POLITICS Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval London mayor election disturbances guildhall assembly restrictions community participation representation electoral procedures alderman voting rights re-election oath ceremony transfer of power processions mass
Subject: Mayoral and shrieval elections at London
Original source: Corporation of London Records Office: item 1: Liber Albus, ff. 3-6; items 2 and 3: Letter Book I, ff. 33, 54
Transcription in: 1. Henry Thomas Riley, ed., Liber Albus, Rolls Series, no.12, vol.1 (1859), 18-27; 2. and 3. Henry Thomas Riley, ed., Memorials of London Life in the XIIIth, XIVth, and XVth Centuries, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1868, 560, 565-66.
Original language: Latin (translations of 2 & 3 by Riley)
Location: London
Date: late 14th and early 15th centuries


[1. Election and admittance to office of the mayor in the late fourteenth century]

Concerning disturbances. How to take precautions against turbulent behaviour during the elections of mayor and sheriffs

At the time of the elections of the mayor and the sheriffs, since it has been the custom of old for a large mob to gather at the Guildhall, and since a gathering of the populace (as Solomon noted in Ecclesiastes, chapter 26) is a cause for concern for the reason that it can easily give rise to protests and disturbances, the mayor and aldermen have been accustomed for several days prior to the day of mayoral election (and likewise that of the sheriffs), and it continues to be their habit, to meet and consider together how to make the election proceed peacefully, without any popular protests or disturbances. To which end they nominated from each ward the more judicious and more reliable citizens, up to a number which they saw as sufficient, who were summoned expressly to attend the mayoral election on 13 October.

Because on election day a multitude of people who had not been summoned would throng into the Guildhall, the mayor and aldermen – sometimes by the authority of their offices (as appears in ordinances on the last folio of [Letter] Book F), sometimes by king's writ – would have it proclaimed throughout the city on 12 October that, under [threat of] severe punishment, no-one should come to the Guildhall the following day while the election was underway, other than those who had been specifically summoned; as appears on [Letter] Book D folio 3, [Letter] Book E folio 41, and [Letter] Book G folio 254. It is also found, as per [Letter] Book F folio 191, that on 11 October 1350 each alderman was sent a certain note by the mayor, ordering them, upon the loyalty they owed the king, to be at the Guildhall on the day set for the mayoral election, to summon 4 of the better men of their ward for the same business, and then to endorse the note with the names of those same.

Note that in ancient times the mayor was elected on 28 October. This was the case with the election of Thomas Romayn to the mayoralty in 1309; he was elected by the aldermen and by 12 persons from each ward summoned for that purpose. On the day after he was presented to and accepted by the barons of the Exchequer at Westminster, as appears in [Letter] Book D folio 2. The reason why the election was altered to another date is because of rising expenses and other factors, as appears in the next chapter.

How at some point the commonalty claimed the sole right to name the mayor

In mayoral elections in this city often there arose disputes between the aldermen and the commonalty. In which the commonalty maintained that it belonged to them alone to nominate or elect the mayor, and thereby [play] a very important role in the city, after they had reached agreement in the east end of the Guildhall (that is, in the place where the sheriffs customarily hold their courts, the mayor and aldermen being seated at the west end, which is the location of the husting) as to whom they wished to put forward for election as mayor for the year coming. The aldermen however argued against this, pointing out that they were also citizens and [members] of the community of the city, so it would not be fair if, because of their special position that qualified them for their offices, they should be denied having a voice in the election of the principal lieutenant of the king in the city. Therefore it became the custom, by joint agreement of the aldermen and commonalty, that those commoners summoned for the election, after the recorder had on behalf of the mayor and aldermen declared to them the reason for their summons, would move to the other end of the hall (as mentioned above) and there nominate two aldermen who had already served as sheriff and who were fit to hold mayoral office. Having done so, they returned and, using their common narrator as spokesperson, delivered the two names to the mayor and aldermen, asking them to appoint to the mayoralty whichever of them they wished. The mayor and aldermen then, as one body, going up into the upper chamber, made the election by majority decision, under the supervision of the recorder and with the common clerk as scrutineer keeping a tally. Coming back down again to the populace in the Guildhall, they had their recorder make a public announcement who had been elected mayor for the coming year.

But it very often happened that when the mayor had governed well the commonalty willingly had him continue in the office [for a further term]. As evidenced by mayors who continuously occupied the mayoralty, such as: Andrew le Bukerell, seven years; Thomas fitz Thomas, four years; Gregory de Rokesley, seven years (that is, from 1274 to 1281 inclusive – i.e. counting both the first and last); also John le Blount continued as mayor for 6 years, as is fully set out in [Letter] Book F at the end, where the [names of] mayors and sheriffs are listed. But note that in ancient times the mayors spent little or nothing, more for things related directly to the mayoralty than for other circumstances, [such as] for one or at most two sergeants-at-arms accompanying them in their retinues. To be precise, they did not then supply liveries, [and] on the day of their election they either walked through the streets or went by boat on the Thames to Westminster or the Tower, where they were charged and admitted.

As the costs and expenses associated with the mayoralty rose considerably, the citizens obtained upon request from King Edward II in 1319 [a grant] that the city mayor should not remain in the mayoralty more than a single year consecutively – as appears in Liber Custumarum folio 201, and the chirographed charter [copied] in[to Letter] Book E folio 90. That clause also, some believe, which was petitioned for in view of the fact that previously some mayors held royal commissions that put them in office for an indefinite period, during the king's pleasure (which caused the people displeasure!); such was the case with Nicholas Farnedone, as appears in [Letter] Book E folio 146, and likewise Hamon de Chikewelle, as appears in [Letter] Book E folio 148.

As it is therefore not possible for the mayor of one year to continue on as mayor in the following year, unless perhaps he should be most insistently required to do so, and were also agreeable to it (he can by no means be compelled, under the franchise of the city, to thus subject himself to that burden for two years in a row), it has been the custom in the course of peaceful elections for the aldermen and commonalty, before they elect a replacement (while a sense of appreciation is still felt among the citizens), to commend the mayor for his good leadership. And, through their common narrator, to emphatically entreat him to take upon himself for the year following the burdensome office of mayor. When he determinedly refused to do so, the commoners would present the aldermen with two names of aldermen, not including the one then mayor (since they know that he cannot continue to occupy the mayoralty against his will), from which two men they [i.e. the aldermen] decided on the one they wished to have as mayor, as already indicated. Which decision being made, it was the custom for them to leave the Mayor's Chamber and go down into the hall in procession, leading by the hand the mayor for the following year. The mayor and aldermen taking their seats, the recorder would make a public announcement to the populace of the name of the mayor elected for the following year, and notify the people also that they should be prepared to ride with their mayor to Westminster on 29 October following, for the honour of the city. This being done, the mayor and aldermen would rise and leave the hall, with the populace following.

If the elected man was not present, the mayor and aldermen, with the sheriffs, were accustomed to go to his house, to inform him there immediately that it was required of him to prepare to take up the office of mayor, and to be at the Guildhall on 28 October following, for the purpose of taking his oath [of office], as had been the custom since ancient times. After which each of them returned to his own home.

Concerning the mayor. The manner in which it is the custom for the mayor to take his oath at the Guildhall on 28 October

With the arrival of 28 October, the mayor and all the aldermen, dressed in gowns of violet, along with many of the commonalty were accustomed to gather around ten o'clock at the Guildhall. The common crier (that is, the sergeant-at-arms) calling for silence and attention, the recorder, seated on the right of the mayor, would read out to the people the ancient custom of the city, which is that on that day the mayor for the coming year should take his oath. It has then been his custom to praise the mayor for those achievements in which he has shown leadership; and if the mayor also wished to say something, he was heard. When that was done, the mayor would vacate his seat and the mayor-elect would step up to take it over; the former mayor would take the seat on his immediate left. Then the common sergeant-at-arms holding up before him the book with kalendar, marked on the outside with the symbol of a crucifix, the common clerk placing the mayor-elect's hand upon the book, he would read out to him what would serve on the following day as the oath [taken] in the king's Exchequer, in the form it appears in [Letter] Book D, first folio. Once he had promised [to uphold the oath] and had kissed the book, he would receive from the former mayor two pouches containing the seal of the Statute Merchant and the seal of the mayoralty. Attention would then be given to what the new mayor wished to say, asking for the support of his fellow aldermen, as well as the sheriffs and the reputable men of the community, in governing the city during his term of office.

This done, it was their custom to rise and go out, with the people following. A sword would be borne before the outgoing mayor, leading by the hand the incoming mayor, with the aldermen and populace following, until they reached the home of the mayor-elect. And from there the sword was carried before the outgoing mayor as far as his own home. No further public appearances were customarily made the same day by either mayor. However, in the event of an urgent need, the outgoing mayor might be required to exercise his office in public for the rest of the day, since he is not fully released from office until his successor as mayor is accepted in his place by the king, or the barons of the Exchequer, or the constable of the Tower.

[How] the mayor should take his oath on the day after 28 October

On 29 October, so long as it is not a Sunday (if so, then the following Monday), it has been the custom for both the new and old mayors, together with the aldermen, dressed in a uniform style, the sheriffs, as many as are of the mayor's livery, and numerous of the craft gildsmen, in their costumes, to assemble on horseback on the plaza outside the Guildhall, around nine o'clock, a sword being carried point-erect before the mayoral nominee. From there they would ride together along Cheap, exit through Newgate gate, head down to Fleet Street, and from it come to Westminster.

When they arrived, the mayor, aldermen and sheriffs dismounted and, with the mace-bearers and the mayor's sword-bearer leading the way, went up into the place where the Exchequer is held, where there would be the chancellor, treasurer, keeper of the king's privy seal, and the barons of the Exchequer. With the mayor, aldermen and sheriffs standing at the bar, the recorder would announce that the city of London, based on ancient custom and its franchises, had elected N. as mayor for the year to come, and on behalf of the city would request the barons to accept [into office] the one thus elected, who was present in person. The chief baron, or his lieutenant (if preferred), would respond by putting in front of the mayor a book on which the latter placed his hand and repeated the oath he had sworn in the Guildhall. Following this, it has been the custom of the chief baron of the Exchequer, on behalf of the king and the lords, to charge the mayor to take the lead in preserving peace and tranquillity in the city, and also [in ensuring] to the best of his ability that in whatever places the sale of victuals occurs the people not suffer from excessive prices. After that it has been the custom for the outgoing mayor to present himself there to render account for his office of escheator; he too would take an oath, to render an accurate and honest account of [receipts and expenditures relating to] his office, and he would appoint whomever he wished to act as his attorney in rendering account.

Likewise, the mayor and aldermen, on behalf of the city, would appoint someone of the Exchequer as the city's attorney to claim and defend their franchises, if and when it became necessary. And so, having received approval from the lords, they would depart. The same thing was done for the Common Bench, appointing someone from that place as attorney of the city. At the King's Bench it has been the custom to appoint two attorneys, [to act] together or separately in claiming the franchises and ancient customs of the city, if and when necessary. All this being accomplished, they would return, preceded by the commonalty on horseback, organized in groups according to their craft gilds. Those who were of the same gild as the mayor, or who were of his livery, would ride immediately ahead of the mayor. The mayor himself would proceed separated from others by sufficient space; but ahead of him [would go] his sergeants-at-arms, mace-bearers, and his sword-bearer, while one sheriff [would ride] to his right and the other to his left, with white rods in their hands, and the recorder and other aldermen following immediately behind him. [The parade made its way] through the middle of the marketplace of West Cheap as far as his house; then all those not invited to the banquet went home.

That same day, after lunch, it has been the custom for the new mayor to go from his house to the church of St. [Thomas] of Acon, with those of his livery leading the way. The aldermen having gathered there, they would all go together to St. Paul's. After arriving, (specifically, at a point near the middle of church building, between the two lesser entrances) it has been their custom to pray for the soul of Bishop William – who, it is said, at the request of the citizens of London obtained from William the Conqueror important franchises – while a priest recites De profundis. From there they would cross into the cemetery, where lie the bodies of the parents of Thomas, one-time archbishop of Canterbury; and there, next to the parents' tomb, they would recite another De profundis for all faithful Christians deceased. From there they would return via Cheap marketplace, (sometimes carrying lighted candles, if the hour is late), to the same church [from which they departed], where the mayor and aldermen would each make an offering of a single penny. This being done, each of them would return home. And so the first day was completed, morning and evening.

Let it be known that if the king's Exchequer is not in London, or if the court is not in session, the mayor is to be presented to the constable of the Tower of London or his lieutenant. He is to be accepted and sworn outside the first gate. As was done in the case of Sir Nicholas Brembre, elected mayor on the day before Palm Sunday, 1376. Similarly, John le Blount was presented, accepted and sworn as mayor on [Sunday] 29 October 1357 by John de Blakbrok, lieutenant of Sir John de Sandwik, constable of the Tower, as appears in [Letter] Book C folio 112. This franchise is embodied in the king's charter.

[2. Restrictions on community participation at elections, 1404]

On Tuesday, the 23rd day of September in the 5th year etc., seeing that on the Day of St. Matthew the Apostle [21 September] last past, at the congregation of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council, in the Guildhall, for the election of Sheriffs for the coming year, such an exceeding number of apprentices and serving-men, belonging to citizens of the said city, as well as of other men, strangers to the freedom of the City, was, without any summons, assembled together in the said Guildhall; and so loud and so clamorous was their shouting, that the Mayor and Aldermen were unable to understand the reason for their noise; to the manifest troubling and disturbance of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council, there summoned; it was ordained and established that in future, as well at the election of the Mayor as of the Sheriffs, or other officers of the said city to be elected, no person, of whatsoever estate or condition he may be, shall presume to enter the Guildhall for the purpose of taking part in any election therein, unless he shall have been especially summoned and chosen to make such election, by the serjeants of the Mayor, Sheriffs, or Chamber, for the time being; on the pain that attaches thereto etc.

On the understanding also, that no one shall be summoned to any election hereafter, unless he be one of the more substantial men of the city, or one of the Common Council thereof.

[3. Mayoral election in 1406]

On Wednesday, the Feast of the Translation of St. Edward the King and Confessor [13 October], in the 8th year etc., John Wodecok, Mayor of the City of London, considering that upon the same day he and all the Aldermen of the said city, and as many as possible of the wealthier and more substantial Commoners of the same city, ought to meet at the Guildhall, as the usage is, to elect a new Mayor for the ensuing year, ordered that a Mass of the Holy Spirit should be celebrated, with solemn music, in the Chapel annexed to the said Guildhall; to the end that the same Commonalty, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, might be able peacefully and amicably to nominate two able and proper persons to be Mayor of the said city for the ensuing year, by favour of the clemency of Our Saviour, according to the customs of the said city.

Which Mass having in the said Chapel been solemnly celebrated, there being present thereat the said John Wodecok, the Mayor, John Prestone, Recorder, Nicholas Wottone and Geoffrey Broke, Sheriffs, the Prior of the Holy Trinity, John Hadlee, William Staundone, Richard Whytyngtone, Drew Barentyn, Thomas Knolles, John Shadworth, William Askham, Willam Bramptone, John Warner, William Walderne, William Venour, Robert Chychely, Thomas Fauconer, Thomas Polle, William Louthe, William Crowmere, Henry Bartone, and Henry Pountfreyt, Aldermen, and many reputable Commoners of the City aforesaid; the same Mayor, Recorder, Sheriffs, Aldermen, and Commoners, entered the Guildhall, where the precept of the said Mayor and Aldermen, as the cause of the said congregation, was becomingly set forth and declared by the said Recorder to the Commoners aforesaid; to the end that such Commoners should nominate unto the said Mayor and Aldermen such able and proper persons as had before filled the office of Sheriff in the City aforesaid; it being for the said Commoners to take no care which one of the persons so to be nominated should be chosen by the Mayor and Aldermen to be Mayor for the ensuing year. Which being done, the said Mayor, Recorder, Sheriffs, and Aldermen, went up into the Chamber of the Mayor's Court, within the Guildhall aforesaid, there to await the nomination of such two persons. Whereupon, the Commoners peacefully and amicably, without any clamour or discussion, did becomingly nominate Richad Whytyngtone, mercer, and Drew Barentyn, goldsmith, through John Westone, Common Countor of the said city, and presented the same.

And hereupon, the Mayor and Aldermen, with closed doors, in the said Chamber chose Richard Whytyngtone aforesaid, by guidance of the Holy Spirit, to be Mayor of the City for the ensuing year; after which, the Mayor and Aldermen, coming down from the Chamber into the Hall, to the Commoners there assembled, as the custom is, notified by the Recorder unto the same Commoners, how that, by Divine inspiration, the lot had fallen upon the said Richard Whytyngtone, as above stated.

And further, the said Commoners unanimously entreated the Mayor and Aldermen, that they would ordain that in every future year, on the Day of the Translation of St. Edward, a Mass of the Holy Spirit, for the reasons before stated, should be celebrated, before the election of the Mayor, in the Chapel aforesaid. And hereupon, the Mayor and Aldermen, considering the entreaty of the said Commoners to be fair, reasonable, and consonant with right, and especially to the glory and laud of God, and to the honour of the city, by assent and consent of the said Commoners, did ordain and decree that every year in future a solemn Mass with music shall be celebrated in presence of the Mayor and Aldermen; the same Mass, by ordinance of the Chamberlain for the time being, to be solemnly chaunted by the finest singers in the Chapel aforesaid, and upon that Feast.


The method of mayoral election at London was the reverse of that at York, where it was the mayor who nominated candidates and the commons who made the final selection from the nominees. But the effect was probably pretty much the same in either case, with the ruling elite exercising a significant degree of control over the choice of mayors. Even the nomination of two candidates by the London community may not have been the case much before 1406. On those rare occasions when we obtain a glimpse of process from the first half of the fourteenth century, it appears that the mayor and aldermen came up with their own nominee, in private, and presented it to the community for the acclamation that maintained the fiction of democracy.

Although the document of 1406 indicates that the commons were not expected to argue with the decision of the mayor and aldermen, this did not always prove to be the case. For example, at the 1441 mayoral election in London the commons nominated aldermen Ralph Holland, a tailor, and draper Robert Clopton. Holland had already become associated with popular opposition to the status quo and had in 1426, some years before becoming an alderman, been imprisoned for criticizing electoral procedures. This fact, perhaps complicated by a conflict between tailors' and drapers' crafts over supervision of the cloth trade, likely influenced the presentation by the mayor of Clopton as the mayor-elect; at which some of the commons (notably the tailors), dismayed, cried out: "Nay, nay, not this man but Raulyn Holland." [C.L. Kingsford, Prejudice and Promise in XVth Century England, Oxford, 1925, 108]. This protest was ignored, and the record of the election, in the Corporation's Letter Book, makes only a terse statement of the election of Clopton in the presence of a huge crowd of Londoners, giving no hint of the dissension, even though it got sufficiently out of hand that the leaders of the protest had to be arrested.

This riotous behaviour only resulted in the city authorities obtaining, just days before the mayoral election in 1442, a royal writ sanctioning future elections being strictly closed to all but those who were summoned by name, because of past disturbances; the writ not only declared that the election belonged to the aldermen and such other of the wiser and more prominent citizens as custom dictated (meaning those summoned), but also that if a mayor were chosen in any other way, the Exchequer would refuse to administer his oath of office. Public proclamation was made of the king's command. The election that October seems to have proceeded unchallenged.

The following year, however, artisan elements within the community decided to assert themselves once more. Negligence of the gatekeepers – who apparently were expected to check names at the door – was blamed for a crowd of lesser citizens entering the Guildhall on September 21, the date of the election of the sheriffs – of whom one was chosen by the aldermen and one by the community representatives – and other city officials. A proclamation was made that all those not specifically summoned should leave, but the uninvited Londoners refused to budge. When time came to elect the city chamberlain, the serving chamberlain John Chichele was nominated for re-election but the uninvited commoners shouted for William Cotisbrook. He was one of Holland's followers and, at the mayoral election the following month, would object to the royal writ restricting the electorate, putting forward the dangerous argument that a mayor had no authority over those who did not elect him. Upon being informed of the clamour, mayor and aldermen emerged from their upper chamber and remonstrated with the crowd for not preferring Chichele; Cotisbrook was clearly not a palatable choice from their perspective. A show being made of checking city records concerning electoral procedures, and it being determined that only those summoned had the right to vote, the mayor ordered everyone not specifically invited to leave. This apparently had effect, for the re-election of Chichele was then able to take place.

The manner of conducting elections and the question of who had a right to participate directly in them had been a matter of dispute – indeed the subject of political conflict – throughout the fourteenth century in London. Such participation was either broad or narrow, depending on which political party was in power at a given time. But a common problem faced by all was the conduct of elections in an orderly fashion. The political conflict of the early 1380s provides an instance of the concerns that may have given rise to the specifications above.

It was a common practice in many towns, particularly as the fourteenth century wore on and indirect election became increasingly common, for popular attendance at elections to be confined to representatives of the community. This was partly because of the impracticability of having all townspeople present once elections were moved into an indoors setting, but more as a guard against disorder, clamour or disruption of the elections. It also reflected a growing distaste among the ruling class for having the common people determine the outcome of elections. The language of the above passages itself betrays the writer's distaste for the lower class.

Various approaches were taken to restricting participation in elections. The type of solution chosen at London, of first selecting a limited number of representatives of the "common people", and secondly having them nominate two or more candidates from which the borough rulers would make the final choice, was one adopted in a number of towns, often with the London model in mind. The representation principle was in effect in London by 1293, although it is not inconceivable that in the early days of the mayoralty the folkmoot was the electoral venue. Another option for limiting the role of the community was to have the borough rulers nominate a limited number of candidates, with the commonalty making the final selection.

In 1385 it was enacted that nominees for the mayoralty could only be chosen from those who had already served as sheriff, on the grounds that this office provided an initiation into city government and tested an individual's administrative abilities. Those who did not acquit themselves satisfactorily could, even if chosen alderman by a ward's residents and then nominated as mayor, be prevented from achieving the mayoralty by the final selection that mayor and aldermen had from the nominees. An underlying motivation for the qualification may also have been to discourage resistance to holding the shrievalty, a burdensome obligation that a citizen was not called upon to perform more than once. The mayoralty could also be a costly office, and those who were elected more than once tended to be the wealthier aldermen. In 1435 the requirement was added that nominees be aldermen.

The emphasis on experience is reflected also in the listing of the aldermen in the account of the 1406 election. We clearly see here an intentional cursus honorum such as is visible at Lynn and other towns: following the Prior (whose status warrrants him the courtesy of being first-named), the aldermen who had previously been mayors are named, in chronological order of when they first held the mayoralty; then come those who had served as sheriff but not yet as mayor, again in chronological order of when they held that office; and finally, an alderman who had not yet held the shrievalty. The character of the aldermannic group is suggested through the biographies in the notes, below [most are based primarily on J.S. Roskell et al., eds. History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1386-1421, Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1992].

In an earlier period of the mayoralty, the change of regime – election and installation in office – occurred on the same day, October 28. This would have been no problem for mayors re-elected to subsequent terms, but the lessening of that tendency may have been one factor in the need for an interval between election and taking up office, to allow the mayor-elect time to prepare and for an orderly transfer of duties. So in 1346 the election was moved to two weeks prior to assumption of office; not until the reign of Henry VIII was it changed to Michaelmas (September 29).

We can see a developed ceremonial built into the election, public presentation, and oath-takings of the mayor. The introduction of a mass into the proceedings from 1406 was in line with this trend. Ceremony was designed in part to demonstrate social hierarchy while at the same time cementing social solidarity. At the same time, there was concern about the burgeoning costs of ceremonies surrounding the elections. In 1389 the city authorities agreed that, when the sheriffs went in procession to the Exchequer for their swearing-in, they should go on foot or by water, so that the men of the craft gilds who accompanied them did not have to bear the cost of hiring horses; it was further agreed that new liveries need not be bought for the occasion. In 1397 the Grocer's Company, which had several of its members among the aldermen and was one of the principal sources for sheriffs and mayors, decided to cut back on feasts celebrating such elections; it set a limit of 12s. expenditure, confining the fare to bread, apples, beer and wine.

Nonetheless, increasing emphasis on ceremonial was one of the characteristics of fifteenth century political life. It served to imbue offices (particularly that of mayor), and thereby the office-holders, with more dignity, with a view to commanding more implicit obedience from the citizenry. In the early days of the mayoralty (early thirteenth century), not only at London but at other towns who aspired to a chief executive of that type, a mayor's authority derived from him being the chosen leader of the community. Once the choice of leader became restricted to an elite, there was necessarily greater reliance on other ways of legitimizing authority.



Riley identifies the reference as verse 5. However, neither the Book of Wisdom nor Ecclesiastes, both attributed to Solomon's authorship, has a chapter 26. Wisdom, chapter 16 (assuming transcription error), verse 5 states "For when the fierce rage of beasts came upon these, they were destroyed with the bitings of crooked serpents", which could be applicable, although taken slightly out of context – the scribe would have conveniently ignored the politically-charged verse 4: "For it was requisite that inevitable destruction should come upon them that exercised tyranny"!. However, the reference may perhaps be to Psalms 26, verse 5 "I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked." Some psalms and proverbs were popularly attributed to Solomon.

In this context (compare with the use of the term in the late 13th century) the term communarii is being used to refer to the lower classes of Londoners, perhaps even to the lower (common) council supposed to represent the interests of the lower classes. Those classes – the mass of the enfranchised populace – had won a formal place within the constitution in the early 14th century, and such is the sense of "commonalty", as opposed to "commoners".

The chief legal expert retained by the city, whose social status was at least equal to that of the aldermen.

"common narrator"
This officer is elsewhere identified as the common sergeant-at-law, or common countor (a name given to a type of barrister), one of the officers elected by and answerable to the Common Council. In this context his role was to act as go-between for the commonalty.

"charged and admitted"
I.e. took their oaths to the king's representatives and were approved by the same in the mayoralty. This whole paragraph seems rather to lack coherence. The original scribe, or the later transcriber, does not complete a train of thought begun in the first sentence, while the last few sentences about the mayoral expenses also seem disorganized; these I have tried to work around in my translation by surmising what points the scribe was trying to make (that the mayoralty incurred few expenses, and those were household expenses, rather than expenditures related to city costs).

"chirographed charter"
The explanation of rising costs ascribed to the royal charter of 1319 is hardly sufficient. This charter was part of a lengthy struggle for power between various political factions representing the interests of patricians, professional administrators, or the populace, which has been eloquently described – in far more detail than can be presented here – by Gwyn Williams [Medieval London: From Commune to Capital (London, 1963), chapters 10-11]; Professor Williams characterized the charter as "the highest peak of achievement that a popular movement ever attained in medieval London" [p.282]. Obligatory annual re-election was a feature of reforms earlier in the decade, and the 1319 charter was preceded by a 3-year term of office of professional administrator John de Wengrave, re-elected by the aldermen each year without any involvement of, and in the face of hostility from, the commonalty. This was the immediate impetus for restricting the mayoral term of office.

"Hamon de Chikewelle"
Hamon de Chigwell led the resistance to Wengrave's party and the efforts to obtain the June 1319 charter, under which Chigwell captured the mayoralty in October of that year. He was succeeded the following year by Nicholas Farndon, whose government was however disrupted, and he deposed, by the royal eyre of 1321.

"book with kalendar"
Riley suggested this was a martyrology. One might expect the oath to be taken on some kind of holy book, and it is likely enough the book was indeed of some religious content and kept exclusively for oath-taking. However the term "kalendar" was applied more generally to registers of important documents, and it is not inconceivable this book may have been one of the city volumes recording constitutional customs and ordinances.

"A sword"
Probably not just any sword, but a particular ceremonial sword dedicated to being borne before the mayor, as a symbol of authority.

"went up"
The Exchequer was divided into two areas, upper and lower, probably reflecting a physical separation in the building in which housed. The upper Exchequer acted as a court, used to manage affairs related to revenues due the king; hence the reference to the "bar". Note that although the Exchequer was by this time normally fixed in Westminster, in special circumstances it might accompany the king on his travels.

The barons of the Exchequer were originally made up of the king's tenants-in-chief, but in the 13th century were reduced to a handful of specialised officers, still technically representing the aristocracy.

A royal officer whose duty was to uphold the king's ultimate title in lands over which lordship otherwise became vacant, through the failure of heirs or the loss of rights of the tenant due to conviction (or outlawry) for a crime; the duty involved the collection of revenues.

"someone of the Exchequer"
That is, an attorney who was officially recognized by the Exchequer; larger towns came, in the late 14th and 15th centuries, to retain their own special attorneys to act for them at Westminster. A city as wealthy as London could afford separate attorneys for each of the courts.

"Common Bench" "King's Bench"
The two Benches were the principal courts of the realm, two arms of a court over which the king himself had once presided. The Court of Common Pleas originally had a wide jurisdiction, although in the late 13th century this became limited to civil actions. The King's Bench dealt with criminal actions, notably infringements of the king's peace or other matters in which the king's interests were directly involved.

"sufficient space"
I.e. so that he could be clearly seen by onlookers, he was not hemmed in by his entourage.

"important franchises"
The charter of William I, granted soon after he captured the throne and intended to help him quell any opposition from the Londoners, was addressed to the bishop, to the portreeve (like the bishop, apparently a Norman), and to all the burgesses, is very brief; it essentially confirms to Londoners their legal customs held before the Conquest, acknowledges that sons will be allowed to inherit from their fathers, and implies that the king will do justice to the Londoners should anyone cause them harm.

"first day"
This sentence is based on Genesis, chapter 1, verse 5.

"solemn music"
Notated music.

"John Wodecok"
Alderman of Cripplegate ward from 1402 up to his death (1409), having previously held the Coleman Street aldermanry 1397-1402, and earlier having been a common councillor for Cripplegate (1388/89). He served as sheriff in 1397/98 and mayor 1405/06. He came from Doncaster (where he continued to hold some property) and had set up in London as a mercer by 1382; he serving as warden of the Mercers' Company 1390/91, 1397/98, and 1407/08. By 1391 he had married Felicity Austyn, the daughter of a wealthy mercer, which brought him property interests in London and Middlesex. He became one of the wealthiest Londoners of his time, his clients including John of Gaunt and his son Henry Bolingbroke, and the household of Richard II (despite Woodcock having, in 1398, to obtain a pardon for supporting the Appellants); upon Henry IV's accession, Woodcock had to petition for repayment of a debt of £1,250 still owed him by the king's wardrobe, and his petition was successful. Henry's favour also translated into a life annuity of £26.13s.4d, granted Woodcock in 1401, and he continued to be a major supplier of the wardrobe, as well as a source of loans to the king. He had already held the post of collector of wool customs at London (1397-1400), and in 1402 obtained that post at Ipswich, where he was authorized to keep all proceeds to repay debts owed him by the king – he remained in that post until 1405, in which year he was also permitted to export wool free of customs, again as repayment of a large royal debt. His clientele included other members of the nobility and gentry. He invested much of his money in estates in several home counties, as well as the city. Strong religious beliefs are suggested not only by his institution of the ceremony of a mass before mayoral elections, but also by a vigorous campaign as mayor against immoral conduct by priests. At his death he left two underage sons (the eldest reached his majority in 1413) and two underage daughters, while his widow remarried a Durham knight the following year. His monetary bequests totalled close to £3500, while he also left a large collection of gold and silver plate, and a complete set of jousting armour.

"Prior of the Holy Trinity"
He was ex officio the alderman of Portsoken Ward.

"John Hadlee"
Alderman of Tower ward at this time, he being first found in that post in 1375 and then sporadically up to 1381. From 1384 until 1392 he was alderman of Lime Street ward; he returned to Tower ward in 1394 and remained there until his death in 1410. He was sheriff 1375/76, mayor 1379/80 and 1393/94, and represented the city in 11 parliaments between 1369 and 1402. Hadley's family was from a Suffolk village of that name, but his father had the same surname and was evidently an emigrée; John Hadley appears in London by 1366 and two years later was trading as a grocer; he was a company warden in 1383/84. Despite a setback in 1370 when ships of a London consortium of which he was a part were plundered off the Calais coast, his business gradually prospered and on several occasions he contributed to loans to the king; he also loaned money to others, perhaps on a usurious basis. In 1371 he was one of a dozen citizens imprisoned by the king for a few months, because of violent disputes occurring in the city, in which Northampton and his followers were involved, although Hadley does not seem to have been associated with that faction; at the outbreak of political conflict in the early '80s, he at first tried to reconcile the factions, but Northampton's extremism alienated him and he thereafter supported the attempts to bring down Northampton and later execute him. If Hadley's early imprisonment hurt his reputation, it was not for long; in 1374 he was acting as an auditor of city accounts and supervisor of expenditures. At the end of 1390 he was made mayor of the staple of Westminster; and, in June 1392, mayor of the staple of Calais. The latter appointment came immediately after Richard II, furious with the Londoners for having refused him a loan, suspended city government; it may have been a form of punishment, since it entailed the loss of his post with the Westminster staple, while at the same time he and his fellow aldermen lost those positions. A few weeks later he was replaced as collector of wool customs at London, a post he had been in for just over half a year. Loss of favour with the king did not prevent him being elected to a second term as mayor in the year following Richard's issue of a pardon to the citizens (in which Hadley was among those named). In March 1404 he was one of four men selected by parliament to act as "war treasurers" in controlling the funds from a subsidy, but was replaced later in the year when men more favourable to the king were put in the positions. Although he remained in his aldermanry, he ceased to be active in the Grocers' Company after 1408. As was common with wealthy merchants, he had invested heavily in real estate both inside and outside the city. At his death he left two daughters, by his first wife Margaret, to whom he was married by 1368; after her death he remarried (by 1400) Thomasina Goodlake, grandaughter of a wealthy vintner and former mayor, and this marriage brought him additional properties in the city. His daughters had been married to gentry and inherited most of his property outside London, while his widow was left with the city property.

"William Staundone"
Alderman of Cheap ward since 1393 (until his death), he had previously held aldermannic office in Aldgate (1383-90) and Dowgate (1392-93). He was sheriff in 1386/87, and mayor 1392/93 and 1407/08; he represented the city in parliament on five occasions between 1391 and 1406, and Cambridgeshire in 1404. His roots, however, lay in Hertfordshire, he bequeathing money for a family chantry at Standon there, and he held land at nearby Sawbridgeworth. If an immigrant, he had come to London by 1374, when he purchased membership in the Grocers' Company; he was active in the company until 1408, although he never served as one of the wardens. From 1378 he acted, sporadically over the next eighteen years, as a purveyor of victuals for Richard II's household, for which he was granted a life annuity of £6.13s.4d in 1385, which Henry IV continued to respect. He was also involved in the wool trade – not unusual for wealthy grocers – and was for a year (1406/07) collector of the wool customs in London; towards the end of his life he was active in the cloth trade. In business ventures he was often associated with John Shadworth, later one of his executors along with Thomas Knolles. He invested heavily in real estate not only in the city but further afield, at first in Kent but later sold his manor in order to buy another at Wimpole, Cambridgeshire, and he subsequently built up an estate around that; the income from this sufficed to qualify him for election to parliament as a knight for the shire. His third marriage (by 1403) to Agnes, coheiress of Sir Adam Francis and widow of a Kentish gentleman, brought him more property in Cambridgeshire and London as well as the dower property in Kent, but not the large inheritance from Sir Adam, who outlived Staundone. His association with the faction opposing John Northampton in the 1380s left him vulnerable after Brembre's fall from power, and to protect himself he purchased a royal pardon in 1388 for any felonious or treasonable acts he might have committed since 1382. Not being in office when Richard II and the London authorities fell out in 1392, he avoided royal disfavour and was a natural choice for mayor once Richard had restored city government. He died in 1410, and was buried in Wimpole next to his first wife; he left an underage daughter (by Agnes), who became the ward of the widow's new husband, but did not live long into adulthood.

"Richard Whytyngtone"
A detailed biography of Whittington is given under the account of his charitable foundation.

"Drew Barentyn"
Alderman of Aldersgate at this time. He served in that ward 1392-93, was sheriff the following year, became alderman of Farringdon Within 1394, then transferred back to Aldersgate in 1397, and finally to Bishopsgate for his final year as alderman in 1414-15. He died in December 1415. His family seems to have been based in Oxfordshire, but he was apprenticed to a London goldsmith in 1363; he graduated in 1370, when he took up the franchise. He first known role in city government was as a common councillor, in 1381/82, representing the goldsmiths' craft. He was warden of the craft in 1380 and 1385. His business flourished – like many entrepreneurial businessmen of the time, he did not restrict himself exclusively to the trade in which he was trained, but also engaged in import/export ventures – and he became one of the wealthiest members of his craft, almost at a par with Whittington. His clientele included Henry IV, and the favour he won for services to the king (particularly loans of cash) brought him grants to his financial benefit. His first mayoralty came in 1398/99, and a second in 1408/09. He did not marry until the early 1390s, when the widow of goldsmith and former mayor Sir Nicholas Twyford (of whom Barentyn was an executor) became available. This was at least partly a strategic alliance, and the marriage allowed him to build up existing Twyford estates in East Anglia and the home counties. After Margery died, he remarried shortly before his own death. He left no children and his heir was a nephew. His will included bequests to Twyford's poor relatives and two chantries to celebrate for Twyford's soul, as well as his own and that of Margery.

"Thomas Knolles"
Alderman of Dowgate ward from 1393 until 1397, when he transferred to Cordwainer ward, remaining its alderman until his death in 1435. Sheriff 1394/95, mayor 1399/1400 and 1410/11; his second mayoralty saw the initiation of the rebuilding of the Guildhall. A grocer, he served as the company warden in 1387 and 1431. On several occasions he supported Henry IV with loans, and was one of five "war treasurers" appointed by the king in 1404. By 1428 he had acquired a manor in Hertfordshire. His epitaph in the church of St. Anthony's stated that he had 19 children by his wife Joan, buried beside him, to whom he was married for some 60 years; he was survived by two sons – one a London grocer (who had ten children), the other a Bristol grocer – and three daughters. He bequeathed his Watling Street residence to the Grocers' Company, to be used for relief of the poor, and provided for a water-supply for the prisoners of Ludgate and Newgate. A more detailed biography is given elsewhere.

"John Shadworth"
Alderman of Bassishaw ward from 1386 to ca.1415, having previously held the aldermanries of Tower (1383-84) and Coleman Street (1385-86), and in the interim (1384/85) having been common councillor for Cheap ward. He was sheriff 1391/92, mayor 1401/02. He was apprenticed as a mercer, and served as a warden of the Mercers' Company in 1396/97, 1403/04, and 1409/10; he was on good terms in particular with Woodcock and Whittington, his wealth and influence being comparable with theirs. His earliest appearance in the records was, however, in 1371 in the role of executor. In 1378 he and John More, one of the principal adherents of John Northampton, purchased from the Exchequer the farm of collecting the subsidy on poundage between Dover and Gravesend; despite a continued close association with More and possible initial sympathy with Northampton's efforts to weaken the victualling gilds, Shadworth supported the Brembre faction against Northampton, probably alienated by the latter's extremism. Like not a few mercers, Shadworth's actual business was diversified; he was particularly involved in the wool trade, but is also found importing iron in 1390. In 1399 he was given a life grant of tronage in London, the administration of which was based at his own warehouse, the "wool wharf", on the Thames in Tower ward; however, he later turned over this post to someone else. His clients, either for merchandize or for loans, included the earl of Oxford and the king's wardrobe; in the later part of his life he claimed that the government owed him £1,515 – a figure perhaps equivalent to about £3,600,000 in today's currency. Being one of the sheriffs at the time that Richard II fell out with the Londoners, he was on 25 June 1392 along with his fellow sheriff and the mayor removed from office (as well as his aldermanry), on the pretext of maladministration, and thrown into prison. Four weeks later they all submitted to the king and agreed to pay a joint fine of –2,000, and Shadworth was restored to his aldermanry. They received a royal pardon two months after, and Shadworth was one of 15 city rulers who each contributed £11 towards a gift to thank the king. He again fell foul of Richard II during the latter's despotic period: in 1398 he was one of 28 persons, including several Londoners, forced to seal a blank charter guaranteeing he would supply the king with money whenever needed; an extension of this practice to the ruling group in London (as well as in other towns) helped lose Richard the city's support during Bolingbroke's rebellion. Shadworth certainly appears to have been Lancastrian in his sympathy, for he was one of three Londoners appointed to the king's council in 1399, although the appointment lasted only a few months. In May 1401, he obtained an exemption from holding any royal office, although we should not read too much into this. He continued active in city administration, and it was not until 1415 that he seems to have retired from public life. Despite which, he lived on until 1430. Two years before his death a Lollard priest was accused of being active in Shadworth's home and of communicating with Shadworth's own chaplain, who was subsequently imprisoned when he confessed to being a Lollard. If Shadworth was a Lollard sympathiser, however, no sign of it can be seen in his will, which is entirely conventional. Most of his estate was assigned to pious and charitable works, for he left no heirs and is not known to have been married.

"William Askham"
Alderman of Dowgate ward at this time, he having begun in the aldermanry of Castle Baynard (ca.1395-ca.1399), then moving in that or the following year to Dowgate; later in 1406 or perhaps in 1407 he transferred to Bridge ward, remaining alderman there until his death. He served as sheriff 1397/98 and as mayor 1403/04 (the sole fishmonger to attain that office between 1388 and 1411, and despite the unpopularity of the fishmonger's gild in that period). Son of a Londoner of the same name, he became an apprentice fishmonger under the prominent William Walworth, at some point between the latter's two mayoralties and before the decisive action against Wat Tyler that won Walworth renown and a knighthood. The relationship with Walworth was evidently a good one, as he bequeathed Askham £40 and entrusted him with the disposal of part of his real estate; Walworth's widow showed the same trust, appointing him her executor. Upon her death in 1399, Askham purchased a sizable Thameside tenement with a quay, which Walworth had acquired from his master's widow; the property sold after Askham's death for £533.6s.8d and the site would later be used for the new fishmongers' hall. A neighbouring property was used as residence and place of business by William Bramptone, who was both his business partner and friend. Askham built up extensive property in several other parishes, although relatively little outside the city, and his marriage likely helped in this. The first to the widow of fishmonger William Wyght, who had the reversion (and therefore the revenues) from a number of properties, as well as the guardianship of Wyght's children and their cash inheritance; Margaret bore him a son, who seems to have predeceased him, and a daughter. She died in 1393, and by 1398 he had remarried; a third marriage was necessary less than a decade later. Although a fishmonger, like most men involved in mercantile activities, he engaged in whatever seemed likely to produce a profit at any given time. Thus he is found importing wine, cloth and woad (1390-91), and exporting large shipments of wool in the late '90s and first decade of the next century. For a few months in 1401 he was engaged as a buyer of victuals for the royal household. He was mayor of the staple of Westminster from 1402 to 1405, and mayor of the staple of Calais from 1403 to 1406, useful posts for someone engaging in commerce. Death came in 1414 or early 1415; no children are mentioned in his will and much of his wealth was spent on pious and charitable uses.

"Willam Bramptone"
Alderman of Bridge ward since 1390, holding the post until his death. He had been common councillor representing the Fishmongers' Mystery, in 1381/82, and was sheriff of London (and Middlesex) in 1394/95, as well as representing the city at five parliaments between 1390 and 1404. His bequest to the parish church of Brampton, Huntingdonshire, is suggestive of his origins. He appears in London by 1364, when involved with a fellow fishmonger in moneylending. That he acquired considerable wealth is indicated by the large number and amounts of debts for which he sued. In addition to the fishmonger's trade, Bramptone was also involved in exporting wool. He was closely associated with William Askham (see above). His term as governor of the staple of Middelburg, 1384-89, helped him build the right connections for the wool trade – in the early 1400s he was on several occasions an official agent involved in negotiations with merchants and authorities of the Hanseatic league. From 1397 to 1402 he was mayor of the staple of Westminster, and it was in that period that he was exporting large quantities of wool. He also dealt a little in cloth and wine. He also had, from an earlier period, connections in the Low Countries, and was consequently also engaged in other official activities in those parts. He acquired property not only in London, but also in Southwark (a landing point for much of the fish brought to the city), and in the last decade of his life his landed interests extended into Kent. He had been bailiff of Southwark from an unknown date but in 1382 was removed from office for having tried to monopolize the market in fish there – although this charge came in the context of Northampton's general assault on the fishmongers. Conversely, Carole Rawcliffe [History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1386-1421, II, 333] has suggested it may be significant his appointment as governor of the Middelburg staple came during Brembre's mayoralty, and that the patronage of Brembre could explain why Bramptone was ordered arrested in February 1388, two days after the Merciless Parliament condemned Brembre to death. Brampton evidently cleared himself of any suspicion, and in September was part of an embassy to treat with the count of Holland. As alderman he was among the city rulers to incur Richard II's displeasure in 1392, and among the contributors to a cash gift, after Richard restored city government and pardoned a £2,000 fine. He was one of three Londoners appointed, for a few months, to Henry IV's council in 1399. He died in 1406, leaving a widow Alice and a son by a previous marriage.

"John Warner"
Alderman 1397-1412. Sheriff 1398/99. Ironmonger. Died 1413, leaving a widow, several sons and a daughter, and an estate in Buckinghamshire.

"William Walderne"
Alderman of Bread Street ward ca. 1399 to 1415, when he transferred to Bassishaw, remaining in that aldermanry until his death. He was sheriff 1399/1400, mayor 1412/13 and 1422/23. He was the son of Geoffrey Waldern of Waldron, Sussex; it is not known if that was the same Geoffrey who was a supporter of the Northampton faction. His first appearance is in 1388, during his apprenticeship to mercer John Frosh. He completed his apprenticeship in 1395, became a full member of the Mercers' Company in 1398, and served as a company warden 1398/99, 1404/05, 1410/11, and 1418/19. Loans he made to Henry IV, along with often large debts due him from other clients or businessmen, are indicative of his substantial wealth. In 1416 he, William Crowmere and Richard Whittington were associates in receiving from nine foreign merchants recognizances of a debt of £2,666.13s.4d; the following year that trio and three other of the wealthiest alderman were acting as go-betweens in the financing of the king's French expedition. He was part of a consortium of English merchants trying to break into the Mediterranean trade, but encountered opposition from the Genoese. Walderne counterbalanced that risky venture by exporting through the established channel, the Calais staple, and bringing back cloth through London. He was chosen as mayor of the Calais staple in April 1423, just one month after being made mayor of the Westminster staple; both posts were held until his death, but that was not far off. During his first marriage he did not accumulate much property, but his second marriage (by 1413) to the daughter of chandler John Clerk brought with it her inheritance of eleven shops and a number of other buildings and lands in the city, and during the years that followed he purchased more properties, both in London and in Essex and Hertfordshire. He died in 1424, survived by his widow Margaret, who survived him only by two years, and five underage children.

"William Venour"
Alderman from 1397. Sheriff 1401/02. He had entered the Grocers' Company by 1383. His father, a grocer of the same name, had been an alderman, sheriff 1387/88, mayor 1389/90, and died in 1395, William junior being an executor. In 1392/93, father and son had been prominent among the group of twenty citizens (also including William Brampton, see above) who owed John of Gaunt money, perhaps for his intercession with Richard II to obtain a pardon for the city after the falling out of 1392; the pair owed Gaunt £1,000. Such financial pressures on the city leaders made it difficult to find men willing to take on the job at this period; during the 1380s the grocers had seven or eight of their number among the aldermen, but in the 1390s only half that number – and this included older men of Brembre's generation (Hadley and Staundone, see above). William Venour senior had represented the grocers in the aldermannic body since 1363, but upon his death no other grocer was willing to take on the office, until William junior was persuaded in 1397. William's uncle, vintner Henry Vanner (himself the son of a prominent vintner), had also been an alderman for much of the 1380s and '90s (until is death in 1395), and was a brother-in-law, business partner and political adherent of Nicholas Brembre, aiding in the arrest of John Northampton. With a depression in the wool and cloth trades around the turn of the century, many grocers struggled to diversify. Venour is found in 1407 earning money as an intermediary in a sale of tin to a Florentine mercantile company, and this appears to have been the last year he served as an alderman. In 1414 three prominent mercers complained to parliament that he owed them £411.10s.10d., but that he had evaded repayment by fraudulently turning over his property to feoffees, yet still enjoying their proceeds over the last five years while living abroad. William's son, of the same name, entered the Grocer's Company in the 1430s at a reduced fee (perhaps in acknowledgement of his father's role therein); at that time he was serving as warden of Fleet prison. But he preferred to call himself a gentleman rather than a grocer, living off the revenues from the property he had inherited; in a tax assessed on real estate in 1436, he had the highest assessment of any Londoner.

"Robert Chychely"
Alderman of Aldgate ward from 1402, switching to Vintry ward in 1407. Sheriff 1402/03 and mayor 1411/12. Grocer. His nephew married the daughter of Thomas Knolles, Robert's sometime business partner. Died 1439. A more detailed biography will be provided elsewhere.

"Thomas Fauconer"
Alderman of Coleman Street ward 1402-14, and subsequently of Cheap ward 1415-34. He was sheriff 1403/04, mayor 1414/15, and represented the city at six parliaments between 1411 and 1423. His family roots lay one generation back in Norfolk. He entered the Mercer's Company in 1391, acting as a company warden 1398/99, 1405/06, 1411/12, 1417/18, and 1423/24. His focus was on the wool and cloth trades, and he had close business ties with merchants of Florence, from whom he could have obtained high quality cloth and other luxury goods, as well as connections in various English ports. Posts in the customs collection service – at Southampton (1405-07), Boston (1407-09), and London (1412-16) would likely have helped his business. He owned more than one ship. His clientele in the 1390s appears to have included an earl of Gloucester, while in the early fifteenth century he loaned money to Henry IV and Henry V on various occasions. He invested part of his fortune in real estate, including at Coventry (perhaps a reflection of his involvement in the Warwickshire wool trade) and in Kent, near Maidstone and Faversham (where he kept a large flock of sheep), while his widow is later found in possession of lands in Berkshire. His role in London administration was not free of scandal. Shortly after the end of his term as sheriff, he and colleague Thomas Polle were accused of false arrest of a weaver (see below). In 1413 and 1416 Londoners were accused of slandering him, in the latter case it was claimed Fauconer had been imprisoned in the Tower for prosecuting a Lollard despite the latter having the king's pardon; although the slanderer renounced the claim publicly, the Lollard in question had been burnt during Fauconer's mayoralty, while a second was also burnt after Fauconer's apprentice alerted the authorities to him and Fauconer himself worked hard for his condemnation. Again, in 1417, a draper was fined £40 for spreading the slander that Fauconer had falsified legal records; perhaps this too was associated with his campaign against the Lollards. He died in 1434, survived by a widow and daughter (a second, married daughter having predeceased him).

"Thomas Polle"
Alderman of Farringdon Within, a post held from 1397 to his death in 1413. He served as sheriff in 1403/04, but was never mayor. A goldsmith, he entered his apprenticeship in 1359 and had graduated before 1370, when he took his own first apprentice; he was warden of the craft in 1378, 1388, and 1395. He was one of the goldsmith representatives on the common council in 1381/82, and represented Farringdon ward there in 1384, 1386, and 1388. Along with Thomas Fauconer he was accused of having, when sheriff, wrongfully arrested a weaver, confiscated his possessions, and illegally demanded sureties; the case went to arbitration in 1406. Twice married, he was predeceased by both wives, and left no children.

"William Louthe"
Alderman of Castle Baynard ward; he was a newcomer to the aldermannic group, having joined them earlier in 1406. In 1413 he transferred to Farringdon Within ward (for which he had earlier served as common councillor, 1385/86), replacing Thomas Polle, and remained there until his death ca.1419. He had been sheriff in 1404/05, but was never mayor. A goldsmith, he was active in that craft by 1372, when he went to Winchester fair, and the following year took on the first known of a series of apprentices. He was warden of the craft in 1397 and 1402. He occasionally provided service to Henry IV and his successor as tax collector and source of loans to support military expeditions in France.

"William Crowmere"
Alderman of Billingsgate ward 1403-1420, then of Candlewick ward from 1420 until his death. He was sheriff 1405/06, mayor 1413/14 and 1423/24. He was said to be popular because a fair-minded man who could not be bribed – at least the brewers found him so, although the Lollards may have had different ideas, for he was active in putting down Oldcastle's rebellion and in implementing measures leading to the arrest of several Lollards. Crowmer's bequests to Cromer's parish church and his poor relations there, as well as his Norfolk estate, indicate that his surname points to his place of family origin. He first appears in London in 1390, when importing wine there, and later in the year importing drapery. His official trade was as a draper, and he was warden of the Drapers' Company in 1394 and in 1428/29. Henry Bolingbroke was one of his early clients, and put more substantial business Crowmer's way after becoming king. By the time of his successor's reign Crowmer had become very wealthy (of which the two terms as mayor is a reflection) and was one of the foremost aldermen in helping finance Henry V's French expeditions, while in the next reign he appears to have been making money from victualling the army; he likewise contributed in 1419 an unusually high sum towards the building of a new hall for the drapers. During the reign of Henry VI his clients included the duke of Gloucester and countess of Stafford. He was, at least in one venture, a business associate of William Walderne (see above) and Richard Whittington. By the time of his death, he held property in at least five London parishes and had over the course of many years built up an estate in Kent, part of it possibly through his second marriage (by 1428) to Margaret the coheiress of Sir Thomas Squiry of that county. His administrative and commercial abilities led to him being chosen as an arbitrator in various disputes brought before the mayor's court, and in 1425 the Hanse merchants chose him as one of three aldermen to judge law merchant cases involving their members. From about 1428 we see him moving towards retirement. He died in January 1434, leaving an underage son in the care of his executor Henry Barton; the son became a member of the Kent gentry and incurred sufficient unpopularity to be murdered during Cade's rebellion. Crowmer bequeathed almost £500 for charitable and pious works, and other monetary sums to friends and family totalling about £1,250; today those amounts would be the equivalent of over £4 million. Later that year his widow married Lord Poynings.

"Henry Bartone"
A recent addition to the aldermannic group, he took the post for Farringdon Without ward, in early 1406; in 1412 he moved into the Cornhill aldermanry where he remained to his death. He was sheriff 1405/06, Mayor 1416/17 and 1428/29. He appears to have been a member of a family with long-standing landed interests in the Buckinghamshire manor from which he took his surname. A branch of the family may already have been established in the city, a stimulus for Henry Barton and his brother Ralph to pursue their careers there as skinners (a mercantile rather than craft occupation); Ralph was also an alderman from 1416. Although Henry is first heard of in 1391, when he stood surety in Chancery for a Londoner, part of his early career was as an official in the household of Richard II's first queen; after her death (1394) Richard II confirmed a £5 annuity to Barton, as did Henry VI later. He had also been employed by John of Gaunt as a skinner, and Henry IV continued to make use of him, as a yeoman of the king's chamber from 1400, and from 1405 as the first skinner officially retained by the king's wardrobe (which brought the wage of 1s. a day for almost the rest of his life), overseeing the preparation, storage and transport of furred clothing worn by members of the royal household, which enabled him to put business for furs in his own direction. Payment was, typically, less easy to obtain, and by 1423 the crown owed him £2,100. His roles in the customs service at London, as collector of tunnage and poundage (1408-10) and collector of wool customs (1410-16) were in part to provide him with opportunities to recoup some of the royal debt. With his profits he built up extensive property in several city parishes, including a purchase in 1419 of the late Drew Barentyn's house in St. John Zachary parish. He had estates in Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, and apparently East Anglia, as well as joint interest in lands in Middlesex, Norfolk, and Berkshire (the last with his brother). He died in 1435, leaving no children although married twice. Much of his wealth went towards pious or charitable uses, although his widow Joan was left very well off. In 1425 he had assisted John Carpenter in the foundation of Whittington's college and almshouse; in his own will, Barton bequeathed a generous number of city properties to the Skinners' Company to be turned into homes for citizens who had fallen into poverty.

"Henry Pountfreyt"
Sheriff 1407/08. Collector of tunnage and poundage at London in 1398. The surname was common in London, so it is not clear if he was the saddler of that name. Several men of that surname were involved in the leather trades. ?A William de Pountfret skinner was an alderman during the 1340s, but left only a nephew John as his heir.

"by Divine inspiration"
Riley suggests this is an allusion to Acts 1, 24-26, in which the selection of a disciple to replace Judas is made from two candidates: "And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, that he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles."

"popular opposition"
For some years Holland was the leader of a a reform faction one of whose aims was to challenge the restriction of the vote. The 1441 election was the third year running he had been nominated, but not elected, mayor.

Whereas many towns had two financial officers, since 1300 London had opted for a single official. Financial accountability being an important element of democracy, the community shared the election with mayor and aldermen; from the time of the reforms of 1319 the chamberlain was chosen by the community representatives without any known direct influence from the aldermannic elite. The latter, however, was evidently prepared to intervene if necessary, as the 1443 election shows. Although election took place annually, it was not uncommon for a competent financial manager to be re-elected for consecutive years.

main menu

Created: May 27, 2003. Last updated: October 31, 2014 © Stephen Alsford, 2003-2014