merchandize to London in his ship within a fortnight after the Easter following, and not otherwise. However, when Gerard defaulted and did not appear by the agreed date – but on the contrary barely within a fortnight after the feast of St. John Baptist [24 June] following – Gilbert was unjustly compelled to accept the merchandize, whereby he suffered a loss of more than 50 marks sterling; he begs him [i.e. the king] to arrange for redress.

    The said Gilbert, Hugh Boys, and John Norwich, merchant of London, charge in this regard that at Skone in 1377 they loaded a ship, of which Conrad Westfale of Gdansk was master, with 60 last of white herring to be sent to London. Conrad, of his own accord and un-coerced, with malice aforethought, changed course for Flanders with the herring, where the complainants were forced to sell each last of the herring for 13 nobles, when each would have been worth 5 marks sterling in London, whereby the plaintiffs suffered a loss of 40 marks sterling; for which they beg him to arrange for redress.

    The said Gilbert charges in this regard that in 1381 he handed over to Lubert von Hulse, master of a ship called the Cog of Gdansk, £35 sterling to load his ship with salt in Bayonne and bring it back directly to the port of London. Lubert, of his own accord and un-coerced, with malice aforethought, changed course for Feyham [Faversham?] with the salt and sold it there himself. Gilbert never received anything from the sale of the salt, except for £10, to his damage of £40; for which he begs him to arrange for redress.

    John Kyrcone, merchant of London, charges that in 1385 he deposited a variety of merchandize in a certain ship of which John Bronn of Königsberg was master, on the understanding it was bound directly for London. That John [Bronn], of his own accord and un-coerced, out of his own malice, set sail for Scotland, where the plaintiff lost the said merchandize to the king's enemies, to his loss in the amount of £18 sterling; for which he begs him to arrange for redress.

    John Sewale of London charges the said John Bronn in this regard, that through his fault he lost in the same ship, time, and place, goods worth £10.6s.8d.

    William Ancroft, citizen and merchant of London, [charges] the same John Bronn in the same case, that he lost goods and merchandize in the same ship at that time worth £12 sterling.

    Hugh Boys charges that through John Bronn in the same case he lost goods and merchandize in the said ship, same time and place, worth 40 marks sterling.

    William Weston of London charges that through John Bronn in the same case he lost goods and merchandize in the said ship, same time and place, worth £40 sterling.

    John Lomb of Colbrook charges that through the fault of the said John Bronn, in the same ship, time, and place, he lost goods worth £200 sterling.

    Henry Lowhton charges that through the fault of the said John Bronn, in the same ship, time, and place, he lost merchandize worth £50 sterling.

    Edward Bys and Richard Weden charge that through the fault of the said John Bronn, in the same ship, time, and place, they lost goods worth £60 sterling.

    John Millyng charges that through the fault of the said John Bronn, in the same ship, time, and place, he lost goods worth £20 sterling.

    Richard Willeston of London charges that through the fault of the said John Bronn, in the same ship, time, and place, he lost goods worth £9.1s.6d sterling.

    The same Richard Willesdon charges that in 1385 he made a contract to put his merchandize in a ship, whose master was called John Stavestein of Prussia, for transport directly to the port of London. John, of his own accord and un-coerced (unless perhaps he was afraid of [his ship] being arrested into the king's service at London), did not wish to hold course for London, but headed to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, whereby Richard suffered a loss of £20.10s.

    Also, Henry Pensyn of Prussia detains Richard's goods worth 59s. sterling.

Total of this second roll: £3073.5s.8d.

Grand total of all the above-written: £8724.8d


The war with France had made sea-based commerce using the English Channel a dangerous business. Many English merchants – especially those based in the north or on the east coast – turned their attention more to northern markets. The Hanseatic League, however, sought to maintain a monopoly on trade with markets stretching from Flanders to Russia. At the same time, their merchants were very active in England, with a base in London, and had a large share of English trade. English merchants wished to establish a similar base in Gdansk, the leading Hanse town, and establish contacts that would bring commercial relations with countries such as Norway.

Whereas Edward III had encouraged alien merchants to involve themselves in English commerce, such as by exempting Hanse merchants from paying customs duties on cloth, the government of his successor Richard II was pressured by the English mercantile class (through parliament) towards protectionism. It refused to confirm the Hanseatic privileges in England until English merchants were conceded similar freedom to trade in Hanse towns, a concession obtained in 1380 on the principle of reciprocity.

Despite this, the English authorities continued to try to cut back on the privileges Hanseatic merchants in England, and in 1382 imposed heavy taxes on Hanseatic merchants operating in England. The Prussian government, led by the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, responded by banning English merchants from Gdansk, and imposing restrictions on their activities elsewhere in Hanse territory. Thus, tensions and hostilities that had become evident in the '70s continued to be a problem. Piratical activities by both sides culminated in the capture by a small English fleet of half a dozen Hanse ships near the mouth of the river Zwin, in 1385. To exact compensation, the Grand Master ordered the arrest of all English goods within his territories. English authorities responded with a reprisal order regarding the goods of Hanse merchants in England. Anglo-Hanseatic trade ground to a halt.

This was the context for the document above, representing the complaints of English merchants about the seizure of their goods. It illustrates how politics and commerce were intertwined, and is a reflection of the perils that merchants could incur in an environment without international laws or treaties. This kind of problem was not uncommon, although did not usually involve quite so many aggrieved parties. It will be noted that in many, and perhaps most, cases, the owners of lost merchandize do not seem to have been accompanying it abroad; rather they placed it in on some occasions in the custody of employees, agents (at least one of whom was based abroad), or perhaps partners, and on other occasions in that of the masters of the ships paid for freighting the goods. In the fourteenth century it was becoming increasingly uncommon for merchants to travel with their merchandize on foreign voyages – indeed, it was not very practical, since, partly as a tactic for reducing risk, merchants tended to divide their wares into smaller shipments sent on different vessels; Richard Britnell ["Sedentary Long-distance Trade and the English Merchant Class in Thirteenth-Century England" Thirteenth Century England V, eds. P.R. Coss and S.D. Lloyd. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 1995, pp.131-32] has shown that tendency developing at even earlier date.

To resolve the dispute, the Grand Master sent ambassadors to the court of Richard II to present the grievances of his merchants. In return, Richard sent two ambassadors – Thomas Graa of York and Walter Sibill of London – to Marienburgh, to negotiate a treaty with the Hanse ambassadors (partly at the cost of the English complainants). The treaty was drawn up on 20 August 1388. It ordered the return of all goods seized by either side and the dropping of complaints related to those seizures; injured parties were to present their cases anew to the opposing side and would receive justice; merchants were to be free to resort to any port in the opposing side's territory, for purposes of commerce; if any future disruption of relations occurred, merchants of the opposing side were to be given time to return safely home with their merchandize.

Although Richard II endorsed this treaty in October, when the Grand Master submitted to him a fresh list of Hanse merchants' grievances, Richard had delayed in replying. Meanwhile fresh provocations occurred, while the Hanse authorities continued to restrict the freedom to trade of English merchants, whom they viewed with suspicion. In 1398, the Grand Master lost patience and declared the 1388 treaty void. These hostilities moved on to an even more bitter phase in the mid-fifteenth century. However, the English merchants who complained in 1388 of their losses seem to have rebounded from the setback; most of the Lynn men, for example, are evidenced as active in international trade in a customs account of 1392/93.



"Thomas Howmer"
Thomas de Howom mercer entered the franchise at York in 1354, probably immigrating from Holme-on-the-Wolds as his brother Robert had done seven years earlier. By 1354, Robert was already a moderately important member of the community, having served as chamberlain and bailiff, and was to be mayor in 1368. Thomas followed suit, serving as bailiff in 1366 and mayor in 1373 and 1374; he was probably a member of the city's upper council by that time, and certainly by 1378, to his death in 1406. Thomas and Robert were prominent in figures in the economic and political life of the city; they were often partners in trade ventures involving wool and cloth, and even bought a house together in Calais (for a while the sole staple through which wool had to be exported). Thomas was party to an important legal case which led to diminution of the power of the admiralty court. Much of the wealth he accumulated from commerce was used to acquired substantial property in York and in the countryside of Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire.

A mark was the equivalent of 13s.4d.

"William de Burton"
There were numerous men of this name living in York during the reign of Edward III. The likeliest candidate for the William named in this document was the mercer who served as chamberlain in 1367 and was a member of the lower council in the late 1370s and '80s.

"John de Schefelt"
John de Schefeld (Sheffield) skinner entered the franchise at York in 1350; he was chamberlain in 1369, bailiff in 1379, and a councillor by 1382. The ship he owned was mentioned in 1379.

"Robert Warde"
Robert de Warde entered the franchise at York in 1368, when described both as a mercer and as "servant" (probably apprentice) of Robert de Howom. He served as chamberlain in 1376 and bailiff in 1380, was a member of the lower council by 1390 and apparently still in 1404.

"William de Leuesham"
William de Levesham was a spicer when he entered the York franchise in 1371. He was chamberlain in 1386 and a member of the council of 24 in 1392.

"Alan de Danby and John de Danby"
Alan de Danby mercer entered the franchise in 1377, while John (most likely a brother) had already become a freeman at York in 1375, when described as a chapman.

"William de Wytton"
A mercer who entered the York franchise in 1362, served as chamberlain in 1389, and appears to have had a seat on council in the following year.

"Richard de Sourby"
Richard de Soureby mercer entered the York franchise in 1365 and was a ward constable in 1380; although he was still in evidence as late as 1403, it is doubtful that it was the same man who appears to have been a councillor in 1410 and served as chamberlain in 1416.

"John de Thorntone"
Of several men named John de Thornton who entered York's franchise during the reign of Edward III, the most likely candidate for the 1388 complainant was the draper who entered in 1367 and it may have been the same man who was chamberlain in 1381. He appears to have been a councillor by 1389, and was still alive in 1406.

"William Westy"
I find no reference to a William West at this period in York, although butcher William de Westeby entered the franchise in 1376.

"Richard de Ulleston"
A man of this name served on a York jury taking the assize of wine in 1392.

"Robert de Duffelt"
Robert de Duffeld was one of York's bailiffs in 1375 and sub-constable of a ward in 1380.

"John de Sellebarum"
John de Selby was the name of several York citizens in the second half of the century – whose occupations included glasier, cordwainer, tapiter (maker of carpets, coverlets, tapestries), and barber. It is tempting, however, to identify the 1388 complainant with the John de Selby who entered the franchise in 1379/80, when described as "servant" (apprentice?) of John de Schefeld and (like John) a skinner. A York merchant of that name died in Calais, on business, in 1390, and was related to merchant William de Selby who was mayor in the 1380s.

"Richard Chace"
A merchant who entered the York franchise in 1372.

"John de Appilton"
Not an uncommon name in York in the time of Edward III. Of several candidates for the complainant of 1388, the likeliest seem to be a chapman who entered the franchise in 1365 and John de Appilton junior, mercer, who entered in 1374. It may have been one of those who was chamberlain in 1383. In 1387 John de Appilton merchant took an 80-year lease (from Coverham Abbey) of a house in the Thursday Market, to begin in 1395, in which year John applied income from the property to hire a chaplain to celebrate divine services for the souls of himself and his wife.

"Robert de Louthe"
A mercer, he entered the York franchise in 1368, after migrating from the more northerly Yorkshire village of Ormesby. A Robert junior entered the franchise (as a merchant) in 1385/86, but it seems more likely that the Ormesby man would have been the complainant about mercantile losses in 1385, as well as the chamberlain of 1387 and probable councillor of the 1390s.

"William Palmer"
Two men of this name are candidates for the complainant of 1388. One was a draper who had come to York from Sewerby and entered the franchise in 1365; the other was described as a mercer when he became a freeman in 1371. One may have been the William Palmer who served as chamberlain in 1390/91.

"Adam de Burton"
The carpenter of this name of who entered the York franchise in 1378/79 may have been the same man who held property in Fishergate in 1376 and was a ward constable in 1380.

"John de Sezay"
John de Ceszay was a ward constable atYork in 1380 and probably a councillor ca. 1388-1396.

"William de Sellay"
I cannot be certain whether the name, as written, is a form of, or error for, William de Selby or William de Sallay, but most probably the latter. A William de Sallay was a York councillor in the early 1390s and sheriff of the city in 1398, but is mentioned as early as 1385. William de Selby was trading in wool by 1379, later in canvas (1392), wine and woad, and served as bailiff in 1373/74 and mayor 1385/86 and 1387-89, and thereafter as councillor until his death in 1426 (despite losing most or all of his sight after 1407). Selby and his friend Thomas Graa were leading supporters of Quixley in the factional dispute of 1380 and were accused in the 1381 parliament of using menace to extort money from supporters of their opponent Gisburne.

"John de Candeler"
A John Candeler was a member of a York jury in 1383. The addition of 'de' to the name must be either scribal error or some pretension on the part of the York man.

"Simon de Wachton"
A Simon de Waghen had been a York bailiff shortly before 1382 (in which year he and his fellow ex-bailiffs were in a legal battle with city butchers over schameltoll. In 1384 he is found in possession of a tenter – a piece of land typically used for drying cloth during the industrial cloth-making process. However, he is unlikely to have been the same individual as the Simon de Watton who entered the franchise as a tailor in 1370. Whether either of these was the 1388 complainant, I cannot be certain, but I favour Watton. William de Waghton was doubtless a relative; two pinners of the surname Watton entered the franchise in 1367 and 1378/79 (the latter being qualified by "junior").

"William de Reuston"
A William de Roseton is mentioned in 1399 in a context suggesting he may then have been a York councillor, and is likely the same as the William de Ruston found in a similar context in 1395.

"John de Orewarm"
A John de Orome was chamberlain of York in 1355, but this seems a little early for the same man to be the complainant of 1388. Possibly this is the same person as the John de Yaraam later mentioned as having taken a beating at the hands of Prussians. A John de Yarme was among leading townsmen (possibly councillors) present in 1399 at a corporation meeting to hear evidence about the status of a York potter, who had been accused of being a villein of the Archbishop. The surname could be written in various ways, including Yarom and Jarom.

"John Neuby"
John de Newby mercer entered the York franchise in 1380/81 (there having been a mason of the same name who became a freeman in 1368).

"John Bolton"
Several men by the name of John de Bolton were in York in the second half of the fourteenth century. The likeliest candidate for the 1388 complainant was the mercer who entered the franchise in 1374, was probably the chamberlain of 1380, and appears to have been on the upper council during the 1390s. A John de Bolton junior, mercer, who was chamberlain in 1383/84, bailiff the following year, and a member of the lower council of 48 in 1392, was a different person (the senior mercer was still clearly differentiated in 1390), perhaps a son, although not necessarily so. Overlapping generations of the same name are often tricky to disentangle – especially when there are other citizens of the same name around – and there appears to have been a third generation John Bolton, whose existence caused the junior mercer to become known as senior by at least the 1420s. A John de Bolton who died in 1395 may have been the 1374 entrant; if so, it would have been the original junior who became mayor in 1410/11 and alderman thereafter (died ca.1426), while the third generation John would have been the mayor of 1431 and alderman into the 1440s. But I cannot rule out the possibility that the original John senior was the mayor of 1410 and the original junior that of 1431. The Boltons were supporters of the Gisburne faction in the political conflict of 1380. One of them was exporting wool through Hull in 1388 and 1392, which we know only because both cargoes had to be salvaged from shipwrecks.

"Roger de Wyhton"
Roger de Wyghton chapman entered the York franchise in 1375.

"Robert Wrenche"
Robert Wrench spicer entered the franchise in 1365 and served York as chamberlain in 1377/78. He appears to have been a councillor by 1388. In 1376 he was renting from the community a large shop on the Ouse Bridge, and in 1393 was conducting some business on behalf of the Abbot of Furness.

"William Tykhilt"
William de Tykehill was chamberlain of York in 1377/78 and bailiff the year following. By 1393 he was evidently a member of the upper council, for he is referred to as one of the local justices of the peace.

"Thomas Brekehede"
The surname is not conspicuous in Lynn records, although a John Brekheved was among residents of South Lynn at the time of the poll tax of 1379, and another man of the same name is seen acting as a pledge in 1318. Possibly Thomas more commonly went by an alias; a long-shot might associate him with Thomas de Sparham.

"Richard Aglion"
One of the keepers of Beverley in 1392 and 1411.

"Stephen Copindale"
The Stephen Coppandale who was one of the keepers of Beverley in 1388 and 1392. He and other leading citizens had been indicted in 1381 of riotous acts, which were actually part of a struggle against the Bishop for control of the town government.

"William de Rolleston"
One of the keepers of Beverley in 1394, 1399 and 1409. In 1407 a man of this name was described as a mason, but arguably to distinguish him from the William Rolleston merchant who was one of the wealthier townsmen in 1411.

"Thomas Yole"
A keeper of Beverley in 1391 and 1402.

"Richard Holm"
The Richard Holme who was one of the keepers of Beverley in 1354 and 1365 probably represents the previous generation to the 1388 complainant.

"John Seborgh"
John Seburgh is the single Colchester man among the complainants listed in the above document (although two other Colchester men were also obliged to contribute towards the costs of the embassy to Prussia, one being a partner with Seburgh in a separately claimed loss). He was likely the man who entered the franchise there in 1373, although there were successive generations of this name; John appears to have been the son of a man of the same name who was active in Colchester in the 1360s. John served as town bailiff seven times between 1387 and 1405 and was elected to the city council eight times during those same three decades. Designated a "merchant" in 1404, his commercial activities are first documented through a fine for him breaking the wine assize in 1382 (repeated on several later occasions between then and 1409), while his wife – widow of another merchant – was fined for breaking the ale assize in 1384. In 1386 he was importing herring. In 1392 he sued another townsman for payment for barley malt sold to the latter. In 1394/95 he was selling large quantities of cloth in Colchester. In 1397 he imported wine, salt, rye, wax, timber and tar, and exported cloth; that same year he made a cut-rate deal on several hundred fleeces bought from a local manor. In 1404 he was importing cloth. He died in 1410.

"John atte Hall"
The Hadleigh (Essex) man may have been a son of the John de Halle of Colchester who was on at least twelve occasions chosen as the town's parliamentary representative between 1358 and 1382 (likely because he was a lawyer), and who had acquired substantial landed property in the surrounding countryside before his death in 1383.

"Norwich merchants"
Possibly merchants from other towns and villages have been lumped in with the Norwich group, for I find no reference to several of these men in those published records I have at hand. Robert Howlyn is one of those not mentioned at Norwich, yet a merchant of this name who was exporting cloth in 1397 and 1398 and also traded in herring and salt was a leading townsman at Yarmouth since the 1370s and bailiff there in 1387/88 (councillor in the previous two years) and 1391/92.

"Thomas Gherad"
Thomas Gerard was a treasurer of Norwich in 1386/87, bailiff there 1388/89, 1393/94, and 1400/01, and city sheriff in 1407/08. He was shipping wool through Yarmouth to the Low Countries in 1386. In November 1388 he was ordered to contribute 13s.4d towards the cost of the ambassadorial mission to negotiate the treaty with Prussia.

"William Bakon"
A William de Baketon merchant entered the Norwich franchise in 1382/83, but I am not convinced this was the same man as the1388 complainant.

"John Daniel"
Treasurer of Norwich in 1378/79, bailiff in 1388/89, 1394/95 and 1401/02, and mayor in 1407/08 and 1417/18.

"John Dunfone"
John de Dunstone was one of the assessors of a local tax in 1378/79; the city purchased a gun from him in 1387/88. The will of a John de Dunstone of Berford was proved in the Norwich Consistory Court in 1399.

"Thomas Fincheham"
Thomas de Fincham was treasurer of Norwich in 1384/85.

"John Caumbruge"
John de Cantebrigge entered the Norwich franchise in 1371, was treasurer in 1381/82. His will was proved in 1402, when he is described as a merchant.

"Peter Bixton"
Peter de Bixton was one of the committee chosen to elect Norwich's bailiffs in 1367 and 1369.

"John Pulmond"
John Polymond was mayor of Southampton during 9 terms of office between 1365 and 1393. One of the customs collectors there from at least 1371, he was a few years later accused along with other of the collectors and townsmen of extortion and fraud in relation to the collection of customs and subsidies, as well as forestalling and selling goods to the king's enemies, but escaped punishment by buying a pardon. He exported cloth, some in his own ship. He died before April 1394.

This may perhaps refer to Skane, the southernmost peninsular of Sweden (an area contested between various powers in the late Middle Ages); the Teutonic Knights of Prussia were constantly warring against non-Christian parts of the Baltic, and warriors of various countries (e.g. Henry Bolinbroke) might join them on these "crusades". However, the association of Skone with Flanders, or with the Flemings, points in another direction.

This is today a small town north-east of Bruges, but in the medieval period was an important Flanders seaport until silting of the Zwin river cut it off from the sea. In the mouth of the Zwin was fought the famous Battle of Sluys (1340) in which the French fleet attempted to block an English fleet, assembled at Orwell from merchant vessels arrested for royal service, from proceeding to Bruges to disembark an invasion force; the French were severely defeated. This and other naval successes only encouraged King Edward to continue to impress mercantile vessels for naval use, with adverse effects on English commerce.

"Hugh Boys"
An ironmonger, like Gilbert Maghfeld, he was chosen as one representative of Tower Ward for the Common Councils of 1384-1386, and again seen as a councillor in 1388 and 1392. During the 1370s he held a 12-year lease on a property in the parish of St. Dunstan Beside the Tower. By 1371 he had married Isabella, the widow of merchant William West, for in that year the couople obtained guardianship of Isabella's children by West. His contribution of 5 marks towards a loan to the city in 1379 reflects his rise in city society, but (perhaps because of his occupation) he never made it to aldermannic status.

"John Norwich"
Referred to as a grocer in 1392, when acting as surety for another grocer, he appears ca.1377 in two separate circumstances involving the seizure of French merchandize found in London. On one of these occasions he was a recipient of the arrested goods of merchants of Amiens, in relation to some complaint by a group of London merchants; the seized goods handed over to his safe-keeping, pending resolution of the dispute, included 6 tuns of woad he himself had purchased (but not yet paid for) from one Firmyn Andelwye, worth £52, less £4 freightage. On the second occasion some of the goods seized – being a variety of cloths – had been found in the hands of Norwich and others; they had been arrested, on orders of the mayor, as retaliation for 'injuries' English merchants claimed to have suffered from the French during a period of truce. John was a representative of Tower Ward on the Common Council of 1388.

"John Kyrcone"
This was the John Kyrketon (often shortened to Kyrton), stockfishmonger who, together with his brother William, also a stockfishmonger, received in 1368 a general release of all debts from two pepperers and who in 1372 stood as one of the sureties for the widow of Edward Gosselyn when she was awarded guardianship of her late husband's children and their inheritance. We can be reasonably sure he was an immigrant from the north, he still having kin in Kirkton at the time of his death, but precisely where is hard to say, as there were any number of places from which the surname could have been taken. He was elected three times for annual terms as alderman of Aldgate ward, in 1378, 1380, and 1382. Despite this, his parish of residence was St. Magnus, at the north end of London Bridge, a neighbourhood associated with fishmongers, and in 1384 he was one of Bridge ward's representatives on a Common Council, for purposes of a mayoral election. He drew up his will in 1387, by which he left his wife Matilda a brewery (the Lamb on the Hoop) in Thames Street, which must have been close to his residence, and other shops and houses further west along Thames Street; he died within the next few months, leaving a son and other (gender unspecified) underage children.

"John Sewale"
Although described as of London, this was probably the member of the Essex gentry who resided at Coggeshall but had interests in a number of towns. He was perhaps a son of the Robert Sewale of Coggeshall, merchant, who with his wife is seen acquiring a tenement in Coggeshall in 1335. By 1362 John and his wife Joan were in possession of several tenemtnts along with acres of arable in Coggeshall and Sunnedon, which seems to have been in the vicinity of Cogeshall. His will was drawn up in May 1389 and proved the following October in London's husting court (which in itself could point to him owning property in that city) refers to his tenement, called the New Hall, situated by the port in the Colchester suburb of New Hythe, other properties in central Colchester as well as on the road connecting Colchester with Maldon, and a property on the Ipswich quayside. His harbourfront properties at Colchester and Ipswich make more sense given that he owned a half-share in two ships, one of which was associated with Harwich. He may have had kin in Colchester, for another John of this surname (which is a patronymic) had his will registered in Colchester's court roll of 1360/61; however the surname is evidenced at Coggeshall both in earlier and later generations. The Coggeshall John Sewale is first seen suing other Essex residents, Maud atte Hide and her son, before the king's justices in 1371, for a debt of £8 10s. It was probably he who acquired citizenship at Colchester in 1373/74 and in the same year leased from the community a plot of empty land at New Hythe on the edge of communal meadow; this was adjacent to land Sewale already held of the community. Whether it was here he built his hall – which may have been a moderately impressive building (by local standards), for John was still remembered as a former owner of the property in 1402 – is unclear, since the land itself reverted to the community following John's death. Sewale's interest in Colchester seems purely financial; he played no role in local government nor does his name, or that of any wife (if he had one), appear in the lawhundred presentments of infringers of the bread, ale or wine assizes. In fact, his name is less conspicuous in the surviving Colchester court rolls of that period than one might expect of a prosperous businessman, although in 1380 he was involved in lawsuits with the up-and-coming merchant John Dyer, which was settled out of court, and with Roger Sebern (possibly a grain dealer), which the latter failed to prosecute.

Sewale's lack of local engagement was doubtless due to the fact he moved in wider circles and, as a member of the gentry, was more interested in roles in the king's administration than that of Colchester. His purchase from the king in 1380 of a life exemption from being made, against his will, a juror, justice, tax collector, arrayer of troops, or appointed to any royal commission or borough office, also helps explain how he avoided becoming involved in Colchester's government; the exemption would also have helped him select those roles in royal administration that he felt offered him the right opportunities. Those opportunities included a term as sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire in 1380/81, which brought him responsibility for enforcing collection of the poll tax in the county, and placed him in the firing line during the Peasants' Revolt: the rebels ransacked his Coggeshall home, destroyed his shrieval records, and assaulted him at Chelmsford, but at least he survived, unlike the county escheator. Whether he had any role in suppressing the rebels at London is unknown, but he appears to have been on close terms with mayor Walworth (slayer of Wat Tyler), who left Sewale £20 in his will (1385). It is likely that one of Sewale's rewards for good service was Richard II's 80-year lease to him, in October 1384, of a sandbank off Mersea Island in the mouth of the Colne, for erecting weirs to trap fish; an indication of his influence in the county is that it was not until after his death that public complaints could be made that those weirs were obstructing river navigation. From about 1386 to 1388 Sewale was a collector of the subsidy of tunnage and poundage between Ipswich and Tilbury (Gilbert Maghfeld being his counterpart from Tilbury to London), and in 1386 he is also seen as deputy butler at Ipswich and Colchester. In July 1387 he was appointed a member of a royal commission charged with identifying and arresting (perhaps again acting at ports) forgers of ecclesiastical indulgences and pardons, whose real crime seems to have been that they were exporting coin and bullion.

Sewale's name first appears in the London Letter-Books in a corporate form letter, drafted May 1380, requiring a number of non-resident citizens to come to the Guildhall and pay the amounts assessed on them as part of a civic tallage; the following month it was as citizen and mercer of London that Sewale was prosecuting, in the king's court, a Herefordshire castellan of the Talbot family for a debt of £300. Given Sewale's status as esquire and the fact he was not a London resident and so not associated with any ward, it is unlikely he was the John Sewalle who had served on a city jury in July 1379. Similarly, itt was more probably the latter who was the Bridge ward resident summoned as one of numerous ward representatives in 1386 to consult with mayor and aldermen on a political matter. In the above list of aggrieved merchants, John Sewale may have described himself of London simply because he felt his citizen status might further his efforts to obtain recompense. He appears to have suffered some adversity at the end of his life, for his death came while imprisoned at Colchester.

"Richard Willeston"
In August 1376 ,when representatives of the most important crafts were summoned to the Guildhall to serve as a Common Council, following the fall-out from the parliamentary impeachment of customs farmer Richard Lyons and his associates, Richard Willesdone was one of the tallow chandlers chosen as a councillor. He served again in that capacity in 1384, for the mayoral election – though from this time forth councillors were chosen to represent wards rather than gilds – again in 1385 in the context of provisions to be made in anticipation of a French invasion, and also in 1386. He represented Broad Street ward in 1384 and 1385, but Tower ward in 1386. Later in 1386 he was a member of a committee (chosen by the Common Council) to oversee the implementation of a royal grant of murage to the city. He never entered the ranks of the aldermen (his gild affiliation perhaps counting against him), even though his will suggests he was fairly prosperous, and trade in tallow was likely only a particular specialization early in his career; the several occurrences of his name in the list above indicate his involvement in international trade, and besides personal jewellery, he also bequeathed a mazer and a silver cup bearing his merchant's mark. Richard died in 1398, leaving property in St. Margaret Lothbury and St. Bartholomew the Less parishes to a pregnant widow, Anne, to hold until their son came of age, while his property in Tower ward was left to his wife in trust for their unborn child. Richard wished to be buried, and have a chantry, in the church of St. Dunstan near the Tower, probably the church of the parish in which he resided. Yet he was more concerned with founding in the church of St. Christopher, Broad Street a chantry for the benefit of his soul and those of his wife Anne and previous wife Margaret, to be supported by revenues from his property at The Stocks (the church also being known as St. Christopher at Stocks); this likely points to his place of business, the Stocks market being on the opposite side of Cornhill from the southern end of Broad Street. Conceivably he may have changed his ward of residence when he married his second wife. Richard took his surname from a parish to the north of London, in Middlesex; although by the close of the fourteenth century a locative surname is no assurance that the holder had immigrated from that location, the fact that Richard's will also established a chantry at the parish church in Willesden suggests he had indeed been born and raised there.

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Created: October 28, 2014. Last update: January 8, 2019 © Stephen Alsford, 2014-2019