GODARD, John, of Sandwich, Kent.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

Jan. 1377
Jan. 1397

Family and Education

s. of Simon Godard of Sandwich.1 m. (1) Joan; (2) bef. 1390, Cecily.

Offices Held

Jurat, Sandwich Dec. 1377-9, 1382-3, 1388-9, 1390-2;2 mayor 1379-80, 1383-7, 1392-3, 1403-7.3

Controller of customs and subsidies, Sandwich 8 Oct. 1384-14 Jan. 1387, of tunnage and poundage 20 Mar.-9 June 1388, 26 Oct.-30 Nov. 1390, of wool customs 30 Nov. 1390-8 Dec. 1391; collector of customs and subsidies 14 Jan. 1387-20 Mar. 1388, of tunnage and poundage 9 June 1388-26 Oct. 1390, 30 Nov. 1390-5 Nov. 1394, 17 Feb. 1397-May 1398, of wool customs 7 Oct. 1391-19 May 1398.

Commr. of inquiry, Cinque Ports, Canterbury Feb. 1385 (misconduct of a dep. butler), Cinque Ports Jan. 1387 (thefts from a Spanish vessel), Nov. 1387 (piracy); to assemble ships to take action against pirates, Sandwich May 1398.

Biography

In July 1362 Godard sold two cottages in Sandwich which he had apparently inherited from his father. He had probably already started trading as a vintner, for just two years later he was able to obtain a royal licence to take £70 in coin and cloth to buy wine in Gascony. He was acting as captain of the town barge of Sandwich by December 1374 when the King’s Council ordered the warden of the Cinque Ports to arrest him and his fellow captains of the Ports’ common ships and cause them to submit to questioning as a result of allegations that they had failed to surrender on the King’s orders certain merchandise seized from three Italian vessels on the pretext that it was enemy property. In September 1379 he was again summoned before the Council with other Portsmen (perhaps for a similar offence), on that occasion being actually imprisoned for a while.4

Godard was not above making a profit out of wrecks. In 1384 he bought from the finder a ship’s ‘bonett’ which had been cast ashore. Later, in 1392, he shared the spoils, scattered along the Kentish coast, from a Hanseatic vessel which had foundered off Zeeland; with John Berham* and others, he acquired 85 ‘kips’ and kept them until the Exchequer, diligently pursuing him in case the wreck was found to belong to the King, obliged him in 1394 to admit his takings. He subsequently claimed to have complied with the government’s order to reward the finders of the ‘wyld fare’ and restore it to its rightful owners. It is quite likely that he was the John Godard detected smuggling two pipes of wine at London in 1393. Meanwhile, in November 1389 he had given evidence before the King’s Council about the failure of the late warden, Sir Robert Assheton, to restore his share of the wine captured in a ship and brought to Sandwich a few years earlier.5

None of Godard’s more dubious practices affected the continuity of his service to the Crown as either controller or collector of customs at Sandwich—posts which he held over a period of 14 years starting in 1384. It was while customer that he was returned to three of his six Parliaments. That he was well respected locally is clear from his nomination as executor not only by his friend and fellow merchant, Thomas Ellis (in 1390), but also by Sir Richard atte Lees of Sheldwich (in 1394). On Ellis’s behalf he became engaged in the foundation and endowment of a chantry and hospital at Sandwich.6 Occasionally Godard undertook some of the Cinque Ports’ business at Westminster: thus in 1393-4 he procured the Ports’ customary exemption from the parliamentary fifteenth (for which service he received from New Romney 13s.4d. as its share of his expenses), and during his last mayoralty, in 1407, he obtained on behalf of Sandwich an exemplification of an old document regulating the meeting and powers of the court of Shepway.7

Godard owned land in the hundreds of Ringslow, Cornilo and Eastry, all near Sandwich, which, under Richard II, were assessed for tax exemption at more than £1. Purchases made over the years suggest that he prospered, but in 1400 he fell into financial difficulties as a consequence of being bound to a Londoner by statute staple in £200. He was then forced to mortgage his landed possessions to the Exchequer official, John Burgh II*, but nevertheless succeeded, by August 1403, in paying off the debt and redeeming his property. Even t