BRANDON, John (d.c.1414), of Bishop's Lynn, Norf.
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Family and Education
Chamberlain, Lynn Mich. 1376-7; councillor 1380-2, 1386-7, 1388-90, 1391-2; mayor 1409-10.2
Tax collector, Lynn May 1379.
Controller of customs and subsidies, Lynn 9 June 1388-Nov. 1390; collector 30 Nov. 1390-1402, Apr. 1406-July 1408.
Mayor of the Staple, Lynn 21 Sept. 1390-25 Mar. 1394.3
Commr. of array, Lynn May 1398, Aug. 1403; to make arrests Oct. 1398, Feb. 1403, May 1406; prevent ships of over 30 tuns from leaving port May 1401.
Brandon, not a Lynn man by origin, possessed in 1371 an interest in a messuage and lands in Great Massingham. On 29 Nov. 1372 he became a burgess of Lynn, paying £5 for a trespass and his entry fine. He continued to own lands at Grimston, six miles from the town, and in 1374 it was as ‘of Fouldon’, some ten miles away, that he was made a feoffee of land there. But Lynn became the centre of his business concerns, and he acquired a number of properties locally, notably in Briggate (High Street), Norfolk Street and ‘Skinner’s Row’. He leased two tenements, a cottage and a quay in ‘Stokfysh Row’ from the Holy Trinity guild for 18 years from 1392, and in 1408 he became a co-lessee of two shops next to the Sarasyneshead in Grass Market.4 He also showed an interest in town affairs, acting as an elector of the parliamentary representatives in 1380 and of the municipal officers every August in and between 1382 and 1386 and in 1390. At the parliamentary elections of 1393 and 1397 he went surety for the town clerk, Thomas Morton, and John Wentworth, respectively, and he later attested the election indentures of May 1413 and November 1414 as well. In June 1399 he had been rewarded with £2 and paid 26s.8d. expenses for riding to London on the community’s business. His ties with Bishop’s Lynn were confirmed in October 1406 when he joined with Bartholomew Sistern* in founding a guild dedicated to St. George the Martyr in St. Margaret’s church.5
Brandon’s mercantile activities in Lynn date from before 1383, when he was licensed to ship corn and malt to Norway. In the next two years he exported to Calais at least 50 sacks and 58 cloves of wool and 1,004 fleeces (the last in partnership with Robert Waterden*), and in 1392 he dispatched several varieties of cloth, corn, malt, blankets and hides, in all worth £176, to the Netherlands and Prussia. The most profitable of his imports, which comprised wine, timber, dye-stuffs, soap, pitch and bitumen, was probably fish: in December 1405 his cargo of herring, eels and sturgeon was valued at £221, and in the following February, another, of eels and herring, was worth £231 13s.4d.6 These commodities were sold by Brandon in Huntingdon, the Midlands and as far afield as Bath. One of his creditors died in curious circumstances: in 1387 Peter Portugaler was pardoned for stealing £120 from Brandon, but was subsequently arrested by the bailiffs of Bedford with that same amount in his possession. Brandon provided £200 bail for him in Chancery, but he died, apparently of natural causes, at Lynn shortly afterwards. As an outcome of a petition to the 1385 Parliament (Brandon’s first), he and other merchants had been commissioned to arrest all goods belonging to Prussian traders in English ports in retaliation for the seizure overseas of English wares worth £20,000. When an embassy was sent to Prussia in 1388 Brandon contributed 50s. to the costs. His own relationship with foreign merchants was sometimes hostile: in 1397 he complained that malefactors of Lubeck, Wismar, Rostock and Stralsund had stolen his merchandise and held his agents to ransom. He obtained royal permission to exact reprisals, but may well have used these as a pretext for indiscriminate acts of plunder. Subsequently, in June 1404, the magistrates of Stralsund wrote to Henry IV demanding compensation for Brandon’s outrages, namely the seizure, in November and December 1397, of money, 11 casks of wine, 13 lasts and four tuns of herring and 400 tree-trunks, worth in all 318 nobles (£53); the confiscation, in April 1398, of a ship and its freight worth 200 nobles (£33 odd) at Boston; and the theft of goods from a Norwegian ship. In April 1407 Brandon took out an exemplification of the letters patent of 1397 appointing a commission to investigate his own complaints, but as time passed he came to better terms with the Hanseatic merchants; at least, two years later, in January 1409, he and John Brown II* assisted the envoys of the Hanse in their conduct of negotiations with Henry IV’s council.7
Other allegations of piracy were made against Brandon: in June 1400 he had been ordered by the King to restore a Dieppe barge he had taken at sea, and in the spring of 1403 one of his ships, Le Gabriell, had joined in the capture off Brittany of the Seinte Anne of Gironde, laden with wine worth £294, and the Seinte Piere of Spain with her cargo of oil valued at £392. Two years afterwards Brandon was still being sued for trespass by the Seinte Anne’s owner, and in April 1406 a royal serjeant-at-arms was again commissioned to investigate that particular breach of royal letters of protection.8 Yet on occasion such freebooting enterprise could be usefully exploited by the Crown: in May 1400 Brandon had put to sea at the King’s command with a small fleet of six vessels to fight the Scots. So successful was the venture that in the autumn Henry IV was prepared to pay 500 marks for two of Brandon’s prisoners, who were none other than the Scottish admiral, Sir Robert Logan, and King Robert’s secretary, the archdeacon of Ross; and Brandon no doubt secured additional ransoms for the lesser fry. Only a short while before, the Exchequer had been instructed to make payment of £100 to Brandon for La Katherine of Portugal, a prize purchased for the King’s use; and he later received £46 13s.4d. for repairs carried out on the ship. In addition, in November following he and his fellow customer of Lynn, Roger Galion, were rewarded with £80 for their labour and expenses in collecting the revenue.9 It may be that Brandon’s whole-hearted support for the new King was founded on his much earlier association with Henry’s father, John of Gaunt, with whom he had been a co-lessee of property in Lynn in 1383. Certainly, in his guild foundation of 1406, he provided for masses to be said not only for Henry IV and his queen, but also for the King’s parents. His willingness to serve was again demonstrated when, in August 1406, he was granted royal letters of protection as second in command (under Nicholas Blackburn, admiral of the north) of the squadron assigned to escort Princess Philippa from Lynn to Helsingborg for her wedding with King Eric of Denmark. During his mayoralty of the borough, in July 1410, Brandon was among the nine Lynn merchants who advanced a loan of 200 marks to the Crown for the safeguard of the sea.10
Although often required to act as a feoffee of property in the vicinity of Lynn, and as a mainpernor in Chancery and at the Exchequer,11 Brandon was not always on good terms with his fellow burgesses. As one of the potentiores, in December 1411 he was bound over in £100 to keep the peace towards the mayor, his former colleague, Roger Galion. The following July he agreed to abide by the new constitution but, following Galion’s re-election on 31 Aug., he and Thomas Waterden* had to promise to pay costs determined by Chancery if they failed to prove their case against him.12 Brandon probably died late in 1414.13