DEATH Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval Ipswich testaments wills bequests heirs pious uses silverware chantries property holding religiosity civic works careers
Subject: The wills and testaments of three leading Ipswich men
Original source: Suffolk Record Office: item 1. Dogget Roll 17-38 Henry VI (C5/11/1), f.4; items 2. and 3. Archdeaconry of Suffolk register of wills 1458-77 (IC/AA2/2), ff.87, 291.
Transcription from: Original documents
Original language: 1. Latin; 2. and 3. Middle English
Location: Ipswich
Date: mid-15th century


[1. The testament of Robert Drye, presented in the borough court 11 February 1451]

In the name of God, Amen. On 11 January 1450, I, Robert Drye of the parish of St. Mary Tower in Ipswich set out my testament in the following manner. First, I commend my soul to Almighty God, the glorious Virgin Mary, and all the saints, and my body to be buried in the cemetery of St. Mary Tower, next to the tomb of my wife Matilda. I bequeath 3s.4d to the high altar of that church, in recompense for forgotten tithes. I bequeath 12d. to the parish clerk of the same.

I give and bequeath to my son John Drye my tenement situated in the Old Fishmarket, together with a curtilage and house built thereon on the west side of the cemetery of the aforesaid church of St. Mary; he, his heirs and assigns to have and to hold in perpetuity. I bequeath to the same John Drye, to repair the buildings of that tenement, £13.13s.4d to be received from the sale of my goods and chattels. I bequeath to the same John 12 silver spoons and two silver bowls, one with a cover and the other without. I bequeath to my wife Margaret my other two silver bowls with covers, one [decorated] with vine leaves and the other with an eagle standing upright, which formerly belonged to my wife Matilda.

I bequeath to the church of St. Mary Tower a censer with a gilded incense-boat, worth £10.13s.4d; it is my wish that it be used exclusively in divine services. I bequeath to the same church £2.13s.4d to buy a font for christenings. I bequeath to the Corpus Christi gild 10s. and a large gold ring. To mag. William Gosselyn, my large chest, for his labour in the execution of this my testament.

I bequeath 4d. to each chaplain who attends my funeral services, 2d. to each clerk, and 2d. to each pauper. I wish two priests to be found to celebrate in St. Mary Tower for the souls of myself, Henry V king of England and his queen Katherine, as well as [other] kings and queens of England, and particularly for the souls of Robert Drye and his wife Alice, Robert Drye and his wife Matilda, [their children?] Elizabeth, William, William, William, William, Roger, Matilda, John and Margery, and all others for whom Robert Drye is bound to pray, and all the faithful deceased.

I bequeath 2s. to my domestic John Burton. As for the residue of all my goods, I leave them to the disposition of William Harleston esq. of Wenham and mag. William Gosselyn, whom I make and appoint my faithful executors, so that they may pay my debts, distributed my legacies, and make arrangements for my soul, disposing of the same as seems to them most likely to please God and benefit my soul. I bequeath to mag. William Gosselyn, official of Suffolk, my gold signet ring. In testimony to which, I have set my seal to this document. Drawn up on the date and at the place mentioned above.

[2. The testament of John Caldwell, proved 19 June 1461]

In the name of God, Amen. On 9 November 1460, I, John Caldewall merchant of Ipswich, being of sound mind and good memory, make my testament in this manner. First, I bequeath my soul to Almighty God, to his blessed mother Mary, and to all the holy company of Heaven, and my body to be buried in the churchyard of St. Laurence, Ipswich, by my wife's grave, if it is Christ's will that I die here. I bequeath 6s.8d to the high altar there, for forgotten tithes and offerings.

I wish my son Benet to have the manor of Blomviles with its appurtenances, located in Monk Soham, he and his heirs to have [and hold] in fee in perpetuity, paying therefrom an annuity of 40s. to his brother, dom. Robert, my son, during the lifetime of dom. Robert, if he is well-behaved. I wish all my feoffees-to-use in that manor of Blomviles with all its appurtenances to transfer their estate and enfeoff Benet in that manor with all appurtenances, or such persons as Benet wishes to enfeoff therein, at whatever time Benet requests them to.

I wish my son Edmund to have the place at the quay in which Herman lives, to him and his heirs in fee in perpetuity, under the following specifications and conditions: that if my son Benet, [as] one of my executors, pays out of my goods to settle the finances of my son Edmund – that is £53.5s.6d – and have him released from prison (Benet taking the rent, service and profit from the aforementioned place during the year after he is out of prison), then the place is to remain and stay in Benet's hands to his own use for 8 years after he is out of prison, Benet taking the rent, service and profit from that place during that period, until the £53.5s.6d has been completely repaid to Benet. Should my son Edmund die, which God forbid, within that 8-year period, then the place is to be sold by my executors or executor and [the proceeds] disposed of in alms and [charitable] works for my soul and the souls of my friends. By this my last will, I pray and request all my feoffees-to-use in that place to transfer their estate when they are requested.

I wish that after my death my son Thomas have the place in which I live, with garden and stables, located by the wall-ditches belonging thereto, to him and his heirs in fee in perpetuity. If Thomas is well-behaved, he is to have the rental property in which Roger Talbot lives.

I wish to have a priest for 12 years in St. Laurence's church to sing for my soul, for the souls of my father and mother, for the souls of my 3 wives – that is, for Cicely's soul, Margaret's soul, and Joan's soul – for the soul of my grandfather William Debynham, for all my friends' souls, and for all Christian souls.

The residue of all my goods not bequeathed, I give and bequeath to my executors, as whom I appoint and make Benet Caldewell and Edmund Caldwell, my sons, to fulfill my wishes and to pay all my debts as they think most pleasing to God and profitable for my soul. I wish John Drayll to be supervisor of this testament; for his labour, and for all sorts of matters between him and me, he is to have £3. In testimony to which, I have set my seal to this present testament. Drawn up on the date mentioned above.

[3. The testament of William Style, proved 21 July 1475]

In honour of the blessed Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Ghost – and in honour of our blessed Lady Mother and Virgin and of St. Nicholas, on the 28th day of the month of April, in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ 1463, at Ipswich in the county of Suffolk and diocese of Norwich, I, William Style of Ipswich, being of sound mind, make my testament in the following manner. That is, first I commit and give my soul to Almighty God, our lady St. Mary – the intermediary and go-between for me and for all creatures to our Lord Jesus Christ, Redeemer of all mankind – and to all the holy saints of Heaven. And my body to be buried in the church of St. Nicholas, before the image of the St. Saviour, if it is agreeable to the parishioners of the parish. Giving and bequeathing 6s.8d to the high altar of that church, in compensation and satisfaction for my tithes that I was negligent in giving.

I bequeath to the repair and leading of that church half a fother of lead. I bequeath 10s. to the house and brethren of the order of St. Dominic in the town of Ipswich, to pray for me. To the house and brethren of the order of Carmelites in the town of Ipswich, 10s. I bequeath 6s.8d towards making a door into the choir of St. Peter's priory, Ipswich. Towards the construction of the steeple of the parish church of St. Peter, Ipswich, 10s.

I bequeath to my wife Isabelle my residence and all my other tenements, with all the goods, moveable and unmoveable, along with all manner of stuff and necessaries, with all appurtenances therein and belonging to the same; to her and her assigns, to dispose of freely, at will or pleasure, saving only as much as is required to fulfill my will. If my son William is obedient to and loving towards his mother while she is alive, I give and bequeath to that William and his heirs and assigns, after the death of his mother, my residence, in the state it is presently. I wish that my son John Style, if he is obedient to and loving towards his mother while she is alive, receive and enjoy after her death Sprott's Place, with all the tenantries belonging to the same, as is presently the case. I wish my daughter Amy to have £20 for her marriage, if she gives her hand according to the advice and recommendations of her mother and her friends. I bequeath 10s. to Isabelle Dow, if she remains in my service until I die.

To ensure this will is carried out and fulfilled in every respect, I make and appoint my wife Isabelle to be my true and faithful attorney.


Two generations are represented in the three testators here. Robert Drye and John Caldwell were contemporaries. After one of them had departed the scene, and the other was about to, William Stile appears on stage.

Not a great deal is known about Robert Drye beyond the evidence from his will. The list therein of souls to be prayed would suggest his parents were Robert and Alice Drye. This was most likely the Robert Dreye who entered the franchise at Ipswich in 1374 and who, with wife Alice, acquired property in St. Laurence parish in 1382. The testator of 1450 had served three terms as one of Ipswich's bailiffs (1429/30, 1432/33, 1436/37), and one as its treasurer in 1431/32, as well as being seen in the ranks of the portmen several times between 1429 and 1442. He was a royal commissioner of the peace in Ipswich in July 1433, and in Suffolk in July 1434. He was fined for breaking the assize of ale in 1436, '37, and '38. In 1432 or '33 he was a feoffee-to-use for a fellow member of the ruling elite, William Wallworth (later to partner Drye during his last ballivalty). This is all we have to say of him.

The sequence of Christian names included in the list of those for whose souls Drye's chantry was to pray may represent his children: the multiple Williams perhaps reflecting a sequence of male children who died soon after birth or in infancy, with the name being then given to the next male child born. On the other hand, "John and Margery" in that list may represent the John Drye who was treasurer of Ipswich in 1430/31, and was more likely a brother to the testator. There is no sign of any of Drye's children active in Ipswich after his death.

John Caldwell has left a better imprint on surviving records than Drye, although his parentage is far less certain. The only candidate I can offer for his father is a Thomas Caldwell who was a customs collector at Ipswich 1393-94. Most of John's earliest appearances show him running into trouble: in 1423 he was fined for breaking the assize of ale; he was condemned for the same the following year, when also fined for selling food in his hostelry at an excessive profit margin. Yet these were minor offences in the scheme of things, and he was clearly already one of the leading men of the town, for he had been a portman from May 1420 and his first ballivalty came in 1425/26. It may have been excessive zeal in that role that brought him into hot water with Chancery; but he weathered the teacup-tempest. He remained in portman ranks probably continuously up to his death, other than those years in which bailiff – he serving seven other ballival terms between 1431 and 1459. He was given the added duties of the post of claviger 1442-47, 1448-58, and 1459-61, and his seniority among the portmen is evidenced in him being one of the Justices of the Peace chosen from portmen ranks 1449-60, he having previously served on royal commissions of the peace in 1433 and 1434. Furthermore, besides being sent as a borough representative to the parliament of 1427, he is found in the rarely seen post of merchant gild alderman in 1446.

That last office is indicative of his prominence in the mercantile community. His early offences regarding the retail of victuals is a pointer to his mercantile activities, but we do not know a great deal about his business. He took on apprentices and employed factors, and co-owned a ship, the "Trinity", which in 1436 he was equipping for military service. Ca.1446 Hans Stendell, a Gdansk merchant, was suing one of those apprentices, Thomas Bradde, for repayment of a £138.6s.8d, which Thomas claimed had been to pay debts incurred by him on John Caldwell's behalf. In April of that year John found it necessary to obtain a testimonial letter from the Ipswich authorities certifying that he had never constituted Bradde as his factor, or authorized him to deal with Stendell. Bradde's apprenticeship, it was stated, had ended in 1443 (Bradde still being in Prussia) and John had sent him a letter discharging him; then, after Bradde had returned to Ipswich in 1445 and rendered an account of John's goods, he was found to owe £138.10s., and was imprisoned until he made out a recognizance of the debt to John. Around the same time John successfully sued, in the court of admiralty, a Norwich alderman for a debt of £13.13s.4d. This was not the only occasion when John took exception to the initiatives of his employees: at a date unknown he complained that William Baldry, a younger merchant of the town (a bailiff and portman of the 1450s), had as his factor been given 4 packs of woollen cloth, worth £200, to trade with in Prussia on John's behalf; but William, so John complained, had used the goods to trade with on his own behalf and shared none of the profit with John.

On the other hand, John's public-spiritedness (tempered by self-interest) is seen in his offer, in January 1435, to build a new bridge at his own expense between Ipswich and Stoke, if the borough would pay for construction of the end-posts; we may note that John owned land in Stoke, so a safe bridge was to his benefit. That same month he was appointed a member of a committee supervising the rebuilding of a house at the end of the guildhall, and in 1448 was in a similar role concerning the "new work" at the end of the borough plea hall. Later that year, after re-election to the ballivalty, he undertook to have a gaol built for the town in the Barre Gate, probably from his own capital, but equally probably on the expectation of being repaid. In June 1459 he was granted the communal marsh for three years, until the debts owed him by the community were recouped from its revenues.

It may be that John's fears about two of his sons' unruly or irresponsible behaviour were realized, for nothing further is heard of Robert, Edmund, or even Thomas (who had entered the franchise at Ipswich in 1455, probably as soon as he was of age). However, Benedict Caldwell, who had entered the franchise in 1450 (again probably at the age of majority), lived up to his father's standards: he served as bailiff four times between 1473 and 1483, and is found as a local Clerk of the Peace and subsequently Justice of the Peace. He had also been undersheriff of Suffolk in 1463/64. At his death (1487/88) he left two manors, one being Blomviles, and lands in six Suffolk hamlets, as well as in Ipswich; his will makes it clear that brothers Robert and Edmund were already dead. As well it indicates close connections with the Debenham family.

William Style has left a will that is out of the ordinary in its terminology, and appears to reflect a little more than conventional religiosity. It was drawn up when he had barely embarked on that part of his career that has left documentary evidence. There is no other evidence surviving that might let us speculate further on his religious attitudes. William first appears in 1453, as an elected assessor of a royal tax. In 1455, 1458 and 1459 he was performing similar duties in regard to borough taxations. By this time he had embarked on a role in borough government proper: as chamberlain 1459-61 (and probably a common councillor 1459/60), and as bailiff in 1467/68, a role he reprised for a few months in 1472, as a replacement. He too was chosen one of the local Justices of the Peace (1467-69, 1472/73).

Like those of Drye and Caldwell, Style's business is obscure. He was repeatedly fined for infringing the assize of ale between 1466 and 1475, as was his widow in 1481, but this evidence is not even sufficient to let us know if Style could be categorized as a merchant. His widow Isabelle drew up her own will in 1487 and died in 1491, requesting burial beside her husband in St. Nicholas'. She respected her late husband's last wishes by leaving her residence to her son William, and Sprott's Place to son John. Another tenement was left to the son of William Style junior.



Or possibly bookcase.

Little Wenham lay a few miles south-west of Ipswich.

"Monk Soham"
Some twelve miles north of Ipswich.

Well ruled and governed, in the original. It would appear that some of Caldwell's sons were still young enough that he could not be sure how they would turn out. Edmund had evidently run up debts, and perhaps John was afraid that Robert and Thomas might get into similar trouble.

"Benet taking...out of prison"
This clause has been crossed out; it was not in the original will, preserved as IC/AA1/1/7/4.

"to his own use"
The enregistered copy has "to myn use", suggesting that Benet himself was dictating these conditions; the original will has the same terminology.

"William Debynham"
One of the most prominent Ipswich men of the first half of the fifteenth century, during which he served 10 terms as bailiff, the last being cut short by his death in March 1445. He also represented the borough in five parliaments. A vintner, like most entrepreneurial merchants of his time, he was prepared to trade in other commodities (such as salt, iron, grain, candles, fish) as well; but his main business was exporting cloth and importing wine. He held lands in the Suffolk countryside, on some of which he raised sheep. He served brief stints in national trade administration: as deputy butler (1397-1401) and tronager and pesager (1420-21). But he is mainly in evidence in the customs accounts as a merchant, and in borough records as a plaintiff suing for debts owed him for goods he had sold or for rents due from his properties.

"John Drayll"
He served side by side with Caldwell in borough government and, like Caldwell, had some association with the Debenham family: with Caldwell he was executor of Margaret Debenham (who bequeathed Drayll's wife a dress), and he desired burial beside William Debenham in the Carmelite friary. A portman throughout the 1440s and '50s, senior enough to be one of the Justices of the Peace drawn from the portmen from 1448 on, he also served as Ipswich's bailiff in 1449/50 and and 1457/58. We do not know his business, but it was likely mercantile; he had entered the franchise (1432) through apprenticeship. His wealth is evident from the several properties and the precious possessions listed in his lengthy will, recorded in a dogget roll. So too is his ego (or his desire to be remembered): he requested a marble tombstone with his name and an image of himself carved therein, and bequeathed to St. Mary Tower an altar-cloth inscribed with his name. He set up two chantries: one for 30 years in the Carmelite friary, and the other for 6 years in St. Mary Tower. his son dom. John Drayll chaplain being given first refusal of the latter post.


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Created: February 29, 2004 © Stephen Alsford, 2004