BARTON, Henry (d.1435), of London.
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Family and Education
s. of Richard Barton by his w. Denise. m. (1) by Feb. 1407, Agnes (? or Alice); (2) Joan (d. 1437), sis. of John Copuldyke, chaplain, and wid. of Robert Barry, s.p.1
Yeoman of the King’s chamber by 13 July 1400.
Purveyor of furs and pelts and skinner for the King’s household 5 Jan. 1405-22 May 1433.2
Sheriff, London and Mdx. Mich. 1405-6.
Alderman of Farringdon Ward Without by 14 Apr. 1406-aft. 21 Feb. 1412, Cornhill Ward 12 Mar. 1412- d; mayor, London 13 Oct. 1416-17, 1428-9.3
Tax collector, London Dec. 1407.
Collector of tunnage and poundage, London 12 June 1408-24 Jan. 1410, of the wool custom 26 July 1410-28 Feb. 1416.
Commr. of kiddles, Essex, Herts., Mdx. Feb., July 1416, Feb. 1427, Feb., May 1428, Dec. 1433, Apr. 1434; inquiry, London Feb., July 1418 (forfeited estates of Sir John Oldcastle*), Apr. 1421 (lands held by knight service); oyer and terminer Feb., May 1425, July 1426, Apr. 1428; to assess a parliamentary grant Apr. 1431.
If, as seems likely, it was Henry Barton, the distinguished London alderman, who obtained custody of the manor of Barton (now Barton Hartshorn), Buckinghamshire, in April 1421, then his ancestry can be traced back to the 12th century. Land elsewhere in the area had passed into the hands of his nephew and heir, Thomas Barton, by 1437, so there is a strong possibility that he came from a local family which had lived in Barton for over 200 years. The London goldsmith, Richard Barton (d. 1413) was perhaps one of his kinsmen; and he may well have been related to John Barton I*, the Buckinghamshire lawyer who became recorder of London in 1415. Such connexions would in part explain why he and his brother, Ralph, chose to set up business in the City, where they both acquired great wealth and influence.4 Henry Barton is first mentioned in December 1391, when he offered joint sureties of £300 in Chancery on behalf of a Londoner named William Mildenhall. The poor of the Suffolk village of Mildenhall were remembered by Barton in his will, probably because of some long-standing personal association with the place which may have come through his mother. He was a party to various property transactions in East Anglia at a later date, and did business there from time to time.5
Barton began his career as an official in the household of Queen Anne, consort of Richard II, with a life annuity of £5 charged upon the manor of Isleworth, Middlesex. On her death in 1394, Richard gave instructions that the annuity should still be paid — as did Henry IV in the period immediately following his coronation. The sudden change of ruling dynasty worked to Barton’s advantage, since he had previously been employed as a skinner by John of Gaunt, the new King’s father, and was now shown every mark of royal favour. He was one of the yeomen of the chamber who remained in attendance upon Richard II’s widow, Isabel, when Henry IV set out on his Scottish expedition of 1400; and in January 1405 he became the first skinner to be retained officially on the staff of the Wardrobe, partly in recognition of his services to the house of Lancaster. He wore the livery of a serjeant of the Wardrobe and drew a wage of 1s. a day for the next 28 years. The post was no sinecure: besides supervising the preparation of furs to be worn by members of the Household he had also to arrange for the selection, packaging and transport of the King’s own apparel.6 The opportunities for financial gain were in theory considerable, since Barton himself supplied most of the pelts used at court, although he was increasingly obliged to do so on credit with little hope of immediate repayment. The keeper of the Great Wardrobe already owed him £569 by Michaelmas 1406; he supplied furs worth £217 over the following year, and claimed a further £80 in expenses. An assignment of £782 was made to him from the Exchequer in January 1408, but not all his tallies were honoured, and some of the money (plus a new debt of £184) was still due in May 1409. Even though he then seems to have been paid off in full (possibly exploiting his position as a collector of customs), the recurrent problem of over-assignment from the Exchequer was again causing him difficulties at the end of Henry IV’s reign. In April 1414, while still collector of the wool custom, Barton paid £107 for 45 sacks of wool which had been seized by royal agents at Newcastle. Unlike Richard Whittington* he did not systematically exploit the wool trade as a means of recovering money owed to him by the Crown, although from time to time he was given the opportunity to buy confiscated goods at what may have been rather more advantageous terms than usual. Henry V certainly seemed disposed in his favour: his petition to the Parliament of 1415 for help in extracting a payment of £333 from the late King’s executors was successful; and six years later he obtained an allocation of £600 from the profits of the lordship of Newport. Unfortunately, however, this act of royal generosity was more apparent than real, since hardly any revenues had been collected there for a long while. Largely because of the worthless tallies given to him during Henry V’s last years, the Crown was £2,100 in Barton’s debt by December 1423. Some four years earlier, in a vain attempt to obtain preference at the Exchequer, he had actually offered a silver cross worth £45 to William Kinwolmarsh, the then under treasurer, who could only plead poverty on the part of the King, and with unusual honesty decline the bribe. The repayment of a royal ‘loan’ of £1,200 advanced by Barton was finally authorized in April 1424, albeit under less than ideal conditions. The money was to come from customs collected at ports where priority had already been given to two of the King’s greatest creditors, and it was probably to compensate for the inevitable delays involved that he obtained a second assignment of the same sum (due for ‘certain goods’ which he had supplied to Henry V) from the Exchequer in the following June.7 As well as offering long-term credit facilities, Barton also lent at least two sums of money to the Crown. He contributed 100 marks towards the cost of Henry V’s second expedition to France in 1417, and at some date before August 1425 he joined with an unspecified number of Londoners in advancing £57 to the King.8
Rather less is known about Barton’s other business affairs and connexions. In July 1396 he was suing one William Brewer, who had allegedly left his service before the agreed term. Two years later we find him acting as a surety in Chancery, a service which he appears to have performed only once more during his lifetime. He again went to law in March 1405, this time because of an assault upon either his person or property by six Londoners, but he was himself being sued by two of his fellow citizens in November 1412. He had dealings in Northamptonshire: in April 1408, for example, Thomas Wyssynden, esquire, of Brackley Hatch, bound himself in £10 to the skinner and his wife, and in June 1421 John Folkesworth, another Northamptonshire man, joined with Thomas Dalby of Lincolnshire in acknowledging a debt of £100 which Barton duly collected.9 Some years later, in December 1423, Joan Cogenhoe was found guilty of forging a recognizance in Barton’s name: despite her attempts to rob him of £100, he intervened to have her punishment made less severe. At least three London tradesmen, including the fishmonger, John Mitchell*, settled their goods, chattels and stock upon Barton, whose standing made him an ideal trustee. The London ironmonger, Richard Marlow*, the draper, William Cromer*, the mercer, John Coventry, and the influential Norfolk esquire, John Wodehouse* (who seems to have been one of the skinner’s feoffees), each named him among their executors.10
Although it is now impossible to determine the full extent of Barton’s holdings in London, he was clearly one of the city’s major property owners, with an annual rental of £21 as early as 1412. The handsome bequest of rents and tenements which he left to the Skinners’ guild of Corpus Christi for the support of its deserving poor was said to be worth almost £35 a year in 1491 (at a rather generous estimate), and the property settled by him upon his widow must have accounted for at least a third of the landed income of £50 a year which she enjoyed in 1436.11 The bulk of Barton’s possessions lay in the parishes of St. Mary Aldermary (where he appears to have been active as a feoffee), All Hallows Bread Street, and St. Alphage Wood Street. He also owned a tenement in West Cheap, and at some point before 1420 occupied another tenement and a shop in the parish of St. Stephen, Walbrook. His largest single purchase was made in October 1419, when he bought the late Drew Barantyn’s* great house in the parish of St. John Zachary, together with other premises in that area. Barantyn’s heirs subsequently tried to recover the property, but their attempts to retain the relevant title deeds and have Barton evicted proved unsuccessful. In February 1425 the skinner was confirmed in possession by the court of the mayor of London, which also awarded him damages of £5. His wealth and influence as a landlord continued to grow: in June 1432, for instance, he took on the long-term lease of a tenement in the parish of St. Mary Colechurch, having previously augmented his income with small rents in various parts of London.12 Understandably, a large number of Barton’s fellow citizens were anxious to retain his services as a feoffee-to-uses. He was a party to innumerable conveyances of property in the City, often with William Cromer; some of these enfeoffments may perhaps have been made to his advantage, but in most cases there can be little doubt that he was acting on behalf of others.13 Barton did not often become involved in such transactions outside London, but he held a joint title to the Norfolk estates of Robert, Lord Poynings (d. 1446), and to the manor of ‘Marlawes’ in Middlesex, which was settled on him and other feoffees by his friend, Richard Marlow.14 The skinner himself had estates in the country; besides the above-mentioned manor of Barton in Buckinghamshire, he owned a substantial bloc of property in and around Standon in Hertfordshire, comprising at least two manors, a large house and extensive farmland. Jointly, with his brother, Ralph, he acquired a title to certain holdings in Berkshire which were subsequently settled upon Eton college. We do not know exactly what his interests were in East Anglia, although they may well have been considerable. In August 1410, William Clifford, a local landowner, granted Barton an annual rent of 25 marks payable over the next 20 years from his property in Norfolk and Suffolk. Also, at some unknown date, Barton came into conflict with the prior of Hickling in Norfolk, and was obliged to enlist the services of William Paston in a matter which almost certainly concerned the sale or alienation of this rent. During the Michaelmas term of 1428 he and several other feoffees conveyed it to Paston and an influential group of Norfolk gentry, including Sir John Fastolf, the latter’s receiver-general, and Sir Henry Inglose†.15
Despite his commitments in the royal household and the demands made upon him as a rentier, Barton found time to pursue a long and active civic career, being one of the few Londoners who was rich enough to hold the office of mayor twice during the early 15th century. Between them, he and his brother, Ralph (who was alderman of Farringdon Ward Without from 1416 to 1430, and sheriff of London in 1418), possessed great authority in the City. Henry Barton was called upon to perform his first official duty in October 1402, when he was named, but not chosen to serve, as a juror from Cordwainer Street Ward at the husting court. He became sheriff three years later, and held aldermanic rank continuously from April 1406 until his death. During his first mayoralty he was empowered (in March 1417) to buy large quantities of grain with which to provision the King’s ships and all the soldiers who had gathered in London ready for the expedition to France. While mayor for a second term, he laid one of the foundation stones of the new church of St. Stephen, Walbrook, which was begun in May 1429; and at about this time he gave a large silver thurible to St. Paul’s cathedral for censing in mayoral processions. The introduction of a scheme for proper street lighting in the city is generally attributed to Barton, although there is no direct evidence for this.16 During his later years he was frequently chosen to arbitrate in mercantile and property disputes brought before the mayor and aldermen. He attended at least 14 of the parliamentary elections held in London between the autumn of 1414 and 1432; and in 1425 he was made one of the keepers of the common seal. The city journals for 1416 to 1429 show that he was regularly present at meetings of the common council and court of aldermen.17
Barton died between 11 Apr. and 18 June 1435, and was buried in the charnel house at St. Paul’s, where he and two other skinners (one of whom was named Robert Barton) lay ‘intombed with their images of alabaster over them, grated or coped about with iron’. Since he left no children, Barton was able to set aside a major part of his property and an impressive collection of plate for pious and charitable uses. Plans for a chapel at the Guildhall were still under discussion when he died, and there can be little doubt that his legacy of vestments, linen and plate provided the real incentive for the project to be put into effect. Notwithstanding these lavish bequests, his widow, Joan, remained a wealthy woman. On her death in the autumn of 1437, she herself left over £159 to be shared among friends and relatives, while one of her executors was bound in 1,000 marks for the proper performance of his duties.18
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
- 1. Corporation of London RO, Guildhall, hr 134/68, 164/46; Beaven, Aldermen, ii. 5; Guildhall Lib. London, 9171/3, ff. 479-9d. According to a deed of April 1421 (Add. Ch. 1984), a Henry Barton, almost certainly the subject of this biography, was married to a woman named Alice. Occasionally the names Alice and Agnes are confused in contemporary records, but it is possible that the skinner had three wives. Joan’s first husband was probably the London fishmonger, Robert Barry, who was still alive in August 1426 (Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, p. 199).
- 2. E.M. Veale, Eng. Fur Trade, 206-7.
- 3. Beaven, i. 123, 153; Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 168, 190; K, 103.
- 4. Add. Ch. 1984; VCH Bucks. iv. 147-8; Guildhall Lib. 9171/2, f. 265; Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 143. A William Barton, keeper of the sheriffs’ compter, was removed from office in January 1413 for allowing a prisoner to escape.
- 5. CCR, 1389-92, p. 527; Corporation of London RO, hr 164/46.
- 6. CPR, 1391-6, p. 488; 1399-1401, p. 116; 1401-5, p. 479; CCR, 1402-5, p. 408; Veale, 81.
- 7. E401/661, 708, 727; E404/23/217, 24/508, 28/212, 37/227, 40/140; E405/14, ff. 1, 5d-6d, 14d-15, 20d, 22, ff. 5d-6d, 19d; E407/1, ff. 5d-7d; RP, iv. 67; Issues ed. Devon, 387-8; CPR, 1422-9, pp. 214-15; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, p. 161.
- 8. CPR, 1416-22, p. 234; 1422-9, pp. 318-19.
- 9. CCR, 1396-9, pp. 54, 405; 1402-5, p. 501; 1405-9, p. 366; 1409-13, p. 403; 1419-22, p. 198; CFR, xiii. 116; Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 19-20.