Biographies



 
Lynn:    Baldeswell |  Bedingham |  Belleyetere |  Bermyngham |  Berry |  Betele |  Bitering |  Blakeney |  Blaunche |  Bolt |  Botkesham |  Brandon |  Braunch |  Brigge |  Brunham |  Brycham |  Brynton |  Bukenham |  Bukworth |  Burghard |  Cokerell |  Cokesford |  Cooke |  Copnote |  Couteshale |  Creyk |  Crosse |  Crowmer |  Denby |  Draper |  Drewe |  Ellingham |  Elys |  Engelond |  Erl |  Falyate |  Faukes |  Feltwell |  Fouler |  Frank |  Fransham |  Frere |  Fyncham |  Galt |  Gaysele |  Goldsmith |  Gunton |  Halleyate |  Herte |  Houton |  Hunderpound |  Hunte |  Keep |  Kempe |  Kenynghale |  Lakinghithe |  Lathe |  Leche |  Lok |  Loveday |  Mafey |  Martyn |  Melcheburn |  Muriell |  Neell |  Nicholasson |  Oxneye |  Paxman |  Paynot |  Permonter |  Pulter |  Reppes |  Ryghtwys |  Salisbury |  Silesden |  Snailwell |  Sparham |  Spicer |  Style |  Sustede |  Sutton |  Swanton |  Swerdestone |  Systerne |  Thewyt |  Thirsford |  Thorpe |  Tidde |  Tilney |  Trussebut |  Urry |  Wace |  Walden |  Walpole |  Walsingham |  Walsoken |  Waryn |  Waterden |  Wentworth |  Wesenham |  White |  Wormegay |  Yorke



 
Thomas de Baldeswell purchased entrance to the Lynn franchise in 1383. Over the decade that followed he played the usual minor role in public affairs (tax assessor, elector) but never rose beyond the middle rank of burgess society. The name of William de Baldeswell is not found in Lynn records; the reference to that name in the 1392-93 customs account may be a transcription error (although this is unlikely from the context), or he may have been a junior member of the Lynn family, or not a Lynn resident at all.



 
Ralph de Bedingham entered the franchise at Lynn in 1372, having completed his apprenticeship to Walter de Dunton, a probable merchant. Ralph certainly was being described as a merchant by the early fifteenth century. His international trading activities are documented between 1391 and 1412: he was exporting cloth, victuals and lumber and importing dried fish and a wide range of lumber. He served four terms as borough chamberlain and sat among the jurats for most of the period from 1390 to 1413. In 1412 he suffered a series of financial setbacks, losing one cargo of imports to a storm and two others to pirates, and in 1413 he was deposed as jurat by the reform party then in political ascendancy. However, he appears to have overcome these adversities and been restored to jurat ranks 1418-26, after which he is heard of no more – the last reference being a summons to the Exchequer to answer a house-breaking charge.



 
The individual identified in the 1392-93 customs account as Edward Belleyett' was properly Edmund Belleyetere, the most prominent member of a local family of bell-founders. Edmund, however, had expanded beyond family tradition to become a merchant and vintner, having been apprenticed to John de Brunham, father of the famous Margery Kempe, although Edmund was a generation older and had entered the franchise in his mid-twenties, in 1364, ten years before Margery was born. Edmund had a long (died ca.1414) and distinguished career in both local government – serving as jurat for most of the period between 1370 and 1413, three times as mayor during the 1390s, and alderman of the merchant gild for a good part of the subsequent decade – and in the customs service (1382-1404) most notably as Deputy Butler.

His mercantile activities are first documented in 1364, when he took £50 and woollen cloth to Gascony, with a view to buying wine for import. By the 1390s, he had refocused his attentions northward and was importing herring, dried fish, iron, beaver pelts, wax, tar, lumber, and ashes, although he remained involved in the wine trade. He continued to be active in commerce until the end of his life – pirates captured one of his cargoes, Norway-bound, in 1412. Some of his wealth he invested in buying estates in the vicinity of Lynn, and he had a manor-house on the opposite side of the Ouse from the borough.



 
Thomas de Bermyngham was probably a member of a Lynn family that became more prominent in the fifteenth century. He may perhaps have been the same as the fuller who served as a councillor several times in the 1420s and '30s (although this was more likely a member of a later generation).



 
William Berry of Holme-next-the-sea (15 miles north of Lynn) was a franchise entrant of 1385, but receives few mentions in Lynn borough records thereafter.



 
Henry de Betele was a member of one of the leading Lynn families of the fourteenth century. His father Hugh, a merchant who dealt in victuals (sometimes on behalf of the king), had been mayor in 1342/43 and co-owned a ship with his brother Henry, a slightly less prominent townsman; both succumbed to the first outbreak of plague. The Henry whose trading is evidenced in the 1392-93 customs account was born in 1339, entered the franchise at age 21 and followed his father's footsteps into commerce and politics. He first became a jurat in 1369 and, apart from a faux pas which led to his disgrace and disfranchisement for a year (1375/76), remained so for most of the period up to 1393. He was mayor in 1382/83 and alderman of the merchant gild 1390-93. His disappearance from the records in 1393 probably marks retirement or death. In 1374 he was exporting oats and beer to Zeeland, but only the 1392-93 account reflects his diversification into cloth, for surviving customs records from 1390-92 show no activity from him.



 
Although described as a vintner in August 1364, at the time he obtained a licence from the king to take to Gascony £50 in cash and the same in cloth in order to buy wine, William de Bitering is more often seen trading in victuals. However, this is because it is his exports that are most in evidence, not his imports.

We first hear of him in 1336/37 when he travelled to Stamford on community business (perhaps nothing more than message-bearing), and his earliest known mercantile activity is in 1337 – three years before he became a member of Lynn's merchant gild – when he partnered with Simon de Bitering to export 200 weys of white English salt to Germany; Lynn's early development owed much to its saltworks. Simon was a merchant of the previous generation but perhaps not a close relative, for his will (1349) left nothing to William, nor was the latter an executor, only coadjutor of the executors; the surname was present in Lynn from the beginning of that century, and the family's roots can apparently be traced to Cambridgeshire. The following year William and Simon exported the same amount of salt to Germany, this time in partnership with Hugh Betele, all three described as "king's merchants". In 1347 he is seen shipping two large cargoes of wheat and beans, again through partnerships; the same year finds him selling 6 tuns of wine to the King's Butler, who happened to be fellow-townsman John Wesenham. In 1353 he was licenced to send wheat to Holland or Zealand, in 1355 wheat and ale, and in 1357 wheat to Gascony. In 1364 a more diversified cargo of wheat, barley, beans, peas and ale was sent to Holland. William was wealthy enough to own a ship by 1346, when he was reimbursed by the community for the expenses of making it available for royal service; his local tax assessment in 1357/58 was triple the average paid by townsmen. In 1356 he had been one of the merchants of the realm summoned by the king to attend a special assembly.

His first known role in local government was as chamberlain in 1339/40, and he was one of the jurats for most of the period from 1346-69. His first term as mayor began in 1352, he was re-elected the following year, and then for an unprecedented third consecutive term – on that occasion he begged off, but again served in 1359/60 and 1366/67. His prominence in the community is also evidenced by his role as alderman of the merchant gild 1361-69. He also held posts in the royal customs administration, as a collector of the customs on wool in the mid-1340s (Simon de Bitering having held the post immediately before him) and early 1350s, and as Deputy Butler 1350-59, as well as holding the odd royal commission.

At his death in 1369, he left a widow, Juliana, a probably underage son John (who followed in William's footsteps as a merchant and jurat, but never quite achieved his father's prominence), and two daughters of whom one had become a nun at Carrow Abbey, near Norwich. A late eighteenth century antiquarian reported seeing his tomb and its brass, depicting him and Juliana, in St. Nicholas' church.



 
William Blakeney entered the franchise at Lynn in 1388, when referred to as a mariner. He was evidently of age (probably barely) in 1376 when he disposed of a piece of property from his inheritance. It was perhaps as a factor of a Lynn merchant (just possibly Henry de Betele or John Waryn, who were his guarantors for paying his entrance fine), that he was in Prussia when he received a beating. But more likely he was there as a ship's master, for in 1387 the king permitted his ship to be freed from arrest (for use in the navy), in order that it could carry a shipment of wool to Middelburg. He was in 1391 using the same ship to import herring – 7 last for re-sale and 4 last for his household use – and export cloth. In 1396, in a different ship which he owned, he exported a small amount of cloth. In 1398 he was in trouble for having captured a Scottish ship at a time of truce with Scotland. He was elected chamberlain in 1407/08 but then opted to side with the reform party in the years that followed; however, his mercantile associations made him acceptable to the ruling elite when they regained control of government and he served as a constable 1416-19 and again chamberlain in 1417/18, dying shortly after.



 
John Blaunche entered the franchise at Lynn in 1370, as a cooper. It would be tempting to assume that the name of John White, which also appears in the 1392-93 customs account, was an alternate version of his name. However, in a customs record of 1391 both Blaunche and White had cargoes in the same ship on one occasion, and both were mentioned in the same witness list of 1375, making it clear they were separate individuals. Neither man had much role in local government. In 1391, Blaunche was importing herring, sturgeon, lumber, iron, wax, beer, tar, and ashes, while White was involved in only one shipment, importing lumber, tar, iron, and ashes. However, White was more active in exporting cloth that year than in 1392, while Blaunche does not appear to have been active at all. Both were inactive by the end of the decade. White may have been the shipwright of that name who, in 1377/78 was constructing vessels for the town.



 
John Bolt purchased entrance to the franchise at Lynn in 1382 and became a member of the merchant gild three years later, having already been given modest community responsibility, as tax assessor and as a member of a committee to search out lepers and have them removed from the town. In the early 1390s we find him exporting cloth and being fined on more than one occasion for breaking the assizes of ale and wine; he was evidently doing business in the Baltic, for the ship he owned had been built in Gdansk and he appears to have married a woman from the same location (his son Robert later being described as the heir of a Gdansk man, Edmund Faukes).

It was at the same period that he entered the ranks of the jurats, having already served his 'apprenticeship' as chamberlain in 1388/89. He was a jurat throughout the period of political strife, during the reign of Henry V, and up until 1424, around which time he died. He was thus associated with the potentiores opposed by the Petypas faction, and as such was one of that group attacked in August 1415 while holding meeting in a tavern. His wife Margaret predeceased him, for in 1416/17 he purchased for her soul the spiritual benefits of membership in the merchant gild. His son was active in the customs service in the 1430s, but was not otherwise prominent.



 
Robert de Botkesham acquired freeman's status at Lynn in 1372, by right of his father Thomas de Botkesham, one of Lynn's leading merchants. Since John de Botkesham acquired the same status immediately afterwards, without fine, it is probable that he was a younger brother of Robert. Both men followed their father into jurat ranks, Robert remaining there for most of the period 1378 to 1403 (and probably to 1410) and John from 1391 to at least 1403; Robert alone followed his father into the mayoralty – also for three terms. Both likewise had brief stints of office in the customs administration, while Robert was appointed mayor of the Lynn staple in 1406. There is, however, no indication they partnered in commercial ventures, although both were all-purpose merchants dealing in similar goods: exporting cloth, grain, and victuals, and importing herring, dried fish, beaver pelts, iron, ashes, lumber, tar, flax, canvas, yarn, and probably wine.

Robert was evidently the more prosperous of the pair, and as such had that much more of a vested interest in the status quo, which helps explain why he was the most prominent among the leaders of the potentiores (anti-reform) party during the political strife which began in earnest during Robert's mayoralty of 1410/11; although there may have been some personal grudge involved too, for the reformers' leader was a former apprentice of John de Botkesham. Robert died during the course of the conflict (although there is no intimation of foul play), while John had already faded from the scene (and probably died) years earlier.



 
Thomas de Botkesham was to become one of the leading townsmen and merchants of the generation following that of William de Bitering. He entered the franchise in 1346 through apprenticeship; his master Humphrey de Wyken had died before Thomas could complete the final 6 months of his term, but the borough authorities waived that technicality. He had evidently already made something of a mark, and in 1350/51, as an elector, entered jurat ranks for the first time. In 1352/53 he served as chamberlain. Thereafter he was a jurat for almost the entire period up to 1390. During that period he served three mayoral terms (1357/58, 1363/64, and 1369/70).

In 1354 he was exporting malt, flour, salt and cloth to Norway and Germany, to trade for fish, and the following year was exporting wheat, ale and cloth. The mid-1360s have left evidence of more of his mercantile activities, again exporting victuals to Flanders, Zeeland, Holland, Gascony and Norway. In 1372 he was shipping hides from northern England to Lynn, and was in the same year (as well as later in the decade) supplying the borough with iron, tar, timber and other materials for building barges. He was alderman of the merchant gld from 1370 to 1389, and became mayor of the staple at Lynn in 1373. He died ca.1389/90. The Thomas Botkesham who was mayor of Lynn in 1433/34 may have been a grandson, although I have not found evidence of any direct link.



 
John de Brandon, one of the exporters most frequently mentioned in the customs account of 1392-93, appears already to have been engaged in commerce, improperly, in 1372 when he was obliged to become a freeman in consequence. In 1383 he was exporting grain to Norway, and his mercantile involvements with that country, Prussia and the Low Countries are well-documented between 1388 and 1406: he was heavily involved in exporting cloth, hides and grain, while importing soap, garlic, herring, eels, sturgeon, and probably wine and tiles. By 1400 he had his own ship which was used not only for legitimate commerce, but also for fighting the Scots, and for piracy. He served in several posts in the customs service between 1389 and 1408 and was mayor of the Lynn staple 1390-91. In urban administration, he was a jurat for most of the period between 1380-1413, and mayor of Lynn in 1409/10.



 
Ancelm Braunch was probably some relation of Robert Braunch, but the proximity is unknown. He purchased entrance to the franchise in1350, at the beginning of Robert's first mayoralty. Despite having married the widow of former mayor John de Massingham, his career was less distinguished than that of Robert. He served as chamberlain in 1353/54, and was elected a jurat the following year, continuing in that role up to 1362. Perhaps his life exemption from offices and assizes obtained in 1352 reflects a low interest in politics. From 1346 he was also one of the king's searchers of ships. In 1354 he was involved with the Cokesfords and John de Sustede in a partnership to export ale and wheat to the Low Countries, and in 1359 received licence in his own right to export the same kind of goods to the Low Countries or English-held France.



 
John Braunch became a member of the merchant gild in 1293. He was already well-to-do, for the previous year his goods had been valued (for purposes of a local tax assessment) at £12. Further valuations have survived for 1298, 1299, 1302, 1303, and 1305 when varying between £8 (below the average) and £20 in the 1300s. In a national tax levied in 1332 his goods were valued at £6.16s.8d, but the basis for the valuation was different from that for local taxes, and John's assessment on this occasion was well above the average of £2.19s.1d. Mercantile activities may do much to explain the fluctuations in local tax assessments. In 1308 and 1313 he is seen exporting wool. In 1309 he was fined for blocking the marketplace with his merchandize; during the same session, his wife was fined for breaking the ale assize. John was again fined for a similar offence in 1328, when his timber occupied excessive space in the Tuesday Market. He appears to have lived in Damgate, probably near the market end. That timber had long been an item in which he dealt is suggested by the fact that in 1303 he and Richard de Swanton had sold planks to the king's commissioners, for purposes of constructing pontoons.

John did his duty to the community, but no more: his roles in local government began with that of tax assessor (1301 and again in 1305); he served as chamberlain in 1304/05, as jurat the following year, being seen again in the latter role in 1322/23, and as an auditor of the town financial accounts in 1320. He likewise served the merchant gild, as a scabin, in 1306/07 and 1316/17.



 
The Thomas Attelburgh mentioned in the 1392-93 customs account may perhaps have been a Lynn man, for there is a fleeting reference, among a list of leading townsmen, in February 1392 to one with the name of Thomas Attlebrigge. This would have been the merchant more usually referred to as Thomas atte Brigge, a jurat for most of the period from 1393 to his death in 1422 (except for interruption during the governmental tenure of the reform party), and mayor in 1402/03 and 1407/08. After purchasing the franchise in October 1390, his mercantile activities are almost immediately evidenced: in 1391 he was exporting cloth and importing herring; probably he was trading before entering the franchise, as he was unable to claim free entrance by patrimony, even though his father Peter had become a freeman in 1349. He is again seen exporting cloth in 1394, but wool and woolfells between 1399 and 1403, and importing string in 1402 and (in partnerships, including with his brother James) herring, eels, sturgeon, iron and wine in 1406. Like John Wentworth, he ran afoul of the Bishop's officers in Lynn during one of his mayoralties, and became one of the chief opponents of the reform party.



 
The Brunham family was one of the most powerful in Lynn at this period, and two generations are represented in the 1392-93 customs account. John de Brunham's father Ralph had been of above-average means and had served as jurat in the 1340s. John entered the franchise in 1353 and, after a term as chamberlain in 1355/56, the jurat ranks only four years later, remaining therein until at least 1403 and probably to 1412, except for when he served again as chamberlain and during 5 mayoralties – the first in 1370/71 and the last in 1391/92. By 1398 he had become alderman of the merchant gild, in which post he remained until about 1406.

His longevity was exceptional and the depth of experience he had helps explain why he was kept among the jurats until shortly before his death in 1413. As early as 1383 he was obtaining an exemption from jury-duty or any unwanted offices on the excuse of being "too old to labour"; far more credible was his excuse for non-attendance at a council meeting of December 1412 that he was bed-ridden. One of the targets of the complaints of the reform party in 1411/12, he was probably semi-retired at that point and played little active part in the opposition to the reformers.

His wide-ranging commercial activities are evidenced between 1352, when he was fined for regrating bread and 1397, when he was making money from the operation of a ferry-boat (leased from the merchant gild). His property included a quay and several shops. By 1357/58 his local tax assessment was already twice the average. In 1377/78 he sold herring to the community; in 1385/86 he bought a millstone from the merchant gild; in 1392/93 he sold iron to the Corpus Christi gild. Although in 1392 he exported only a shipment of corn, in 1391 he was exporting cloth and lumber, and cloth again in 1395. Despite all this, John de Brunham is best known today as the father of Margery Kempe.



 
John's son Robert de Brunham might have equalled the prominence of his father, had he lived as long. Unaccountably, there is no record of Robert's franchise entrance at Lynn, but he was one of several men fined in February 1388 for selling by retail – possibly a pressure tactic to persuade them to become freemen; Robert, who was on that occasion described as a vintner, was by far the most heavily fined. Vintner was evidently what he remained, for in 1400 he was fined for selling red and white wine contrary to terms of the assize, and he was heavily fined in 1403 for regrating 16 tuns of wine, and again in 1404 with regard to a further 6 tuns. In 1405-06 he imported several shipments of red wine. In 1408 the community was 100s. in debt to him for wine he supplied for official functions, and in 1412 we finally have a reference to his tavern. However, like all good merchants, he diversified: in 1391 he was exporting cloth, furniture, and lumber, and in 1405 and 1406 was partnering with others in the export of grain. That he was a ship-owner is suggested by his complaint of theft of an anchor in 1405.

His career in public administration was similar to his father's, but took place mostly in the 1400s and included constable of the Lynn staple (a role his father had also held), jurat from at least 1411 to at least 1420, two elections as mayor, and the aldermanship of the merchant gild from 1414-1419. He was one of the members of the ruling class most active in the opposition to the reform party and, as a result, was roughly treated when he (constitutionally, as alderman) tried to assume the mayoralty in 1415 after the death in office of John Lakinghithe; the reform party had forced him to surrender the mayoral seal and key to the borough treasury and, despite royal writs in support of him, refused to return them or let him exercise mayoral authority. Die-hard reformers remained bitter towards him for years. He died at some point between 1420 and 1422, still a jurat.



 
William de Brycham was about 40 years old when found engaged in commerce, in the 1392-93 customs account. He had already served one term as chamberlain of Lynn, and was at this time (1391-92) constable of the staple at Lynn. The most prominent part of his career was ahead of him, however, when he rose into the ranks of the jurats, but supported the losing cause of the reform party. His early career was perhaps as a fishmonger or even a fisherman, and he remained active in the fish trade – being in trouble in 1413 for forestalling fish. But, having joined the merchant gild by 1385, from 1390 to 1413 he is seen active in more wide-ranging commerce, exporting cloth and grain and importing soap, lumber, herring, woad, madder, millstones (some of which he sold to the merchant gild), pitch and tar, and by 1413 owned his own ship.



 
At his earliest appearance, in 1319, William de Brynton (or Bruntone) was already prospering, if we may judge from the fact that his local tax assessment was well above the average; in the 1332 national subsidy his assessment was the third highest of all Lynn residents, over four times the average. He purchased membership in the merchant gild in 1324 and is seen exporting wool to Middelburg in 1336 and in 1348 suing Rodeland Tiler for 5s. remaining from a debt due for herring sold him. In 1356 he was summoned by name to attend a national assembly of merchants; he had already, between 1331 and 1352, been returned by his community to four parliaments and a special council summoned by the king (1351/52).

William's name is found among the constables on several occasions between 1326 and 1355, he being replaced in June of that year. He served as mayor in 1341/42, and is found as a jurat for much of the period between 1342 and 1362. He held for some years the post of borough coroner, being in that office by ca.1335 and retiring from it in June 1355, on the grounds of old age and ill health. In 1357 he obtained a royal grant of life exemption from office and jury-duty, and in 1357/58 his local tax assessment was only half the average. Possibly these facts reflect a genuine retirement, except for him remaining in an advisory status through the town council. The entrance into the franchise of Thomas de Brynton in 1362 might mark William's death, but we cannot be sure whether Thomas was William's heir, as he entered by right of apprenticeship.



 
John de Bukenham obtained the franchise at Lynn in 1344 by graduating from his apprenticeship and is afterwards variously described as taverner, vintner and merchant. An earlier John de Bukenham, a barker, had entered the franchise in 1300 and was in 1349 described as "senior", but this does not necessarily mean he was related to the John of the next generation. Aside from being an elector in 1351, his election as chamberlain in 1354 was the first known role of responsibility he held in the borough; he served another term as chamberlain in 1366/67.

By the time of his first election, he was clearly prospering, for in 1354 he acquired three shops and a garden in Pillory Lane, next to property he already owned; at unknown date he also held property a little further south on Jews Lane. In 1368 he acquired a shop with a cellar at the corner of Mercer Row and Purfleet Lane. In December of that year he was exporting (through a partnership) 100 tuns of ale and 200 qt. of malt. In 1364 he received exactly the same permission as Gunton and Bitering, to take cash and cloth to Gascony to buy wine. On several occasions between 1349 and 1375 he was fined for breaking the assize of wine, and his wife Agnes for infringing the ale assize. He was a jurat in 1363/64 and from 1371-74, and one of the constables (an office reflecting his importance in the community) from 1370 on; the appointment of someone else to his constabulary in 1382 probably marks his death.



 
A series of men named John de Bukworth were in evidence in Lynn throughout the fourteenth century. One was a jurat in the 1320s, another was one of the keepers of the town gates in the 1340s. The best-known carrier of the name was from the middle rank of urban society and mainly active in the second decade of the fifteenth century. Affiliated with the reform party, he served in one of its administrations as chamberlain (and in the same year played a similar financial administration role in the merchant gild). He was – during the years of compromise following the defeat of the reformers – brought into the lower ranks of the jurats and had a post in the customs service, and in 1419 was nominated by the die-hards of the reform party as mayor, but was not elected. No record of his entrance to the franchise has survived, which might place it in the early 1400s, from which we are missing records. It is likely he who, with partners, exported a large cloth shipment in 1405. Whether he was the corn exporter of 1392 is more difficult to say; his partner on that occasion, Adam Borde, does not appear in Lynn records.



 
When John Burghard purchased the franchise at Lynn in 1305 he was described as "of Stoke"; the place-name is common and widespread, but may refer to Stoke-on-Trent, since his lengthy will included bequests of 100s. to be distributed among his poor relations and widows in Stoke and 40s. among the same in Burton. However, it is equally likely that his roots lie closer to home, in a cluster of villages some fifteen miles south of Lynn. He was probably already prospering as a wool merchant – in 1322 he was to be one of four Lynn men summoned by the king to attend a council of the country's greatest wool merchants – and found citizenship at Lynn convenient because it was an important export centre. Whether he moved permanently there at first is less certain. He did not bother to join its merchant gild until 1312/13, and it was in the years that followed that he is seen acquiring properties there, including a number of rents – which would provide him with a certain guaranteed income, as a buttress against the larger but less certain revenues from international commerce.

Most of the records we have of his activities relate to his real estate transactions, and his will shows that he had acquired, by his death in August 1339, numerous properties throughout the town, including a large number of selds (some at least larger than stalls, for they had courtyards associated), and two quays on the Purfleet. Despite this, it is not certain where his personal residence was, but probably in the lane running east off Briggate on the north side of the Purfleet, for this was known for a while as Burghard's Lane. In the 1332 lay subsidy, he had the third highest assessment of any Lynn townsman and, although his commercial activities are little documented, evidently remained an important player in the wool trade up to his death, for in that same year the king acknowledged a debt of over £34 to John, for wool purveyed from him, and he is seen to have sheep-farms at several villages within a few miles of Lynn.

Not surprisingly, he numbered among the ranks of the jurats by 1322 (lists of the council being scarce at that period), and served as mayor in 1326/27, 1332/33, and less certainly 1337/38. He was survived by his widow, Alice, three sons – none of whom appears to have amounted to much (one possibly became a cleric and studied at Cambridge), and two daughters. One of the latter, Margaret Kenynghale, gave an important boost to the borough coffers by bequeathing the community and merchant gild the properties her father had left her, in return for them holding an annual obit for his soul; this was still being celebrated in 1424/25, when it was ordered that mayor, jurats, councillors and chamberlains attend the obit or pay a 12d. fine.



 
Robert Cokerell is another of the middle-ranking traders of Lynn. Although he imported a large quantity of dried fish and a small quantity of oil in 1391 (exporting cloth in the same year), he did not even bother to become a member of the town's merchant gild until 1396. After that date we have glimpses of his commercial activity: in 1400 he was renting two cellars by the quayside and was fined for breaking the assize of wine, and in 1402 he was importing garlic. Apart from one term as chamberlain, he played no part in borough administration.



 
Hamon de Cokesford entered the merchant gild in 1320 and served as one of its scabins 1339-41. He was a jurat in1349/50 and the following year, because the electors (of whom he was one) were joined with others to form the full council. John de Cokesford and Robert de Cokesford were more prominent members of the family (if indeed all were related), and Hamon does not seem to have been as well-to-do, nor is there evidence of any significant mercantile activities.



 
Although the entrance of John de Cokesford into the gild merchant in 1317, by purchase, might appear to mark the beginning of his career, he had been briefly seen four years earlier, among those accused by Robert de Monthalt of a mob assault upon him, and that his local tax assessment in 1319 was over three times the average suggests his business affairs were prospering. That business was probably the usual trade in victuals that was the backbone of many mercantile operations; in 1328 he was fined for forestalling herring, in 1330 was capitalizing on the butchery of a beached whale, and in 1335, 1354 and 1355 is seen exporting grain and ale to the Low Countries. The 1354 venture was a partnership with Robert de Cokesford, Ancelm Braunch and John de Sustede. There are hints he made have had a side-business as an attorney. Chamberlain in 1319/20, he was frequently constable during the first half of Edward III's reign. He held three terms as mayor between 1339 and 1346 and also served the merchant gild as a scabin 1337-39. He was first jurat in 1325/26, again in 1342/43, and for most of the period from 1347.



 
Robert de Cokesford entered the merchant gild by patrimony in 1329; this may indicate him as a son of John de Cokesford, with whom he was a partner in an export venture in 1354. Possibly like John, he seems to have mixed commerce and legal business as the way to earn a livelihood; at least he appears to have acted as the borough attorney on several occasions, and fees paid him in 1348/49 and 1356/57 have the look of retainers. It was perhaps in this role that he was returned to the parliament of 1346, during which he attended the funeral of fellow-burgess Thomas de Folsham in London – this later proving to be a fraud, Thomas having faked his death to try to escape his debtors, but there is no indication Robert was aware of the deceit. He was jurat for most of the period from 1350 to 1368, and served the king as Deputy Butler at Lynn from 1347 to 1350, with a brief overlapping stint as collector of tunnage and poundage (1350-51). In 1355 and 1363 we see him exporting ale. He died in 1369, leaving sons Thomas, who had entered the franchise in 1361, and Robert; neither figures prominently in town affairs, and Robert is last heard of going off to serve in the king's army in 1372.



 
A Thomas Cooke was active in Lynn in the 1320s, and may have been the clerk of the name who was an executor of John le Frenge in 1339. But it is doubtful this was the same man as the elector of 1354. That Thomas le Cooke purchased membership in the merchant gild in 1340 and served as borough chamberlain in 1341/42 and again in 1346/47. He is found as one of the king's bailiffs in Lynn in 1349/50; it may be more than coincidence that the office of borough bailiff was held by Stephen Cooke de Tylneye from 1351-61. Thomas was a jurat in 1347/48 (through electorship) and in 1349/50-1350/51, but not thereafter despite being chosen an elector on 6 other occasions during the 1350s. He appears to have been a man of modest means and perhaps indeed a cook, as his surname suggests (he was suing a cook for debt in 1350).



 
The John Copnote who received a beating in Prussia in 1385 was probably a member of a mercantile family visible in Lynn in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth family. A Robert Copnote was a ship-owner in 1391, while a later John Copnote, who entered the lower council at Lynn in 1418 and the upper council in 1423, had already served the community (1414/15, the same year in which he entered Lynn's franchise) in the role of its representative in negotiations with the king of Denmark regarding disputes between Lynn merchants and Hanse merchants.



 
John de Couteshale was possibly a descendant of Andrew de Couteshale, who was a scabin of the merchant gild ca.1262 and probably the mayor of ca.1270 simply referred to as "Andrew". Although John did not enter the merchant gild until 1340, his career was already well underway:
  • he had been fined for infringing the assize of ale in 1328 (in 1359 he received the extraordinarily heavy fine of 50s. for the same offence, suggesting him to have been an incorrigible offender);
  • his assessment in the national subsidy of 1332 was a little below the average; he had served his first of two terms as chamberlain in 1334/35;
  • he was one of the collectors of a royal tax in 1336;
  • and in the same year he and his wife Cecily are seen acquiring property.
By 1340 he was in fact wealthy enough to own a ship, the participation of which in a piratical attack on a Flemish vessel had obliged Edward III to pay heavy compensation; John, to allay the king's wrath, had to take his ship into royal service for a time in 1342. In 1354 he was exporting, in partnership with others not of Lynn, ale and wheat to the Low Countries, and his status as a leading merchant is indicated by him being summoned to attend a national assembly of merchants in 1356.

He was first jurat (as far as we know) in 1342/43 and held that position for most of the period between 1350 and 1371; during the same period he was mayor five times, the first beginning July 1349 to replace John de Massingham, felled by plague. He was one of Lynn's constables during the late 1340s and '50s, a territorial authority which is also evidenced by the lengthy will of his widow who died in 1389; this shows that John had built up a substantial block of property in the Gresmarket/Jews Lane/Pillory Lane sector of town, of which ward he was constable. One of John's sons, Thomas de Couteshale, was prominent in the next generation, as jurat for most of 1369-96 and three times mayor, but otherwise the family slipped into obscurity.



 
John de Creyk purchased entrance to the Lynn franchise in 1383, on the same day as Thomas Baldeswell. Like Baldeswell, his status in the middle rank of urban society is defined by his minor public roles during the late '80s and early '90s as tax assessor, capital pledge, and elector.



 
John Crosse was probably an early member of the family that became established in the lower ranks of the merchant class at Lynn in the first half of the fifteenth century. Unlike later members of the family, John features little in borough records, and may perhaps not even have settled in Lynn by 1392; a skinner of that name entered the franchise in 1401, but this is not necessarily the cloth exporter.



 
Thomas de Crowmer entered the franchise at Lynn, as a cordwainer (leather-worker) in 1385, but was not an especially prominent member of the community.



 
Richard de Denby entered the franchise at Lynn in 1377. Besides exporting cloth, he imported nails, lumber, iron, glass, and sackcloth; he also dealt in wine (but was not necessarily importing it himself). He was a jurat for much of the period between 1388 and 1419.



 
John Draper was probably the franchise entrant of 1381, a graduated apprentice of merchant Geoffrey de Fransham. Apart from acting as member of tax assessment committees on a couple of occasions during the '80s, he features little in Lynn records.



 
Merchant and shipowner Geoffrey Drewe senior had been one of the leading townsmen during the reign of Edward II and was probably frequently a jurat (although our sparse records from that period only document a couple of terms, in the 1320s). He may have been the mayor of that name in 1305/06; or perhaps this was an earlier generation of the family, since that Geoffrey had entered the merchant gild by patrimony in 1286, while the Geoffrey known as senior was still active in travelling on community business into the late 1330s.

Whether Geoffrey senior was the father of Geoffrey Drewe junior is not known, but some relationship is probable in what was a large family prominent in the town throughout the fourteenth century. Geoffrey junior had purchased membership in the merchant gild in 1317, but his fraternal oath was not administered at that time because he was underage. He served as gild scabin from 1333 to 1335, and as its alderman from 1349 to at least 1358 and probably until his death in 1361, when he was succeeded by William de Bitering.

He had been a one-time business partner of Bitering in 1355 and on his deathbed named William as one of his executors; William refused administration of the will, but nonetheless took on Geoffrey's son Thomas Drewe as an apprentice not long afterwards. Despite (or just perhaps because of) his aldermannic role and his frequent election as a jurat during the 1340s and '50s, he never held the mayoralty. His mercantile activities were likely extensive, but almost our only window onto them is during the period 1354-55, when on three occasions he was exporting large quantities of ale, wheat, and peas.

His participation in the royal customs service – as searcher for coin 1335-42, as collector of the wool custom 1342-46 and in the early 1350s, and briefly in 1350 as collector of tunnage and poundage – would also be a typical indicator of involvement in long-distance commerce. The borough sent him as its representative to five parliaments between 1341 and 1358, and he is frequently seen travelling on community business, usually to London. At his death, he left a widow, Golditha, sons William and Thomas, and a daughter Katharine.



 
One of the customs collectors of 1392-93, John Drewe, was also one of the exporters listed, involved in 6 shipments during the year, while other customs documents also show him very active in international commerce between 1391 and 1393. A member of a prominent and prolific family of the town (his father, Thomas Drewe senior, had been mayor), he was frequently a jurat during the 1380s and early '90s, and was probably at the peak of his career – at about age 45 – at the time of the customs account of 1392-93. I suspect he was the franchise entrant of April 1368 who had served out an apprenticeship to merchant Thomas de Botkesham. He served as a customs collector at Boston and Lynn from 1388-93, and died ca.1398.



 
The Thomas Drewe who was one of the town councillors elected in 1354 was probably a cousin, or even brother, of Geoffrey Drewe junior (despite not being mentioned in Geoffrey's will). Thomas himself became known as "senior" from 1371, after Geoffrey's son Thomas had entered the franchise. Thomas' own son Geoffrey (to add to the confusion) obtained the franchise by patrimony in 1358, and another son John in 1372. Thomas first figures in the records in 1328, when fined for forestalling fish, and his first role in officialdom was as scabin of the merchant gild (1337-39). He appears to have been a jurat for the entire period from 1342 to 1376, with the exception of the years when he served as king's bailiff (1348/49) or mayor (1345/46, 1362/63, 1368/69) and possibly 1343-45 and 1351/52 (for which years we have no record of who was jurat). His commercial activities are almost undocumented, except for one export venture involving grain and ale in 1355 in which he was partner to Geoffrey Drewe junior, but it is reasonably safe to assume that he was a merchant.



 
The Thomas Drewe who made a single shipment in 1392 was at closest a cousin to John Drewe, his father being Geoffrey Drewe junior. Thomas Drewe junior was a jurat for most of the period from 1375 to at least 1403, and mayor twice in the 1390s; he also held several posts in the customs service between 1378 and 1392, both at Lynn and Yarmouth. He obtained the franchise in 1370 as a former apprentice of vintner William de Bitering (probably graduated, although Bitering had died in 1369). He is seen exporting cloth in 1391 and 1395 as well – although not huge amounts in either case. He probably died ca.1408.



 
Entering the merchant gild in 1341, a few years later William de Ellingham was described as a mercer and the following year (1349) is seen exporting wool; at an unknown date he was renting from the borough a stall in Mercer Row. In 1348 he is found in possession of a row of four shops between St. James' cemetery and other property he owned, and in 1359 he held a house in Skinner's Row, which led towards St. James'. Like many, if not most, of Lynn's leading merchants, he also had riverside property which included a quay. He served as chamberlain in 1345/46 and again in 1354/55. He was also jurat for three terms during the 1350s. It is not clear whether he had any children; there is some indication that he made his apprentice, Hugh de Dudlyngton, his heir, but Hugh may have been a relative.



 
Henry Elys purchased the franchise at Lynn in 1350. His commercial activities are little evidenced, although he sold the borough 40s. worth of fish in 1358/59 to provision a community ship. He was elected to the chamberlain's office in 1354 and again in 1360, and served a few terms as jurat (1357/58, 1362-66). He does not appear to have risen into the upper ranks of Lynn townsmen. Perhaps this was due to an early death: he is not seen after 1366 and we hear of his widow, Matilda, in 1379, while his son William entered the franchise by right of patrimony not until 1378 – either Henry had spent some years in retirement, or William had been a child when Henry died.



 
The Edmund Engelond who entered the Lynn franchise in 1371 is most likely the same person as the Edward Yngelond listed in the 1392-93 customs account. He played only minor roles in the public affairs of the community, and was briefly (1389/90) in the lower ranks of the jurats. His involvement in international commerce seems similarly slight.



 
William Erl was described as a vintner when he obtained royal licence, in 1364, to take cash and cloth to Gascony to buy £100 worth of wine. In 1377/78 he sold quantities of herring and wine to the community, and more wine in 1401/02. He was fined in 1375 for breaking the assizes of ale and wine, and again in 1400, 1403 and 1404 for regrating on each occasion up to 10 tuns of wine. The cellar he was leasing at the quayside in 1391 from the merchant gild may have been for storing wine. In 1387, however, he was exporting cloth, lumber and beds through the port of Ipswich. In local administration, he served three terms as chamberlain, was jurat for most of the period between 1378 and 1403, as well as acting as coroner (there being some evidence that he was literate) and constable of the Lynn staple in the 1390s.



 
John de Falyate entered the franchise at Lynn in 1345. He is not much in evidence in the early years of his adult life, although was fined for breaking the ale assize in 1349 and 1352, and his local tax assessment in 1357/58 was only a little above the average. Perhaps he represents an example of a retailer who expanded gradually into wholesaling. In 1366 he was exporting large quantities of grain, barley, malt, and ale, and in 1382 a large number of woolfells. He was certainly a member of the merchant gild by 1385, when he was also renting from the gild a room on the common quay. With success in business came acceptance into the ranks of the urban ruling class: his first term as chamberlain (1357/58) was followed in 1361 by election into jurat ranks and he spent much of the period until 1388 therein, punctuated notably by two further terms as chamberlain.



 
Thomas Faukes entered the franchise at Lynn in 1375. During the 1390s he was exporting cloth and importing herring. He had his own quay and probably ran a tavern too. It may have been financial acumen that resulted in him being chosen as scabin (financial officer) of the merchant gild in the 1380s, repeatedly as tax assessor in the same decade, and the unusually high number of four times chamberlain of the borough. He rose to the lower ranks of the jurats and remained there for most of the 1390s.



 
Simon de Feltwell was one of the middle rank of burgesses. He was resident in Lynn by the time of the 1379 poll tax, but did not take up the franchise until 1385. His term as chamberlain (1402/03) was the highest role he assumed in local government, as well as his last appearance in the records. His shipment mentioned in the customs account of 1392-93 is the only evidence of any mercantile activity. Two years later he was fined for regrating ale.



 
The Thomas Fouler who was captain of one of the ships mentioned in the 1392-93 customs account was likely a Lynn resident, as he was still captaining a ship based at Lynn in 1406. In his chosen occupation, however, it is not surprising that he does not feature in Lynn records. The single cargo on which he paid customs was too minor to represent serious mercantile activity.



 
Although the Frank family was prominent in Lynn in the first half of the fifteenth century, the scarcity of the surname earlier (other than bowyer Richard Frank who became a freeman in 1377 and was exporting wool in 1387) suggests relatively recent immigration or a previous low status. That Philip Frank had to purchase the franchise in 1402 would support either hypothesis. In the latter part of his life he was referred to as a merchant; we know he was involved in the Norwegian trade, like many fellow townsmen, but his commercial activities are little documented, although he was several times fined for infringing the assizes of ale and wine.

His political affiliation at this time was at first with the Petypas faction, for in April 1411 he was a mainpernor for the future peaceable behaviour of Petypas et al.; later that year he was one of its parliamentary representatives, and in 1413 served as one of the community prolocutors. During 1411/12 bowyer John Frank was admitted to the franchise as part of the attempt by Petypas to pack the electorate with his supporters. However, although in 1412 appointed to the auditing committee to review financial accounts of past administrations, Philip was not part of the solid core of that committee which continued its task after the potentiores members walked out. His association with the reforming party would have been to its advantage, for he had already served as chamberlain (1409/10) and so would have had some inside knowledge of the operations of the potentiores. But perhaps he was a more moderate member of that party, for after its collapse he was quickly 'rehabilitated', and went on to serve as a constable (1418-26), scabin of the merchant gild (1417/18, 1421-24), councillor (1418-22), jurat (1422-32), and mayor (1426/27). He died in 1432.

It is not clear whether merchant Richard Frank who, soon after a term as chamberlain, became a councillor (1433-35), thereafter promoted to the jurats (1435-63, except for 1457/58, when in disgrace due to arrears of his mayoral account), and mayor in 1449/50, was Philip's son; he was, however, nephew of a London grocer of the same name. Richard was involved in the trade with Prussia and Denmark, and is found in the 1440s exporting cloth, oats, barley, and dried fish, and importing wine, and at a slightly earlier date involved in the grindstones trade. His ship was accused of involvement in a piratic act in 1436, and he was personally accused of conspiring to hijack another ship, of which he later became the owner.



 
Richard de Fransham entered the franchise by patrimony at Lynn in 1384, and was still alive in 1404. Richard achieved no comparable prominence, either in commerce or in local administration, to his father Geoffrey de Fransham. Geoffrey was a merchant in the northern trade and, following immediately after his first of two terms as chamberlain (1358/59), served as jurat for most of the 1360s, '70s, and '80s; he also spent a few years as collector of the wool custom at Lynn in the '80s. He had become a freeman of Lynn in 1350, through apprenticeship to merchant Thomas de Fransham, himself briefly a jurat before his career was terminated by the plague. In 1391 Geoffrey was importing herring and may have died around this time (assuming later references in 1399 and 1407 to be to one of his sons).



 
The Richard Frere who served as mayor's (i.e. town) clerk from 1349 to 1369 was probably the Clenchwarton man who, in 1335, witnessed a deed to property in Lynn. A Robert Frere is seen in 1337 as master of a ship whose home port was Lynn. Richard disappears from local records after 1369. Given that his duties often called for him to travel across East Anglia or down to London, it may be that he was the Richard Frere whose murder prompted an order in January 1369 to arrest Adam Baumford of Ospringe (Kent); Baumford evidently eluded the authorities for he was outlawed in July, but bought a pardon the following year. Such an unexpected turn of events may explain why Lynn went without a clerk at the elections in September 1369, qualified men not always being readily at hand.



 
When John de Fyncham purchased the franchise in 1349, he was described as "of Lavenham". Precisely when he moved to Lynn is unknown. He had already been active in Norfolk in the king's service: in 1341 as a purveyor of victuals and in 1347 as collector of a wool-loan and shortly after collector of a tax; these roles were likely to have brought him into contact with Lynn. Perhaps the depletion of leading townsmen as a result of the Black Death encouraged him to advance his prospects by entering Lynn society. In 1351/52 he cut his teeth in local administration as chamberlain, was returned in 1352 to the first of four parliaments he attended on behalf of the borough, served his first term as jurat in 1354/55 and this role was repeated for most of the period up to 1366. In 1367/68 he was mayor. He had also acted as the bishop's steward in the town 1354-58, and was the king's Deputy Butler 1361-63.

His career shows an administrative, perhaps even legal, bent. But this was combined with mercantile activities: in 1360, 1364 and 1366 he is seen exporting grain and/or ale; it may be that some of this was the product of agricultural lands held outside the town. He is last heard of in 1367, as one of the commissioners of array in Lynn. His son Adam entered the franchise in 1375, but himself left no direct heir. The son's name may suggest a link between John and an earlier Adam de Fincham, who was a legal advisor to Lynn 1327-32, and Deputy Butler there 1327-28.



 
Henry Galt entered the Lynn franchise in 1363, on the same day – and (unusually) apparently in the same transaction – as Roger Goldsmith. In 1392, Henry acted as a pledge when Roger took Thomas Davy as his apprentice. Henry's roles in public affairs between 1363 and 1392 were frequent but minor (elector, tax-assessor, capital pledge), indicating that he was not in the top rank of urban society. The possible association with the Goldsmith family may give a hint to his own occupation.



 
Geoffrey de Gaysele was apprenticed to merchant Thomas de Botkesham and, after completing his term, entered the franchise at Lynn in 1362. His commercial activities are only slightly evidenced; his single venture in 1392 was parallelled by a single export cargo of cloth, of comparable value, the previous year. He is also found trading locally in millstones. Although a jurat for most of the 1380s and '90s, he never distinguished himself to the point where he was selected for the mayoralty. He disappears after 1401.



 
Roger Goldsmith of Dereham purchased entrance to Lynn's franchise in 1363, in a transaction which (atypically) saw two other men doing the same thing side-by-side with him: Adam Goldsmith of Dereham and Henry Galt. Like Galt his public roles did not extend beyond tax-assessor and capital pledge. When he took on an apprentice in 1392, his business was described as mercantile.



 
Simon de Gunton purchased membership in the merchant gild in 1340. A few years later he is found in possession of a tavern, but it is not until 1364 that he is explicitly identified as a vintner. In July of that year he was exporting woad to Zeeland and using the proceeds to buy wine for import, and in August (exactly as William de Bitering) was licenced to take £50 in cash and the same in cloth to Gascony to buy wine, while in December he planned to export ale and peas to Flanders; in 1366 he again exported wheat and ale to the Low Countries. In 1353 he had imported a quantity of rye from Germany but, finding himself unable to make a profit on it in England, obtained clearance to try to sell it in Holland or Zealand; the same region was later that year the target of a cargo of wheat, exported in partnership with Robert Braunch.

He served the unusually high number of three terms as chamberlain during the 1350s, which may be taken as an indicator of acument, was a jurat for most of the period between 1355 and 1376, and was mayor in 1361/62 and 1364/65, as well as borough coroner from 1355 until his death. In addition he took on the role as the king's Deputy Butler in the port from1363 to 1369. The life exemption from offices and jury-duty he obtained in 1366 may indicate a reluctance to hold mayoral office again. He was dead by February 1376, leaving a widow Felicia but no trace of any children.



 
William Halleyate seems almost out of place among the exporters listed in the customs account of 1392-93, for his modest venture in 1392 is the only direct evidence of mercantile activities. He was fined in 1400 for breaking the assize of ale, but by itself this is hardly evidence of wholesale trading. His claim to fame is as one of the leaders of the reform movement of 1411-15. Yet, in the royal pardon he obtained in 1416 after the collapse of that movement, he is described as "merchant". In 1392 he may not even have been a resident of Lynn borough, and he only took up the franchise as part of the reform party's attempt to consolidate its hold on local government. However, during the 1390s he was serving as a bailiff of one of the Lynn's overlords; and for a few years from 1408 he held posts in the customs service. It is not out of the question that his mercantile venture in 1392 may have been as factor for some other party, such as the Bishop of Norwich. On the other hand, perhaps he was engaged in small-scale international trading throughout his career.



 
John Herte, the son of Alan Herte of Snettisham, entered the franchise at Lynn in 1375 after completing an apprentice with John Drewe. He does not appear to have been highly active either in commercial or political life of the town.



 
The John de Howton mentioned in the customs account of 1392-93 may have been a Lynn man. Although no record of a John de Houton entering the franchise has survived, entrances of others bearing that surname, of moderate prominence in Lynn during the second half of the fourteenth century, are recorded. Most notable was shopkeeper/farmer Richard de Houton, who was a jurat for most of the 1360s and '70s and mayor 1376/77. It is, however, possible that the 1392 exporter may have been the John son of William Mey of Houghton (Cambs.), who was apprenticed to Richard de Houton and entered the franchise in 1369. A John de Houton skinner served as constable during several years between 1389 and 1400, and was briefly in the lower ranks of the jurats in 1390/91.



 
William Hunderpound was in the early phase of his merchant's career in 1392. He entered the franchise at Lynn in 1379 after an apprenticeship to the middle-ranking Nicholas de Narford. Apart from an infringement of the assize of ale in 1391, the shipment mentioned in the customs account of 1392-93 is the first evidence of his commercial activities. In 1395 he is again seen exporting cloth and beds. In the early 1400s he was importing herring, lumber, and iron. And in 1412 he lost a cargo to pirates. He was frequently a jurat in the decade and a half following 1399, and permanently following his term as mayor in 1417/18, up to December 1427; he died at some point between 1428 and 1430.



 
Thomas Hunte was a merchant with interests in both Lynn and London, although it is not evident which came first. That the surname is in little evidence at Lynn earlier (other than for a Thomas Hunte found in the role of executor in 1364) and that he purchased the franchise in April 1402 may be indicative of an immigrant; but not necessarily a recent one, for he was already in arrears of his taxes due in Lynn, from 1401/02 and 1398/99. However, it is not until 1418 that he was referred to as "citizen of London, burgess and merchant of Lynn".

His mercantile activities are evidenced by shipments in 1405 and 1406, when exporting oats and cloth and importing (with partners) dried fish and otter skins – the evident northern connection being confirmed by his loss to pirates in 1412 of a cargo coming from Norway; in 1416/17 he sold half a barrel of sturgeon to the community. He served as one of the merchant gild scabins in 1407/08 and 1411/12.

In the political conflict of that period he was squarely aligned with the potentiores, but not one of the most active participants until, in October 1415 after factional politics had resulted in the election of two rival mayors, the king stepped in an appointed him, as "one zealous for peace and no disturber", to take the mayoralty. He had been one of the jurats since at least 1411. Peacemaker or not, he showed no sympathies for the reformers' aims and continued to meet opposition from them. Elected mayor again in 1418, towards the close of that term of office the reform die-hards accused him of persuading the Bishop of Norwich to a new constitutional composition favouring the potentiores, including restoring the power of the alderman of the merchant gild to choose the first four electors. Hunte himself succeeded Robert Brunham as alderman not long after (1420), remaining in that office until 1423.

He is still mentioned as jurat in June 1424, but may already have been dead. A later generation of Huntes is seen in Lynn, and one member was a jurat from 1438-71 (becoming so immediately after entering the franchise, suggesting respected antecedents).



 
John Keep entered the franchise at Lynn in 1374, and became a jurat the following year, a role in which he continued until 1393 (with exception of one year in which he served as chamberlain). He had probably already established himself somewhat by 1374, for he had at least one, probably teenaged, son by that date, had served as scabin of one of the local socio-religious gilds in 1370/71; and a few months before becoming a freeman he had been appointed the king's tronager and pesager at Lynn, an office he held up to his death in 1406. On several occasions between 1375 and 1400 he was fined for breaking the assizes of ale and wine and by the mid-'80s was becoming more involved in international commerce. He is found both importing and exporting lumber, which may provide some hint as to one facet of his occupation, but like most merchants the goods in which he dealt were fairly diversified.



 
The John Kempe listed among the exporters in the customs account of 1392-93 was most probably the father-in-law of the famous Margery Kempe daughter of leading citizen John de Brunham. Although Kempe's son of the same name was by 1392 an adult and probably already engaging in trade, he would likely have been distinguished by the epithet "junior". A John Kempe was in the skinner's trade when he entered the franchise in 1351, but presumably was just starting out; in a local tax of 1357/58 his assessment was well below the average, although he had been able to raise the 40s. entrance fee. This may have been the future father-in-law of Margery Kempe, or just possibly an even earlier generation of the family; he is known to have been married by 1352, which would allow time for an intermediary generation between him and Margery's husband, but nor is it implausible that his first (or a second) marriage produced sons in the 1360s. The John Kempe who served a term of chamberlain (1372/73) may represent an intervening generation, or the 1351 entrant finally prospering and gaining social standing; he became a jurat in 1375 and – apart from a second term as chamberlain – remained such until 1390, but never progressed beyond the lower ranks.

In the group demand for compensation for the arrest of English merchandize in Prussia in 1385, John made the largest claim of any Lynn merchant (£300) and a second claim (£100) for goods, including copper, seized at a second location. In 1391 he was exporting cloth and flax and importing herring, lumber, iron, copper, and ashes. His involvement in supplying the construction trade had already been evidenced in 1372/73, when he was a major supplier of lumber, pitch and tar to the community for the building of a barge.

He died in 1393 (which, if the 1351 franchise entrant, would have made him about 65-70 years old), his death most likely being what prompted his sons John and Simon to take up the franchise themselves, perhaps under pressure, on 28 May of that year, and John's marriage to Margery Brunham about this time is also unlikely to be coincidental. As men who had already embarked on mercantile careers (and were very soon thereafter, as the mature heirs of a man who had given long service to his community, to be thrust into positions of responsibility in local government) they were unable to benefit from right of patrimony, and were instead each charged the regular 40s. entrance fee.

Margery's husband failed to live up to his father's attainments, and Margery's expectations; there is little evidence of either commercial or political activities in the later part of his life, nor did Simon, although seen active in international trade, distinguish himself in the political life of the community; at least this meant that neither became embroiled in the violent political conflicts of the second decade of the fifteenth century. Whether the lack of prominence was due to failings in character, bad luck, or inability to compete in a changing economic environment is difficult to say. Margery later deplored her husband's failure to maintain the socio-political status that she considered her birthright, hinting at a lack of ambition on his part; she had to pay off some of his debts out of her own money. However, she having returned impoverished from her famous pilgrimage – itself undertaken as her own family's fortunes appeared to be foundering, with the death of her father and political embarrassment of her brother in the face of a populist revolt – there was a kind of reconciliation and she later helped tend him after a serious accident and into what Margery described as his years of "great age" when he became senile (another hint of an age difference between them).



 
John de Kenynghale may perhaps have been the son of merchant Thomas de Kenynghale and Margaret, daughter of John Burghard (the latter possibly the wealthiest wool-merchant of Lynn in the 1320s and '30s). More likely John was only a distant relative, if at all, and may be the John Kenynghale of Kenninghall (a village in south Norfolk) who entered the franchise in January 1392 by right of completing his apprenticeship to merchant Roger Paxman; in that case, his shipment of April 1392 could represent his first solo investment, or perhaps a venture as a factor of Paxman. However, there is no indication John prospered or rose in Lynn society; whether it was he, or the John de Kenynghale junior who became a freeman in 1405, who served as bailiff of Lynn's Tolbooth in 1409/10 cannot be said.



 
John de Lakinghithe was probably born ca.1336 and did not become a freeman of Lynn until his mid-30s, when he did so reluctantly, under pressure. At that time his occupation may have focused more on a craft – perhaps that of cutler – than on commerce. However, by the 1380s he was beginning to engage in mercantile activities, which are known in some detail from 1391 to 1405: he exported mainly cloth, but occasionally other goods, and imported herring, dried fish, eels, earrings, ashes, canvas, flax, yarn, oil, linen, handmill stones, soap, and iron. He was among the ranks of the jurats for most of the period from 1386 to 1413, and in the context of political conflict of the later period, by which time he was in old age (but still actively engaging in commerce) and apparently politically neutral, he was elected mayor as an unsuccessful effort at compromise by one of the parties, only to die during his term of office – possibly of old age, but perhaps his death was hastened by a beating and trampling underfoot he suffered when the reform faction broke into the guildhall.



 
John atte Lathe was the son of the vintner Robert atte Lathe who was mayor of Lynn in 1375/76. John entered the franchise in 1377; he was not allowed to do so by patrimony but had to pay an entrance fine, because he had already been engaging in mercantile activities. After his first term as chamberlain (1378/79) he became a jurat and remained one for most of the 1380s. Although he had joined the merchant gild before 1386, his commercial activities are less well documented than those of his father. It may have been he who was fined for regrating ale and keeping a common hostelry in 1404, if he lived that long. However, lack of other references to him after his inclusion among the merchants complaining in 1388 of seizure of their goods overseas (unless one counts the apprenticing of his son, Robert, to Robert de Waterden in 1391) suggests that his losses in Prussia may have had a seriously adverse effect on his career.



 
Although William Leche was living in Lynn by the early 1370s, he does not feature much in the borough records and was only from the middle rank of the burgesses; the only other official role in which he is found is that of king's bailiff in the town. He may perhaps have pursued a career in administration; he seems to have had no personal activity in commerce.



 
John Lok was coming to the close of his career by the time of his shipments listed in the customs account for 1392-93. He died in 1393. He had served as jurat for much of the 1370s and '80s. All his exports for which we still have record were cloth; he imported herring and dried fish, ashes, iron, lumber, oil, pitch and tar. He sold lumber to the community in 1388/89. His cloth export business was carried on by his widow Margery immediately following his death, and later by his son William.



 
Godfrey Loveday entered the franchise at Lynn in 1377, the son of Walter Loveday of Burnham Thorpe (15 miles north-east of Lynn), courtesy of his completed apprenticeship to Henry Betele. He is, however, barely evidenced in Lynn records.



 
Peter Mafey (a surname probably derived from the French malfait) had entered the franchise at Lynn in 1372, under pressure, perhaps because he was already trading. Apart from being one of the merchants to complain in 1388 about Prussian arrest of English merchandize in 1385, his shipment listed in the 1392-93 customs account is the only direct evidence of his involvement in international commerce. However, in 1373/74 he sold canvas to the community and in 1385/86 lead tiles to the merchant gild, while in 1378 he was fined for forestalling a tun of oil before it could be landed from a ship anchored off Lynn's harbour. His involvement in local administration did not exceed the roles of capital pledge and chamberlain.



 
Nicholas Martyn was one of the middle-ranking townsmen who supported the cause of the reform party, serving as chamberlain during one of the reform administrations. In that context he was explicitly described as a merchant. It was probably the same man who served on the lower council – itself the main legacy of the reforms – in 1420/21 and 1429/30, on the former occasion being described as a brewster. Although in the customs account of 1392-93 he is recorded as exporting beer, in January 1392 he had exported cloth, and in 1398-99 exported wool and woolfells (some in partnership with James Nicholasson); in 1405 he was exporting oats and calf hides. In 1416/17 he sold 8 millstones to the merchant gild, a man with the same surname happening to be the gild's clerk at that time. He probably died in the early 1430s.



 
Thomas de Melcheburn was one of the most active Lynn merchants of his generation; the commercial activities of few townsmen of that period are so well documented. He has been described as "among the great merchant capitalists of 14th century England" [V. Parker, The Making of Kings Lynn, London: Phillimore, 1971, 10], ranking alongside men such as John Lovekyn of London, the de la Poles of Hull, and the Canynges of Bristol [N.S.B. Gras, The Evolution of the English Corn Market, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1926, 173].

Thomas was already becoming established when he first comes to our attention – partly a facet of poorer survival of local records tempore Edward II than from the reign of his successor. The earliest references to him are in fact in 1318, when in the Spring he was prosecuting pleas of transgression and detention of rent in the steward's court at Lynn, and in September accused Thomas Leef of breaking and entering his house in St. James Street, breaking open his pyx (strongbox) and stealing a belt and purse. More significantly it was in that year, on 16 June, that he purchased membership in Lynn's merchant gild. In the following year, we first see him active in commerce. In June he obtained a royal safe-conduct for business trips, by sea or land, as a "king's merchant". The vicissitudes of international commerce quickly became apparent to him, for in December he and partner John Thornegge, a man already prominent in Lynn's commercial and political affairs, complained to the king that their ship the Godyer, taking wheat, worsted, other cloth, and other unspecified merchandize, to Gascony had been captured by Flemish pirates. Yet another significant mention of Thomas is as one of Lynn's representatives to the parliament of May 1319, likely an indication of the trust he had already won in the town; he may also have acted as a replacement for the representative chosen to go to parliament the previous year.

For Thomas and his family were newcomers to the borough. There is no sign of the surname – which probably derives from Melchbourne in Bedfordshire – in Lynn at an earlier period. It is probable that an ambitious and already prospering Thomas migrated there from some hinterland location – perhaps somewhere like St. Ives – in order to have more immediate access to shipping. His brother William either came with him, or more likely followed him, since he did not take up membership in the merchant gild until 1331.

Despite the early indications of Thomas' career, his mercantile activities are only glimpsed in the 1320s. In 1327 he obtained a safeconduct for the ship Peter carrying victuals to Newcastle-upon-Tyne for the army – the Scottish war provided enriching opportunities for a number of enterprising merchants. It also presented risk, and this may be why Thomas borrowed from his community, ca. 1328, a springald (a weapon like a huge crossbow, used to project large bolts or even stones) for his ship the Magdaleyn. During the '20s he was also active in administrative roles. He attended one or two further parliaments for his borough (possibly July 1328, certainly February 1329). He was chosen as one of the scabins of the merchant gild in 1323 and continued in that role, which had responsibilities for financial administration, until 1327; he held the post again between 1330 and 1333. He served the borough itself in a similar role, as chamberlain, in 1327/28, having already been elected as one of the jurats in 1325/26, although at that period the office was not held continuously after an initial election. More important, he embarked on a side-career in the royal customs service, with an initial brief stint as a collector of wool custom from August to December 1328. All these things were indicators of the way his career would develop.

It was in the early years of Edward III's reign that Thomas came into his stride, and the (assumed) arrival of his brother William may have helped. The pair, referred to as "king's merchants", obtained a one-year protection in December 1332 to go to Norway to trade for corn and victuals. Norway, which was dependent on Britain as a source of grain, was the principal foreign market with which the Melcheburns did business. Thomas had already, in May 1332, obtained a protection to assist him in taking 500 quarters of wheat to Norway to trade for stockfish, and he obtained similar export licences in March 1333 and January 1335. In 1336 he freighted a ship of fellow Lynn merchant John Bamme (who also frequented the Norwegian market) to fetch stockfish and victuals from Norway; his own ships may have already been absent on voyages. By 1337 this type of venture had expanded in scope, for the licence granted him in October was to export 500 qt. of malt, 500 qt. of wheat, and 300 tuns of ale to Norway, Holland and Zealand, and bring back stockfish and victuals, and that of March 1338 authorized him to export 1000 qt. of wheat to Norway and Zealand, doubtless for similar purpose.

But Thomas also gave attention to other markets. A second licence obtained in January 1335 was to export 100 tuns of ale; we do not know the destination, but it would appear not to have been Norway. In September 1332 he had obtained a protection to take wool to sell in Flanders, undeterred by his earlier problem with pirates (who, however, did not restrict themselves to Flemish waters). In December 1336 the destinations stated in his export licence, for 200 tuns of ale and 200 qt. of wheat, were Holland and Zealand. He was also dealing in wine, for the community bought £4 worth from him ca.1333, and in 1347 he sold 5 tuns for £22.13.4½d to the then deputy butler of Lynn, John Wesenham; this suggests continued involvement with the Gascon market.

The frequency with which he was able to obtain permissions and protections to trade abroad, at a time when there was some nervousness about English merchants supplying "the king's enemies" (whoever that might be at any given time) may have owed something to the services he was performing for the royal government. In 1335 Thomas' ship the Magdaleyn was carrying victuals to Berwick-on-Tweed to supply the army, and in June 1337 he and brother William employed that vessel, along with a second, the St. Mary Cog of Wygenhale, to transport wheat to supply the king's envoys on a voyage abroad. During 1336 those two ships, along with apparently a new addition to his fleet, the Philip and Galya, were all used to transport the king's messengers; about 3 years earlier the Lynn authorities had paid him for use of one of his ships to transport arms for the king. In December 1336 the brothers had been commissioned to build a 60-oar barge at Lynn for the king, and in July 1337 and July 1339 Thomas was commissioned to purvey Norfolk wool for the king. In August 1341 he and William were purveying victuals for the king, while earlier that year in April the commission to the pair had been to arrest ships planning to trade with the king's enemies. Thomas' activity in the customs service had continued: he was a collector of wool customs from May 1329 to January 1340, and for much of the subsequent period up to December 1344. He also took on the role of deputy butler at Lynn (dealing with the wine trade) in February 1338, continuing therein for most of the period until mid-1343.

An involvement in royal service to this degree was almost inevitably going to lead to accusations of maladministration, whether prompted by real abuses or jealousy of rivals. In March 1333 it was claimed that Thomas had tried to evade the wool-tax. New accusations several years later about the performance of customs officers in general resulted in a sweeping investigation that led to his dismissal as custumer in January 1340 and a fine of £19.15s for unspecified "oppressions" committed as custumer, deputy butler, purveyor of victuals, buyer of the king's wool, purveyor of materials for building a barge and making anchors and cables for the king, arrayer of mariners and soldiers for that barge and other ships in the king's service, purveyor of supplies for the same ships, commissioner to arrest ships carrying victuals to Scotland or Norway, and deputy admiral. However, by the same token of his great usefulness to the king, he was able to appeal the decision and persuade the king his conviction was unwarranted. Edward III's concern appears less with whether the customs service was run honestly than whether it was furnishing him with the money he needed to finance his wars; the two were perceived as going hand in hand. Thomas was restored to the customs post in March 1340, holding it for most of the period up to December 1344, and was pardoned the fine in February 1342. In July 1341 he was, however, still seeking an indemnity from the king for his actions when purveyor of wool (1337), various Norfolk men having accused him before the courts of taking more wool than his instructions permitted.

In 1347 the king acknowledged he owed Thomas £203.7s.2¾d for expenses Thomas had incurred in the duties listed above, as well as in transporting bows and arrows from Lynn to London in 1341. In 1344 the size of the king's debt to Thomas and William together had been £617.11s.6d, and they had been granted 6s.8d out of the subsidy collectable on each sack of wool exported from Southampton, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Lynn and Yarmouth, until the debt was paid; however, the king was always using and abusing this device to repay his debts, and it was no sure guarantee of repayment. Another indication of the financial risks involved in royal service is seen in November 1337, when Thomas was petitioning for payment of £114.16s. for 180 qt. of wheat and 238 qt. of oats lost in a shipwreck, and part of a larger shipment that the king had ordered Thomas to transport to Berwick.

That usefulness to the king went beyond personal services, for the Melcheburns were prepared to use their business profits to keep royal favour. In September 1337 the king authorized them to export 5 lasts of hide, 10 cartloads of lead, 300 qt. of wheat, and 200 tuns of ale to Zealand, in return for providing a loan to the king (via payment of extra customs duties). They could afford to curry favour with loans: the assessment of Thomas' goods for purposes of a local tax in 1332 was over twice the average assessment.

It seems to have been in this period that Thomas moved to a riverside property near the quay at Purfleet. He may have been casting around for a suitable site in 1331, when he bought up a quitclaim to a tenement on the north bank of Millfleet. In April 1336 he took out a 13-year lease of a property owned in Edward I's time by Richard de Almannia, also a "king's merchant" trading with Norway, and then briefly leased from Richard's widow by yet another prominent merchant, John de Walsingham, co-owner with John Bamme and John de Thornegge of a ship. It was from Walsingham's executor that Thomas leased the property. This riverside location, with warehouses, must have been more convenient for business than one in St. James' Street, within Lynn.

The Melchburne star rose yet higher in the 1340s. Thomas had been elected to the mayoralty in Lynn in 1338, and this assured him a place among Lynn's jurats during the 1340s (as far as our lists of members, incomplete for that decade, show). He had been chosen as a borough representative to five more parliaments between 1330 and 1340, as well as sitting as a merchant representing Norfolk at the session of July 1338; but thereafter he left this duty to younger men. In March 1340 he travelled to London on community business, to show proof to the city authorities that Lynn burgesses were exempt from murage exactions there. His responsibilities in the local branch of royal administration diversified: in addition to his roles as customer and deputy butler, he took on the post of searcher for coin from November 1342 to April 1346, and searcher of ships (throughout England and Flanders) for smuggled wool from October 1345 to January 1346. William de Melcheburn meanwhile secured posts as customs collector and searcher of ships at Boston at various times during the 1340s, and replaced Thomas as deputy butler at Lynn in 1343; he also had London interests, holding a post responsible for the weighing of wool prior to export in the early 1340s.

Other commissions continued to come Thomas' way. In January 1340 it was to hold an inquisition at Lynn into a dispute between a Zealander and some Flemings; a similar type of commission was issued in June 1347, to look into the complaint by Robert Howel that Thomas de Folsham of Lynn had faked death to try to avoid paying money owed Robert. In February 1342 he and William were instructed to sell all victuals purveyed by them, and hang on to the money for future purveying when the king instructed; they were also to supervise the sale of victuals by other Lynn purveyors. The following month Thomas was ordered (presumably as deputy butler) to conduct an investigation into the gauging of wines at Lynn. In January of the same year, Thomas is identified as receiver of the king's wool in Norfolk, and in April the king had to order the Exchequer to give Thomas extra time to account for what he had received, since Thomas was busy arresting ships for naval service. Two of his own ships, the Magdaleyn and the St. Mary Cog were in royal sevice ca.1346, apparently on behalf of the borough of Lynn, which paid the ships' expenses. The year 1342 was evidently a busy one for Thomas, for in June he was once more commissioned to levy a wool-tax in Norfolk, and it was probably in the same year he and William delivered 20 tuns of flour to Berwick, for which they accounted at the Exchequer in March 1343.

In April 1343, his commission was to ship the king's wool from Norfolk to Flanders and sell it there; this appears connected with a task taken on the following year. For March 1344 saw Thomas and his brother commissioned to redeem the king's great crown from Germans who held it as security for a loan, and bring the crown secretly and safely back to England. The bailiffs of Boston had to be ordered in May 1344 to dearrest the Magdaleyn, as the brothers needed to use it to export wool to Flanders in order to raise money to repay the loan for which the crown had been security. This mission was evidently a success, for in October William received an annuity of £20 for his part in the mission. Further sign of the confidence in which the king held Thomas was his commission, in September 1345, to treat with the governments of Flemish towns concerning the standardization of Flemish and English coinages; the following month his mandate was expanded to include negotiations for Flanders' recognition of Edward III as king of France and lord of Flanders. That Thomas and William continued to be employed on sensitive missions is suggested by the royal protection they were issued in February 1347, on the grounds they were afraid to appear before the king's Council (as summoned in January) to discuss secret business, because unnamed persons planned to have them arrested for debt. In October 1347 a further reward came the way of the brothers, under the name of "spoils of war", being three inns in Calais.

The Melchburnes continued to conduct private business during the '40s, although it is increasingly hard to know what was on their own behalf and what on the king's. In May 1342 the brothers handed over £220 at St. Ives to a third party, to trade with to their profit. At the close of that year Thomas received clearance to export ale and wheat to Flanders, on condition he not use any ships which had been designated for naval service. In May 1347 he was licensed to export 500 qt. of wheat, and in May 1349 he and William were authorized to export 1,000 qt. to Norway (other events may have overtaken this venture, however).

An indicator of the importance he had attained within the national mercantile community was his election as mayor of the staple at Bruges in 1343, a post he held until at least September 1345, and possibly to 1348. It was in this capacity that he acted (September 1343) as ambassador to treat with the Flemish town authorities regarding grievances of English merchants. It was also in this capacity that we find him in June of that year as leader of a syndicate of 34 merchants granted the farm of national customs (except the wine prise) for 4 years, at the staggering annual payment of ¤50,000; the syndicate had the power to appoint one of the custumers in each port and controlled part of the cocket seal used to authorize exports, such controls being intended to help the syndicate combat loss of revenues through corruption. This was not Thomas' first experience of such an arrangement, for in 1337 he had participated in a mercantile syndicate looking to make a profit from dealing in wool purveyed for the king. Thomas was the nominal leader of the 1343 company but, although he was one of the most important members, William de la Pole was the real driving force; another member was Walter Chiriton. However, the inherent problems with the customs system and the adverse effect of war on commerce put the company in serious difficulties by March 1345, when the contract was re-negotiated – it being ominously stated that several members of the syndicate had died or disappeared; and the company gave up the farm in August, after informing the king it could not pay the next instalment. A new syndicate, of which John de Wesenham of Lynn was the leader, took over the farm, at the same rate. The old company, in compensation for its losses, was given permission to export 2,000 sacks of the king's wool to recoup £7,000 of the money it claimed was due it; but what the king gave with one hand he took back with the other, for his concession was in return for the assurance that the company would raise £6,666.13s.4d for the war treasury. It was also in August 1345 that the Melcheburns and Walter Chiriton acknowledged a debt of £640.2s.8d to the Archbishop of Canterbury, although only half this was really owed.

Walter Chiriton headed the company responsible for the farm by November 1346, but it was no more successful. The Melcheburns were still involved, and were guarantors for Chiriton's ability to pay the farm. By mid-1349 it was evident he couldn't. The arrest for debt that the Melcheburns feared in 1347 may have been connected with the company's failure. The financial discomfiture resulting from Chiriton's default might have proved a severe embarrassment to Thomas, had he not already been carried off by the Black Death.

His testament was drawn up on 26 May 1349 and received probate on 8 June. At the time of its drafting he was still active and he specified he should be buried "wherever God arranges", indicating that he continued to travel around a great deal. The testament of such an important merchant is relatively brief and businesslike. Although he makes provision for his soul, it is only in general terms and he is not preoccupied with the matter. Nor is he interested in rewards or remembrances to friends, colleagues, servants, or even relatives (although it is possible he had a separate will for personalty, which has not survived). Of wealth there is far less indication than one might expect; perhaps most of it was liquid. Almost his sole concern is to pass on his real estate to his closest kin. His tenement between Stockfish Row and the river went to his wife Joan for life, and afterwards to his brother William, again for life, and then to be sold to pay for masses and charitable works. A second tenement, location unknown, went to his son Peter (who already held property in Briggate) without restrictions. Joan also inherited the household effects of their residence, but these too are identified only in general terms – there is no indication of any items to which he had a particular attachment. One wonders whether the will was drawn up in haste, or whether Thomas' mind was not really elsewhere – perhaps on his financial troubles. His executors were his wife, son, and brother. There is no hint of any attachment to any other person.

The lands of Thomas, William and Peter were seized by the king in connection with the failure of Chiriton's company, and there is some hint of suspicion of smuggling (a common enough offence with people who held the type of posts the Melcheburns did). William was imprisoned at London by 1352. Peter, who had followed his father's footsteps into the customs service in the 1340s, and entered jurat ranks at Lynn briefly (1350/51), was himself dead by May 1352, when his widow Alice, a member of the moderately important Walton family, made William her attorney to sue for debts due Peter. H.L. Bradfer-Lawrence ["The Merchants of Lynn," A Supplement to Blomefield's Norfolk, London, 1929, 147] claimed to have seen Peter's will, made in 1350. According to him a Richard de Melcheburn was a further son of Thomas, despite being absent from Thomas' will. Perhaps Thomas had patrimonial property elsewhere that Richard inherited. In 1350 this Richard was in the post of supervisor of wool-weighing at Lynn and other east coast ports; however, when he stood as guarantor for William, upon the latter's release from the Fleet in March 1352, he was described as "of London".

No more is heard of the Melcheburn family in Lynn. There is nothing to connect merchant John Melcheburn, of moderate prominence in Lynn in the mid-fifteenth century, with the earlier Melcheburns. The family's flame had shone brightly in Lynn, but briefly.



 
John Muriell was described as "of London" when he first appears in connection with Lynn, in March 1405, exporting 600 qt. of wheat through the port to Holland and Zealand. A further, smaller shipment, of wheat and oats, followed in June. It appears he decided his interests would be best served by moving to Lynn, for at some point during the 1405/06 mayoral year he purchased the franchise there; in 1412 we have another glimpse of his mercantile activities, when his cargo coming from Norway was captured by pirates. An Alan Meriell had obtained the franchise through apprenticeship in 1403, but whether this was any relation, I cannot say.

Despite John's mercantile interests, he does not seem to have been accepted into the ruling class within the town, but instead (or perhaps because of) associated himself with the reformers and became a trusted member: in October 1411 and again in October 1412 he was one of those the faction selected to go to London to defend its position against accusations of the potentiores, and in June 1414 was one of five men given power of attorney to represent the community (by which was meant the reform party) in all pleas. Furthermore he was one of the die-hard supporters of the party after its fortunes had waned and its original leader, Bartholomew Petypas had given up the struggle in return for a place among the ruling elite: in August 1419 he was one of those who objected to the election of John Wesenham as mayor, proposing fellow reformer John Bukworth instead; when this was rejected, he walked out of the guildhall, with his supporters following.

Ironically, he had himself been elected chamberlain on the same occasion. At that time he was also serving as one of the common councillors, continuing in that office until 1421, and then serving again from 1424-33. He also held a constabulary 1425-33 and was again elected as chamberlain in 1433/34, but his political sentiments probably prevented him from being adopted into the ranks of the jurats. Despite that, he had a respectable position in the community. He served as alderman of St. George's Gild in 1419/20 and 1423/24, and in January 1431 was chosen to go to Denmark as the community's ambassador (but, after a haggle over wages, excused himself from the task). We last hear of him in May 1434.



 
Richard Neell was granted freeman's status at Lynn, apparently gratis, in 1377, because of his service as constable of the community barge, which suggests he was a seaman. The lack of other mentions of him in borough records may also reflect that he spent most of his time away from the town, at sea.



 
James Nicholasson was a patenmaker (maker of wooden shoes) by trade, and may be represented in the customs account of 1392-93 not only under his patronymic surname but also as James Patynmaker – note that both men were trading in calf skins. He had not yet become a freeman of Lynn, doing so in 1395, yet had been active in international commerce since 1387, when he was exporting woolfells. His mercantile activities continue to be well documented up to 1405, and there is reference to loss of his merchandize to pirates in 1412. The goods he exported were predominantly sheep, lamb, and calf skins, as well as wool, but occasionally he dealt in cloth; his imports were also atypical and included materials for his craft (paten wood, nails, and clogs), along with linen, painted cloths, haberdashery, dyes (madder and woad), glass, and crockery.

He was a supporter of the reform movement active 1411-15 and it was probably in this context that he came under attack because of his birth: his father was a foreigner (as the spelling of his surname suggests), either dead or departed, and it is not clear whether he was married to James' mother, who was a Lynn woman. James had to obtain denization papers in 1413, although his property was still subject to attack during a riot a few months later. By the end of the decade he had apparently overcome his problems of birth and political sympathies and was appointed to Lynn's council from 1418 until his death in 1420.



 
William de Oxneye entered the franchise at Lynn in 1370 and between 1373 and 1387 was several times in the role of tax assessor or collector, as well as one term as chamberlain, but is otherwise little in evidence in Lynn records. The 1392-93 customs account provides the only evidence for his commercial activity. It may be significant that the ship he selected to transport his cargo was the sole case of a Yarmouth ship using Lynn's port in this period, for there was an Oxneye family prominent in Yarmouth in the latter half of the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries; in fact, merchant William de Oxneye was one of Yarmouth's leading townsmen from the 1370s to early fifteenth century (13 times bailiff). Kinship of the two Williams is a possibility. Note also that the master of the ship to which Lynn's William assigned his cargo may have been a member of Yarmouth's Beneyt family of ship-owners and town rulers.



 
John Paxman acquired the franchise at Lynn by purchase, in 1378. John was of the middle rank of burgesses, not holding any public role of greater responsibility than capital pledge. He also exported cloth in 1391, and imported lumber, iron, and stones in the same year. It is not clear what, if any, his relationship was to mercer Roger Paxman, a more prominent figure in the town. Roger had purchased the franchise in 1363, already an adult – having been taxed in Lynn, as a non-burgess, in 1357/58, when his assessment was below the average. However, his affairs were prospering enough by 1370 that he was elected both a chamberlain and a jurat; he spent much of the '70s and '80s in jurat ranks, interrupted notably by two more terms as chamberlain and two as mayor. Besides the large investments he was making in international commerce in the 1380s (if his claims against the Prussian authorities in 1388 are credible), in 1391 he is seen exporting three shipments of cloth, and importing shipments of timber, tar, ashes, iron, and dried fish. He was dead by the beginning of the following year.



 
The Thomas Paynot mentioned in the 1392-93 customs account was a Lynn man, although whether the father or son, in the case of the Thomas son of Thomas Paynot who entered the franchise in April 1393, is not easy to say. There is no surviving record of the father having entered the franchise, although his minor activities in borough affairs during the 1370s suggests he must have; he is less in evidence in the '80s although apparently still alive in 1393. The fact that Thomas junior had to pay for his entrance may suggest he was an adult who had been trading prior to entering; his father was already being described as Thomas senior in 1375.



 
The early career of John Permonter (or Parmenter), alias Causton, is little documented. His affiliation with the potentiores during the political conflict tempore Henry V is suggested by his summons to Chancery in 1415 along with select other members of the contesting factions, and by the fact that he was partner to vintner Robert Brunham (a leader of the potentiores) in importing wine in 1406, the earliest reference to him. Perhaps he had recently been one of Brunham's apprentices.

In 1416 he was described as a taverner, and later in life as a vintner and a merchant, and was on several occasions fined for infringements of the assize of wine. Apart from the fact that he was scabin of the merchant gild in 1411/12, however, there is nothing to indicate why precisely he was on the list of men summoned to Chancery, for he did not enter the ranks of jurats until 1418, after the political conflict was over. Perhaps this was a reward for his support of the potentiores' cause, for is not known to have previously served as chamberlain or councillor, although our lists of those officers are not complete; but it may simply be a recognition of his abilities, since he thereafter became one of the most prominent townsmen.

He continued as a jurat until 1438, probably the year of his death, and was elected to the mayoralty 5 times between 1423 and 1431, and served as alderman of the merchant gild from 1435-37. He was sufficiently capable that, through a possibly feigned reluctance to serve, he was able to negotiate bonuses for his performance as mayor. During the 1430s he was also one of the leading officers of the Corpus Christi gild.



 
Robert Pulter purchased the franchise at Lynn in 1363. It appears to have been he who was fined in 1349 for forestalling poultry (his surname meaning "poulterer"); certainly he was the Robert Pulter fined for forestalling fish in 1375. The 1392-93 customs account is the only document evidencing any involvement in international commerce. His participation in local administration was not great, although he served two terms as chamberlain. He died between at some point between 1395 and 1398.



 
Laurence de Reppes is seen in the records as early as 1339, when acquiring rents from some Lynn shops, but is not much in evidence until the mid-1340s. He twice served as chamberlain (1345/46 and 1357/58) and was jurat in 1346/47, 1350/51 (as elector), and for most of the period between 1358 and 1368. As Laurence Bon of [South] Repps, he and his children were in 1353 released by Alan Reyner of nearby Roughton from any claim of being Alan's villeins. He may have pursued a tanner's trade in his early career, but by the late 1340s was engaged in wholesale commerce, and in 1356 was summoned to attend a national merchant assembly. His commercial activities involved not only hides – he shipping 8 lasts from Newcastle-on-Tyne to Lynn in 1368, when described as a merchant – but also other goods, for in 1346 he was accused of forestalling 2 lasts of herring, and on more than one occasion of breaking the assize of ale.



 
Thomas Ryghtwys senior was mayor of Lynn in 1351/52 and served among the jurats for much of the period between 1342 to 1362 – the last specific mention of him was at Michaelmas 1361, and he probably died during the year that followed. His name appears in the local tax list of 1319, but his assessment was only a third of the average; by contrast, in 1357/58 his assessment was five times the average, and in the national subsidy of 1332 it had been double the average. Not only was he a merchant, he owned his own ship: in 1336 he was in possesion of the St. Mary Cog, and in 1344 co-owned the ship Elyne which however had just been sunk by the Scots while in royal service. In 1333 he was fined for forestalling fish, and the same as regards timber in 1359. In 1336 he was importing wine from Bordeaux, and in 1347 he sold 3 tuns of wine to the King's Butler; while in 1349 he exported cloth.

His brother John, who seems to have been involved in the fishing trade along with another brother Robert, had been a jurat for most of the 1340s and died in the summer of 1361 (possibly he and Thomas senior were victims of the second major outbreak of plague). John's son Thomas Ryghtwys junior in that year succeeded William de Swanton as the borough coroner, having already entered jurat ranks in 1359, remaining therein until his premature death in 1365. Thomas senior's son Robert (junior) appeared set to succeed to his father's interests, taking up the franchise in 1359 and entering jurat ranks in1363, but he too died leaving underage children, in 1371.



 
Robert de Salisbury's modest shipment registered in the 1392-93 customs account was preceded by another cargo of cloth a little larger and more valuable in 1391, but he shows no signs of having been among the top rank of Lynn's merchants. He purchased the franchise in 1378 and first appears among the jurats ten years later, but only became established there in the early 1400s. He married a daughter or the widow of vintner Robert atte Lathe (mayor 1375/76), acquired through that connection a house equipped as a brewery (a tavern?), which became Salisbury's residence, and was himself in 1391 and 1425 fined for breaking the assize of ale. Perhaps he also traded in furs, as his merchant's mark was an animal (possibly a squirrel) ringed by a motto. He retired from the jurats in 1424, due to age and infirmity, and died five years later. His son Thomas, who had looked after him in old age, became one of the most prominent of Lynn's merchants and local administrators during the reign of Henry VI.



 
William de Silesden was a 1377 franchise entrant at Lynn and was referred to on different occasions as "merchant" and "brasier". He was not within the leading ranks of borough society and performed his citizen's duty only through one stint as chamberlain. Evidence of activity in the import/export trade is almost non-existent beyond the 1392-93 customs account, although in 1398 he is seen selling a large quantity of tiles (his will of 1410 mentions a tile-kiln of which he was part-owner) and he was occasionally fined for breaking the assizes of ale and wine.



 
John de Snailwell purchased entrance to the Lynn franchise in 1388, but left little mark on local records, despite having been resident in Lynn at the time of the 1379 poll tax.



 
Thomas de Sparham entered the franchise at Lynn in 1364, after completing his apprenticeship with merchant John de Fyncham. Unlike his master, he never rose into the upper ranks of urban society, though it is difficult to say whether one reason for this was the injuries he suffered during violent confrontations between townsmen and Bishop Despenser's retinue in 1377, which led the borough government to negotiate a settlement with the Bishop and subsequently to assign Thomas a 5-year annuity in compensation (most of which he reassigned during the next two years to merchants of Yarmouth and Norwich, his creditors).



 
John Spicer had been one of John de Brandon's apprentices, completing his term in 1384, when he entered the franchise at Lynn. Shortly afterwards he married a daughter of merchant Geoffrey de Tolbooth, a two-times mayor and former Deputy Butler. John was very active in the customs service, intially partnering Brandon as the collectors of wool custom (1398/99), although his most notable role was as Deputy Butler in Lynn for most of the period between 1399 and 1419. He had joined jurat ranks by 1411, becoming one of the leading opponents of the reform party, and remained there until 1423, serving as mayor for three consecutive terms (1420-23) – dying within the few months following. To his various exports recorded in the 1392-93 customs account, the 1391 account add flax; his imports are not evidenced. The prominence of agricultural produce among his exports may receive added significance from the fact that he was farming the town mill in 1407/08, and the previous year had purchased a millstone from the merchant gild.



 
The two Attestyles whose trading is evidenced in the 1392-93 customs account were members of a moderately prominent Lynn family that flourished at the end of the fourteenth and in the early fifteenth centuries. John atte Style appears to have been the elder, standing as guarantor for Thomas atte Style when he entered the franchise in February 1392. Perhaps both were sons of a John atte Style who entered the franchise in 1369 and had some association with the Wesenham family. That freeman's status was no pre-requisite for mercantile activity is indicated by the fact that Thomas was importing (herring, iron, canvas) in 1391, and his commercial activities continued to be documented up to 1395. John's activities are documented from 1388 only to 1392 – he importing herring, lumber, iron, tar, and ashes – despite the fact that he lived to 1407, whereas Thomas was dead before the close of 1401. Neither man played much of a role in local government.



 
John de Sustede obtained the franchise in 1346 through apprenticeship to William de Bitering, and may have been descended from the John de Suthstede junior taxed at Lynn in 1319. In 1354 he was a partner with members of the Cokesford and Braunch families in the export of ale and grain; the following year he was licensed to export further large quantities of the same. In 1349, after acknowledging an offence against a fellow burgess, he gave 3 tuns of wine as a peace offering. Involvement in the wine trade may also be suggested by his role as Deputy Butler at Lynn 1359-61. He put in his time as chamberlain 1350/51 and was jurat for most of the period between 1353 and 1361, as well as serving as bailiff of the tolbooth in 1360/61. This despite having obtained in 1354 a life exemption from offices and juries. He is not heard of after 1361, and likely fell victim to the renewed plague.



 
John de Sutton was probably the John son of Walter de Sutton of Sutton (a few miles west of Ely) who entered the franchise at Lynn in 1378, after completing his apprenticeship with merchant Thomas Curson. In the early 1390s he held some very minor posts of responsibility within the community, but never rose into the upper ranks of borough society.



 
Willliam de Swanton entered the merchant gild in 1340 and was important enough to be summoned by the king to attend a Merchant Assembly in 1356. The following year his local tax assessment of 15s. was well above the average of 6s.1d. His earliest known position of responsibility was as collector of a royal tax in 1337 – a thankless role he was required to repeat the following two years. Financial acumen may also be reflected in the fact that he was called on twice to serve as borough chamberlain (1337/38 and 1343/44). He was in jurat ranks for most of the period from 1342/43 to 1360/61, and served as mayor in 1355/56 – when his official duties included having built a barge commissioned by the king – and as borough coroner thereafter until his death in 1361. He was probably a victim of plague. He left behind daughters (apparently underage) and a pregnant wife, Alice, who was still alive at the time of the poll tax in 1379. It was to Alice that all his property was left, which included a tenement on opposite sides of Webster Row, on the banks of the Purfleet, where he had a quay, and four shops in Pillory Lane. His posthumous child was probably Andrew de Swanton, who was jurat during much of the period 1389-1434, and borough coroner ca.1400-21.



 
The Swerdestone family, its name derived from Swardeston in Norfolk, was prominent in Lynn for much of the fourteenth century. Alan de Swerdestone appears in the records as early as 1292 and was already prosperous, for his possessions were valued for taxation purposes at £80; although the valuations were lower in 1297 and 1298, his tax assessment remained well above the average, and subsequent valuations (1299-1303) were £100 or more. We know nothing of his business, however, other than that in 1303 he sold a large amount of timber (probably imported from northern Europe) to royal commissioners charged with making pontoons, and in 1309 he was exporting wool. Alan had served as a scabin of the merchant gild from 1299 to 1303, and as borough chamberlain in 1305/06. He had died by February 1315, leaving a widow Theophany (d.1316), and bequests to sons John, Richard and William.

Theophany's will mentions another of her sons, Thomas, perhaps by an earlier marriage. However, he may be the Thomas de Swerdestone who entered the merchant gild in 1324 and served as its scabin in 1341/42. He was chamberlain in 1339/40 and 1341/42, jurat the following year and again from 1346 to 1348. He briefly (1341-43) held a post in the royal customs service. We know nothing significant about his commercial activities. It seems likely he was a victim of the plague.

Alan's son John de Swerdestone was far more prominent in the borough, but likewise succumbed to the Black Death. He was one of four Lynn men to count as the greater wool-merchants of numerous towns summoned by the king in 1322 to counsel him on reform of the staple organization. Surviving records mainly show him involved in the victualling trade, however: in 1333 he and Hugh Betele, as "king's merchants" took grain to Norway to trade for fish, and the following year they similarly (in their own ships) exported ale and grain; in 1336 he and Betele, together with Simon de Bitering obtained from the king a 3-year safeconduct while trading in England and abroad. Hugh was married to John's daughter Margery, and John lived just long enough to act as Hugh's executor at the beginning of 1349.

John had some involvement in the royal customs service, first in 1315 as the sheriff's deputy supervising the export of victuals from Lynn, with particular view to ensuring none were shipped to enemy countries, but from 1320 to 1322 and again 1332-33 and 1340-41 as a collector of wool custom. He gave more service to his town: although he appears among the jurats only on three occasions (the earliest being in 1322/23), he was elected mayor for six terms between 1323 and 1347, and for part of a seventh when William de Sechford died in office in 1336. The borough returned him to seven parliaments between 1324 and 1341. He also served the merchant gild: as scabin from 1317 to 1321 and as alderman 1340-49.

He was survived by his wife Muriel and sons Nicholas and John. John de Swerdestone junior appears to have been the elder, having entered the merchant gild in 1337 and being the inheritor of his father's principal residence. He perhaps also took the lead in the family business; in 1358 he was given licence to export grain to the Low Countries or Gascony. He served the borough as chamberlain in 1349/50, and jurat in 1350/51 and 1352-54, but was clearly not as important in town affairs as his father and is last heard of in 1360.

Nicholas de Swerdestone is more in evidence, but neither could he equal his father's accomplishments. He became a freeman at Lynn upon the death of his father and he served two terms as chamberlain and was a jurat from 1359-70 and in 1378/79. He was returned to five parliaments between 1361 and 1379, but in the event did not sit in one (1372). He was also the borough coroner for an unknown period in the 1370s. This career ended in disgrace: in 1379 he was accused of conspiring with the chaplain of St. Nicholas' to have the chapel given the status of a parish church, an initiative which led to discord among the townspeople; the chaplain had obtained papal letters to this effect which were subsequently annulled by papal judges, the borough authorities evidently going to some effort to quash the separatist movement. For his part in this trouble, Nicholas was removed from the coronership in December 1379, and the following August was disfranchised and the burgesses were prohibited from trading, socializing or even speaking with him. The last heard of him is on two occasions in 1381 and 1382 when he and the chaplain failed to appear before a court of the bishop of Norwich to defend themselves in a charge of having pursued the matter. The family name disappeared from Lynn.



 
Bartholomew Systerne's earliest appearance in borough records is in 1398/99, when he travelled to Boston and London on community business; he performed a similar duty for Lynn in 1401/02, although only as far as Norwich on this occasion. A merchant, he is seen in 1405 and 1406 exporting shipments of cloth, as well as malt and peas, either solo or in partnership with Ralph Bedingham and John Lakinghithe, and in 1412 lost to pirates a cargo being brought from Norway. He may have been the son of the William Systerne who was exporting cloth and importing herring in 1391. And John Systerne, for whose entrance to the franchise in 1403 Bartholomew acted as pledge, was likely a younger brother; if so, John's entrance by patrimony would suggest Bartholomew himself was likely born in Lynn.

His earliest roles in the administrative system were as leet affeeror (1400), searcher of ships (1402-05), and scabin of the merchant gild (1406/07); during the last decade of his life he was the borough's coroner. He is also found as a churchwarden of St. Margaret's in 1419, when he requested to be released from the post, because the church coffers had been drained by belfry repairs and he did not wish to have to finance further work from his own pocket; however, he probably remained in office, for the corporation heard his plea and took steps to raise alms to support the church. He had entered the ranks of the jurats by 1411 – his position in the listings showing that he was one of the most junior members. Although he was appointed later that year to the special committee to re-audit financial accounts of past administrations, he was clearly identified with the potentiores and boycotted that committee along with fellow jurats once it was clear which way the wind was blowing.

Since his elder son had only taken up the franchise in 1426, by patrimony (indicative of recent adulthood), Bartholomew may only have been around 50 when he died in 1429; this premature death robbed him of a shot at the mayoralty, he having just reached the upper-middle ranks of the jurats from which mayors tended to be elected.



 
Reginald de Systerne's surname appears in Lynn in the 1290s (as de Sidesterne, perhaps suggesting a connection with Sidestrand in Norfolk, rather than one with the Systons further afield), and holders came to prominence at various times in Lynn – such as Bartholomew Systerne. Reginald purchased membership in the merchant gild in 1328 and later in the year was fined for using non-standard weights and for breaking the assize of ale. In 1354 he was exporting malt, flour, salt, and cloth to Norway and Germany, with the intent of bringing back a cargo of fish; a few years later his local tax assessment was well above the average. Whatever his business was, it also brought him in contact with London, for in 1364 he was being sued by a London hatter for an alleged debt of –200; the charge may be suspect, since two jurors in the case complained to the London authorities of an attempt by a goldsmith first to bribe them, then intimidate them, into bringing a false verdict in favour of the hatter. Reginald served as chamberlain in 1334/35 and as jurat in 1347/48, 1350/51, and during most of the period 1356-62.



 
Richard Thewyt acquired the franchise at Lynn (1385) through apprenticeship. His mercantile activities between 1391-96 show him exporting cloth and importing herring, wax, flax, iron, and canvas. He was of the middle rank in burgess society and his only office in local government came during the reform administration of 1411/12, after whose collapse he is rarely mentioned again.



 
Although he entered the merchant gild in 1328, little evidence remains of John de Thirsford's commercial activities. He served as bailiff 1349/50, was sent as one of the borough representatives to parliament in 1350, and held the office of chamberlain 1351/52, but is not known to have been a jurat. In 1351 he was a pledge for William, the son of Roger de Thirsford, when he became a burgess; William (a merchant) may have been John's brother.



 
That Richard de Thorpe was already active in commerce before he entered the franchise at Lynn in 1378 is suggested by the fact that he paid his entrance fee in the form of 800 herring. Herring were among the goods he was importing in 1391, along with linen, canvas, iron, and lumber; his exports recorded between 1387 and 1394 were cloth and woolfells. By 1385 he was renting from the merchant gild a tenement with a quay on the Ouse and a small property, probably for business use, at the common quay; from at least 1398 he was also leasing from the borough several shops at the market end of Damgate. He was a jurat for most of the period 1393-1416 and a constable of the Lynn staple during parts of the '90s.

Towards the end of his life he may have suffered financial reverses – additional to his loss of merchandize to pirates in 1412 – for by the end of that decade he was in arrears for the lease of the Damgate shops and continued so until his son took over responsibility for the property in 1424; by which time, Richard was, if not already dead, aged and incapable. He may have left debts, for ca.1431 his widow was receiving alms from the merchant gild. Ship's master William de Thorpe may have been a member of the same family.



 
John de Tidde entered the franchise at Lynn in 1387, probably at a relatively late stage in life, since he was already being differentiated by "senior" from another of the same name. He is not much in evidence in local records.



 
The John de Tilney mentioned in the 1392-93 customs account is difficult to pin down as there were several men of this name living in Lynn around this period. The John Tilney junior who supported the efforts of the reform party through his legal training and ties to the Bishop of Norwich would likely have been too young to be trading in 1392, and shows no evidence of commercial activity. Another townsman of this name was described as a brewer in the 1379 lay subsidy. The most likely candidate, however, is the draper who entered the franchise in 1377, just possibly a descendant of an earlier John de Tilney who was exporting cloth from Lynn in 1349. The cloth exporter of 1392 also imported herring in 1391.



 
Thomas Trussebut was only a few years into his merchant's career at the time his various export shipments were documented in the customs account of 1392-93; he having entered the franchise at Lynn in 1385, after apprenticeship to merchant John Lok. Customs records of 1391-95 show him heavily involved in the cloth export trade, while importing herring, garlic, canvas and flax. By 1400 he had his own ship. Much of the wealth he accumulated was invested in real estate in numerous rural areas in the vicinity of Lynn. He did not play a large role in local administration, except for the position of coroner from which he was removed in 1441 on grounds of old age and infirmity.



 
Although there appears to be no surviving record of Walter Urry's entrance to the Lynn franchise, his term as scabin of the merchant gild 1386-88 (and again 1396/97) and his brief presence among the jurats in 1388/89 and 1391/92, suggests a moderate importance in the town – possibly partly through family reputation (merchant John Urry having been mayor in 1358/59, and Ralph Urry the Bishop's steward at Lynn in the 1360s). Walter was commercially active by at least 1385, when his merchandize was arrested in Prussia.



 
John Wace came from East Rudham (a few miles north-east of Lynn), and was apprenticed to Lynn mercer Ralph de Colkirke. He paved the way to setting himself up in business by entering the franchise in 1371. Possibly some of his relatives had already preceded his migration to Lynn, since one of the citizens guaranteeing John would pay his freeman's entrance fee was mercer John de Rudham, and Wace later took on kinsman Thomas Rudham as his apprentice; furthermore he had relations in the mercantile Dunton family in Lynn (although perhaps by marriage). His mercantile activities in the 1390s are well-documented: he exported cloth, grain, herring, and salt, and imported dried fish, canvas, iron, lumber, paper, wax, ashes, and flax. He was a jurat during much of the 1380s and '90s, culminating in his mayoralty of 1396/97, after which he retired from local government, although in 1398 was a royal commissioner to organize a naval expedition against pirates plaguing the east coast. He died in 1399.



 
William Walden was described as a cordwainer in 1391, when the leet court fined him for breaking the ale assize. This aspect of his commercial activities was in evidence at his earliest appearance in the records, in 1375, when he was fined for regrating ale. Whatever the makeup of his business activities, he was doing well enough to have two servants, living with him, at the time of the poll tax in 1379. It was not until 1388, however, that he decided it advisable to purchase the benefits of freeman status. He continued to expand his horizons: in 1405 he was exporting large quantities of barley, oats, and wheat; and in 1412 he was trading with the Hanse and Norway.

Politically, he was an outsider until the reform movement led by Bartholomew Petypas; he served as chamberlain under one of its administrations (1412/13) and was closely enough tied to the reformers to be twice summoned to Chancery as one of the faction's spokespersons, in 1412 and 1415. After the failure of the reform movement, he was excluded from positions of authority, but appears to have continued to cling to his convictions. For at an assembly on March 5, 1421 when the levying of a new tax was on the agenda, he spoke up to urge that nothing be assessed on the poor, except for those able to contribute; the clerk made the point of describing him as "friend of the poor", suggesting he was already known for his championship of their interests. Possibly this was what led to him being elected as a common councillor for the following year, but his stint in office went no further.

The only further mentions of him during the 1420s are in the leet court, when fined for breaking the ale assize (described as a brewer), and later for blocking the road with dung on several occasions. The last reference to him is in 1430, when fined for failing to appear at the leet.



 
Robert de Walpole entered the franchise at Lynn in 1372, having completed an apprenticeship under his father, mercer Thomas de Walpole. In 1389 he was described as a draper. Later in the same month when he made his single export shipment of 1392 he was elected as chamberlain, never playing any more prominent role in borough government. Despite has specialization as draper/mercer, this was the only occasion he is seen dealing in cloth. In 1399 and 1400 he was exporting wool and woolfells. In 1390 and 1391 he was importing woad, herring, and wax.



 
Although the surname Walsingham was well-represented in Lynn during the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries (in the latter period providing 2 mayors), although not necessarily being a single family, and a Robert Walsingham vintner flourished 1415/1448, I find no other mention at Lynn of the Roger de Walsingham mentioned in the 1392-93 customs account.



 
Since an Adam de Walsoken was one of the more prominent of Lynn's merchants, twice mayor, before 1349, and a Walter Walsoken who entered the franchise in 1357 after completing his apprenticeship became a jurat in the 1370s, it is not impossible that the Adam who was mentioned in the customs account of 1392-93 was a descendant (although the earlier Adam's will mentions no sons); but since there are no references in borough records of late fourteenth century to an Adam de Walsoken, it is unlikely he was a resident of Lynn.



 
John Waryn was an established member of the merchant community of Lynn, having entered the franchise in 1365, served as jurat for most of the period 1376 to 1395 (when he died), and as mayor three times during the 1380s. He was already engaged in international commerce before he entered the franchise in 1365, having in 1364 imported salt from Brittany and exported ale, beans and peas to Flanders; he was taxed in Lynn, as a non-freeman, in 1357. This could explain why why he had to pay for his entrance, but an equally likely reason is that he was an immigrant. He had become involved in the cloth trade by the 1390s and probably earlier – the lay subsidy of 1379 describing him as a mercer; but he was still quite diversified – as his several shipments recorded in the 1392-93 customs account shows. His imports included dried fish, wine (he holding a tavern near St. Margaret's and shops or taverns on the quayside) and probably iron. In 1384 he, Adam Waryn and others had lost a jointly-owned cargo of wine from Bordeaux to shipwreck.

He and Adam – who came from Aylsham (a few miles north of Norwich) – were probably related, although how closely is unknown. Adam was evidently the younger, having entered the franchise in 1377 (John acting as one of his guarantors), and serving as jurat frequently between 1386 and 1403. Beside his involvement in exporting cloth, Adam imported herring and was several times fined for breaking the assizes of ale and wine. He and John jointly leased from the community, two years after Adam entered the franchise, a property opposite St. Margaret's: possibly a business establishment, although perhaps a joint residence, for the two men were listed adjacently in the lay subsidy of 1379.



 
Thomas de Waterden was a merchant by apprenticeship and perhaps the most prominent member of an important local family, being already established in the ranks of the jurats and later to serve as mayor of the borough twice and as mayor of the Lynn staple. He would have been in his early 40s at the time of his export activity evidenced in the 1392-93 customs account. As this and other customs documents of the 1390s and early 1400s show, he was heavily involved in the cloth export trade, importing in return herring, tar, oil, lumber, iron and other goods from northern Europe. He lost two shipments to pirates in 1412.

He was one of Lynn's jurats for most of the period from 1383 to 1424, except for the period of the reform administration, of which he was one of the leading opponents. Although his exit from the jurats was a case of retirement, due to old age, there is no indication he lived much longer.

Thomas' master had been mercer Robert de Waterden, Thomas apparently being the first of a series of apprentices we know Robert took on, probably in January 1364 (since Thomas completed the apprenticeship and entered Lynn's franchise in January 1371). The two were probably kin, but the nature of their relationship is unknown. Robert may have been the Robert son of William Hard – Hard being an alternate surname associated with some members of the family in the fifteenth century – who entered the franchise in January 1364, having completed his apprenticeship to mercer Ralph de Colkirke. Robert was a jurat for much of the period between 1377 and 1399, when he died. He was also Thomas' predecessor in the office of mayor of the Lynn staple (1391-92, 1397-99). In 1375 he was exporting grain to Norway. His exports during the '90s were cloth, wool and woolfells, but we know nothing of his imports.



 
John de Wentworth is another example of the rising young stars of the 1390s. He entered Lynn's franchise in 1382 and during the 1390s is seen exporting cloth (his 1391 exports far outstripped those listed in the 1392-93 customs account, being valued at £238.13s.4d) and importing salt; in 1406 he was importing wine. In 1403 he was sued by a London haberdasher. He entered jurat ranks in 1390 and remained there for most, if not all, of the period until 1413; during much of the 1390s he was also the town's coroner, and during the following decade served thrice as mayor. This both brought him into head-to-head conflict with the Bishop, over jurisdictional issues, and made him one of the chief targets of corruption charges levelled by the reform party. He it was who, in 1412, complained to the Bishop about the reform party expanding their own power base by giving the franchise to lesser members of the community, some mere shoemakers or tailors "worth only 1d." He probably died ca.1417.



 
John de Wesenham senior may have been a member of a large, prominent and long-standing family of Lynn. A man of the same name had been one of the richest merchants of Lynn in the 1340s and served as King's Butler. Yet, if the John mentioned in the customs account of 1392/93 was the man who entered the franchise in 1387, the ancestry may not have been direct, since both John and his father, William de Wesenham, had purchased freeman's status, rather than earning it by birth. Yet evidently he was already wealthy, judging from the level of investment in the import/export trade, witnessed by several customs accounts between 1391-96: he was importing herring, iron, and wax, and exporting cloth. This is further evidenced in accounts of 1405-06, when he is seen partnering with William Lok, William Style, John Brandon and others), in the export of cloth and import of lumber, iron, eels, and herring. In 1407 and 1431 (and perhaps the intervening period) he was renting from the merchant gild land near the public quay for storage of lumber. He lost two shipments of imports from Norway and Dacia to pirates and shipwreck, respectively, in 1412. In 1428 one of his apprentices was trading for him in Prussia. Having entered jurat ranks by 1411, he later served twice as mayor and as alderman of the merchant gild 1424-33, probably dying in the mid-1430s. It may have been a son who was called John Wesenham junior when he became chamberlain in 1430 and who served as jurat 1435/36 (conceivably as heir of a deceased father); he had become a member of the merchant gild in 1421/22 paying a low fine (perhaps because his father had been a member) and who entered the franchise in 1426, explicitly by right of patrimony. He is not much in evidence in local records, however.



 
John de Wormegay was probably a Lynn man, a member of a moderately prominent local family that also went by the surname Wyth. A man of this name who had been jurat frequently between 1357 and 1376 was still alive in 1391, but retired and therefore unlikely to have been the John mentioned in the 1392-93 customs account.



 
John de Yorke mercer purchased entrance to the Lynn franchise in 1387 and was another of the middle-ranking freemen in the same mold – so far as the sparse references to him allow us to say – as Creyk and Baldeswell, for example.


 
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Created: August 18, 2001. Last update: February 28, 2010. © Stephen Alsford, 2001-2010