HIGHAM, John (d.c.1442), of London.
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Family and Education
m. prob. by Sept. 1427, Margery, wid. of William Wodeward of London, at least 1s.1
Warden of the Drapers’ Co. Aug. 1419-20, 1428-9.2
Auditor, London 21 Sept. 1420-1, 1424-6.3
Sheriff, London and Mdx. Mich. 1426-7.
Nothing is known of Higham’s early life or background, although he may have been a kinsman of Henry Higham, esquire, with whom he acquired property in Kent during the summer of 1425. He first appears in October 1412 as a litigant in the court of common pleas, where he and another draper were suing William Swetteman of Coventry for a debt of £9. Over the next five years he became involved in the property transactions of his friend, William Cromer*, an influential member of the Drapers’ Company, who later made him one of his executors.4 Higham himself occupied a prominent position in the Company, being elected warden for the first time in August 1419, when he promised a contribution of ten marks towards the cost of building the Drapers’ new hall. He had, meanwhile, stood surety at the Exchequer in the previous February on behalf of the fishmongers John Reynwell* and John Mitchell*. From 1419 onwards Higham was preoccupied with a number of lawsuits. In May of that year he was bound over in £100 to come before the court of the mayor of London when summoned, but the reason for this is not stated. In the following July he went to law for the recovery of a modest debt owed to him by a Somerset draper. Two years later the MP successfully defended an action brought against him by two merchants of the Calais Staple for wrongfully retaining merchandise worth £300 which he had sold them at a far higher sum two years before, although he was fined 100 marks for false chevisance and usury as a result of the incriminating evidence produced in court. In November 1433, and again in October 1435, two of the persistent debtors whom he had sued at common law and who had been outlawed for failing to answer successive writs of summons obtained royal letters of pardon.5
Very little evidence of Higham’s other affairs has survived. In August 1422 a merchant from Lucca paid him £100 for 38 woollen cloths woven in Ludlow, and in the following year he supplied a far smaller consignment of fabric worth £5 to the King’s great wardrobe. At about this time he shipped a bale of cloth into the port of London, but the customs records are too fragmentary to give any idea of the scale of his operations. He evidently did a considerable amount of business with Italians, for in December 1430 Nicholas Johan of Bologna made him an assignment of £139 payable over the next two years by various debtors of theirs. Together with John Fenyll and William Cromer he was owed money by Humphrey, duke of Gloucester; and when Cromer died in 1434 he left his share of this unspecified sum to be divided between his two surviving partners.6
Higham’s London property was said to be worth £14 a year in 1436. Some of it lay in Candlewick Ward, where he was living in 1419, and which he represented on a jury at the husting court four years later. Through his wife, Margery, Higham acquired a messuage and six cottages in the parish of St. Botolph Without Aldgate. These had been leased to Margery’s first husband by the prior of the church of Holy Trinity the Great, who sued Higham in 1434 for delapidations.7 The draper was a party to several conveyances of land and tenements in London, most of which seem to have been enfeoffments-to-uses, made by, or on behalf of, such eminent citizens as Solomon Oxney*, John Butler II* and Walter Gawtron* (who also chose Higham to be a trustee of property in Middlesex).8 During the Trinity term of 1425, Maud Colman conveyed to Higham and eight others a messuage and extensive appurtenances in the Gravesend area of Kent, which were ostensibly to be enjoyed by him and his heirs alone. Whether or not he owned land in the Kentish village of Woldham remains unclear, but he was involved in the sale of property there, and at some point after 1436 he petitioned the court of Chancery because one of the other parties to the transaction had been claiming money from him without just cause.9
Although he never rose to aldermanic rank, Higham played a not undistinguished part in the government of London. He attended at least four of the parliamentary elections held in the City between 1419 and 1432; and in October 1427, almost immediately after serving a term as sheriff, he was made keeper of one of the keys to the common chest. It is a mark of Higham’s status that no less than four papal indults were awarded to him during this period, namely two in September 1427 permitting him and his wife to have a portable altar and celebrate mass in places under interdict, and another two in the following October allowing the draper alone to have plenary remission of sins at the hour of death and to choose his own confessor. In June 1437 Higham was a grantee of the goods and chattels of a clerk named John Preyur; and three years later he was still active enough to audit the accounts of a former warden of London Bridge. He died before 10 June 1444, when his son, Robert, took formal seisin of his patrimony.10
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Heham, Hiham and Hyhan.
- 1. Corporation of London RO, hcp 157, Monday bef. feast St. Chad and Monday aft. feast St. Mark, 12 Hen. VI; CPL, vii. 557; Cal. Letter Bk. London, K, 297 (Margery’s first husband was probably a founder; see Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 26, 195).
- 2. A.H. Johnson, Hist. Drapers’ Company, i. 292, 315.
- 3. Cal. Letter Bk. London, I, 245, 261; K, 32, 45, 54.
- 4. C1/31/388; CP25(1)113/283/107, 114/298/103; Corporation of London RO, hr 146/49; hcp 137, Monday aft. feast St. Leonard, 14 Hen. IV; CPR, 1429-36, p. 486.
- 5. Johnson, i. 292, 298; CFR, xiv. 268; CPR, 1416-22, p. 223; 1429-36, pp. 330, 490; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, pp. 107-9; Corporation of London RO, jnl. 1, f. 57.
- 6. E101/407/13 f. 9; E122/161/1 f. 24; Cal. P. and M. London, 1413-37, pp. 146, 250-1; PCC 22 Luffenham.
- 7. E179/238/90; Corporation of London RO, hcp 148, Monday bef. feast St. Clement, 2 Hen. VI, 157, Monday bef. feast St. Chad, 12 Hen. VI; Johnson, i. 292.
- 8. CP25(1)152/89/48; Corporation of London RO, hr 155/59, 68, 158/10, 26, 36-37, 162/51; Westminster Abbey muns, 488, 492, 494.
- 9. C1/9/352; CP25(1)114/298/103.
- 10. C219/12/3, 5-6, 13/1, 14/3; Corporation of London RO, jnl. 2, f. 102; CPL, vii. 554-7; CCR, 1435-41, p. 160; Cal. Letter Bk. London, K, 248, 297.