BOLTON, John (d.c.1426), of York.
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Family and Education
Chamberlain, York 3 Feb. 1384-5; bailiff 1386-7; member of the council of 24 by Dec. 1392; mayor 3 Feb. 1410-11; member of the council of 12 c.1411-d. 2
Collector of taxes, York Dec. 1401.
Commr. of inquiry, York July 1415.3
The subject of this biography was clearly a kinsman and just possibly a son of the John Bolton who became chamberlain of York in 1380. The problem of distinguishing between the two men is made all the more hard by the fact that they were both mercers, and we cannot be entirely sure which of them was admitted to the freedom of the city in 1374. But both were among the ‘bones gentz’ who gave their support to John Gisburn† during the bitter factional disputes of the early 1380s; and they were duly summoned before the royal council, in the spring of 1381, to provide evidence about the riots following Gisburn’s recent expulsion from the mayoralty by members of the rival party. Notwithstanding the fact that he was then obliged to surrender pledges of good behaviour worth £40, the younger Bolton played a leading part in a violent assault on St. Leonard’s hospital staged at the same time as the Peasants’ Revolt in the following July. He and over 100 other citizens were now bound over in far heavier securities of £100 each to keep the peace, while John Bolton the elder was himself required to enter a similar undertaking that he would not attack any of the followers of Simon Quixley†, Gisburn’s adversary and the (rather reluctant) leader of the populist movement in the city. Although viewed with mounting concern by the government at Westminster, these disturbances did no lasting harm to our Member’s career. On the contrary, he assumed office as chamberlain of York in 1384 and was made bailiff two years later, being eventually nominated to the council of 24 as well.4 The difficulty of identification makes it impossible to tell whether he or John Bolton senior was engaged in the export of wool and other commodities from Kingston-upon-Hull in 1388 and 1392 (on both of which occasions his cargoes were salvaged after a shipwreck), or became embroiled in a quarrel with certain Prussian merchants during this period for the allocation of damages for certain confiscated goods. One of them was also importing a wide variety of merchandise, including canvas, nails, copper wire, dyestuffs, wood and bowstaves (largely from the Baltic); and given that John the younger continued to do business on a fairly impressive scale after his namesake’s death, in 1395, he may well have been just as active before. In the autumn of 1398, for example, he imported iron worth almost £40 from Spain, together with large quantities of wine; and over the next few years he invested heavily in wool, cloth and miscellaneous dry goods, including wax and paper. By 1404 he was in a position to join with five other York merchants (including Robert Talkan*) in lending £200 to Henry IV for his campaign against the Welsh, but although the money was assigned to them out of the forthcoming wool subsidy, repayment seems to have been a slow and arduous business.5
By the time of his first return to Parliament in 1399, Bolton ranked among the leaders of the mercantile elite which dominated the government of York. It is a reflection of their status in the community that he and his wife were able to secure a papal indult for the plenary remission of sins not long afterwards, and that their two sons, John and William, were admitted to the freedom in 1410 while he held office as mayor. From then onwards he occupied a place as one of the ‘mieultz vaux gentz’ or aldermen of the city, being present in the council chamber in March 1411 for the settlement of a dispute among the goldsmiths of York, and attending the parliamentary elections of 1413 (May), 1414 (Nov.), 1415 and 1419 as well. Surprisingly little is known about his private affairs, for although he witnessed many deeds, and occasionally acted as a trustee (doing so for his fellow mercer, Robert Middleton, in 1412), this was almost entirely in an official rather than a personal capacit