GAYLER, William, of Sandwich, Kent.
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Family and Education
m. bef. 1421 Margaret, 1da.
William may have been the son of the John Gayler who, as a Portsman, claimed tax exemption for land held in the hundred of Bewsborough, near Sandwich, in 1388.3 He himself is first recorded in August 1402 as sitting on a Sandwich jury at an inquest in the course of an admiralty suit. In May 1408, as feoffee for Henry Stretende, he conveyed the latter’s property in the town to his widow; and in 1415 he became a trustee of the land at Ash belonging to Hugh Mille, another fellow townsman.4
A merchant, Gayler sometimes shipped cloth from Sandwich (as in 1413) and also traded in corn. When mayor in January 1421, he bought from Marino Torado part of a cargo of grain which this Venetian mariner had previously acquired through the master of his galley; when Torado absconded with the money, Gayler later (in 1427) had to certify that the captain had had nothing to do with the sale (possibly a violation of the galley fleet’s regulations). A measure of his status is suggested by his procurement in February 1421 of a papal licence enabling him and his wife to have a portable altar.5
It was during Gayler’s third year as mayor that a longstanding dispute between the people of Sandwich and Christ Church priory, Canterbury, erupted into violence. The prior had formerly been lord of the town, and even after it was exchanged with Edward I for other properties the monks kept control of a wharf there, known as ‘Munkenkey’. The Portsmen resented this extraneous authority on their river front, especially after the prior asserted his title by fencing off the wharf, presumably to prevent its use without payment of dues (though he claimed to have acted merely to secure goods dumped there). So, on the night of 3 May 1422, they rang the common bell and 1,000 or more of them (as the prior alleged) rushed to arms and, headed by the mayor and jurats, ‘ove graund clameur et crye’, tore down the fence and a crane on the quay and hurled them into the sea, threatening to do likewise to the monks should they dare to come near the town. The prior immediately appealed to the King’s Council, which on 17 May ordered the warden of the Cinque Ports to summon Gayler, the bailiff and two jurats before it. The upshot was that, on 3 June, Gayler, John Bolle* and others were obliged to give a bond in £100 as guarantee of their appearance before the Council again on 22 June, and meanwhile to keep the peace. In the interim the townsmen made an attempt to settle the matter privately with the prior. On 14 June each party bound itself in £1,000 to accept the award of four arbiters, who just two days later issued a formal declaration of the prior’s full right to the quay and crane together with all profits arising from their use, although the adjoining ground was acknowledged to be a public highway; and the townsmen were not to obstruct him. Both parties formally accepted the award on 6 Aug.6
Also while mayor, in December 1422, Gayler took responsibility for sending to Dover Sandwich’s contribution (13s.4d.) to the expenses incurred by the Cinque Ports in their latest suit against the men of Yarmouth, as had been agreed at the previous Brodhull on receiving the report of the Ports’ bailiffs at the Yarmouth herring fair of that year.7
Gayler died before July 1439, when his widow, Margaret (by then married to Robert White, the former mayor), conveyed to his daughter and heir Joan, the wife of John Holgate, a London draper, all those houses and rents of Gayler’s in Sandwich with which she had been entrusted for the duration of Joan’s minority.8