|Subject:||The wills and testaments of three London grocers|
|Original source:||Lambeth Palace Library, Reg. Chichele, I, ff.450-52, 467-69, 484-85|
|Transcription in:||E.F. Jacob, ed. The Register of Henry Chichele, Archbishop of Canterbury 1414-1443, vol.2, Canterbury and York Society, no.42 (1937), 519-26, 564-68, 615-20.|
[1. The last will and testament of Thomas Knolles]
In the name of God, Amen. I, Thomas Knolles senior, citizen and grocer of London, being of sound mind and body and with good memory, on 20 May 1435 in the 13th year of the reign of King Henry VI, make and set out this my testament in the following manner. First, I leave and commend my soul to almighty God, my creator and my saviour, to the Blessed Virgin Mary his mother, and to all the saints, and my body to be buried in the church of St. Antholin, London. I bequeath to the high altar of that church, [in recompense] for forgotten offerings, ten pounds. To each stipendiary chaplain of the church, 6s.8d to pray for my soul. I bequeath 13s.4d to the principal cleric of that church and 6s.8d to his assistant there. I bequeath £20 to be spent on repairs to the fabric of the church, on whatever is of greatest need or most appropriate. I bequeath to each of the four orders of friars in London that is, the Friars Preacher, the Minorites, the Carmelites, and the Augustinians 40s. to pray for my soul. I bequeath to the hospital of St. Mary of Bethlem outside Bishopsgate, London, 20s. to be distributed among the infirm residents. For the same purpose, I bequeath 20s. to the hospital of St. Mary without Bishopsgate.
I bequeath to my son Thomas Knolles each and all household items, decorations, utensils, cloths, bed fittings, table linens, precious objects and vessels of gold and silver, whether gilded or not, that are part of my residence that is, in the hall, the chamber, the storeroom, the kitchen, and other parts of my house. I bequeath to my son William Knolles £66.13s.4d, wishing that this sum be in the safekeeping of my son Thomas, who is to use his good discretion in paying it out to my son William. I bequeath £66.13s.4d to each of Robert and Richard, sons of my son Thomas Knolles, and to Beatrice his daughter; it is my wish that all those children of my son Thomas, while they are in their minority and until they are married, together with the £200 I have bequeathed them, be and remain in the custody, under the control, and at the disposition of the children's father Thomas Knolles, under guarantees made in relation to the same before the mayor and aldermen of London, without any interest being due thereon. If any of the children of my son Thomas should die before reaching the age of majority or before getting married, then I wish and bequeath that the share of the deceased individual be turned over and remain to he or they of the surviving children; this to apply to each of them. If all the children of my son Thomas should die before reaching the age of majority or before getting married, then I leave the above bequest of £200 for my son Thomas or his executors to put towards, dispose of, and distribute for [the benefit of] my soul and the souls of my late wife Joan, my parents, our benefactors and all those to whom we are obliged, and all the faithful deceased; such as through the celebration of masses, hand-outs to the poor, road repairs, dowries for poor girls of good reputation, discharge of the debts of those imprisoned as debtors, and other works of charity and compassion such as seem best to Thomas or his executors, with the intent of pleasing God and furthering the salvation of my soul and the other souls mentioned.
I bequeath to my daughters Beatrice, Margery, and Margaret that is, to each of them a gold ring worth a hundred shillings. I bequeath to Joan the wife of Robert Shelley esq. a gold ring worth a hundred shillings. I bequeath twenty pounds to the fabric of North Mymms church. I bequeath 6s.8d to each of my poor tenants at North Mymms. I bequeath £5 to Thomas Bryght; and £6.13s.4d to my servant John Helder. I bequeath £3.6s.8d to my servant Alice Geret. I bequeath 40s. to my servant Alice Haukyns. I bequeath 40s. to the nuns of Sopwell, to pray for my soul. I bequeath 40s. to the nuns of Pray, to intercede for my soul. I bequeath £13.6s.8d to my servant William Harry, on condition that William shows diligence in supporting and helping my executors to collect all my debts.
I bequeath twenty pounds to be distributed and disposed of among poor London householders, wherever it can be applied to most effect, at the best judgement of my executors. I bequeath £10 to be disposed of among the poor and the needy residing in the parish of St. Antholin. I bequeath £10 to be disposed of among poor men of my mystery in London, applied wherever it seems to my executors needed and appropriate. I bequeath 4d. to each person incarcerated in the prisons of Newgate, Ludgate, Fleet, Marshalsea, and King's Bench, to pray for my soul. I wish my executors to reward all my other servants whom I have not named in this testament; that is, to each of them according to the good service they have given me, according to the best judgement of my executors. I bequeath one hundred pounds to dispose of in discharging those held in the prisons of Ludgate and Newgate for debts of forty pounds and more, giving to those imprisoned a hundred shillings in each case where having it will bring about their release, without any deceit, fraud or deception.
I bequeath twenty pounds to each of my executors for willingly shouldering the burden of fulfilling this my testament. As for the residue of all my goods, chattels, and debts [owed me], wherever they may be (after my own debts have been paid, my burial has been duly and properly taken care of, and this my testament has been fulfilled) I give and bequeath them in their entirety to be put towards, distributed, and disposed of for my soul and the other souls mentioned, by my executors especially, chiefly, and principally by my son Thomas Knolles my chief executor both through the celebration of masses, hand-outs to the poor, road repairs, dowries for poor girls of good reputation, and discharge of the debts of those imprisoned as debtors, and through the purchase of russet cloth to be made into gowns to clothe and attire poor and needy men and women; [this to be done] to [my] best advantage, whether in the city of London or in the countryside, along with other charitable works such as seems to my son Thomas most likely to please God and further the salvation of my soul and the other souls mentioned.
Of this my testament I make, designate and appoint my son Thomas Knolles as my chief executor and Richard Hakedy citizen and grocer of London as his co-executor and assistant, to carry out truly and faithfully each and every thing specified above. In testimony to which, I have set to my seal to this document. Drawn up at London on the above date.[Codicil 1:]
In the name of God, Amen. I, Thomas Knolles senior, citizen and grocer of London, being of sound mind and memory, have on 12 July 1432, in the tenth year of the reign of King Henry VI, made and set out my testament in the following manner concerning one of my tenements with appurtenances that once belonged to Richard Odyham senior, once a citizen and grocer of London, in the parish of St. Antholin in London.
First, I leave and commend my soul to almighty God, my creator and my saviour, to the Blessed Virgin Mary his mother, and to all the saints, and my body to be buried wherever God decides it should be. By this my testament I, Thomas Knolles, I give and bequeath to Robert Wydyton, citizen and grocer of London, and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of the late Richard Odyham and widow of John Oxneye, once a citizen and grocer of London, all that tenement with its appurtenances which is situated between the tenement once of John Haddele on the west side, the tenement of the rector of the church of St. Antholin on the east side, and the cemetery of the church of St. Antholin on the south side. Which tenement with appurtenances I, Thomas, together with dom. John Snell clerk (who released his right and claim therein to me, Thomas Knolles, and my heirs and assigns in perpetuity) once had to myself, my heirs and assigns in perpetuity through the grant and feoffment of Elizabeth during her first widowhood; as is more fully set out in a certain deed thereof made out to John Snell and myself, the said Thomas Knolles, and read out and enrolled in London's husting session of pleas of land held on 28 July 1410. Robert Wydyton and his wife Elizabeth and their assigns are, for the lifetime of whichever of them lives longer, to have and to hold the entire tenement with its appurtenances of the chief lords of that fee by the services due therefrom and customarily owed by right.
I give and bequeath to Lady Joan Welles, nun in Sopwell nunnery near the town of St. Albans, daughter of that same Elizabeth an annual rent of thirteen shillings and fourpence, to be received by Lady Joan Welles after the deaths of Robert and Elizabeth from that tenement with appurtenances each year at the four principal terms in equal portions, throughout the entire natural lifespan of Lady Joan Welles, together with the power to distrain on the tenement and its appurtenances for the rent as often as may be necessary.
I wish and bequeath that the entire tenement with its appurtenances, immediately following the death of whichever of Robert or Elizabeth is last to die, shall remain in its entirety to Joan Saundres, widow of Thomas Saundres and sister of Elizabeth. Joan Saundres is to have and to hold for life the tenement with appurtenances of the chief lords of that fee by the services due therefrom and customarily owed by right, except for the right of Lady Joan Welles in and to the aforementioned annual rent of thirteen shillings and fourpence for the term of her natural life.
I wish, bequeath and provide that after the deaths of Robert and Elizabeth and the death of Joan Saundres the entire tenement with its appurtenances remain in its entirety to Stephen Broun, Nicholas Wyfold, and Ralph Say, presently the wardens of the Grocers Company of the city of London and to the community of that mystery. The wardens and community of the Grocers Company and those who succeed them at any given time are to have and to hold in perpetuity in pure and perpetual almoign for the support and relief of poor members of their community in perpetuity of the chief lords of that fee by the services due therefrom and customarily owed by right, except for the right of Lady Joan Welles in and to the aforementioned annual rent of thirteen shillings and fourpence during her natural life, as specified above. Of this my testament I make, designate and appoint as my executors my son Thomas Knolles, citizen and grocer of the city of London, John Snell clerk, and Richard Hakedy, citizen and grocer of the same city. In testimony to which, I have set to my seal to this document. Drawn up at London on the above date.[Codicil 2:]
In the name of God, Amen. I, Thomas Knolles senior, citizen and grocer of London, being of sound mind and memory, have on 29 June 1435 in the thirteenth year of the reign of King Henry VI made and set out my testament in the following manner with regard both to my brewhouse called the Crane on the Hoop with its appurtenances in Fleet Street in St. Dunstan's parish in the suburbs of London, which once was Thomas Duke's, and to my shop with dwellings built above it and their appurtenances situated in the parish of St. Michael Cornmarket in West Cheap, London.
First, I leave and commend my soul to almighty God, my creator and my saviour, to the Blessed Virgin Mary his mother, and to all the saints, and my body to be buried in the church of St. Antholin, London.
I give and bequeath by this my testament to mag. Reginald Kentwode, dean of the cathedral church of St. Paul of the city of London and to the chapter of that place and their successors the entire house that is my brewery called the Crane, with all vessels and utensils (moveable and immoveable) that belong to the brewhouse, and all other of its appurtenances. Which brewhouse with appurtenances I, Thomas Knolles senior, lately had for myself, my heirs and assigns in perpetuity, by the demise and feoffment of Thomas Pulter clerk. The which brewhouse, called the Crane, with appurtenances is situated beside the tenement once held by William Yeman, belonging to the church of St. Dunstan, Fleet Street, to the west, and the tenement of the said dean and chapter to the east; and it extends in length from that tenement of dean and chapter at the north end, as far as the highway of Fleet Street at the south end.
I also give and bequeath by this my testament to the dean and chapter of St. Paul's church and their successors my entire shop with dwellings built above and its appurtenances in the parish of St. Michael Cornmarket. Which shop with dwellings built above and appurtenances I, Thomas Knolles, lately had for myself, my heirs and assigns in perpetuity, by the demise and feoffment of Thomas Pulter and John Fuller clerks. And which shop with dwellings built above and appurtenances is situated between tenements that belong to St. Paul's church on the east and west sides, the highway of West Cheap on the north side, and the great belltower of the church of St. Paul on the south side.
The dean and chapter and their successors are to have and to hold in perpetuity the brewhouse called the Crane in Fleet Street together with all vessels and utensils (moveable and immoveable) that belong to the brewhouse, and its other appurtenances, as well as the shop with dwellings built above and its appurtenances in the parish of St. Michael Cornmarket, in pure and perpetual almoign, of the chief lords of that fee by the services due therefrom and customarily owed by right; [in return] for praying during all future time for my soul, the souls of all to whom I am obliged, and those of all the faithful deceased. Of this my testament I make, designate and appoint as my executors my son Thomas Knolles, Richard Hungate, William Aston, and John Stafford. In testimony to which, I have set to my seal to this document. Drawn up at London on the above date.[Codicil 3:]
In the name of God Amen. I, Thomas Knolles senior, citizen and grocer of London, being of sound mind and body and my memory good, on 26 May 1432 in the tenth year of the reign of King Henry VI have made and set out my testament in the following manner.
First I leave and commend my soul to almighty God, my creator and my saviour, to the Blessed Virgin Mary his mother, and to all the saints, and my body to be buried in a tomb in church as is specified in more detail in my other testament concerning my moveable goods.
I give and bequeath to brother John Snell, warden, preceptor or master of the house or hospital of St. Antholin of London my entire shop with a solar built above it and its other appurtenances, located in the parish of St. Benet Fink in Bread Street ward in the city of London. That is, between the tenement belonging to the house or hospital of St. Antholin on the south side, and the tenement of the abbot and convent of St. Mary Graces by the Tower of London (which was formerly [the property] of Richard de Plessis, archdeacon of Colchester) on the north side; and it extends from the highway leading to the church of the Augustinian friars of the city of London at the west end, as far as the building of the house or hospital of St. Antholin at the east end. Which shop with solar above and appurtenances I, Thomas Knolles senior, recently acquired with Thomas Knolles junior my son, for myself, my heirs and assigns in perpetuity, by the grant and enfeoffment of John Tunbyk, alias Petresfeld, ironmonger, Richard Lyndesay scribe, and Thomas Balle ironmonger, citizens of the city of London, as is more fully set out in a certain deed made to that effect and read out and enrolled in the London husting session for pleas of land on 28 January 1432; and in which Thomas Knolles junior, by his document dated 2 March of the same year, turned over, released and quitclaimed to me, Thomas Knolles senior, and my heirs and assigns in perpetuity all right or claim he had in that shop with solar above and its other appurtenances, as is more clearly specified in the said document. John Snell warden, preceptor or master and the brethren of the house or hospital of St. Antholin of London and their successors are to have and to hold in perpetuity the shop with solar above and its other appurtenances of the chief lords of that fee by the services due therefrom and customarily owed by right, in the following manner and under the following conditions.
Viz. that the warden, preceptor or master and the brethren of the house or hospital, and their successors at any given time, shall provide and support in perpetuity a lamp continually burning in the chancel of the church or chapel of the house or hospital of St. Antholin. Also, that the warden, preceptor or master and the brethren at any given time of the house or hospital, and their successors in later times, shall every year in perpetuity celebrate or have celebrated publicly, solemnly, and devoutly full services for the dead for the oft-mentioned brother John Snell, warden, preceptor or master of the house or hospital of St. Antholin on the Friday after the festival of St. Gregory the pope next following the anniversary of the death of that brother John Snell, warden, preceptor or master, in the church or chapel of the aforementioned house or hospital of St. Antholin; [this for the benefit] of the soul of brother John Snell, warden, preceptor or master of the said house or hospital and the souls of his parents and benefactors and all the faithful deceased. Moreover, it is my wish and provision that the warden, preceptor or master of the house or hospital then in office, and his successors in later times, shall each year have and receive 12d. for his labour in arranging the anniversary, that each brother or other priest of the house officiating there at that time shall have and receive 6d. for his labour, and as well that each clergyman of the house or hospital for his solemn intercession and other efforts on this matter shall have and receive 4d. What is more, I wish that the warden, preceptor or master of the house or hospital and its brethren, and their successors in later times, each year in perpetuity on the day of the anniversary in memory of brother John Snell warden, preceptor or master of the hospital, following the celebration of a requiem mass, have the obligation to give out 13d. in alms to 13 needy paupers, and in fact do so, for the soul of brother John Snell warden, preceptor or master of the house or hospital of St. Antholin and for the souls mentioned above.
If the warden, preceptor or master of the house or hospital and the brethren, or their successors in later times, do not provide the burning lamp as specified above or in any way through negligence default in the commemoration on the date indicated above of the anniversary of brother John Snell, warden, preceptor or master of the house or hospital of St. Antholin, or if they fail to pay the money to the brethren, clergymen, or paupers, as specified to be paid as alms by my above bequest, in part or wholly, contrary to the intent of this my testament, and this should be proved convincingly and with due process by [the witness of] two or three reputable and respectable men before the mayor and sheriffs of London, or some other judge with jurisdiction in such matters; then, it is my wish and bequest that, because of the default and negligence, it be permissible for the heirs of myself, Thomas Knolles senior, to have and receive an annual compensation of 6s.8d from the shops with solar above and appurtenances. And, if necessary, to distrain on the shop with solar above and appurtenances for that annual payment of 6s.8d., and to carry off the items taken as distraint and keep them in their possession until they have been fully and legally satisfied for the annual payment of 6s.8d, together with all arrears built up to that time. This to be so as often and whenever default or negligence occurs in these or any other matters. Of this my testament I make, designate and appoint as my executor my son Thomas Knolles junior. In testimony to which, I have set to my seal to this document. Drawn up at London on the above date.
Also I, Thomas Knolles senior, have the following wish: that those who are my co-feoffees in trust of and in all my lands and tenements, rents and services, reversions, [with] houses, shops, buildings, cellars, solars, and all their other appurtenances in the London parishes of St. Antholin, St. Thomas the Apostle, St. Martin in the Vintry, All Hallows Honey Lane, All Hallows on the Wall, and anywhere else in the city, together with the advowson of the church of All Hallows Honey Lane, London, immediately after my death enfeoff my son Thomas of and in each and every of those lands, tenements, rents, services, and reversions, with houses, buildings, shops, cellars, solars and their other appurtenances together with the advowson of the church of All Hallows Honey Lane. My son Thomas, his heirs and assigns to have and to hold in perpetuity. I also wish that those who are my co-feoffees in trust of and in all my manor of North Mymms with its appurtenances, in Hertfordshire, and of and in all my other lands and tenements, rents and services with appurtenances in Hertfordshire, as well as of and in my lands and meadows with appurtenances in Lambeth in Surrey, immediately after my death enfeoff my son Thomas in and of the manor, lands and tenements, rents and services with their appurtenances in Hertfordshire and in and of the lands and meadows with appurtenances in the parish of Lambeth. My son Thomas, his heirs and assigns to have and to hold in perpetuity.
[2. The last will and testament of Robert Chichele]
In the name of God, Amen. On 5 June 1439, in the 17th year of the reign of Henry VI, king of England, I, Robert Chichele, citizen and grocer of the city of London, being of sound mind and memory, make and set out my testament concerning my moveable possessions, in the following manner. First, I leave and commend my soul to almighty God, my creator and my saviour, to the Blessed Virgin Mary his mother, and to all the saints, and my body to be buried in the nave of the parish church of St. James Garlickhithe, London, of which I am presently a parishioner.
I bequeath to the reverend lord Henry, by the grace of God archbishop of Canterbury, my brother, each and every pearl that I own, or whatever sort it may be, large or small. I bequeath to the rector of the church of St. James 40s., that the rector may say special prayers for my soul. I bequeath to each chaplain of that church who celebrates there and undertakes services to pray especially for my soul, 13s.4d. I bequeath to each of the parish clerks of that church 6s.8d, also to pray for my soul. I bequeath towards the structural fabric of that church, for my burial as pre-arranged, £10. I bequeath to each of the four orders of mendicant friars in the city of London (that is, the Augustinians, the Minorites, the Preachers, and the Carmelites) 40s., that the brothers specially commend my soul to God. I leave 20s. to the friars of the order of the Holy Cross next to the Tower of London, on the same condition. I leave £10 to be expended on and distributed among chaplains who celebrate services within the city of London and its suburbs; each chaplain to receive 4d. for as long as the £10 holds out, so that they may pray for my soul.
I bequeath £20 to be distributed in the same fashion among prisoners held in the gaols of the city of London and its suburbs or persons laid up in hospitals within the city and suburbs, each prisoner or patient to receive 4d. while the £20 lasts. I bequeath to the convent of Tandridge £6.13s.4d to pray specially for my soul. I bequeath £60 for the marriage of thirty girls of good reputation; that is, 40s. to each of the thirty girls as her dowry. I bequeath £60 towards acquitting and freeing from gaol various prisoners detained in the gaols within the city of London and its suburbs, or in the King's Bench and Marshalsea; to go as far as it will stretch, on the understanding that no more than 20s. maximum be paid for the acquittance and freeing of any single prisoner. I leave £133.13s.4d to be distributed among prisoners held in the gaols within the city of London and its suburbs, as well as in the King's Bench, Marshalsea, and the gaol of the abbot of Westminster; that is, each week for the two years following my death, 26s.8d for the purchase of bread to be distributed among those prisoners, so that the prisoners in those gaols receive weekly a loaf worth a halfpenny, throughout those two years. I bequeath £20 to be distributed among poor householders in the Vintry and Queenhithe wards, at the discretion of my executors identified below. I bequeath my nephew, John Chichele, £20. I bequeath £20 to have twenty trentals celebrated in St. Gregory's for the souls of myself, my wives Elizabeth, Agnes, and Agnes, as well as those of my parents, friends, and benefactors, together with all deceased Christians. I bequeath to John Stystede, my servant, and his wife £10. I bequeath £20 to be distributed, at the discretion of my executors, among my other servants who are in my service in London on the day I die. I bequeath £20 to be distributed among the parish churches of Higham Ferrers, for their fabric. I bequeath to Thomas Spytele £5. I bequeath £20 to support poor brethren of the London grocers' company. I bequeath £5 to Anthony Astell, fishmonger of London. I bequeath £5 to his brother, John Astell, saddler of London. I bequeath to Lady Florence, the widow of John Darell and daughter of William Chichele, my brother, £10. I bequeath £10 to Thomas Knolles, citizen and grocer of London. I bequeath £10 to the master of the college of Higham Ferrers and his colleagues of that place, to pray specially for my soul. I bequeath 100s. towards the structural fabric of the parish church of Tandridge. I bequeath £5 to be distributed, at the discretion of William Warbylton esq., amongst the poor of Tandridge parish. I bequeath 40s. towards the structural fabric of the parish church of Sherfield. I bequeath £10 to William Warbylton.
I bequeath to each of my executors identified below, for undertaking the task of executing this my testament, £10. The remainder of all my moveable goods and chattels whatsoever, after my debts have been paid and my testament fulfilled, I wish and bequeath to be entirely disposed of by my executors in works of charity for [the good of] my soul and the souls of those mentioned above; such as in the celebration of masses, distribution to poor people, repairs to bridges and roads, and other pious uses, just as their good judgement leads them to think will be most pleasing to God and most profitable for the salvation of my soul and the other souls mentioned. I appoint as executors of my testament John Lorchyn grocer, John Broddesworth mercer, John Wyverton fishmonger, and Styfford the draper, citizens of the city of London. In testimony to which matters I have put my seal to this testament. Drawn up at London, on the day and year indicated above.
In the name of God, Amen. Memorandum that the present codicil, made on 17 December 1438 in the 17th year of the reign of Henry VI, king of England, contains the last will of me, Robert Chichele, citizen and grocer of London, in regard to the disposition of my lands and tenements described below in the city of London, in which various persons in whom I have highest confidence are feoffees to my use. That is:
First I wish and require that my executors, as soon after my death as they are able, by the best means that they know, and without any fraud, sell all the lands and tenements described below. That is, all of my lands and tenements in the parish of St. Michael Queenhithe, London, and my great tenement of which Sir Ralph Botiller is at present the tenant in the Vintry, in the parish of St. James Garlickhithe, London, as well as the whole of the great tenement or lodging-house in which I am now living in the same parish of St. James, together with a certain other tenement in which William Abraham is at present the tenant in that parish of St. James and which is situated next to and adjoined to the great tenement in which I live. And that my executors dispose of the money received from the sale in the following way, that is:
First, to the boys or children of John Chichele, my nephew, £133.13s.4d to be divided equally among them; if any of John Chichele's children should die [before coming of age] then his portion passes to the other, surviving children of John Chichele, and so with each of them.
Towards the structural fabric of the church of Romford, so that the rectors or vicars, the wardens, and the parishioners of Romford church hold in that church each year in perpetuity a celebration of the anniversary of my death, for my soul and the souls of my wives Agnes, Elizabeth, and Agnes: £20.
Towards the structural fabric of the parish church of St. Antholin, London, so that special prayers be said for my soul and the souls mentioned: £10.
Towards the structural fabric of the parish church of St. Michael Queenhithe, London, on condition that special prayers be said for my soul and the souls mentioned, £10. Towards the structural fabric of the church of St. Dunstan in the East towards the Tower of London, so that prayers be said for my soul and the souls of William Baret and his wife Eleanor: £10.
Towards the structural fabric of the parish church of Wimpole, so that prayers be said for my souls and the souls of William Staundon and his wife Agnes, £10. Towards the maintenance of the bridge at Rochester, Kent, £20. Towards the maintenance of London bridge, £20. Towards the maintenance of the Guildhall of the city of London: £20.
Towards work on the bridges at Higham Ferrers and Hartlebury that is, for work on each of the bridges £10. To my poor relations in the parishes of Higham Ferrers and Souldrop, as well as other poor people in those same parishes, £20. To lepers, the poor infirm, and lunatics in the following hospitals: St. Giles outside Holborne gate, London, the New Hospital of St. Mary outside Bishopsgate, London, St. Mary of Bethlehem outside Bishopsgate, London, Saint Bartholomew of West Smithfield, London, and St. Thomas the Martyr in Southwark; £100 to be distributed in the following manner: bread and ale bought for and delivered to the lepers, poor infirm, and lunatics every week, that is 2s. per hospital per week for as long as the £100 lasts.
The remainder of the proceeds from the sales of the aforementioned lands and tenements I wish my executors to dispose of in its entirety by spending it on dowries for poor maids of good reputation, on repairs to the king's highways, on the relief of those poor persons in greatest need (whether in London or in the countryside), on handouts to poor prisoners, and on other works of charity, according to the best judgement of my executors, for my soul, the souls of my parents, and the souls of William More, my wives Elizabeth, Agnes and Agnes, Richard Merlawe, all others who merit it, and all deceased Christians.
I also wish and require my feoffees to turn over their rights and tenancy of the aforementioned tenements, which I have assigned to be sold, to him or them to whom my executors shall sell them.
I wish and require that immediately after my death my feoffees of and in my tenement with appurtenances located in the parish of St. Laurence Pountney, London, surrender their rights and tenancy to my servant Simon Pynkeherst, for him and his heirs and assigns to hold in perpetuity. In testimony to which matters, I have put my seal to this codicil, being my last will. Drawn up at London, on the day and year indicated above.
In the name of God, Amen. On 17 December 1438, the 17th year of the reign of Henry VI, king of England, I, Robert Chichele, citizen and grocer of the city of London, being of sound mind and memory, make and set out my testament concerning my tenements located in the parish of St. Antholin, London that is, between the tenement formerly of John Hadle on the east side, the highway called Soper Lane on the west side, the tenement of the prior and convent of the hospital of St. Mary outside Bishopsgate to the north, and the highway called Watling Street to the south in the following manner. That is, by this my testament I give and bequeath each and every tenement with appurtenances to the master or warden of the College of the Blessed [Virgin] Mary, St. Thomas the Martyr, and St. Edward the Confessor of Higham Ferrers, lately founded by my brother, the right reverend father in Christ, dom. Henry, archbishop of Canterbury by divine permission, and to the chaplains and their colleagues of that place. The present master or warden, chaplains, and fellows of the college, and their successors as masters or wardens, chaplains and fellows of the college, to have and to hold in perpetuity all those tenements with appurtenances of the chief lords of the fees by the services due therefrom and the customary rights, to assist with the support of poor people duly living in the hospital lately founded and built there by the lord archbishop, my brother; for the purpose of carrying out and fulfilling in perpetuity all my wishes and requirements written below. That is, first that the master or warden, chaplains and poor people make special mention in their prayers, masses, and devotions of my soul, the souls of my parents Thomas and Agnes, William More, my wives Elizabeth, Agnes and Agnes, my brother William Chichele, and his wife Beatrice, as well as my friends and benefactors, and all faithful Christians deceased. I further wish and require that the master or warden, the chaplains and their fellows of the college, and their successors in perpetuity, each year observe and celebrate in the parish church of Higham Ferrers divine offices [... the medieval clerk has not finished transcribing the will].
[3. The last will and testament of John Welles]
In the name of God, Amen. On 7 June 1442 in the 20th year of the reign of King Henry VI, I John Welles, citizen, grocer and alderman of the city of London, being of good and sound memory, make and set out in the following manner this my testament containing my last will. First, I leave and commend my soul to almighty God, my creator, saviour and redeemer, to the Blessed Virgin Mary the glorious mother of God, and to all the saints, and my body to be buried in the chapel of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist which I provided for and built on south side of the church of St. Antholin, London.
It is my first and foremost wish and bequest, before all other things, that each and every of my debts be faithfully paid. After which, I bequeath twenty shillings to the high altar of St. Antholin's church, to relieve my soul of the burden of tithes and offerings I have forgotten or failed to give. I bequeath £13.6s.8d to the making of a new canopy with fittings for hanging the body of Christ above the high altar of the church, as per the instructions of Thomas Knolles, John Chichele or mag. William Cleve clerk and not to be put to any other use. I bequeath £200 to provide for a suitable and respectable chaplain to celebrate divine services for the 30 years following my death in that chapel of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, for the souls of myself, my late wife Margery, as well as the souls of my father John and mother Isabelle, the father John and mother Marion of my late wife Margery, and also for the souls of our friends and benefactors and all the faithful deceased. I wish that the chaplain who shall thus celebrate of my soul and the souls of the others shall be present in his own surplice and participate every day in each and every of the canonical hours and masses in the choir of the church of St. Antholin singing, reading, reciting psalms and versicles, praying and interceding as he should wish to answer for (that he has nothing failed to do) before the highest authority on Judgement Day.
Also, I bequeath £60 to support the holding and observance of the obit or anniversary of myself and my wife Margery, as well as our fathers and mothers, each year for the 30 years following my death; that is, during the night [to chant] the Placebo and Dirige by note and on the following day a requiem mass by note in the church of St. Antholin. It is my wish that, each year during the period of 30 years when the obit or anniversary is thus held, 40s. of the sixty pounds be spent, laid out and disposed of by the wardens of the Grocers Company of the city of London in the following manner. Viz. 3s.4d to the mayor of the city of London then in office, as long as he attends my exequies; 20d. to either city sheriff then in office who is present; 12d. to he who bears the sword before the mayor, for being there; 3s.4d to each of the three wardens of the city grocers for being present there. Also, 11s.8d on wax, spices, bread, wine and ale; 6s.8d to priests, clerks, and bell-ringers; and 4s. to the most needy poor people of the parish of St. Antholin.
It is my wish that the £200 to provide chaplains and the sixty pounds to support my obit or anniversary, bequeathed by me as specified above, be delivered by my executors to the wardens of the mystery and community of city grocers by means of indentures between the rector and churchwardens of St. Antholin then in office and the wardens of the Grocers Company then in office, for execution by the hands of the successive wardens of the Company for the duration of the 30 years. On the understanding that each year the newly elected and instituted wardens of the Grocers' Company provide security to those who had been Company wardens in the previous year for whatever remains of the aforementioned sums.
I bequeath to Thomas Knolles, citizen and grocer of London, my psalter written in Latin, my best gold chain with a cross hanging from it [decorated] with diamonds and balases, my rosary with the Lord's Prayer, ten Ave Marias, and the Apostles Creed in gold, and my cypress chest. I bequeath to John Chichele a cup called "Standingcup" of gilded silver and my gold ring called "Mase" and £10. I bequeath to clerk William Clyve clerk my ... , £10, and a chest. I bequeath to John Routhe my best furred gown and £10.
I bequeath to William Osbarn, the son of my late wife Margery, two cups; that is, one called "Pear" and the other called "Apple", my silver balance called "goldbalance", my sword, my baselard, all my harness and equipment required for a horse, and all my armour, as well as my bed with an arras tester, curtains, and valance belonging to that bed. I bequeath £20 to Walter Hunte grocer. I bequeath to Robert Gayton grocer a cup called "Standingcup" of gilded silver. I forgive my servant Henry Archer the entire debt he owes me, and I bequeath the same Henry Archer £10. I bequeath £6.13s.4d to Robert Loumour. I bequeath £3.6s.8d to little John, my boy[-servant]. I bequeath £3.6s.8d to John Portour. I bequeath £6.13s.4d to Thomas Howerwode. I bequeath £3.6s.8d to my kinsman Thomas Fastolf. I bequeath 40s. to little Oliver. I bequeath 20s. to John Martyn. I bequeath £20 to Margaret Cartmell, on condition that if she should happen to marry hereafter, she do it with the consent and approval of my executors named below. It is my wish and bequest that the £20 I leave to Margaret, as indicated above, be and remain in the safekeeping and under the control of my executors until Margaret comes of legal age or is married with the consent of my executors. Should Margaret die before coming of age or marrying with my executors' consent, then it is my wish that my bequest of £20 be faithfully distributed by my executors, at their discretion, in pious works of charity for my soul and the other souls already mentioned. I bequeath 20s. to Agnes Russell. I bequeath £10 to my servant John. I bequeath £10 to my servant Alice Pankbourne. I bequeath 40s. to my servant Anne. I wish that each and every of my servants not named above, who serve or have served me, receive a reasonable reward at the discretion of Thomas Knolles. I bequeath 20s. to John Stede of Lewisham. I bequeath my best primer to Elizabeth Marchall. I bequeath my second best primer to Beatrice Knolles. I bequeath twelve pounds of "Malik" silk to the wife of John Routhe.
I bequeath one hundred shillings towards work on the parish church of St. George Muspole in the city of Norwich, in whose holy font I was baptized. I bequeath to each order of mendicant friars in the city of London that is Carmelite, Augustinian, Preacher, and Minor on condition they devoutly pray for my soul, 40s. at the discretion of my executors. I bequeath to the friary of the order of Holy Cross next to the Tower, 40s. at the discretion of my executors. I bequeath to poor prisoners in the gaols of Marshalsea, King's Bench, Fleet, the two counters of the London sheriffs, Ludgate and Newgate, 40s. per gaol at the discretion of my executors. Also, 40s. to the lepers in St. Giles hospital. I bequeath 40s. to the lepers at the "lokes" outside St. George's gate, and 40s. to the lepers at Hackney, at the discretion of my executors. I bequeath 20s. to each anchorite within the city of London and its suburbs. It is my wish that the two chalices, four sets of priestly robes, one pair of silver cruets, and two pairs of latten candelabra currently in my chapel shall remain in that chapel for the future, to be used for the worship of God for as long as they are serviceable.
I bequeath £33.6s.8d towards the construction and erection of a new boundary marker for my ward of West Cheap, under the supervision of John Chichele, Thomas Knolles and William Clyve. I bequeath £20 towards upgrading the water supply by provision of a conduit, paid out at the discretion of my executors. I bequeath £20 towards the repair of London Bridge, to be paid out at the discretion of my executors. I bequeath £6.13s.4d towards the repair of the highway between Sydenham and London, at the discretion of my executors. I bequeath £10 to poor householders within Cordwainer ward, especially those in the parish of St. Antholin, to be distributed at the discretion of my executors. I bequeath five pounds to Joan the widow of John Kyngescote.
It is my wish that after my death my feoffees of and in all my lands and tenements with appurtenances situated in Tower Street, London, which I acquired from William Burton citizen and grocer of London, transfer possession of all those lands, tenements and appurtenances to the wardens of the mystery and community of grocers of the city of London. The wardens, and their successors as wardens of the company, are to have and to hold in perpetuity, for providing relief and help to poor members of the company residing, or to reside in future, in the newly-constructed tenements next to the grocers' hall in the parish of St. Mildred Poultry, London. On the conditions that: for all future time those poor people say special prayers for the souls of myself and my late wife Margery, the souls of our fathers and mothers, and the souls of all the faithful deceased; the company wardens hold and observe annually, throughout the thirty years mentioned above as following immediately after my death, my obit or anniversary in a decent fashion, as described above.
It is my wish that all my lands and tenements with appurtenances situated in the parishes of St. Mary Magdalene Old Fish Market, St. Peter Paul's Wharf, St. Michael Paternoster Royal, and St. Swithin Candlewick Street in the city of London be sold by my executors or their executors as quickly after my death as they may and for as good a price as they know how. And that the money received by those vendors from such sale of my lands and tenements with appurtenances be faithfully disposed of and distributed through charitable works, as they judge best for my soul and the other souls mentioned above. I wish, entreat, and require each and every of those who are my feoffees to use in all my aforesaid lands and tenements with appurtenances in those parishes of St. Mary Magdalene, St. Peter, St. Michael and St. Swithin, on the basis of the great trust I place in them, to transfer possession of all those lands and tenements with appurtenances to him or them to whom my executors (or their executors) shall sell those lands and tenements with appurtenances, when they are required to do so by my executors (or their executors).
It is my wish that as soon as possible after my death my manor of Sydenham, in the parish of Lewisham, in the county of Kent, along with its appurtenances and all other lands, tenements, rents and services with their appurtenances that I had or have in that parish be sold by my executors. And that the money received therefrom be disposed of by my executors to carry out my will, as set out in this testament, and on charitable works for my soul and the soul of my late wife Margery, as they think best pleasing to God. Provided always that prior to the sale or in [the terms of] the sale they make good and sufficient provision for William Osbarn to have and receive for life from that manor with appurtenances an annual rent of forty shillings, [payable] at the usual two terms during the year, with power to distrain on the manor with appurtenances for the rent and its arrears, whenever during William's lifetime that rent might happen to be partly or wholly in arrears. I wish, entreat and require that all my feoffees in that manor, lands and tenements with appurtenances, on the basis of the great trust [I place in them], transfer possession therein to him or them to whom my executors shall make the sale, when reasonably required, without any delay or refusal whatever, as they shall wish to answer for before God.
It is my wish that after my death my executors transfer the years remaining on my lease of a mansion with shop and garden attached in the parish of St. Antholin, London, to some particularly respectable member of my own mystery in the city of London, as suits them and is considered expedient. And that the money received by my executors from the sale of the lease be disposed of for my soul and the souls mentioned above in whatever way they anticipate may please God and benefit the salvation of my soul.
It is my wish that if the aforementioned William Osbarn is not content with what I have bequeathed him above, but instead harasses in any way my executors indicated below, or if William or anyone else on his behalf or in his name through any wiles, fraud, or trickery disturbs my feoffees in my above-mentioned manor, lands and tenements with appurtenances, or makes any legal claim to the manor, lands and tenements with appurtenances (or any portion thereof), contrary to what is set down in my last will, then I wish that each and every of the above legacies that I have made to William be considered null and void.
As for all the rest of my goods and chattels, whatever and wherever they may be, after my debts are paid, my testament is fulfilled, and my funeral expenses fully dealt with, I give, bequeath and assign them to be distributed and disposed of by my executors in pious uses and charitable works for my soul and the souls mentioned above, in whatever ways my executors anticipate may best please God and benefit the salvation of my soul. As executors of this my testament, I make, designate and appoint Thomas Knolles, John Chichele, mag. William Clyve, and John Routhe. In testimony to which, I have set to my seal to this testament. Drawn up at London on the above date.
These three documents which I have broken up into paragraphs to make for easier reading embody to some degree the thoughts and preoccupations of three contemporaries as they approached death, although it is difficult to know how much the terminology of testamentary instruments reflect the character of the testator and how much that of the scribe who drafted them. Knolles, Chichele and Welles must have known each other quite well, from being in the same business, from social interaction (particularly in the case of the pair living in the same parish), and from service together in London's government. The three documents show differences and similarities, the latter above all in the provision for pious and charitable works, supporting the interpretation that some historians favour of wills and testaments being primarily tools to provide for the health of the soul in the afterlife, by arranging for proper funeral ceremonies and prayers to be said in the years that followed. This interpretation seems more supportable for testators who were as wealthy, powerful and influential as the three men here; those leaving briefer and terser wills are not so focused on this aspect of testamentary provision.Thomas Knolles
The family of Thomas Knolles, or Knollys, believed itself related to Sir Robert Knolles, who had been a military commander of Edward III's forces in France and later helped protect London during the Peasants' Revolt; Thomas acted as one of his executors in 1389, although it is not known what their relationship was, and Thomas' father was probably a Richard Knolles. Thomas had no less a distinguished career than Sir Robert, in his way, through service to his community. He was on a par in terms of his influence and wealth with contemporaries Richard Whittington and Robert Chichele, and like them a long-liver. Knolles seems to have had a close association with Chichele, both in business and in private life; Chichele's nephew John had married Margery, one of Knolles' daughters.
His first known position of responsibility was as warden of the grocers company in 1387/88, an office he held once more at the further end of his career (1431/32). By the time of his first tenure he was probably already in his mid to late 30s, and his business must have been doing well. Although his commercial activities are not much evidenced, the debts for which he sued indicate that he could invest sizable amounts of money in his business ventures. His parish church, St. Antholin's, was closely associated with the grocers.
His election as alderman of Dowgate ward in 1393 was preceded by him acting as auditor of accounts of the city guardian of orphans on two occasions, and his status is also seen in him being among 24 commoners chosen to accompany city dignitaries to Nottingham to meet with the king in 1392. In 1397 he transferred from Dowgate to Cordwainer ward, remaining its alderman until his death in 1435. Soon after being made an alderman, he was elected a city sheriff (1394/95) and subsequently served two mayoral terms, in 1399/1400 and 1410/11. His second mayoralty saw the start of the project to rebuild the Guildhall on a grand scale; he also contributed a large sum towards the construction of a new hall for the Grocers Company. He represented the city at the parliament of 1416.
On several occasions he supported Henry IV with loans, and was one of five "war treasurers" appointed by the king in 1404. Despite the king being constantly in debt to him, he was willing to continue the loans to Henry V and Henry VI. On the other hand, he is not known to have been heavily involved in supplying the court with its necessaries, nor was he especially active in royal administration. He was briefly a collector of customs at London (1400-01) and served on a number of judicial commissions between 1400 and 1418, but this can hardly be said to have been a major aspect of his career.
With the profits from his business, which he continued to manage up until the end of his life, he gradually acquired properties in several London parishes, providing another form of steady income. Just as friends and colleagues obliged him by acting as trustee or feoffee to use in his property transactions, he too was often called upon to do the same for them among the number were fellow grocer John Welles. Outside London his landed interests focused on Hertfordshire, where he started to build up an estate in 1391, with the purchase of one-quarter of North Mymms manor; the remainder he purchased in 1428. He also held lands in Essex (apparently disposed of before he drew up his will) and just across the river from the City, in Surrey. Stow assumed Knolles had a knighthood, probably on the grounds of his mayoralty, but this does not seem to have been the case.
Probate of the several wills of Thomas Knolles took place before the prerogative court of the archbishop on 11 July 1435, with administration committed to Thomas junior and Richard Hakedy. Although some of its provisions had been drawn up in earlier years, the final form of the will was evidently put together at Knolles' death-bed. It was not until the following February that the document also received probate and registration in London's husting court.
Thomas was buried next to his wife Joan, who had died in 1431. The epitaph on their tomb read:
Here lyeth graven undyr this stonOf their 19 children, only two sons and three daughters appear to have survived. If we may trust the number in the epitaph, it is probable testimony to the high infant mortality rate even towards the close of the Middle Ages.
Knolles' younger surviving son, William, established himself at Bristol in a grocery business. It is not clear why the father seems to have had some concerns about William, requiring his legacy to be doled out at the discretion of the elder son. Perhaps William brought financial difficulties on himself when young, his relocation to Bristol might be suggestive of the need to leave a past behind. William died without heirs in 1442. Thomas junior took over his father's business and, although he did not achieve the same prominence in community affairs as his father, ran an even more prosperous business. He was buried near his father's tomb in St. Antholin's. His epitaph, destroyed by fire along with that of his father and the church as a whole in 1666, read:
Thomas Knolles lyeth undre this stonAgain, only four of his many children are known to have outlived him. The descendant of one rose to an earldom.
At the time of Stow, Thomas Knolles senior was remembered for his part in initiating the rebuilding of the Guildhall, and for his charitable benefactions resulting in the renovation of St. Antholin's, the provision of fresh water supplies for Newgate and Ludgate prisoners, and the poor relief provided through the bequest of his house in Watling Street to the Grocers' Company. The last, next to the churchyard, was still providing a rent of almost £126 in 1863, with the proceeds still being distributed to poor members (or their widows) of the Company. He is also credited with having built the west tower of St Mary's, North Mymms, ca.1428; his arms are displayed in one of the church windows.
That, despite having no shortage of heirs to whom to leave his fortune, Knolles assigned a large part of it to charitable works is partly a facet of this type of document: there were laws in place to assure that the heir and the widow were provided for from a man's estate, so testaments of wealthy men often show a preoccupation with means to ease the burden on the soul after death. Historians debate whether such provisions may reflect a guilty conscience of men who likely had built their wealth by means sometimes not entirely scrupulous. Some of the debtors whose plight Knolles wished to alleviate may have found their way into prison through his own legal actions. His attention to returning to Elizabeth Oxneye the property that had been her inheritance, but which as a widow she had sold to Knolles, may reflect him having taken advantage of her widowhood to acquire the property at less than its true value; on the other hand, this provision of his will may alternatively mask past friendships or other social obligations. His provision for his manorial tenants at North Mymms may owe a little to their past mistreatment, in terms of extortionate rent increases; but to give Knolles his due, he had left the running of the manor to his wife and a kinsman and was mortified when informed of the state of affairs by one of the angry tenants.Robert Chichele
Robert Chichele was one of three brothers who all achieved positions of importance in society. The family was based in Northamptonshire, and this particular line, in the person of Robert's father Thomas, was established by the beginning of the 1360s in Higham, a small Northamptonshire town on the Ferrers estates although after the battle of Evesham it passed into the hands of what later became the duchy of Lancaster. Thomas appears in various roles in the court records of Higham Ferrers from 1363 on, and his prominence in the town is evidenced by his election as its mayor in 1381, and again in 1383; in 1386 he was a collector of a tax in the county. He is little seen after 1391, although he lived to 1400. He had married, probably ca.1350, Agnes Pynchon, believed to have been the daughter of William Pynchon esq.. The Pynchons were a gentry family whose roots were in Essex, although there were branches in other counties. One branch was in London, where John and Walter Pynchon were influential members of the Drapers' Company, and John was alderman of Cornhill Ward by 1389 (dying 1392). It has been suggested that Thomas Chichele may also have been a draper, which could explain the original connection between the families, although no concrete evidence survives.
At any rate, the connection with the Pynchons may explain why and how Thomas' two eldest sons, William and Robert, chose to pursue careers in commerce in London, and were able to rise to prominence in that city. Their younger brother Henry, born ca.1362, settled on a career in the Church and was fortunate to come to the notice of William de Wykeham, Bishop and Chancellor, who had founded a school at Winchester; from Winchester, Henry, progressed to Oxford where he studied civil law. His abilities as a lawyer led to the Bishop of Salisbury taking him into his service in 1396 and he rose to become chancellor of the cathedral in 1404. Whether the Lancastrian connection or his now-wealthy London brothers' influence were a factor or not, he came into the employ of Henry IV, who used him as a diplomat; he was made Bishop of St. David's in 1407. Having served on the king's council, he was chosen Archbishop of Canterbury in 1414, dying in that office in 1443.
Meanwhile, the eldest brother William had become a member of the Grocers' Company by 1373 and served as its warden in 1385/86 and again in 1405/06. One of his clients was Henry Bolingbroke, and this patronage continued after Henry became king. William served the city as warden of London Bridge from 1401 to 1404, as a common councillor representing the grocers in 1402, and had become alderman of Aldgate ward by 1408 in which office he remained to 1420, when he seems to have retired, dying in 1426. After his brother had become archbishop, William benefited by being appointed (1416) steward of the archbishop's liberty. After his death the post was given to his son John Chichele, who married the daughter of wealthy grocer Thomas Knolles they were said to have had 24 children, although several probably died in childbirth. As an earlier instance of Henry's influence, William's elder son, also William, had been made chancellor of Salisbury cathedral shortly after Henry resigned the post in 1409, despite the fact that William junior was a minor; he later became archdeacon of Canterbury in 1420 (dying in 1424). A Thomas Chichele was archdeacon of Canterbury and an executor of the archbishop in 1443; if this was the son of John, then he too must have received the archdeaconry at an early age.
William senior died in 1426 and chose to be buried in Higham Ferrers, next to his parents, to whom he had already set up a monument there. He returned the favours shown his family by the archbishop by bequeathing him the reversion, following his widow's death, of much of his London real estate; the property became part of the endowment of a college of priests Henry had founded in Higham Ferrers. William's bequests included £10 to buy books for the library recently set up (thanks to funding bequeathed by fellow alderman Whittington) in the Guildhall, to help buy a new hall for the Grocers' Company, and for repairs to London Bridge, as well as smaller amounts towards the upkeep of two parish churches. He possessed his own bible and primer, which he bequeathed to his children.
Robert Chichele may well have been introduced into the city by his elder brother. He was certainly in London by 1390. Thomas Knolles was his partner in at least some business dealings. Like his brother, a Lancastrian, he is found lending money to Henry IV and Henry V; he and the archbishop were both supervisors of Henry V's will. His first marriage, ca.1403, was to Elizabeth the widow of wealthy vintner William More; she brought to the marriage property in several parishes, including St. James Garlickhithe, St. Antholin, and St. Michael Queenhithe prior to his marriage, Robert appears to have been living in a rented house. After Elizabeth's death ca.1421, Robert married Agnes Faryngton, the widow of his friend Richard Marlow, who died about the same time as Elizabeth; this marriage brought him further property both inside and outside the city. He had interests in his own right in other property in Essex, Cambridgeshire, and Surrey, although it is not certain he was the outright owner. He did, however, own a house and agricultural land in Romford, Essex. At an unknown date, Robert married his third wife, Agnes Apulderfield, daughter of a Kentish gentleman. Despite three marriages, Robert gives no indication in his will of any children to inherit his wealth.
Robert served as sheriff of London in 1402/03, and was made alderman of Aldgate ward that same year, switching to Vintry ward in 1407, in which aldermanry he remained to 1425. He was elected mayor in 1411 and again in 1421. He represented the city at parliaments of 1414 and 1415, and perhaps earlier in 1397, standing in for his brother who had the election. Robert also served as warden of the Grocers' Company in 1413/14 and 1417/18. Like his brothers he showed some signs of interest in learning: he commissioned poet Thomas Hoccleve to translate into English at least one ballad, and it was during his second term as warden of the Grocers' Company that its ordinances were translated into English.
The generous bequests made in his will were preceded by gifts during his lifetime. In 1428 he bought from the Grocers' Company a plot of land which he gave to the church of St. Stephen Walbrook, where his brother had once been rector, as a rebuilding site; he then proceeded to finance the rebuilding, personally laying the foundation stone the following year. He was reputed a benefactor to many London churches. His will, made shortly before his death (he being dead by November 1439), left almost £700 for charitable and pious works. The money raised by his executors from sale of his property was largely put towards schemes to help the London poor. The generosity he showed towards prisoners was not atypical, and may reflect some measure of conscience about being a litigator whose actions resulted in the imprisonment of others. Bequests might seek to relieve prisoners of the debts keeping them imprisoned, or to improve prison conditions by providing prisoners money with which they could buy food. The pursuit of wealth and status might lead men of business to act ruthlessly towards their fellows; at death, they tried to lighten the burdens on their souls by compensating for such deeds.John Welles
John Welles was born in Norwich, his father John de Welles already being of some prominence there by the 1360s and chosen as a city representative to the parliament of 1381; his will of 1384 indicates that his son and namesake was not yet 20. The son may well have been apprenticed in London and, although promised an inheritance of property in Norwich, chose to pursue his career as a grocer in the capital. He was already doing well, having acquired property in London and being a supplier of cloth for Henry V's French expedition, by early 1416 when he married Margery, the widow of Welles' fellow grocer Henry Halton (died between October 1415 and January 1416); Margery had previously been married to wealthy fishmonger John Osbarn, and she brought to the marriage land in Lewisham as well as a life interest in Halton's property. A few years later Welles became the legal custodian of Halton's children; because they all died without heirs, Welles was able to profit from what they would have inherited.
He had been called to the service of his community by 1417, when seen in the role of a common councillor; that same year he was chosen as one of the city's parliamentary representatives, a duty he repeated on five later occasions. He was made alderman of Langbourn ward at the end of 1420, remaining therein until 1436 when he transferred to Cheap ward for the last years of his life. A few months before becoming alderman he was elected to a term as a city sheriff. During that term the victorious Henry V came to London with his queen and the Grocers' Company spent a large sum to provide and clothe a large retinue to escort Welles (who had loaned the king a modest sum to support the costs of the recent French expedition) when he participated in greeting the royal entourage. The confidence his fellow citizens had in him is evidenced in him being on a number of occasions called upon to act in roles such as trustee, auditor, or arbitrator, while the Hanseatic merchants active in England chose him, in 1425, as one of the men they would prefer to have act as a judge in mercantile disputes involving them. In 1431 he was elected to a term as mayor of London.
Welles was also very active in the Grocers' Company, serving as its master for six terms between 1426/27 and 1441/42. Although he doubtless built much of his wealth from his mercantile business, he also profited from playing a kind of banker's role for commanders of the English forces fighting in France, who would send him booty and money acquired through ransoms to hold for them (at 5% interest p.a.); while in possession of the money he could invest it in mercantile ventures. Among those for whom he acted as a financial agent was Sir John Fastolf, a Norfolk man who about the time of Welles' death acquired a moated manor house in Lambeth. Welles had some kinship with the Fastolfs; the Thomas Fastolf mentioned in his will may have been the Suffolk gentleman and lawyer who also had interests in Ipswich (although not taking up citizenship there until 1447) and served as its bailiff in 1451/52. Sir John placed a great deal of confidence in Welles and deposited large sums of money in his keeping during the 1420s and '30s; he complained after Welles' death that he was still owed some of this but Fastolf was suspicious by nature and, although he demanded an inquiry, could never prove anything. Fastolf had also chosen Welles as one of his feoffees-to-use in some of his Norfolk manors, along with Sir Henry Inglose, another distant relation of Welles; and that trio, along with others, were associated in a rent-collecting scheme in London's Dowgate ward. Welles similarly made Fastolf one of his feoffees in his Lewisham manor.
His family and possibly property interests in Norwich, his connections with county gentry, and his experience in London government all help explain why Welles was appointed keeper of Norwich in the summer of 1437, after the king had suspended the city liberties (including local self-government) because of political factionalism there. The task must have been demanding for a man then around 70 years of age. Welles continued to allow some of the mechanisms of government to operate during his custodianship, while at the same time trying to bring the parties to a peaceful resolution of differences. The costs of this work proved high, and in November Welles had to have a local tax levied to cover his expenses, ordering that the doors or gates of anyone refusing to contribute be sealed shut. Welles also took advantage of his London connections: it was doubtless at his instructions that John Carpenter, London's experienced town clerk, was kept informed of developments and presumably consulted on constitutional matters. By November the Privy Council was also arguing about the expense of a warden, and it was decided to restore mayoral government provisionally, with Welles staying on to supervise and ensure matters did not deteriorate again. By the following spring, Welles had apparently brokered a settlement and Carpenter was being asked to act as Norwich's agent to request the king restore the city liberties. That restoration came in July, although peace in local politics proved shortlived.
Without heirs of his own and evidently not having any high opinion of his step-son, William Osbarn, Welles could afford in his last will to direct his wealth to the needs of his soul. His sense of civic responsibility led him to assign unusually large sums towards repairs or improvements of public amenities, while at the same time the bequests to friends and servants seem to reflect the value he placed in human relations. The administration of such bequests must have been onerous for the executors. They had to find buyers for much of his property in order to finance the bequests. They had to face pressure from Fastolf, as well as a complaint before Chancery by a disgruntled servant of Welles. In the months following Welles' death, his executors entered into a written agreement to construct a large window in the Guildhall chapel, a presbytery and other additions, and obtained royal permission and a parliamentary confirmation for construction of the standard and conduit in West Cheap. Welles had helped supervise the construction of the new Guildhall chapel, and his association with the project was close enough that his executors apparently ignored his wish to lie in St. Antholin's and had a tomb erected for him in the Guildhall chapel, bearing the device of two wells that Welles had used on his personal seal. As with Whittington, it was thanks largely to his executors' efforts that Welles was remembered as a great benefactor of the city.
"Marshalsea, and King's Bench"
"St. Mary Graces"
"acquitting and freeing"
"Vintry and Queenhithe"
"feoffees to my use"
"children of John Chichele"
"lately founded by my brother"
"tithes and offerings"
"Placebo and Dirige"
"St. George Muspole"
"at the discretion of my executors"
"order of Holy Cross"
"St. Giles hospital"
"mystery and community"
|Created: February 29, 2004. Last update: May 24, 2016||© Stephen Alsford, 2004-2016|