DEATH Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval London alderman drapers testaments funerals chantries bequests heirs property holding
Subject: Last will and testament of a London alderman
Original source: Corporation of London Records Office, Plea and Memoranda Roll A96, m.3
Transcription in: Philip Jones, ed. Calendar of Plea and Memoranda Rolls of the City of London, A.D. 1458-1482, Cambridge: University Press, 1961, 108-110.
Original language: Middle English
Location: London
Date: 1464


On 26 March 1464, I, John Stokker, alderman of London, [being] of sound mind, bequeath my soul to Almighty God and my body to be buried in the chancel of St. Michael Cornhill. I bequeath 40s. to the church, and 40s. to the parson for forgotten offerings. I wish to have a Dirige at my month's mind, without candlesticks, with 4 tapers and 12 torches and 16 poor men to hold the tapers and torches. Each poor man is to have 20d. I wish that every priest [of that church] have 10s., to recite the Dirige by note at the month's mind, and every clerk 10s. to pray zealously for my soul. To all other priests who attend my Dirige, 4d. apiece. When my month's mind is concluded, I wish that 1 torch be left at the high altar, another torch go to the brotherhood of Our Lady, another to [the altar of] St. Michael, another to St. Christopher, another to St. George. I wish to have a priest to sing for my soul and for all my friends' souls in St. Michael's church for the term of 5 years. That priest is also to pray for all those persons from whom I ever took any goods wrongfully, privately or publicly, and for all the souls of such persons.

I wish that my wife Katherine have all my household [items] for as long as she remains single. Should she marry, then the household is to be divided between my children and her; that is, Katherine is to have half of my household and my children the other half. As for my plate, I wish my wife to have half and my children the other half – excepting such plate as I bequeath to other people.

First, I bequeath my cousin William Stokker the largest Christmas bowl. Also, I bequeath my cousin John Stokker the standing cup [decorated] with the columbine. I wish my cousin John Pake to have a standing cup with gilt chasing. I wish Agnes Basse to have 40s. and her husband 40s. I bequeath to Pernella Calett, my brother's daughter, 1 pottle pot, chased. I bequeath 20 nobles to John Stokker's daughter Alison. I bequeath 40s. to Robert Stokker, the son of my brother, and I bequeath 40s. to his brother Thomas. I bequeath £10 to Simon Hogon. I bequeath £10 to William Sawstone. I bequeath 40s. to John Serley, 40s. to Robert Holt, 40s. to John Nek, 40s. to William Couper, and I bequeath 20s. to John Cooke. I bequeath £6.13s.4d to Elizabeth Reder. I bequeath £5 to Emlyn Mirfyn. I bequeath £5 to Margaret Baron. And 20s. to little Robin.

I bequeath my wife half the remainder of all my possessions, and the other half to my sons John and William. I bequeath my wife all my income for as much of her lifetime as she remains unmarried; if she takes a husband she may have only her dower. That remainder is to go to my children after my wife is dead. I wish my son John Stokker to have the house in which Hungerford is living, the house that Nicholas Notman rents from me in Cornhill, the house in which William White draper lives, and my stable. I bequeath my son William Stokker my renter in Thames Street, in which Pynke the cordwainer and Richard Couper live. I also wish my son William Stokker to have the house at Radclyf, with all the lands and meadows I own there. If either of my children dies without issue, then his brother is to inherit all. If they both die without issue, then I wish my cousin William Stokker to have the house in which William White lives, and the house in which Hungerford lives. And I wish my cousin John to have my house at Radclyf with the land and meadow. I wish my cousin John Pake to have the house in Cornhill in which Nicholas Notman lives. I wish Thomas Basse's wife to have my house in Thames Street in which Pynke and Richard Couper live. And I wish William Stokker to have my stable. If any of those men die without issue, then it goes to my next of kin among the sons of Henry Stokker, my brother.

I wish my debts to be faithfully paid. I wish Laurence Martyn to have £10 in recompense for various things. I wish John Hille of Brikhille to have to his own use the house of which I have ownership; concerning which I have the legal documents, which I wish you to return to him. I appoint as my executors William Stokker and my cousin John Pake; and I appoint as my overseer Philip Malpas, who is to have 20 nobles for his labour. I wrote this testament with my own hand.


John Stokker served London as an alderman from 1454 to his death in 1464, although it was not until 1477 that his widow, Katherine, put before the city authorities his will for registration. The will she presented had long before received probate in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, necessitated by Stokker's real estate outside of London. The delay seems not to be related to the sons coming of age, for the elder son William is said to have done so in 1472, although John's executor was his cousin of that name, not the son. Perhaps the timing had something to do with Katherine's health or marital status, but something was certainly afoot, for in 1478 Katherine and the other executors were involved in transactions to firm up rights to property.

The family was involved in the drapery trade, and its London interests seem to have been centered in the parish of St. Dunstan in the East. John himself was a draper, and a later alderman (1479-85) of the same name was too – the testator being referred to as John Stokker senior as early as 1457 – and his executor William Stokker (alderman 1470-85) was another draper. These two were not the testator's sons, but probably kinsmen, and their family roots were in Bedfordshire; they and Henry Stokker founded a chantry in their home town ca.1471. This drapery business was of a mercantile nature. In 1438 an investigation held at Sittingbourne, Kent found that John Stokker had the previous year smuggled 80 woollen cloths, worth £100, by shipping them from the Isle of Sheppey without paying customs. Stokker appealed to the king, protesting his innocence and claiming that it was a false and malicious charge brought by personal enemies. Whatever the truth, the affair had no great impact on his fortunes. In 1440 he was engaged in importing salt when his ship, along with others, was threatened by pirates from Holland and Zealand, forcing the king to send out ships to try to capture the pirates. Stokker was evidently well respected by his fellow drapers, for he was often called upon to act as a trustee for them, from the late 1430s into the early '60s; he played the same role for men of other crafts as well.

His involvement in international trade is reflected in a role he was called upon to play in the summer of 1450. Along with Henry Bermyngham, a Lynn merchant, and Thomas Kent, a clerk of the king's council, Stokker was sent on a diplomatic mission to Prussia. This was in regard to some trade violation (perhaps a seizure of merchandize) affecting John Stokker and Robert Stokker, Bermyngham and his partner Thomas Talbot, John and William Catryk of York, and perhaps others. Those merchants put up £400 as a loan to the king to finance the mission, and were authorized to recoup the costs via exemptions on customs they would otherwise have paid on export cargoes.

Bermyngham (whose expense account survives) returned about a year later. However, Kent and Stokker – who had apparently already taken the precaution of appointing Robert Stokker and several other drapers as trustees of all his goods during his absence – had been arrested and imprisoned at Lubeck; it may be in association with this that Robert Stokker and other Londoners were ordered (September 1450) to arrest the ships and merchandize of Hanse merchants – the same order being sent to authorities in Ipswich and Colchester, and in May 1453 the king appointed a commission to find out whether the Lynn authorities had, in retaliation, arrested men of Lubeck, as he had ordered. John Stokker had already been released by that time, however; he was back in London before the end of 1451. His business had not been severely hurt by the affair, it seems, for in 1456 we hear of a transaction through which Thomas and Simon Eyre, London drapers, owed Stokker £236. In 1457 he was a member of a royal commission to put together a fleet to accompany the king's army in a campaign.



"month's mind"
A commemorative ceremony held a month after the funeral; also known as the trental.

Long, slender candles placed in holders (not candlesticks).

"by note"
Musically notated; that is, sung rather than said.

"other priests"
In the original, "straunge prestes" meaning strangers (i.e. not associated with) to the church of St. Michael.

"pottle pot"
A pot with a half-gallon capacity.

A coin of value 6s.8d.

The original has livelode (i.e. livelihood) and I take this to mean annual income such as would come from rents.

Perhaps Redcliff, Somerset, but more likely Radclive, Buckinghamshire.

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Created: February 29, 2004 © Stephen Alsford, 2004