BOSHAM, John (d.1393), of London.
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Family and Education
m. by Mar. 1372, Felicity (d. by Dec. 1386), sis. of Maud Braghyng.1
Common councillor, Mercers’ Co. 9 Aug. 1376-c. 12 Mar. 1377, Cheap Ward by 13 Oct. 1384-5.2
Tax collector, London Mar. 1377.3
Alderman of Cheap Ward 22 Mar. 1377-8, 1379-80, 1383-4, 1385-7, alderman during royal pleasure (no ward given) 24 July 1392.-bef. 13 Mar. 1393; auditor, London 21 Sept. 1380-2, 1383-4; dep. mayor Aug. 1384.4
Sheriff, London and Mdx. Mich. 1378-9.
Commr. of array, London July 1383.
Warden of the Mercers’ Co. by 22 Oct. 1384.5
This rich and influential Londoner, who played a prominent part in civic affairs for most of his life, probably came from Bosham in Sussex. Many local people were beneficiaries of his will, and his name bears out such an early connexion. Nothing specific is known of him before February 1372, however, when he began litigation in the court of common pleas for the recovery of four sums totalling £15. He seems to have experienced considerable difficulties where the collection of debts was concerned, since between then and November 1385 he sued a further 22 persons for allegedly withholding, in all, over £240. Those who were summoned to answer his charges came from places as far apart as Coventry (where he and his wife were members of the Trinity Guild), York, Chichester, Worcester and Kingston-upon-Hull: most of them were probably customers of his, and this, in view of the amount owed, suggests that he did business on an impressive scale.6 Bosham also had dealings abroad. In September 1372, for example, he was excused customs duties on the export of ‘a certain portion of merchandise bought in Flanders’ which he intended to ship overseas if no Englishman wished to buy it. The fragmentary nature of the customs accounts for London during the late 14th century makes it impossible to tell how active Bosham was, either as importer or exporter, although in December 1384 he sent six sarplers of wool to Calais, and he may well have been closely involved in the wool trade for many years.7
Evidence of Bosham’s wealth and social standing is not hard to find. He frequently acted as a mainpernor in both Chancery and the Exchequer, not only for business associates taking up official posts, but also for eminent Londoners faced with criminal proceedings. Thus, in December 1382, he was one of the six city merchants to offer joint sureties of 1,000 marks on behalf of John Frosh*, who was then a prisoner in the Tower. Two years later he entered into similar recognizances in £1,000 for John More†, one of John Northampton’s† chief supporters; and in November 1387 he joined with 11 other citizens in standing bail of £4,000 for Thomas Austyn, a mercer summoned to appear before the royal council. His support of both Frosh and More, who belonged to rival factions in the City, suggests that he remained detached from the feuding so prevalent during this period.8 Bosham’s contribution of £4 towards the gift made in January 1379 by the people of London to ‘the great lords of the realm’ in an attempt to persuade them to return to the capital shows him to have been among the wealthiest subscribers. Although he himself had owed money to the mercer Robert Northwold some five years before, his finances were clearly sound, and because of his expertise in the world of commerce he was appointed at various times by the civic authorities to audit sets of private accounts submitted to the chamberlain of London.9 In May 1381 Sir Miles Windsor of Stanwell, Middlesex, who was then going abroad, entrusted Bosham with exercise of his right of presentation to the local living while he was out of the country. Two years later a Middlesex man found guilty in the mayor’s court of slandering Bosham during the course of a lawsuit was condemned to stand in the pillory with whetstones about his neck, since his offence was seen as a slur upon the whole civic hierarchy. Various marks of confidence came the mercer’s way, in particular the five royal grants of pavage for the repair of Fleet Street from Temple Bar to Charing Cross, which he shared with a small group of Londoners over a period of 12 years ending in August 1396. It was probably as warden of the Mercers’ Company that Bosham petitioned the mayor of London in January 1385 for help in preventing outsiders from infringing the monopoly of his guild.10 By then he possessed a great deal of influence in the City, partly as a result of his shrewd investment in property.
Bosham was a party to so many conveyances of land in London and the suburbs that his own transactions cannot always be distinguished from those of friends or neighbours. He appears to have bought holdings around Bishopsgate and Shoreditch at some point before December 1380. Less doubt surrounds his purchase shortly afterwards of two messuages and land in Kentish Town; and, over the years, he made further acquisitions in the parishes of St. Clement Danes, St. Giles-in-the-Fields, St. Mary le Strand, St. Martin-in-the-Fields and St. Margaret, Westminster.11 It is less easy to determine the extent of his holdings in the City, although most of these appear to have been situated in the parishes of St. Michael Bassishaw, St. Martin Outwich, St. Pancras and St. Lawrence Jewry. He also leased two tenements next to the church of St. Alban, Wood Street, from the abbot of St. Mary Graces by the Tower at an annual rent of 13 marks, which, in March 1386, was reduced to £5 a year.12 Bosham had less direct interests, probably as a feoffee-to-uses, in land, rents and tenements in at least 15 other London parishes as well as in Essex and Middlesex. Being so rich and influential, he was ideally suited to fill the office of trustee, and thus became involved in the affairs of many prominent citizens, including John Shadworth*, William Baret* and John Woodcock*.13
Bosham’s active participation in the business of civic government began in January 1376 when, as a commoner, he was appointed to try cases of usury. He assumed custody of the keys of the common seal of London shortly after being made an alderman in March 1377, and in the following May he was elected by the common council to serve on a general purposes committee concerned with such questions as the keeping of the peace and the regulation of trade. He sat on two similar bodies in 1378, one of which was intended to establish a scale of imposts on victuals sold in the City, while the other dealt with the expenses of parliamentary representatives and the cost of repair work.14 Between 1380 and 1384 Bosham was preoccupied with his duties as an auditor of London, although he could not avoid being caught up in the hostile reaction against the former mayor, John Northampton, which took place during the mid 1380s. As we have already seen, his readiness to stand bail for both an enemy (John Frosh) and a friend (John More) of Northampton argues a lack of commitment to either party, and he probably chose as a matter of expedience to ally himself with whichever was the stronger. Perhaps it was his knowledge of civic affairs rather than any hatred of Northampton which led to his inclusion among the ‘best and wisest men of the City’ appointed by the common council in June 1384 to revise the notorious ‘Jubliee Book’ of ordinances introduced by the then unpopular reformer. Bosham was also summoned to attend Northampton’s trial before the royal council at Reading in August of that year, but in the event he remained behind in London to act as deputy mayor during the absence of the leading civic dignitaries. In March 1385 he was present at the emergency meeting of the common council which, after pressing for Northampton’s execution, set up a committee to consider ways of preventing any further outbreaks of disorder in the capital and named Bosham as one of its members. The authorities’ fear of popular unrest was so great that in the following March the aldermen (including Bosham) and common councillors voted in favour of Northampton’s permanent banishment from London.15
After his second return to Parliament in November 1390, Bosham appears to have retired from public life. So great was his experience as a former civic official, however, that in July 1392, when the normal government of London was suspended, Richard II made him an alderman. His appointment ceased soon after relations between the King and the City returned to a more stable footing in the following September, so his last months passed in relative obscurity. Bosham drew up his first will on 29 Sept. 1393 and died by the middle of December. He was buried next to his late wife, Felicity, in the church of St. Lawrence Jewry, evidently in some state, since he bequeathed the remarkable sum of 400 marks for funeral masses alone. Other legacies to friends, servants and religious institutions exceeded £340, quite apart from the value of the jewellery, vestments and plate which he gave to particular individuals, the three annuities of 52s. settled upon old servants for life and the debts of over £122 which he remitted to certain business colleagues. Thus, although his executors still owed the Mercers’ Company £40 in 1397, it was not for want of financial resources that the sum remained unpaid.16
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Boosham, Boseam.
- 1. Corporation of London RO, hr 100/63; CCR, 1396-9, p. 292; Guildhall Lib. London, 9171/1, ff. 295d-7d.
- 2. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 42, 58; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, pp. 86, 92.
- 3. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 60, 62.
- 4. Beaven, Aldermen, i. 99, 100; CCR, 1392-6, p. 12; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 153, 168, 198, 219, 246.
- 5. Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 64.
- 6. Corporation of London RO, hcp 96 m. 5d, 98, Monday bef. feast St. Dunstan, 48 Edw. III, 101, Monday aft. feast St. Mark, 51 Edw. III, 104, Monday bef. feast St. Valentine, 3 Ric. II, 107, Monday aft. feast St. James, 6 Ric. II; hpl 94 m. 27, 96, Monday aft. feast St. Mathias, 48 Edw. III, 97, Monday aft. feast St. Andrew, 49 Edw. III, 98, Monday aft. feast St. Barnabas, 50 Edw. III, 103, Monday aft. feast St. Petronilla, 4 Ric. II, 108 m. 14; Reg. Holy Trinity Guild Coventry (Dugdale Soc. xiii), 20.
- 7. CCR, 1369-74, p. 404; E122/71/9 m. 2d.
- 8. CCR, 1374-7, pp. 206, 438; 1381-5, p. 243; CPR, 1381-5, p. 5; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 59; Cal. Letter Bk. London, G, 298.
- 9. Cal. Letter Bk. London, G, 285; H, 124, 141, 305; Cal. P. and M. London, 1364-81, pp. 169, 270-1.
- 10. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 211-12, 257; CCR, 1377-81, p. 521; CPR, 1381-5, p. 476; 1385-9, pp. 338, 377; 1388-92, p. 288; 1391-6, p. 320.
- 11. CP25(1)/151/76/46, 48; CAD, i. C1423; CCR, 1377-81, p. 488; 1381-5, p. 200; 1392-6, pp. 107, 109; 1396-9, pp. 292-3; HMC 9th Rep. 7, 52; Corporation of London RO, hr 115/158.
- 12. Corporation of London RO, hr 111/113, 128, 133, 112/35, 114/85, 115/102, 118/37, 119/161, 121/11-16, 42, 214, 122/29, 86; hcp 109 m. 8, 110 m. 20; hpl 107, Monday bef. feast Purification of Virgin, and Monday aft. feast St. Mathias, 8 Ric. II.
- 13. CP25(1)289/55/174; Corporation of London RO, hr 98/115, 100/51, 63, 103/205, 105/52, 108/44, 92, 110/82, 111/27, 112/76, 115/19, 71, 116/13, 27, 63, 118/26, 29, 123, 119/122, 139, 147, 150, 120/5, 27, 30, 81-86, 106, 111, 121/42, 140, 170, 122/17, 132/4; hcp 118, Monday aft. feast St. Luke, 17 Ric. II; CCR, 1385-9, pp. 433, 599; 1389-92, pp. 61-62, 188; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 207.
- 14. Cal. Letter Bk. London, G, 162; H, 62, 90, 108; Cal. P. and M. London, 1364-81, p. 243.
- 15. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 235, 245-6, 280; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 57.
- 16. Corporation of London RO, hr 122/86; Mercers’ Company Recs. Wardens’ acct. bk. ff. 17, 20; Guildhall Lib. 9171/1, ff. 295d-7d.