HALTON, Henry (d.1415), of London.
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Family and Education
s. of John Halton by his w. Denise. m. bef. Sept. 1403, Margery, wid. of John Osbarn of London, fishmonger, 3s. 3da.1
Warden of the Grocers’ Co. 14 May 1398-21 May 1399, 29 May 1401-2.2
Tax collector, London Mar. 1401.
Controller of a subsidy, London Mar. 1404.
Alderman, Broad Street Ward by 5 July 1407-bef. 20 July 1408, Langbourn Ward by 20 Nov. 1408-d.3
Sheriff, London and Mdx. Mich. 1407-8.
The bequests in Halton’s will to the poor of East Halton and North Killingholme, Lincolnshire, suggest that he may have come from this part of the country, although his early history remains obscure. He was already established in business as a grocer by May 1391, when William Cost, another member of his livery company, bound himself by statute of the Staple of Westminster to pay a debt of £60 to Halton within seven weeks. This he failed to do, and one year later Halton petitioned the mayor of the Staple for help in collecting the money.4 In October 1392 he became the joint lessee (and perhaps also feoffee) with Thomas Knolles* and five other Londoners, of a tenement, shops and rents belonging to Sir John Montagu and his wife in St. Antholin’s parish. He and his associates then agreed to pay an annual rent of £10 for the premises while Lady Montagu lived, and in the following November they took on the lease of her shops in Bread Street as well. During the Michaelmas term of 1393 Halton began three separate lawsuits for the recovery of debts totalling over £37 in the court of common pleas, although in the following year he was himself accused by John Welbourne, a London goldsmith, of committing unspecified acts of nuisance with five other persons in the parish of St. Peter, Wood Street. In November 1399 he was summoned with three more Londoners to attend a second assize of nuisance regarding his alleged offences as owner of a tenement in the parish of St. Peter the Less, but his involvement in both cases may well have been merely that of a feoffee.5
Halton was clearly a man of property at the time of his first election as warden of the Grocers’ Company in May 1398, but he did not make any major purchases of land until many years later. His marriage to Margery, the widow of John Osbarn, a wealthy London fishmonger, certainly improved his financial circumstances, since she brought with her a title to various holdings in Lewisham, Kent, which were confirmed to the newly married couple in November 1403. Halton had previously obtained custody of Osbarn’s young son, William, whose inheritance of 200 marks was also entrusted to his care while the boy remained a minor.6 Three years later, in July 1406, he bought a tenement and ten shops near the Thames from Richard Forster, who entered into bonds in £200 as a guarantee of his willingness to indemnify Halton should any attempt be made to challenge his title at law. According to the lay subsidy return of 1412, the grocer’s London property was then worth £8 a year, although his annual income must have risen considerably with the purchase shortly afterwards of a tenement, a dwelling-house and 40s. rent in the parish of St. Michael Paternoster, together with the reversion of premises held by the widows of John Pounde and Richard Anable in two other London parishes. His possessions in the City were further consolidated in September 1415, when he acquired a shop and solar in the parish of St. Martin Pomery, where some of these reversions already lay. Halton’s other investments in land appear rather more complex. At some point before Trinity 1396 he took on the joint lease of premises in Candlewick Street at a rent of 26s. a year. The other tenant, a tailor named John Creek, died in 1413, naming Halton as his executor; and early in 1415 the latter conveyed all Creek’s property to his own trustees, who, in turn, confirmed him and his wife in their new title. Whether this enfeoffment was intended merely to free the estate from previous entails or was in fact completed after Halton had actually acquired the land for himself remains a matter of conjecture. The grocer evidently had a prospective purchaser in mind: within a matter of days he had sold all Creek’s property to John Woodcock* for £200, which, if he was acting as owner rather than executor, would have remained in his own coffers.7
Other evidence of Halton’s prosperity and social standing is not hard to find. In November 1403 he and his wife obtained a papal indult permitting them to make use of a portable altar. As a leading parishioner of St. Antholin’s, Halton had a say in the nomination of successive chaplains for presentation to the chantry of St. Katherine within the church; and in his will he made many generous bequests to the other city churches with which he had connexions.8 Although he was owed various amounts of money during his later years, most of these were relatively small, and none appears to have exceeded £20. Shortly after his death, however, six London grocers acknowledged a debt of £764, which was payable to the city chamberlain on behalf of Halton’s children.9 This large sum may represent the profits of a joint business venture, as it had not been raised by selling off the deceased’s property or effects. Halton had remained an active member of the Grocers’ Company until 1408, if not later. He was then involved in a commercial dispute with John Sutton II*, a fellow grocer, although their differences seem to have been settled amicably enough by the warden. It was probably as the feoffee of John Hayles that Halton appeared in January 1411 at yet another assize of nuisance, but on this occasion he was one of the plaintiffs protesting about offences in the parish of St. Nicholas Acon. In the following November he attended the parliamentary elections held at the Guildhall, and continued to fulfil his duties as alderman of Langbourn Ward until his death one year later.10
Halton was buried in St. Antholin’s church in Cordwainer Street Ward. His widow, who held a life interest in all his London property and therefore did not lack a husband for long, married the grocer, John Welles III*, in, or shortly before, December 1415, only a few weeks after Halton’s death. Welles was made guardian of Halton’s six young children in