FROSH, John (d.1397), of London.
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Family and Education
m. bef. Mar. 1376, Juliana, da. of William Langrich, wid. of Nicholas Plucket of London, mercer, 3da.1
Tax collector, London Dec. 1380.
Alderman of Bassishaw Ward 12 Mar. 1381-2, Cordwainers Ward 1385-d.; auditor, London 21 Sept. 1387-8; mayor 13 Oct. 1394-5.2
Sheriff, London and Mdx. Mich. 1384-5.
Common councillor, Cheap Ward 13 Oct. 1384.3
Forester of Waltham hundred, Essex by Easter 1386-d.4
Constable of the Staple of Westminster 12 Dec. 1390-7 July 1393.5
Commr. to arrest goods of the count of Vertus, Mar. 1392; of gaol delivery, London Nov. 1394.6
Nothing is known of Frosh until his marriage, in or before March 1376, to the widow of a fellow mercer, Nicholas Plucket, who may have employed him as an apprentice. Through his wife he was able at this time to advance a successful claim to part of an unspecified sum of money lent by the deceased to Edward III, and he also gained control of the property in Cordwiner Street, London, which formed part of Juliana Plucket’s dower. As the daughter and heiress of an Essex landowner, Juliana brought with her the life tenancy of two messuages and over 250 acres of land in the Barking area, as well as a hereditary title to the forestership of Waltham hundred, although she and Frosh had to wait until 1386 for a full confirmation of their right. It was possibly from her father that Juliana also inherited a messuage and land in Nazeing, Essex, together with the manor of North Ockendon and other holdings in Cranham: these were said to produce £6 a year in 1397, but they may well have been worth more.7 Frosh consolidated his Essex estates in February 1388, when he acquired a watermill and land in Havering atte Bower. By the time of his death he was, moreover, lord of the manor of ‘Dovores’ which extended from Havering to Bowers Gifford, and which may well have been mortgaged to him in return for a loan. At all events, he had previously enjoyed an annual rent of ten marks pledged to him by the former owner, perhaps as security for the transaction.8
Over the years Frosh built up a considerable estate in London, investing quite heavily in property throughout the capital. In his will he left rents in excess of £18 a year in at least 11 city parishes, as well as settling the reversion of two tenements in the Vintry and the parish of St. Stephen Walbrook upon his elder daughters. Frosh bought a third tenement with extensive appurtenances in Cordwainer Street from Fulk Horewood in October 1388, thus adding an additional £10 a year to his income as a rentier. He also held the joint tenancy of premises in the parish of St. Botolph without Bishopsgate, which John Orewell, the King’s serjeant-at-arms, leased to him in March 1393 for an annual rent of 40s. Although he acquired a messuage and 50 acres of land in Southwark from Robert Rus in 1378, Frosh did not extend his holdings south of the Thames, and may even have disposed of this particular purchase soon afterwards.9
Most of Frosh’s income came from trade, and it was because of his success as a merchant that he was able to buy up so much land. His commercial interests were not confined to mercers’ goods, but extended to the export of wool and other miscellaneous commodities. In August 1385, for example, he obtained licences to ship 13 sarplers of wool to Calais from London, and three years later he was employing agents (including his apprentice, William Waldern*) to sell Sir Nicholas Brembre’s† wool exports on the continent. Frosh evidently acted as Sir Nicholas’s broker, since at the time of his forfeiture in February 1388, the latter was due to deliver wool worth £400 to the mercer’s agents at the Middleburg Staple. No doubt because of the difficult political circumstances following Brembre’s execution, Frosh did not recover the money until March 1393, although his finances were sound enough to survive the long delay. Between 6 May 1390 and 22 July 1391 he imported silks, velvets and other luxury goods worth over £360 through the port of London alone, and he is known to have shipped ‘divers goods and merchandise’ to Portugal at a somewhat earlier date. His appointment in December 1390 as constable of the Staple of Westminster may also have enabled him to make a number of new commercial connexions, although the work involved was largely a matter of routine. From 1392 onwards, and probably before, Frosh also kept the full complement of four apprentices to learn the mercers’ trade, which he continued to pursue actively until his death.10 In October 1396 he was actually in a position to lend £200 to the King, being assigned (if not actually paid) the money in the following February. He now ranked among the wealthiest merchants in London, as can be seen from the terms of his will. In it he left over £660 to be distributed among friends, relatives and various charities, as well as bequeathing a quantity of plate to his wife and an annuity of ten marks to his eldest daughter.11 Frosh’s attempts to collect unpaid debts also suggest that he possessed significant reserves of capital. Between November 1381 and January 1383 alone he began nine lawsuits in the court of common pleas for the recovery of sums totalling £95, and he subsequently tried to raise over £182 on bonds which had not been honoured by several debtors, including John Langrich of Nazeing, his wife’s kinsman.12
Frosh often acted as a mainpernor and feoffee for others, although it is not always easy to distinguish his own property transactions from those in which he was merely a trustee. He performed the latter service for many Londoners, including the mercers Stephen Speleman (who was also city chamberlain) and John Bosham*, and the grocers, Ralph Knyghton and John Hadley*. In July 1380 he was a surety in Chancery for Robert Frende of Wokingham; and five years later he guaranteed a recognizance in £178 pledged by a fellow mercer in the mayor’s court.13 Frosh was a party to two important grants of land and rents in London: in the first, dated September 1395, he joined with William Chichele* in settling an annual rent of six marks upon the church of St. Benedict Shorhog; and in the second, completed on receipt of a royal licence in July 1396, he conveyed two messuages to the mayor and commonalty of London for the benefit of the City.14
The contribution of five marks which he made to the gift raised by the people of London to persuade ‘the great lords of the realm’ to return to the capital in January 1379 places Frosh among the wealthier and more influential members of the community from a comparatively early date. His election as alderman of Bassishaw Ward followed naturally in March 1381, although the rise to power of John of Northampton†, who became mayor in the following October, threatened to terminate Frosh’s promising career. On 4 Nov. 1382 the first of two inquisitions was held before the sheriffs of London to determine if five aldermen, including Frosh, had conspired to admit the rebels of Kent and Essex into London during the Peasants’ Revolt of June 1381. That Northampton and his chief supporter, John More†, had engineered these proceedings as a means of undermining the party of the merchant capitalists and thus achieving their own political ends is now beyond question. Not until October 1382 did More demand an official inquiry into the events of the previous year, since it was only then that he and Northampton finalized their plans for discrediting (and thus effectively removing) those who opposed their radical plans for reform. Frosh and his colleagues had little sympathy for the mayor’s attempts to limit the monopolistic powers of the major victualling companies, and, apart from John Horn, who may possibly have been involved with the rebels, they were clearly the victims of a conspiracy. Frosh himself was charged with treasonously permitting Horn to bring the rebels into London, although the allegations brought against him were far less damning than those faced by the other aldermen. The second inquisition of 20 Nov. 1382 was recorded in such a way as to provide a far more convincing indictment of the accused, who were found guilty by a packed jury and sent to the Tower. On 14 Dec. Frosh was allowed complete freedom within the confines of his prison (under sureties of 1,000 marks, pledged by such close friends as John Hadley), but he evidently remained under arrest after the release of his four companions in the following March. He was out on bail by November 1383, when fresh sureties lasting three months were taken from them all. But by this time, Sir Nicholas Brembre, Northampton’s great rival and Frosh’s business associate, had become mayor, and a dramatic reaction began setting in against the reformers. A new jury was summoned in January 1384 to consider the evidence; the five were unanimously declared innocent and, with the exception of John Horn, they promptly resumed their former positions as respected members of the civic hierarchy.15 If, as was alleged, Frosh had failed in his duty as a messenger to the rebels in 1381, and had allowed them to enter the City unopposed, his conduct was almost certainly dictated by prudence rather than sympathy for the mob. The consequences of resistance might well have been serious, and it is evident that no one at the time considered him guilty of treason. His reelection as an alderman in March 1385 shows how quickly he recovered from this short period of disgrace.
Although in July 1390 one Philip Derneforde was bound over in £100 to do no harm to Frosh, on whose account he had spent some time in prison, the alderman’s life appears otherwise to have passed without further incident until the outbreak of Richard II’s quarrel with London in 1392. As a civic office-holder, Frosh was summoned to attend upon the King at Nottingham on 25 June of that year, and there hear Richard condemn the ‘notable and evident defaults’ which he and his colleagues had supposedly committed. The normal government of the City was suspended, and on 18 July the current officials, together with their predecessors for the years 1389 and 1390, appeared at Eton before a special commission of inquiry. On 22 July the King imposed a corporate fine of 3,000 marks, while at the same time confirming most of the aldermen in office during pleasure. Frosh’s name does not appear among those who were retained between 22 and 24 Aug., although he was present as an alderman at the election of the two sheriffs on 21 Sept., only three days after Richard had restored the liberties of the City and pardoned the various officials their fine. He also joined with the 14 other aldermen who, on 22 Oct. 1392, bound themselves severally to deliver 11 to the City chamberlain by the end of November, perhaps as a contribution to a royal gift or ‘loan’. Given that Richard’s indignation against the Londoners was initially aroused because of their refusal to advance £5,000 in credit, Frosh, as one of the richest citizens of the day, may well have been singled out for a particular display of royal displeasure.16
Frosh died on 6 Sept. 1397, and was buried in the parish church of St. Benedict Shorhog in Cheap Ward. He left a substantial fortune to be shared between his widow and three daughters. Each of the girls had made good marriages by the time of their father’s death: the eldest, Christine, was the wife of John Squiry, who served as escheator of Essex and Hertfordshire in both 1402 and 1407, while the second married Walter Newton, a grocer and alderman of London. Walter Cotton, one of Frosh’s apprentices, took the youngest girl as his wife, and prospered as a result, becoming an alderman and sheriff, like his master before him.17
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Fresche, Froysh.
- 1. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 24; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 205; C136/98/25.
- 2. Beaven, Aldermen, i. 16, 114; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 313, 332, 417, 426.
- 3. Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 86.
- 4. Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 205.
- 5. C67/23; C267/8/23.
- 6. C66/340 m. 6d.
- 7. Corporation of London RO, hr 106/4; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H. 24; Essex Feet of Fines, iii. 180, 182, 205; CCR, 1396-9, p. 159; C136/98/25.
- 8. Corporation of London RO, hr 127/64; CPR, 1385-9, p. 406, 1396-9, p. 198; CCR, 1396-9, p. 68.
- 9. CP25(1)230/60/32; C143/426/34; Corporation of London RO, hr 109/34, 117/61, 123/27, 127/64, 128/30, 129/88, 163/63; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, p. 242.
- 10. E101/511/3; E122/71/9 m. 6, 13 mm. 8-33d; E403/541 m. 20; CCR, 1385-9, p. 233; Mercers’ Company Recs. wardens’ acct. bk. ff. 6, 18; List of members A-C, 23, 84, D-J, 189, S-W, 516.
- 11. Corporation of London RO, hr 127/64; E401/604.
- 12. C241/175/ 93, 178/45, 185/31, 186/16; Corporation of London RO, hcp 106, Monday bef. feast St. Edmund the King, 5 Ric. II, 107, Monday aft. feast St. James and Monday aft. feast All Saints, 6 Ric. II; CPR, 1381-5, p. 207.
- 13. Corporation of London RO, hr 107/113-14, 143-6, 113/115, 117/82, 120/84-85, 121/11-12, 125/61, 79, 123/16; CCR, 1377-81, p. 470; Cal. P. and M. London, 1381-1412, p. 100.
- 14. CPR, 1391-6, pp. 644-5; 1396-9, p. 13; C143/426/34; Corporation of London RO, hr 125/65; J. Stow, Surv. London, ed. Kingsford, ii. 288.
- 15. Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 126; CCR, 1381-5, pp. 243, 284; R. Bird, Turbulent London Ric. II, 53-61; Peasants’ Revolt ed. Dobson, 212 et seq.
- 16. CCR, 1389-92, pp. 276, 279; 1392-6, pp. 12, 87-89, 379; CPR, 1391-6, pp. 171, 173; Cal. Letter Bk. London, H, 379-80, 385-6, 391.
- 17. Corporation of London RO, hr 127/64, 129/88, 163/63; C136/98/25; Stow, i. 260; Beaven, ii. 162.