DROYS, John (d.1418), of Bristol.
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Family and Education
Bailiff, Bristol Mich. 1403-4; sheriff 5 Oct. 1404-5; mayor Mich. 1406-7, 1409-10, 1414-15.2
Commr. to victual the royal army in Wales and the garrison of Coity castle, Glam. Sept. 1405; of inquiry, Bristol June 1406 (concealments), Jan. 1407 (negligence of a searcher of ships), Jan. 1412 (contributions to an aid); to raise royal loans June 1406; of array May 1415.
Collector of customs and subsidies, Bristol 6 Dec. 1412-June 1413.
Droys owed much of his success in the affairs of Bristol to his marriage to the daughter of a wealthy merchant. He too became a well-respected figure in the community, his first return to Parliament preceding his appointment to local office. Droys’s election as bailiff coincided with his father-in-law’s final mayoralty and, when Knap died in office, Droys, as his executor, presented the appropriate accounts for Michaelmas 1403 to June 1404 at the Exchequer before the new mayor took over. Three months later he was appointed sheriff of Bristol, in this capacity accounting at the Exchequer for the proceeds of the tax of 20s. on lands worth £20, as collected in Bristol by his predecessor. At the same time as he was made mayor, at Michaelmas 1406, he was also elected mayor of the local Staple (as also happened in his subsequent terms). It was during his first mayoralty that, in March 1407, he ratified the ordinances for the craft of dyers, which afterwards received royal confirmation by Henry IV and his successors. Immediately after relinquishing office he was returned by Bristol to the Parliament summoned to meet at Gloucester on 20 Oct. As mayor for the third time, in July 1415 Droys set his seal to new regulations for the tanners of Bristol. He attested all extant indentures recording the parliamentary elections for the borough between 1407 and his death.3
Droys’s prominent position in the locality, both as a merchant and an administrator, led to his being appointed, with John Stevens*, under a royal commission of September 1405, to victual Welsh castles then threatened by the rebellion of Owen Glendower, for which purpose he requisitioned ships and transport. Later, he was named on several local commissions, notably those appointed during the financial emergency of June 1406 and that set up in the spring of 1415 to organize regional defence. In 1412 he had been appointed collector of customs and subsidies in Bristol along with Robert Russell II*, both men being confirmed in office at the beginning of Henry V’s reign. When, on 12 Sept. following, the civic authorities petitioned the King for the release of certain merchandise confiscated for alleged evasion of customs, Droys and Russell (described as ‘honnorables hommes’) testified on behalf of the merchants involved.4
Regarding Droys’s own mercantile interests, the scanty evidence which survives indicates that he was engaged in the cloth trade, both as a manufacturer and exporter. In 1399-1400, for example, he shipped 40 lengths of cloth to Gascony. Then, in November 1404 he did business at Bristol with Thomas Norton* and Sir Walter Rodney*, who delivered to him a statute staple. Two years later he petitioned the chancellor for licence to load 16 tuns of old wine, four fardels of cloth and six lasts of salt in a Bristol ship for conveyance to Ireland, there to purchase hides and salted salmon for import into England, but when the licence was granted, it was only for half of what he had asked. In association with Thomas Fish†, Droys petitioned the Parliament of 1415 for measures of redress to be taken against certain Breton merchants who had attacked Fish’s vessel, Le Cristofore of Bristol, when on passage from Harfleur to Bordeaux with merchandise said to be worth 700 marks.5 It was doubtless partly commercial success which allowed Droys to invest in property not only in Bristol but also in the surrounding countryside as well. By 1403 he held premises in the market-place at Bristol, to which he was able to add, as a consequence of his wife’s inheritance of the profitable Knap estate in the following year, buildings in Marsh Street and ‘Boketeslane’. At Michaelmas 1406 he and his wife made a settlement by enfeoffment of as many as 24 messuages, 56 shops, ten tofts and rents worth ten marks a year in Bristol; and in 1412, when he himself was charged with assessing local contributions to a royal aid levied on those with a landed income of £20 p.a. and more, he returned that his own holdings in the town alone were worth £55 annually. The enfeoffment made in 1406 had, moreover, taken account of land in Belluton and Pensford, Somerset; and later, in 1414, he purchased yet more at Hampnett, Gloucestershire.6
A prominent and prosperous figure like Droys could hardly expect to evade involvement in conveyances made by other burgesses and in the administration of their wills. In 1409 he was even appointed supervisor of the will of the ex-mayor Robert Dudbroke. At about that time, too, he was associated with Dudbroke’s brother, David*, and also with Thomas Blount I* and Robert Russell II, as their fellow members of the fraternity of the Holy Trinity, founded by John Barstaple (d.1411), another former mayor. It was not, however, until 1417 that these men obtained royal licence for the fraternity to become a legally corporate body. By then, as it happened, Droys himself had only a year to live.7 On 24 Jan. 1418 he composed his will, requesting burial in the chapel of St. John the Evangelist on the Back, and leaving £20 for funeral expenses. What the will also arranged for was the succession by his second wife, Isabel, to all his Bristol property for term of her life, but only on condition that she did not remarry. The reversionary interest in these holdings was to be sold within two years of the testator’s death, and the proceeds applied to pious uses. Isabel Droys, David Dudbroke and John Draper were named as executors, and Thomas Blount I as overseer. Droys had died by 16 Feb. following, the date of probate, and the will came up for civil proof in Bristol on 14 Mar. It was not long before Droys’s executors made formal notification that, on his instruction, they had sold ‘Chilcombe Gardyn’ in Frog Street, but subsequently they disagreed over the fulfilment of the testamentary provisions, the merchant’s widow alleging that Dubroke and Draper had unjustly dispossessed her of some of the property. The administration of the will was still incomplete ten years after Droys’s death.8
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Author: L. S. Woodger
Variants: Drays, Dreyse, Droice, Drois.
- 1. J. Dallaway, Antique Bristow, 135; Bristol Wills (Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. 1886), 68-69, 99-100; PCC 6 Marche.
- 2. Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. xxvi. 129-30.
- 3. E136/92/10, 11; E179/113/50; C267/5 nos. 38, 42; C219/10/6, 11/1, 4, 8, 12/2; CPR, 1408-13, p. 388; 1422-9, p. 299; Little Red Bk. Bristol ed. Bickley, ii. 81, 110.